I had heard about people taking $50 tours to Cajas, but after doing a little research it seemed easy enough to do it on my own. Happily enough, my new friend from my Galapagos trip was also interested in hiking Cajas. Once I arrived in Cajas I saw the large tour buses full of people and I was so happy to be with off on my own with my friend Andrea.
We arrived by public bus to Cajas National Park with about 15 locals and a few young tourists. Apparently hiking in Cajas is a popular weekend trip for many locals. Instead of going to sign in to the guestbook with all of the locals we took some pictures, went to the restroom (bring your own TP), and had some hot coffee to warm up. By the time we were finished the guestbook and park workers were free to chat.
The guides suggested that we do the simple hike around the lake since we were both already cold and it would likely rain while we were there. We took them up on their suggestion, registered our visit in the guestbook, and were on our way.
Despite the clouds, cold, and slight drizzle I found the park to be just gorgeous! There are many trails, over 200 lakes, and even opportunities to camp in Cajas, but after the nearly two-hour hike we were both chilly and ready to be on our way back to Cuenca.
I wish I had thought to bring some long johns, hat, and gloves with me, because despite my layers I was just not warm enough! While I have been living in a tropical country for a few years, my friend from Germany was also cold, so don’t discount the warnings to dress warm!
Stuff to Bring:
There were not many animals and plants along the way, but those that we did see were always a lovely surprise:
I loved this short and easy hike and would highly recommend it to those who want to get out of the city and enjoy nature for a few hours. The altitude is quite high in the park with most of El Cajas at above 3,000 meters elevation, so be prepared to breath harder than you might expect. If you take it slow and take your time to enjoy the view you shouldn’t have any problems with the basic hike around the lake.
How to Get There and Back from Cuenca:
Starting from the South Terminal just tell the vendor that you want to go to Cajas. The ticket was $2 per person for the hour long drive. After hiking, wait on the highway for buses from Guayaquil to Cuenca to flag down. We were told they come every 30 minutes. It was another $2.00 ride. Right as we got back to the park office there was a bus due at any minute, we ran up to the road and waited only a couple of minutes. The run was probably the hardest part of the day!
Comment below: Have you been to Cajas National Park? Do you have any tips for other readers?