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Best Hiking Trails in Ecuador

Overview

The Andes run right through the middle of Ecuador, a small South American country, with the Amazon on its east and Pacific coast to its west.  The terrain is incredibly varied, resulting in a wide array of hiking possibilities.  Many people claim this is one of their favourite South American countries to hike in.  Maximum altitudes are less than those of Peru & Bolivia. Big draw here is the huge amount of biodiversity in such a small area.  Discover the best hikes in Ecuador, including around Quito, Baños, Otavalo and Cuenca, along with the many hikes in national parks such as Cajas National Park and Sangay National Park.  The best time to hike in Ecuador varies but generally during dry seasons of June – September and December – February. See below for more details on where and when to go hiking in Ecuador.

Capital: Quito

When To Hike in Ecuador?

June – September; December – February: Dry seasons.  Some parts of the Eastern Cordillera are driest December – February only.  Filter in the map to see the best months by region.
Varies
February – May: Rainy season in many areas

Climate: Equatorial – Sits on the equator, temps steady throughout the year. There are various wet and dry seasons, depending on whether you’re on the east or west of the Andes.  Also, Ecuador affected by El Niño and La Niña cycles.  Eastern Cordillera gets more rain. Mar – May seems to be the rainiest time throughout the country.

 

Ecuador Monthly Weather

Accessibility of Hiking

Medium: While towns and cities are located close to mountains, there aren’t many well-established trails and hiking infrastructure, particularly outside of national parks.  However, there are established trekking guides. As in other South American countries, the national park sites aren’t that useful.  It seems that you can hike in the national parks or reserves, as well as access from various cities and towns.  Roads almost everywhere. 

Transportation required: Car/driver.  Public transit for hikes/treks that start close to urban centres, such as Quito.

Where to Stay:

  • Quito
  • Otavalo
  • Baños
  • Cuenca

Top Places to Hike in Ecuador

The Andes, also known as La Sierra in Ecuador, can be divided into two main ranges: Cordillera Oriente or Cordillera Real (eastern) and Cordillera Occidental (western), with the Central Valley containing the cities and towns where the majority of population resides. The main areas for hiking are around Quito, the Avenue of the Volcanoes, around Baños, the Inca road to Ingapirca, around Otavalo and others. Highest Mountain: Mount Chimborazo (6268 m).

Filter out hiking places of Ecuador by month

Click on the red map pointers to see more info.

Galápagos Islands

  • May – Dec
  • Numerous islands set almost 1000 km off the coast of mainland Ecuador; famous for its endemic species which gave rise to Darwin’s natural selection theory
  • There are some hikes that could be done, ie. On Isla Isabela, in the Sierra Negra
  • Hiking Guide to Galapagos

Around Vilcabamba

  • Dec – Feb; June – Sept
  • Parque Nacional Podocarpus
  • Parque Nacional de Yacuri
  • Mandago Loop

Around Cuenca

  • June – Sept
  • Parque Nacional Cajas  – several well-marked trails in this national park, ranging from easy to difficult
  • Inca road to Ingapirca – the most important Incan ruin in Ecuador

Around Baños

  • Dec – Feb; June – Sept
  • Little town in a valley 
  • Trails up Tungurahua volcano
  • Known for hot springs in the area
  • Close to Parque Nacional Sangay which has some great treks but not a lot of tourist infrastructure

Quilotoa area

  • Dec – Feb; June – Sept
  • Beautiful crater lake

Avenue of the Volcanoes

  • Dec – Jan; June – Sept
  • This string of volcanoes in the central valley include the famous Cotopaxi; lots of hikes in the Cotopaxi and Chimborazo areas
  • Parque Nacional Cotopaxi – https://www.ambiente.gob.ec/parque-nacional-cotopaxi/#  
  • Chimborazo – Carihuairazo circuit – Jul – Aug; Dec – Jan

Around Quito

  • Dec – Feb; June – Sept
  • Cerro Pichincha 
  • Parque Metropolitan Sur

Around Otavalo

  • Dec – Feb; June – Sept

Reserva Ecologica Cotacachi-Cayapas

  • Dec – Feb; June – Sept
  • Laguna Cuicocha – beautiful hike here, seems to be the only day hike one can do 
  • Can do organized multi-day treks here

Ecuador's Long Distance Trails

Ecuador's Walking & Hiking Resources

Ecuador Hiking Books: Included books that are a bit dated

  • Ecuador: Climbing and Hiking Guide, by Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber, 2008, Viva Travel Guides – this may be slightly dated but it’s quite a comprehensive guide to the many hikes in Ecuador
  • Trekking in Ecuador, by Robert Kunstaetter and Daisy Kunstaetter, 2002, The Mountaineers Books 
  • Trekking in the Central Andes by Rob Rachowiecki, Grant Dixon, Greg Claire, 2003, Lonely Planet Publications – includes Peru and Bolivia, lists 4 treks in Ecuador in detail 
  • The Andes: 28 Treks and 18 Climbing Peaks by Val Pitkethly and Kate Harper, 2009, Interlink Publishing Group – includes all the countries the Andes runs through, details a select few of the treks in Ecuador
  • Trekking and Climbing in the Andes, Globetrotter Adventure Guide, by Val Pitkethly, Kate Harper, Victor Saunders, 2002, New Holland Publications
  • Adventure Guide to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, by Peter Krahenbul, 2011, Hunter Publishing
  • Lonely Planet Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, 12th Edition, by Brian Kluepfel, Isabel Albiston, Jade Bremmer, MaSovaida Morgan, Wendy Yanagihara, 2022, Lonely Planet Publications
  • Moon Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, by Bethany Pitts, 2019, Avalon Publishing

 

Hiking Associations/Clubs:

 

Best Hiking Trails in Ecuador:

  • Cotopaxi
  • Quilotoa Loop
  • Inca road to Ingapirca
  • Chimborazo – Carihuairazo Circuit
  • Cerro Pichincha
  • Cuicocha Crater Lake
  • Condor Trek
  • Casa de Arbol

Easy Hiking Trails in Ecuador:

  • Laguna Parcacocha
  • Tres Cruces via Luspa Trail

 

Ecuador Hiking Websites:

 

Ecuador Weather Website

  • Instituto Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología – Inamhi 

 

Ecuador Official Tourism Organizations:

 

Ecuador Hiking Apps: 

 

Ecuador Hiking Maps: 

What Else To Do

  • Otavalo textile market – the oldest of its kind in South America
  • Hot springs
  • See spectacled bears
  • Indigenous culture (Indigenous population huge in Ecuador) 
  • Ingapirca – Ecuador’s most important Incan ruin
  • Amazon jungle lodges

Other Important Points

  • High altitude; acclimatization is absolutely key before embarking on any serious hikes/treks.  
  • There are restrictions around hiking on the Galapagos Islands