Hike around Cuicocha Lake

Cuicocha Lake

Located in the beautiful and scenic Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, this stunning lake also has views of Cotacachi Volcano, and the Isla Wolf and Isla Yerovi islands. Good practice for hiking mountains with higher altitudes.

Not very far from the touristy Ecuadorian town of Otavalo and the retirement paradise of Cotacachi is the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve. It boasts a rainforest, many volcanic lakes, and waterfalls. The infamous 11,089 foot tall Cotacachi Volcano is located within the reserve, towering near the Cuicocha Lake.

You can view the Cotacachi Volcano, as well as the Cuicocha Lake and its two islands, Isla Wolf and Isla Yerovi, by entering the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve and going to the information center where the trailhead is. The hiking trail loops around the crater lake.

Signage suggest taking the trial clockwise (which is what we did and is extremely steep), but for those looking for a more leveled and scenic view immediately, it is recommended to hike counter clockwise on the trail. The trail involves extreme changes in altitude, so drinking copious amounts of water and staying well hydrated to acclimate are essential to getting through the trail without experiencing altitude sickness. It can rain sporadically and mist over in the area, so keep a poncho handy with you to keep dry and comfortable.

Even if you don't hike the entire trail, hiking some of it is still worthwhile the view. It is no wonder the Cotacachi Volcano and Cuicocha Lake draw so many people to come visit the area each year, as there is quite nothing like it.

Pack List

  • Abundant amount of water
  • Layered clothing
  • Hiking shoes
  • Poncho
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks/Meal
  • Camera
  • Map
  • Cash for taxi and food if no transportation scheduled
Show More
RT Distance 6.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 1000 Feet
Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Forest
Groups
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Que Lindo! - Beautiful Views Of Lake And Countryside

This is a challenging, yet worthwhile hike. The views are incredible for the entirety of the hike and you are able to see an array of paramo vegetation. A truck can easily be hired in Cotacachi near the bus terminal. I recommend hiking clockwise around the lake, so you end up at the control/visitor's center. (The trail isn't a complete loop.) Tell your driver you want to be dropped off at "el sendero más arriba" The weather can change quickly, so come prepared with warmer layers and a raincoat. Finally, the signage (and my driver) said it takes 5 hours to hike. I finished in 3 hours and stopped many times to take in the views! Enjoy!


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