Cajas National Park | Ecuador, 2004

Distance :  18.6 miles (30 km) approx.e_10

Avg. Time :  1 or 2 days

Start / Finish :

  • Tres Cruces to the Cuenca Guayaquil road.
  • Buses leave regularly from Cuenca to the Tres Cruces trailhead. From the finish, it will be a question of hitching or flagging down a Cuenca-bound bus.

Season :

  • Possible all year round. The dry season (which is still pretty wet) runs from August to January.

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Maps / Info :

  • Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes has a sketch map and useful trekking notes. I followed the route described on pages 85-90.
  • If you would like more detail, three IGM 1:50,000 maps cover the route:  Cuenca [sheet 3785-2]; San Felipe de Molleturo [sheet 3785-4]; Chiquintad [3785-1]. These maps can be purchased at either the IGM office or South American Explorers Club, both of which are in Quito. Click here to purchase online.
  • The Cuenca tourist information office sells a basic trail map: Parque Nacional El Cajas–Mapa Turistca / Guia de Senderos. I found this map, combined with the information in the Lonely Planet guide, to be sufficient for navigation purposes.
  • Bring all supplies from Cuenca.

 

Route / Conditions :

  • With terrain and weather conditions reminiscent of the Scottish highlands (at more than twice the altitude), Cajas is not the place to be if you don’t have a decent wet weather gear and solid route finding skills.
  • If you are overnighting, be sure to bring warm clothes and a good tent.
  • Definitely no problem finding water. Avoiding it is another matter.

Sleeping :  Tent

Overview :

  • Think Scotland without the pubs/villages.
  • Scores of lakes, jagged peaks, gnarled red Quenua trees and cloud forest make this a wonderfully scenic hike. Good luck with the weather.
  • If you are newly arrived from the coast, it is worth basing yourself in Cuenca (2530m) for a few days in order to acclimatize.

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