At 4,199 m (13,766 ft), Pasochoaâ€™s lushly vegetated crater and slopes make for an unforgettable day hike. In recent years, due to its beautiful setting and convenient location just 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Quito, Pasachoa has become one of the most popular hiking excursions just outside the capital.
The mountain can be climbed from every side but the west face, which is steep and composed of unstable rock. The two most easily accessible routes are via the Refugio de Vida Silvestre (Pasochoa Forest Reserve) or the Central HidroelĂ©ctrica, which provides easier access to the peak but a much less picturesque ascent.
Getting To and Away From Pasachoa Volcano
Regardless of the route you ultimately choose, you need to travel south out of Quito on the Pan American Highway to AmaguaĂ±a. The most convenient way to get here is by car or hiring a taxi. It's easy to miss the turn off the main road, and the 6 km of rough cobblestone and dirt road to the site take time to cover, although the countryside is beautiful.
Via public transit, you'll have to go to the Quitumbe terminal and grab a bus to AmaguaĂ±a. From AmaguaĂ±a take a pickup to the park entrance (US$ 10) and then pay the park entrance fee of $7. Just be sure to book the driver for a return trip from the park entrance itself to AmaguaĂ±a; setting up a time but not paying him in advance, otherwise he might not show up!
Hiking the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Route
The get to the Reserve, travel to AmaguaĂ±a and then take a left on to a cobblestone road just across the main entrance to the town. Drive about 100 meters up to a church with a double bell tower (which is visible from the highway) and make a right. Follow the road for approximately six kilometers (3.7 miles) up to the Reserveâ€™s main entrance. There is a fee of $2 for Ecuadorians and residents and $7 for foreigners. This fee gets you in and buys you a good map of the Reserveâ€™s trail system. Itâ€™s also possible to camp for $2 per person. About 100 meters up the hill from the caretakerâ€™s house and parking lot, there is an environmental education center. A number of trails that range in difficulty and duration begin here. Sometimes there are also naturalist guides available to accompany you on the shorter walks.
To reach the summit, or most often just the cliff that's an hour short of the summit, you should follow the relatively well marked â€śgreenâ€ť trail for about two hours through a bamboo forest, a splendid stretch of cloud forest, and a pine grove until you reach the pĂˇramo. From here, follow the footpaths to the left of the crater for about an hour to an hour and a half until you come to a steep rock cliff. At this point you are at approximately 3,950 meters (12,959 feet). Itâ€™s possible but not recommended to continue up the cliff and onto the peak, mainly because itâ€™s steep and the rock is unstable.Hiking the Hydroelectric Plant Route
From there, continue on foot for 40 minutes until you reach the Comuna Pasochoa, where you need to turn left and cross a stream. Follow the trail through a small pine grove until you reach a gated pasture, where you may find bulls grazing. Beware: they have been known to charge. Walk south across this pasture and the next one until you hit a dirt road. Go left and follow this road for about 150 meters and turn right. Follow this larger road for about half an hour until you reach another gate.
After the gate, go left again and climb to the top of the ridge and follow the path. From this point, you should be able to discern a safe route without too much trouble. It should take you between one and two hours to reach the summit depending on your level of acclimatization. The very last stretch of the hike is over bare rock.
Note that getting back from the peak, if you donâ€™t have a car waiting at the Hydroelectric Plant, you may need to walk 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) down to the Repsol station. There is very little traffic on the road, so hitching a ride is often not an option.
Near Quito, Quito, Ecuador
Hiking, National Park Types:
National park, Hike, Day trip, Camping, adventure, Lookout point