Cotopaxi National Park Trek
Trek Lodge to Lodge while Exploring the Countryside and Walk up 15,000-foot / 4572-meter+ Peaks
With the up close and personal views of the gleaming equatorial ice, Cotopaxi captures the imagination of trekkers. This adventure in the friendly country of Ecuador, is designed for you to enjoy the scenic beauty of Cotopaxi National Park, walk among llamas in the bucolic countryside, and to trek up several easy peaks, including Pasochoa, a humid Andean Forest with more than 45 species of trees and 110 species of birds, including the Andean condor, the largest bird on the planet.
Along the way, you will be charmed by the people, many of whom still practice subsistence farming, living in the shadow of the immense Cotopaxi. The walk in the mysterious paramo, an ecosystem likened to the Scottish moors, offers alpine plant lovers an exquisite garden to investigate. And before you leave the park, you will encounter wild horses, llamas, and an interesting variety of birds. Trekkers end this wonderful trip with a visit to the Quilotoa Crater, where we descend about 900 feet to explore the lake and also have a chance to meet some of the varied indigenous groups unique to Ecuador living in the area. This is a complete, wonderful view of the Andean Highlands of Ecuador.
How about some creature comforts during the trek, like those found at the luxurious Rumiloma, the historic Hacienda La Cienega or the Hacienda Pinsaqui, where the likes of South American liberator Simon Bolivar stayed. These are among the most charming places to stay in the country.
And if that’s not enough, many of our guides can be considered “foodies” and will know just how to please your palate with both a wide array of cosmopolitan food while in Quito and delicious local cuisine once out in the countryside. For lunch, you may find yourself strolling through orchid-filled gardens before feasting on fresh local fruits, grilled trout, garlic chicken and locro de queso, a delicious soup topped with wedges of avocado and cheese. Dinners can be even more sumptuous! It’s no wonder that one of our guides calls these trips “eating expeditions!”
This trek includes both camping and stays in comfortable haciendas. In between each night, you’ll enjoy vehicle supported trekking, with campsites set-up for you upon arrival. This is not a wilderness trek, but instead a walk in the countryside where local people go about their daily work managing their livestock and working the fields. The route goes along both trails and cobblestone roads, offering a pleasant combination of both getting away from it all and at the same time immersing yourself in local working communities, exchanging hellos and even some friendly conversation.
Cotopaxi National Park Trek
$2,575 – 9 Days / Includes travel time
Single Supplement (I want my own room) – $550
Cotopaxi National Park Trek w/Cotopaxi Climb Extension
$3,775 – 12 Days / Includes travel time
Single Supplement (I want my own room) – $550
- Guide(s) and staff
- Park fees
- Two scheduled hotel nights in Quito(double occupancy)
- One additional hotel night in Quito (double occupancy) for the Cotopaxi extension
- Four scheduled hacienda nights (double occupancy)
- Scheduled restaurant meals in Quito
- All food while on the climb
- All group trekking gear, tents and cooking gear
- All expedition staff including porters and pack animals
- Airport transfers
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare
- Ecuador entry visa and airport fees
- Lunch and dinner day 1
- Alcoholic and bottled beverages
- Personal climbing gear and clothing
- Personal expenses (phone calls, laundry, room service, extra hotel nights, extra meals, etc.)
