Ecuador has several National Parks that span both the Andean region and the Amazon Region
Antisana Ecological Reserve
Antisana Ecological Reserve encompasses 10 ecological zones ranging from páramo to lowland rainforest, along with a variety of climates, vegetation, and wildlife. The Reserve’s main attraction is the snow-capped Antisana Volcano, the fourth highest peak in Ecuador. Antisana affords travelers with numerous trekking opportunities including the less traveled Guacamayos mountain range, which extends through the Sumaco-Galeras National Park. Among the many bodies of water in the Reserve, Micachoca Lagoon is the Reserve’s largest. Located at 3900m, it’s an excellent spot for trout fishing. Visitors occasionally spot some of the Reserve’s wildlife such as puma, white-tailed deer, the Andean fox, and the Andean condor.
There are two ways to access the Reserve. Coming from Quito, go to Pintag and then continue on a rough road through several villages for approximately 45 km. The other route from Quito is taking the Lago Agrio / Coca / Tena road through Papallacta, Cuyuja, Baeza, and continue to the entrance near Cosanga.
Founded in 1970, the Reserve’s cloud forests and páramo (high altitude grasslands) remain relatively undamaged due to the area’s inaccessibility. Home to Ecuador’s third highest mountain, Cayambe, this protected territory sloping down into the Amazon Basin offers many interesting sites. Other than the typical páramo vegetation, the flora consists of many species with great ecological, economic, and medicinal value such as: orchids, balsa wood, cedar, laurel, sangre de drago, and ayahuasca. With over 450 identified species of birds, including the elusive Andean condor, animal life abounds. Besides the Reserve’s unique flora and fauna, there are also many exciting outdoor activities.
Reventador Volcano’s trails allow for great day trips or more challenging trips to it’s summit to revel in the spectacular scenery. More accessible and equally impressive, is the San Rafael Waterfall, where the Quijos River drops an awesome 130-m (423-ft). The river system in this area carves deep canyons throughout the densely forested Andes, which are fed by approximately 80 isolated lagoons dispersed in the páramo. Beautiful lakes are found on the road from Oyacachi to Papallacta, a town famous for its Hot Springs, as well as in the foothills of the Cayambe and Saraurcu Mountains. You can take a strenuous hike down the Oyacachi valley leading to El Chaco along a mule path.
The Llangantes mountain range is one of the most remote and difficult to hike in Ecuador. Located in the provinces of Tungurahua, Cotopaxi, and Napo, the Park offers challenging hikes and many beautiful trout and salmon filled lagoons. Trees such as the ceibo, the chuncho, and cedar decorate the landscape in addition to monkeys, birds, deer, and spectacled bears. Created in 1991, the protected area does not yet offer an administration office or lodging for visitors. Therefore, you should visit the INEFAN office for detailed information about the park. A local guide is strongly recommended as well as 1:50,000 maps of the region. For specific information consult the climbing page or the guidebook “Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador“. The park, accessed from the town of Pillaro near Ambato, is best visited between December and January.
The Sangay National Park is one of the most remote areas in Ecuador. Within its boundaries you will find three of the country’s highest peaks, Tungurahua Volcano, El Altar, and Sangay. Although hunting has threatened the resident fauna, it is still home to many rarely seen animals such as tapirs, ocelots, pumas, and porcupines. The vegetation includes highland grasses and shrubs and cloud forests in the East. Tours can be arranged from Banos, which is located just 70-km away from the park. The best route leading to the park is from Riobamba to Aloa. See the guidebook “Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador Book, or eBook” for further information on good hikes.
Sumaco-Galeras National Park is one of the least traveled parks in Ecuador. The most common way to visit the Park is to hike up the Sumaco Volcano, one of Ecuador’s lesser known volcanoes due to its remote forested location. Most of the area has escaped developmental impacts and this makes for difficult trekking. For information on climbing the volcano and on other hiking options within the park, consult the guidebook “Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador Book“.
Updated January 21, 2013