Tag Archive for: Cajas National Park

Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park – Cuenca Ecuador

Hiking Upper Cajas National Park just a short drive from Cuenca Ecuador is an otherworldly experience that makes it hard to believe you’re still in Ecuador. If you’re looking for things to do in Cuenca, this should be near the top of your list.

Edwin picked us up about 9:30AM and the drive took us about 45 minutes to reach the check in station.

Entry into Upper Cajas National Park is free, but we did have to sign in at the building by the parking lot before venturing down the trail toward the lake.

Upper Cajas LakeCuenca to Cajas Map

We followed Ruta 1 Rosada, which was an easy/intermediate trail. There was quite a bit of elevation gain and loss with a few spots that were quite difficult to traverse so I would consider it intermediate, not easy.

Upper Cajas Ruta 1 Rosada

We saw lots of mushrooms and beautiful flowers, but this lone yellow flower set against a dark backdrop was truly stunning. These circus flowers were also visually captivating. (Image on the right side)

Yellow FlowerCircus Flowers

Edwin was nice enough to hike up the 1,000 foot incline at the end of the hike to get the van. My legs haven’t fully recovered from the nerve damage so they were very weak by that point. Edwin sent us down the hill to the lower parking lot where he picked us up. If you need a safe and reliable driver who speaks fluent English and really takes care of his clients, Contact Us for an email introduction.

Edwin

Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park is an unforgettable experience. You can keep it easy by hiking around the lake that’s a short walk from the parking lot, you can do the intermediate hike that we did, or you can climb up a mountain and scramble across boulders. There’s something for everyone, including exotic bird watching.

See More: Cuenca Parks

Watch us Hiking in Upper Cajas National Park in Cuenca Ecuador

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Hiking in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

We went on another hiking adventure just 40 minutes west of Cuenca Ecuador to Lower Cajas National Park. This area of the park is much different than Upper Cajas. It’s much greener with lots more trees. If you’re looking for things to do in Cuenca, this is a great activity that most people can do.

It took about 10 to 15 minutes to drive from highway 582 to the trailhead parking lot. It was free to enter, but we had to show our cedulas (or passports would work). There are no food services so bring your own snacks.

Lower Cajas SignLower Cajas National Park Map

After a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot, the covered jungle trail opens up to Lake Llaviucu (pronounced ya-vē-oo-koo), a picturesque glacial mountain valley lake nestled between two high mountain ridges. Llaviucu is a Quechua name, which is the native language spoken by Ecuador’s first people. The valley is dotted with boulders left by ancient glaciers.

The mountain views in Lower Cajas are simply amazing. Indescribable. My camera and video skills did NOT do it justice. You really have to see it for yourself, if you’re able. (Check out the image gallery)

Sometimes we felt like we were in the movie Avatar with the steep mountains above and clouds below the peak making them look like they were hovering over the earth.

Lower Cajas National Park is an alpine rainforest so it’s wet and humid, but a little chilly. We recommend taking multiple layers that are easy to put on and take off. The temperature varied quite a lot in the span of a few minutes from chilly to warm and from warm to chilly.Lower Cajas Muddy Boots

It was also quite muddy and slippery so be sure to take an extra pair of shoes and socks for the ride home (and a plastic bag to put the wet ones in), or some waterproof boots would be even better. Amelia stepped on what looked like a nice grassy area and sank up to her shins in mud. She just laughed like she always does when something like that happens. I would NOT have been happy!

We also spotted lots of beautiful flowers, and if you’re an orchid lover, this is the place to find wild ones. They were growing all over the trees! And an ancient Polylepis Tree. Edwin said it’s probably over 200 years old. They’re normally very small shrub-like trees. (See in the image gallery)

Lower Cajas is home to wild llamas who were slightly curious about us, but mostly indifferent. We were able to get very close to them and they didn’t seem scared of us at all. Is it just me or do they remind you of French aristocrats from the 1800’s? Hopefully that doesn’t offend anyone?

The park is incredibly well-maintained. The trails are well travelled so they’re easy see, the docks on the lake and the walking bridges are in great condition, and we saw virtually no litter. I did pick up a button that could choke a llama, as well as some fishing line that could strangle a bird, but other than that, the park was very pristine.

Edwin has been in several of our videos now and he was elated to share Cajas with us. Ecuadorians are very proud of their country, as they should be.

Edwin is our friend and driver. In fact, he picked us up at the airport in Guayaquil when we first arrived in Ecuador. And he’s been driving us ever since. He’s super safe, extremely nice and very reliable. He also speaks fluent English. If you need a driver here in Cuenca and the surrounding areas, let us know and we’ll connect you with Edwin.

Lower Cajas Edwin

Lower Cajas Button

Please, leave no trace fellow hikers.

Watch Our Video About Our Hike in Lower Cajas National Park near Cuenca Ecuador

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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