- Travel insurance with trip cancellation, medical and evacuation policy
- All expenses associated with non-scheduled departure
- Guide/Staff gratuities
- $700 deposit at time of registration, which includes a $300 non-refundable registration fee
- Balance due 120 days prior to departure
- The balance may be paid by check, wire transfer, ACH or credit card with a 3% convenience fee
Cotopaxi National Park Trek 2020
- Jun 27, 2020 — Jul 5, 2020
- Aug 15, 2020 — Aug 23, 2020
- Aug 29, 2020 — Sep 6, 2020
- Nov 21, 2020 — Nov 29, 2020
Cotopaxi National Park Trek w/ Cotopaxi Climb Extension 2020
- Jun 27, 2020 — Jul 8, 2020
- Aug 29, 2020 — Sep 9, 2020
- Nov 21, 2020 — Dec 2, 2020
- Dec 26, 2020 — Jan 6, 2021
Cotopaxi National Park Trek 2021
- Jan 16, 2021 — Jan 24, 2021
- Feb 13, 2021 — Feb 21, 2021
- Jun 26, 2021 — Jul 4, 2021
- Aug 14, 2021 — Aug 22, 2021
- Aug 28, 2021 — Sep 5, 2021
- Nov 20, 2021 — Nov 28, 2021
Cotopaxi National Park Trek w/ Cotopaxi Climb Extension 2021
- Jan 16, 2021 — Jan 27, 2021
- Feb 13, 2021 — Feb 24, 2021
- Jun 26, 2021 — Jul 7, 2021
- Aug 14, 2021 — Aug 25, 2021
- Aug 28, 2021 — Sep 8, 2021
- Nov 20, 2021 — Dec 1, 2021
Custom Dates Available — Contact Us
Cancellation / Refund Policy
- MMI strongly recommends trip cancellation/interruption and evacuation insurance for all trips. Our insurance partner, Ripcord, offers comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancellation, as well as rescue/evacuation policies and can assist in answering any questions. In addition, Participant is expected to have sufficient medical insurance as prescribed by their country of origin. Participant understands that MMI does not include any type of insurance with the cost of the trip.
- If you decide to cancel your trip or change your itinerary, MMI must be notified in writing. Your trip will be cancelled from the date written notice is received. If proper written cancellation notice is not received, amounts paid and reservations made will be forfeited.
- Non-refundable fees may apply for certain trips in order to secure permits and other services. MMI must strictly adhere to cancellation policies outside MMI’s control.
- Due to the personalized service we offer on our trips, MMI reserves the right to waive any fees. We will attempt to accommodate changes and cancellations, waiving certain fees when feasible.
- Full refund, less the non-refundable registration fee, will be provided 121 days or more before the departure date
- No refunds will be provided 120 days or less before the departure date
We strongly recommend the purchase of travel cancellation insurance to protect you from the unexpected. You aren’t likely to think of it now, but people do get ill, break a bone, have a family emergency or get assigned to a last-minute business trip. If you are in remote areas, please note that emergency rescue & evacuation can be very expensive.
We also strongly urge you to consider rescue and evacuation insurance if your own policy does not provide the coverage needed. Services available may include, but are not limited to, helicopter evacuation, medical care, etc.
If you choose not to purchase insurance, you assume full responsibility for any expenses incurred in the event of a medical emergency and/or evacuation, as well as for trip cancellation, interruption, lost luggage, etc. We are not the experts and therefore ask that you please consult our travel insurance partner directly with any specific questions.
To protect against losses due to illness, accident, or other unforeseen circumstances, Mountain Madness strongly recommends the purchase of travel insurance as soon as possible after making a deposit. Mountain Madness has partnered with Redpoint Resolutions as our preferred travel insurance provider. Redpoint’s Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance™ is designed for adventurers.
For a quote, or to purchase travel insurance, please click this link Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance™ or call +1 – 415-481‑0600. Pricing varies based on age, trip cost, trip length, and level of coverage.
Critical benefits of Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance include:
- A completely integrated program with a single point of contact for emergency services, travel assistance, and insurance claims
- Evacuation and rescue services from your point of injury or illness to your hospital of choice
- Comprehensive travel insurance for trip cancellation/interruption, primary medical expense coverage, baggage loss or delay, emergency accident and emergency sickness medical expense, emergency dental, accidental death and dismemberment, and more
- Optional security evacuation coverage in case of an unplanned natural disaster or other security events
- Waiver for pre-existing conditions (must be purchased within 14 days of tour deposit)
- Optional “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage (must be purchased within 14 days of tour deposit)
The total number of days for your trip includes all travel to and from your destination, with some exceptions. Dates listed on the website start with your departure date from the U.S and include the day you arrive home. For this trip you will need to arrive in Quito, Ecuador on Day 1, which in most cases will have arrival times late evening; anywhere from 7 pm to 11:30 pm You will be met at the airport by a Mountain Madness representative and transferred to your hotel.
