1. Cotopaxi National Park is high tundra or, in Spanish, el paramo. It reminded us of many parts of Alaska.

Original entrance sign to the North Gate of Cotopaxi National Park.

The back entrance on the North side reminded us of Alaska – dirt/gravel roads, tundra-like rolling hills, and rusted out entrance signs.


2. No matter the season, be prepared for extreme weather changes. The mountain can be dangerous.

Layers and layers of clouds prevent us from seeing the top of Cotopaxi. Yet people are still choosing to hike to the Refugio.

Layers and layers of clouds prevent us from seeing the top of Cotopaxi. Yet people are still choosing to hike to the Refugio.

3. Take pictures all the time because you never know when the clouds obliterate the view.

Fast moving clouds threaten to engulf us for the third or fourth time that day.

Fast moving clouds threaten to engulf us for the third or fourth time that day.

4. Rock formations await nicknames.

We called this rock formation The Gorilla though he could easily be King Kong.

We called this one The Gorilla though he could easily be King Kong.

5. Walk quietly and you’ll see more wildlife.

There were several rabbits to be seen on the trail at Limpiopungo.

There were several rabbits to be seen on the trail at Limpiopungo.

6. Walk too quietly and you might surprise a bull around the corner of the trail. Always be aware of your surroundings. Cattle and horses roam free but are not necessarily tame.

A bull guarding the trail at Limpiopungo. We decided the intelligent decision was to hike off trail at this point.

7. Just because you see wildlife doesn’t mean it is really wild.

This was one of many dogs we saw - feral or owned, we're not sure. But if owned, he's ventured very far from home.

This was one of many dogs we saw – feral or owned, we’re not sure. But if owned, he has ventured very far from home.

8. Just because it’s a park, it doesn’t mean you can do park things everywhere.

No driving, no motorcycles, no camping, no fires, no littering, and no swimming. And, of course, we saw signs that everything but swimming had taken place in this spot. Sigh.

No driving, no motorcycles, no camping, no fires, no littering, and no swimming.
And, of course, we saw signs that everything but swimming had taken place in this spot. Sigh.

9. Cotopaxi National Park is more than just a mountain.

Lava flows on the backside of the park (high clearance vehicle recommended)

Lava flows on the backside of the park just beg to be explored (can you see my son standing in the picture?)

10. Some of the best views of the mountain are found on the far side of the park where roads are more like dirt paths and it’s hard to tell if you’re actually going anywhere other than “out there.” This is truly a wild part of Ecuador.

The mountain, daring to reveal itself, as seen from a hilltop near the Manantiales natural springs.

The mountain, daring to reveal itself, as seen from a hilltop near the Manantiales natural springs.