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
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 RÃo Daule campsite, which is about seven kilometers (4.2 mi) beyond the tracking station.
Alternately, take the train, the Ruta PÃ¡ramo Infinito, which arrives at Ãrea Nacional de RecreaciÃ³n 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 RÃo 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, youâll meet up with the road from the Lasso entrance.Machachi Entrance
The route follows a cobble road to the left out of the main plaza in Machachi and climbs around the north side of RumiÃ±ahui. 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 climberâs refuge.
Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...