The Yanacocha Reserve is a real treasure of the Pichincha province and deserves to be recognized on its own.

I have probably visited the Yanacocha Reserve more than any other place in and around Quito. Part of me just loved the drive – a graveled road in fair shape that meanders through high altitude farmland and provides views of the Andes, chain after mountain chain. And part of me just wanted to walk the path through this high altitude cloud forest to see the small hummingbird garden about an hours hike in. Every visit was an escape from big city life.

The Yanacocha Reserve has a rhythm to it that is fairly consistent year round. The mornings start off cool and damp. Sunrise is consistently around 6am. Birds start singing even earlier. For the best chance to see birds other than hummingbirds, an early arrival is your best bet. Once, I was greeted by a Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager taking a bath in a puddle immediately on the start of the trail!

The sun doesn’t hit most of the main trail until after 8am. The smaller side trails may not see the sun all day as they have been cut directly into the thickly forested mountainside. Starting at about 11am, clouds swirl and dance among these high mountain slopes. Often, it looks like the mountains are actually breathing, in and out, in and out, as the clouds surge up high and then fall back towards the earth.

If you hang out a little longer, you may encounter the thick fog for which the cloud forest is well known. Most days, by about 1pm, the trails are thick with it. The views that you might have seen on your hike in have been all but obliterated. We have never stayed much later but I have often wondered what the late afternoon might be like.

In the small season that Quiteños call summer, August, the winds arrive and scour the sky of clouds. It is still possible to encounter foggy afternoons but this season and a few weeks on either side are your best bet for clear views and sunny days. The rainy season, which generally starts around December, almost guarantees afternoon rain. And a cold rain at that. I never hike Yanacocha without bringing my rain gear, a warm hat, and a pair of gloves, just in case.

I hope these photos will encourage you to explore the Yanacocha Reserve and get to know just a small part of the Pichincha Province. These photos barely scratch the surface.

Click on any photo to open a slideshow with further descriptions of each photo.

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