Your return flight home will be the last date listed on the dates and prices page. The trip itinerary is based on the assumption that this will be a one-day return flight home.
Please contact our office for any help needed with your flight schedule.
Cotopaxi National Park Trek Day by Day
Depart home and fly to Quito, Ecuador. A Mountain Madness representative will pick you up at the airport and take you to the hotel.
Elevation: 8,307 ft / 2532 m
Travel to town of Otavalo to visit its colorful markets, afternoon hike to orchid lined Laguna Cuicocha. Overnight in comfortable Hacienda Pinsaqui.
Elevation: 10,758 ft / 3279 m
From 9,020 feet / 2749 meters, at the village of Santa Clara, we begin the trek along the Pita River in the Valley of Los Chillos. Along the way we pass in front of a shrine, where locals come to worship the Virgen de la Piedra, the “Virgin of the Rock.” From a lightning strike, a figure of a Virgin was etched into the rock, a holy sign that draws local to this place of worship. Today’s hike will take around 5 hours. When we reach our campsite things will already be set up.
Elevation: 13,776 ft / 4200 m
Pasochoa is an ancient and heavily eroded volcano that has been inactive since the last ice age. If the weather permits, from the summit we will be able to take a good look at the crater. Inside you will see the Pasochoa Protected Forest Reserve, a humid Andean Forest with more than 110 species of birds and 45 species of trees. On a sunny day there are good chances of observing condors, the largest birds on the planet. In the afternoon we return to Santa Rita campsite for the night.
Elevation: 11,808 feet / 3599 meters
Today we hike through a hummingbird rich humid Andean forest on our way to Hacienda El Porvenir. El Porvenir, is surrounded by four volcanoes: Cotopaxi, Sincholahua, Pasochoa and Rumiñahui. Here you will be able to enjoy your stay in a comfortable, functional and beautiful traditional Andean hacienda built from local materials of brick, straw, and adobe.
Elevation: 15,088 ft / 4599 m
From the hacienda we ascend the central ridge of 15,088-foot / 4599-meter Rumiñahui, another extinct volcano. The peak is located only 13 km northwest of Cotopaxi. Rumiñahui is named after a well known Inca General who, in 1520, fought against the Spanish when they were looking for Inca treasure. After our climb we spend the night at Tambopaxi, a beautiful lodge located at 12,300 feet / 3749 meters, inside the Cotopaxi National Park. It has hot showers and a relaxing place to kick your feet up! In the afternoon we will visit the nearby Inca ruins or if you prefer, just rest and delight yourself with the views. The telescope in the lodge will enable you to follow the progress of any climbers on Cotopaxi.
Hacienda La Cienega
Elevation Jose Ribas Hut: 15,744 ft / 4799 m
Elevation Hacienda La Cienega: 9,842 ft / 3,000 m
Start hiking towards Cotopaxi Volcano, the highest active volcano in the world. After about four hours we reach the trekker’s high point for the trip, Jose Ribas Hut (15,744 ft / 4799m). After a short walk down from the hut, a vehicle takes trekkers to the charming Hacienda La Cienega, one of Ecuador’s most well-known haciendas. After a hot shower and imbibing in the South American drink Pisco Sour, trekkers enjoy a traditional Ecuadorian cuisine and fun night out.
Quilotoa Crater / Quito
Elevation Quilotoa Crater: 12,464 ft / 3799 m
Elevation Quito: 8,307 ft / 2532 m
Today we go to the 12,464-foot / 3799-meter Quilotoa Crater, a beautiful volcanic crater-lake 3 kilometers wide. On the way to the lake we will see some little “chozas”, very basic Indian huts, where the local families live. Children will follow us and try to make conversation! This portion of the trip offers a unique glimpse into some of Ecuador’s varied indigenous cultures in addition to the incredible scenery of the area and the lake itself. Local legend claims the lake is connected to the ocean and is therefore salty and sulphuric. The 900-foot / 274-meter hike down to the lake waters will allow you to dispel or verify this legend! On the way back to Quito and the celebration dinner, we shop for the famous native Tigua paintings and carved wooden masks.
