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Getting To And Away From Cotopaxi National Park

Parque Nacional Cotopaxi has three access points: Lasso, El Boliche and Machachi. The roads between the entry stations have been paved now and make the whole journey incredibly smooth. Many lodges offer private transport service to and fro as well.

Lasso Entrance
The main entrance to Cotopaxi National Park, Caspi, is just a few kilometers before the town of Lasso. From Quito, drive south on the Pan-American Highway for approximately two hours, until you see a large sign: Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. Turn left (east) at the sign, immediately cross a set of railroad tracks, and follow a dirt road east for 15 kilometers (9 mi) until you get to the park’s main entrance. The route is well-marked. If you don't have your own car, buses run regularly along the Pan-American Highway from Quito. Ask to be let off at the entrance and walk or hitchhike (easier on weekends) to the entrance. Often there are taxis waiting at the park entrance turn-off. It costs about $10 to hire a taxi to take you to the museum, but many hikers opt to hire a ride to the Laguna Limpiopungo. This is about a 15-kilometer (9-mi) trip from the Pan-American Highway.

El Boliche Entrance
El Boliche is about 1.5 hours south of Quito and is also the turn-off to the Clirsen NASA minitrak station. The road, which may be closed to vehicles but accessible to hikers and mountain bikers, is marked with a huge sign and the tracking equipment is plainly visible from below. Take a bus as far as the turn-off from the Pan-American Highway. The road is asphalted for the first two kilometers (1.2 mi); after the old tracking station, it is gravel. There are signs most of the way, but stay right following the railroad tracks for 0.5 kilometer (0.3 mi). You pass the railway station, cross the tracks and continue to the Río Daule campsite, which is about seven kilometers (4.2 mi) beyond the tracking station.

Alternately, take the train, the Ruta Páramo Infinito, which arrives at Área Nacional de Recreación el Boliche, near Parque Nacional Cotapaxi. (See the site of the national railways for more information: www.ferrocarrilesdelecuador.gob.ec). Ecuadorians have the once had the curious habit of riding on the roof of trains but this is no longer allowed for safety reasons.

From the train depot, the dirt road continues climbing gradually. One to two kilometers (about 1 mi) beyond Río Daule, it passes a hairpin bend with a stable and a thatched hut. After a further one to two kilometers, take an unmarked left-hand turn (look for herds of llamas; the animals are being studied in the area) down the main road to the park entrance station. Just before the station, you’ll meet up with the road from the Lasso entrance.

Machachi Entrance
The third entry point into the park is south of Machachi. This is the closest turn-off from Quito, favored by those with private vehicles and better for bicyclists, but involves a rougher road to the less-used North Entrance Station, Pedregal. You can take a bus to Machachi and hire a camioneta (pick-up truck) to the refuge for about $35.

The route follows a cobble road to the left out of the main plaza in Machachi and climbs around the north side of Rumiñahui. The road first drops down to a river valley 3 kilometers (1.8 mi) from the plaza, then follow signs another 12 kilometers (7.2 mi) to Hacienda El Porvenir (Volcano Land). Continue another four kilometers (2.4 mi) to the North Entrance Station. From here head south first passing by Tambopaxi, and eventually arrive at the turn-off to the climber’s refuge.










By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

25 Oct 2013






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