Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve is mostly known for the massive volcano that gives the park its name, and it is no surprise why. Cayambe, the snow capped giant standing at 18.994 ft, is worthy of admiration.
However, what really makes this park exceptional is water. There is water EVERYWHERE. Whether there is fog or rainfall, mist always hovers nearby. Besides, the paramo vegetation is constituted to retain water in the higher parts, lagoons cover large spaces of the ground and then we have the rivers, with drops and falls.
In the higher parts, you can find thermal and mineral water sources such as Papallacta and Oyacachi. In this region rivers such as Due, Chingual, and Cofanes flow into the Aguarico, which then meets Coca and finally the grand Napo river.
On the other side, to the west, hundreds of rivers and streams nourish the Mira and Esmeraldas rivers that flow out to the Pacific Ocean.
The third tallest volcano in the country, and also the third in Latin America above the equatorial line! Cayambe is great for a day trip because you can get to a refuge that stands at 15,092 ft. The ideal plan is to go up to the refuge (make sure you take a 4×4, or rent one in case you’re travelling by bus), where you can walk up to the snow in a short trek.
You get here by taking a second order path via Juan Montalvo- El Hato- Pie Monte. 45 min until the entrance checkpoint.
One of the most active volcanoes in the country known for its constant activity and eruptions that are splendid to witness. Sudden eruptions let out high quantities of ashes, stone, and lava.
You can reach the skirts of the volcano, and explore the Amazon Basin, by taking the main route to Lago Agrio.
Did you know? 80 glacial lagoons within the park are fed by the melting ice of Cayambe, to create a complex that was declared a Ramsar Site.
The Papallacta lagoon is very accessible and there are several hotels nearby that offer access to thermal pools with massage and spa services. How to get here? Take Interoceanica (Via Quito Papallacta).
The San Marcos Lagoon (Via Ayora Olmedo) is also a very beautiful place within the park, serene and mystical. It is a great site for fishing and photography. You can also camp by the lagoon!
Located between the provinces of Napo and Sucumbios, San Rafael Waterfall is a magical place to embrace nature in all its magnitude and its power. A 525 ft drop makes it the highest waterfall in the country! A 20 min trail will take you through the luscious vegetation of this rich environment until you reach the fall. We recommend you combine a visit to San Rafael Waterfall with a trek up the skirts of El Reventador, closeby. To get to San Rafael you take route Interoceánica Quito- Lago.
Activities allowed within the park include: trekking, hiking, photography, jungle excursions, horseback riding, and camping.
Did you know? The area of the reserve was inhabited by pre-Inca Kayambi and Karankis, whose festivities such as the Inti Raymi persist.
Overall, the Cayambe Coca Reserve is paradise for trekking, fishing, and bathing in pure streams and thermal waters. All of this accompanied by mountains and volcanoes that tower over the still paramo environment.