There is one hike always worth taking at Cotopaxi National Park, the trail around Limpiopungo. No matter what the weather, you’re guaranteed to see birds, small finches and wrens hopping up and down the trail itself and larger waterfowl and shore birds in the many small ponds and marshy areas. You’re also guaranteed stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and of wild horses on the paramo. If the weather is clear, you should be fortunate enough to catch at least a glimpse of the majestic volcano, Cotopaxi, as well. Each time we’ve visited, the weather has changed rapidly and the ever present clouds weave in and out of the mountain valleys and make each moment unique.

The trail around the lake takes about 1.5 hours. The trail is well maintained and practically flat, making it a perfect hike for those that aren’t handling high altitude well. Bring a lunch in your daypack and you can sit under a shady gazebo about one third of the way into the trail. And, if you’re lucky, you may spot rabbits near the small bridges about midway through. At the end, beware of the cattle. They roam at will and though they have never charged us, they do tend to own the trail. Just give them wide berth!

Please click through the gallery of photos:

This post was originally published before the eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano.

While the National Park was closed for a time, it is once again re-opened and it is possible to visit most of the park.

Hikes to Laguna Limpiopungo, the Refugio, and the Incan Pucara are permitted.  The Glacier and the Summit are once again open. (last updated December 7, 2017)

The Refugio

From the Main Entrance, follow the main road. Head right at the intersection that heads toward Tambopaxi and the North Entrance.

From the North Entrance, follow the road in and turn left at the crossroads.

Limpiopungo

The access road to Laguna Limpiopungo is just off the main road that runs through the park. If you enter using the North Entrance, turn right on the main road as if you are headed to the Main Entrance of the park, not towards the Refugio.

Pucara Salitre

The Pucara Salitre can be found using backroads accessible from the North entrance of Cotopaxi National Park.

Information For Your Trip

Prepare for cold weather, even on beautiful days. Snow and rain can occur at any moment. Carry plenty of water and high energy snacks. Be prepared to stop hiking if anyone in your party exhibits signs of high altitude sickness.

  • Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for Refugio Cotopaxi, Latacunga Canton, Pichincha; for Limpiopungo, look for Laguna de Limpios, Pichincha, Ecuador.
  • Direction by Public Transportation Unfortunately, there are no great public transportation options that make it possible to arrive, hike, and depart Cotopaxi on the same day. We recommend hiring a driver and car or staying the night at a nearby lodge. Camping is prohibited while the volcano active.