Depart Quito and fly home or continue onto other adventures.
w/ Cotopaxi Climb Extension Day by Day
Elevation: 8,307 ft / 2532 m
Rest and prepare for the climb
Jose Ribas Hut
Elevation: 15,744 feet / 4799 meters
Travel to hut and rest for the climb in the early morning hours of day 11.
Summit Attempt / Quito
Elevation: 19,347 ft / 5897 m
Climb Cotopaxi. The group will arrive back in Quito in the late afternoon, early evening. Options to return home late night exist or your team will celebrate and spend the final night in Quito.
Depart Quito and fly home.
Note on Itinerary: Although we do our very best to follow the schedule listed, this itinerary is subject to change due to inclement weather, unsafe route conditions, or other reasons beyond our control and in the guide’s best judgement.
Equipment for Cotopaxi National Park Trek
Day pack (30-45L)
With padded shoulder straps and waist belt; used for carrying personal gear such as water bottle, extra clothing, snacks, camera, etc. Individual loads will be between 10 and 20 pounds. A climbing pack with a volume between 1800-2500 cu. in. (30-45 liters) serves most people’s needs well
Large duffel bag (22Lbs Max)
Your mountain gear will be kept in it and the entire duffel will go into the group mountain bag that will be carried by the porters. Limit loads to items on the equipment list. Your large duffel cannot exceed 22 lbs (10 kg) Approximate size: 28”x16”x16” No wheels or hard sides, please
Patagonia Black Hole
Small duffel bag
Large enough to hold everything you’re not taking on the mountain. Will be stored at hotel, to be used after trip
Patagonia Black Hole
Small padlock for duffel bags
Makes identifying your bags easy at airports or hotels
Head and Face
Fleece or wool hat
It must cover the ears
Shade hat or baseball cap
A visor hat with a good brim is essential for protection from the sun
Mountain Madness trucker hat
Bandanas or neck gaiter
Various uses, i.e. cleaning glasses, sun protection when tied around the neck, etc. We have our own Mountain Madness neck gaiter available for purchase!
Mountain Madness neck gaiter
A thin balaclava will add significant warmth on that cold summit day
Outdoor Research, Marmot
Sunglasses or Glacier glasses (w/hard case)
Essential eye protection whether in the tropics, at high altitudes or by the water. Sun glare off the snow can be intense so polarized 100% UVA/UVB glasses work best. Consider bringing a spare pair
Lightweight gloves to use while trekking and hanging around camp
A shell system of a fleece liner and waterproof shell that handles cold
Outdoor Research Arete
Thin socks (2 pair)
Two pairs of synthetic or wool socks to wear under heavy wool socks to help prevent blisters and keep feet dry
Smartwool or Cool Max
Thick socks (3 pair)
Three pairs of synthetic or wool socks, medium to heavyweight. Check boot fit with thin and thick socks on
Smartwool or Thorlo
One pair of gaiters made of breathable material; keeps dirt and snow out of boots. Make sure they fit over your boots
Outdoor Research Verglas or Crocodiles
One pair light to medium-weight hiking/backpacking boots, waterproof, large enough to be comfortable with one thin and one thick sock
Salomon Quest 4D
Tennis shoes or sandals
Lightweight to wear in camp after a long day of hiking
Two synthetic or merino wool t-shirts. No cotton!
Long-sleeved Base Layer
Two lightweight to mediumweight, pull-over is best
Two, synthetic, no cotton!
