We went on another hiking adventure just 40 minutes west of Cuenca to Lower Cajas, which is part of Cajas National Park.
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.
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.
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.
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!
We also saw this ancient Polylepis Tree. Edwin said it’s probably over 200 years old. They’re normally very small shrub-like trees.
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.
Please, leave no trace fellow hikers.
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.
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