Cotopaxi National Park (Parque Nacional Cotopaxi) is about one and a half to two hours south of Quito. Encompassing 33,393 hectares on three provinces (Cotopaxi, Napo, Pichincha), and contains its name sake, the beautiful stratovolcano, Cotopaxi. With a summit altitude of 19,344 ft (5896m), it is one of the highest active volcanos in the world.
The volcano is typically the highlight of those who seek adventure and want the challenge of climbing its steep slopes. I myself have been up to the refugio on several occasions as well as had a failed summit attempt due to equipment failure. Not the kind you would see at the Super Bowl halftime show. My latest visit to the park this past December 2010 was quite different, I spent many hours seeing the park. I was amazed at the beauty all around me. Wonderful rolling hills mixed with debris from ancient eruptions. Herds of wild horses, and lovely picturesque streams and even an ancient archaeological site were a delight to photograph.
There are well established but very rough dirt roads which take you throughout the park. Be careful after a rain and make sure you have four-wheel drive. The weather in December was very pleasant where a lite jacket with perhaps a sweater under was adequate even when setting out on foot for a little bit here and there. I highly recommend visiting the park in this manner if you are not inclined to partake on the extreme of high altitude climbing.
There are a few hostels sprinkled throughout the park providing comfort for those who wish to stay over night, or better yet, several nights in the park. Do a little research, or contact me for you next vacation plans to Ecuador and Parque Nacional Cotopaxi!!!
Here is a picture of Cotopaxi taken from the refugio.
At the park entrance you will find this map which gives a general idea of the park. You should have a more detailed map on hand though if you are planning on driving throughout the park.
Wild horses can be found roaming the park.
Heer is an example of what to expect from the roads.
December was rainy season, so broken clouds were abundant.
It’s breathtaking to see in for real. I hope this photo can express just a little of the actual beauty.
Bone from presumably a cow.
This I was told, is the head water of one of the countless streams feeding the Amazon. How exciting is that!
Another gorgeous landscape.
Yep, that’s a bull.
Dead horse carcass.
The most disturbing thing I saw was inside the stone building was one colt, and outside the other. Each had two legs tied together so they couldn’t get away. I didn’t know what to do, cut them lose, or just get out since I was unsure as to what kind of people would do this, or maybe they have every right to. I didn’t know. These were near the dead horse in the above photo.