Cotopaxi Volcano and Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Only a short hour to an hour and a half trip from Quito, Cotopaxi National Park is one of the most impressive national parks in Ecuador, and it contains the famed Cotopaxi Volcano. An ecological reserve surrounds the volcano, located on the border between the provinces of Pichincha and Cotopaxi.

Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

Photo by Robert Gibson, winner of the VIVA Travel Guides Ecuador Cover Photo Competition

The national park is particularly interesting because the volcano suddenly surges out of relatively flat terrain, offering spectacular views of the volcano from all directions. Cotopaxi National Park is a popular destination for visitors looking to hikeclimb and trek, as well as those seeking to enjoy stunning panoramas from down below. Cotopaxi’s ecosystem is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including a unique combination of pine vegetation and wolves, pumas, bears, rabbits, condors, wild horses, and foxes.

Cotopaxi Facts & Statistics

  • Second highest peak in Ecuador, after Chimborazo
  • Elevation of peak: 5.897 m (19.3471 feet)
  • Last eruption: 1904, with activity registered in 1942
  • Nearest cities: Quito, Latacunga
  • Native fauna: wolves, pumas, bears, rabbits, condors, wild horses, and foxesCotopaxi2

Cotopaxi Climate & Mountaineering

Cotopaxi is one of the most popular climbing sites in Ecuador. Cotopaxi is the second highest point in Ecuador and at 5,897 meters above sea level, its climate is glacial. It is absolutely essential to have adequate mountaineering gear when you embark. Be sure to check with a  professional guide and see our packing list for packing advice. For those seeking to reach the summit, a professional mountaineering guide is strongly recommended. The most common route is from the refuge at 4800m on the north side of the volcano.

How to Get There and Away

No public buses enter the Cotopaxi National Park, and the parking lot to climb volcano is about half an hour’s drive from the highway where buses do let passengers off. If hitchhiking doesn’t appeal to you, there are sometimes taxis at the Panamerican highway intersection, but the safest bet is likely to continue on the bus until the town of Lasso, and get a taxi or 4×4 service from there. Otherwise, you may hire private transportation from Quito, for sight-seeing. Most mountaineering tours include transportation between Quito and the park.


Recommended Local Providers:

Cumbre Tours is lead by Karl Egloff, the world record holder of speed climbing up and down Cotopaxi Volcano. Karl is best known though for having the world record for Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua.

See the climbing, hiking, and trekking tour operators page for a complete list of mountain guides to take you up Cotopaxi.

Recommended Reading

Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador , Rob Rachoweicki and Mark Thurber, Viva Travel Guides. Most complete and up to date climbing guidebook for Ecuador.


Text by Jason Halberstadt

Updated March 3, 2015