Softshell Jacket w/ hood
This is what you will be wearing while hiking at higher altitudes or while kicking around camps at lower altitude. This jacket should be full-zip
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Hardshell jacket w/ hood
A good jacket made of Gore-Tex (recommended) or waterproof nylon, roomy enough to fit over multiple layers
Outdoor Research Foray, Patagonia Triolet
Down or synthetic jacket w/hood
This is your most important piece of warm gear and will mean the difference between an enjoyable climb or a miserable one. A warm, full zip jacket with hood is recommended and ideal
Helly Hansen Vanir, Feathered Friends Volant, Marmot Guide’s Down Hoody, Outdoor Research Virtuoso Hoody
Sun hoody (optional)
This piece with a high SPF rating and lightweight fabric offers protection from high altitude sun
Adequate supply for the entire climb
One pair of quick-drying shorts. Good for hiking at lower elevations on the mountain
Long base layer
Two pairs light or mediumweight
Softshell pants are water resistant, yet highly breathable and durable. Great for colder conditions over a pair of long underwear or tights higher on the mountain or summit day
Outdoor Research Voodoo, Mountain Hardwear Touren, Patagonia Guide
waterproof and breathable with side zips (minimum of ¾ zips recommended) Gore-Tex or equivalent
Outdoor Research Furio, Arcteryx Beta AR
Large plastic bags
Sleeping bag and clothes will be double-bagged while on the trek for protection from rain. Heavy duty garbage bags or trash compactor bags work great and can store dirty or wet clothes as well
Stuff sacks/ditty bags/plastic bags
To organize gear in your duffle and pack. All clothing should be kept dry using waterproof stuff sacks or large heavyweight plastic bags (trash compactor bags work great)
Toothbrush and paste, comb, tampons, biodegradable soap (small amount), etc. Bring enough for the entire trip
1 – 2 rolls stored in a plastic bag
Bring plenty of sun block with SPF of 40 or more. It's easy to underestimate the amount necessary for your trip!
Must have SPF rating of 20 or more. Bring two just in case!
To block out snoring and other noise to ensure a good night's sleep
Small stainless-steel thermos (optional)
For hot beverages on summit day
Water Bottles/Water System (Trekking)
Two one-liter, wide-mouthed plastic bottles. If you use a collapsible water bottle or hydration system you are welcome to bring it along for drinking water. However, bring at least one hard plastic bottle.
Steri Pen, Potable Aqua, Polar Pure crystal iodine. Purifies drinking water while on the climb. this will only be necessary as a back-up.
Powdered additives like Gatorade or NUUN tablets make treated water taste better
Bring extra batteries!
Pocket knife or multitool
Simple Swiss Army type with scissors. Make sure you transport in checked bag, not carry-on!
Personal first aid and drug kit
See Health and Medical Information
Pepto Bismol tablets; Maalox, Gelusil M or Mylanta antacid tablets. Donnatal for stomach cramps. Probiotic capsules taken daily may help keep your gastro-intestinal system working smoothly
For wash up in camp
A small pack or two anti-bacterial are great for general hygiene
Spare contacts and glasses
Contacts can be a problem in dusty conditions, so make sure you have your back-up glasses with you. Glasses wearers should have a spare set
Bring your favorite snacks and power/energy bars or if there is something else you particularly like to eat while hiking and climbing
Spare bottle for a pee bottle, and a pee funnel (Lady J or Freshette) for women
It can be a cold walk to the toilet at night
Protection from rain and sun; compact and light weight
A poncho is great for lower down on the mountain when it is raining. Rather than having to wear your hard-shell jacket and overheat, just throw the poncho over yourself and your pack and you will stay dry as a bone
Phone with camera, and/or separate camera. Bring extra batteries and memory!
If you want to charge your electronics along the way, a small, lightweight solar panel to charge batteries or portable charging device may be a good addition
Travel power adapter
Most come in kits with all the plugs you need. Double-check to make sure you’re taking the correct adapter/plugs
Comfortable clothing for travel before and after the expedition
Cotopaxi National Park Trek
9 Days / Includes travel time
Cotopaxi National Park Trek w/Cotopaxi Climb Extension
12 Days / Includes travel time
15,744 ft / 4799 m
Trek on the shoulders of Cotopaxi Volcanoe
Trekking involves 4-5 hours of walking per day with an elevation gain of up to 1,000 feet / 305 meters. You should be in good physical shape and participating in 3-4, 1-hour minimum cardiovascular workouts per week before the trek. Participants are encouraged to walk several hours or more a week leading up to the trek.