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Cotopaxi National Park (Parque Nacional Cotopaxi)





Location: Napo and Pichincha Province   Map

Area: 33,393 ha




Description of Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi National Park or Parque Nacional Cotopaxi is located in Napo and Pichincha Provinces of Ecuador. The national reserve covers an area of 33,393 ha. Cotopaxi National Park is named after volcano Cotopaxi within its boundaries. At a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft) Cotopaxi is one of the tallest active volcanoes in the World. The first known attempt to climb the mountain was in 1802 then German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt made only half way. On November 27, 1872 geologist Wilhelm Reiss finally made it to the top of Cotopaxi. Today hundreds climb this impressive mountain that is ranked alpine F/PD grade. This Ecuadorian national park is inhabited by condors, rabbits, deer and cougars. Pine tree forests are commonly found in this harsh environment. Additionally the Cotopaxi park has ruins of Puruhaes natives that use to live in this area despite dangerous location on a volcano.





The Park is connected to Latacunga and Quito by the six-lane Pan-American Highway, which allows the trip from Quito to the park in approximately two hours and from Latacunga in one hour. An alternative is the train, which also departs from Quito, and it takes an hour and a half to reach the park station, another alternative would be entering the city of Machachi, heading to the Barrio Santa Ana del Pedregal, where you can visit some hostels.

The Cotopaxi National Park ..

GEOGRAPHICAL SITUATION.- It is located between the provinces of Cotopaxi, Pichincha and Napo.
SURFACE.- It has an area of ​​33,393 hectares.- Its highest point is the summit of the Cotopaxi Volcano, at 5897 meters above sea level.
TEMPERATURE.-Its temperature varies from the end of -10 degrees Celsius when it is very cold on the glaciers, up to 20 degrees Celsius on the sunniest days on the lowest moor, depending on the height.
PRECIPITATION.-Annual average of 500 to 1500 mm.
DISTANCE.-From Quito 45 kilometers and 35 kilometers from the city of Latacunga.
ACCESS ROAD.-Carriage to the parking lot of the Jose Ribas SJ Refuge, at 4 500 meters high.
VISITS.- At any time of the year, preferably from July to December.
ATTRACTIONS.- The Cotopaxi for its landscapes, its glaciers and summit; the Jose 'Ribas SJ Shelter at 4 800 meters high; the trails, the moors, the lagoons, the archeological ruins, the places to walk and camp, the mountain bike trails, the horseshoe trails ... The mountain lodges in the lower moors in or near the Park.
CREATION.-In August 1975.

Flora and climatic floors
There are few dense native forests as the rest have been destroyed by fire or cut down to sow grass. There are extensive moors with 'Stipa ichu', moor straw that is the predominant graminea in the region. As it rises, representative plants such as chuquiragua, alchemila, plant colonies in the form of pads, mosses, lichens, romelios, quishuar or tree of god, and mortiño appear. In perpetuated snow there is no vegetation.

In the park there are four climatic floors or living areas: the humid mountain forest, the sub-Andean rainforest, Andean rainforest, and the snow floor.

The humid montane forest represents the lowest part of the Park, between 3,400 and 3,900 m.s.n.m .; with temperatures between 6º and 12º C and average rainfall of 1,000 to 2,000 mm per year. The main feature is that its trees are deformed and are of low height, are forests of very difficult access and there are few samples of this area within the Park: ex. Crater of the Rumiñahui volcano and western flanks of the Cotopaxi; This is due to the annual grazing and burning activities, although in recent years these actions have been considerably reduced, a little helping the recovery of this ecosystem. In 1981, in an investigation, Stipa ichu (páramo straw) and moss were found as more abundant. Lesser species were found such as: Halenia weddelliana (Tarugacacho), Gentiana sedifolia (Lligllisisa-sachamor), Bromus pubescens, Alchemilla orbiculata, Archirophorus quitensis, Pernetia sp. Chuquiragua jussieui (Chuquirahua) and Licopodium sp. In the lower parts of this area, there are some tree species among which stand out: Oreopanax andreanus (Pumamaqui), Prunus serótina Capulí) and Gynoxys sp. (Yanachilca-chilca negra).

The sub-Andean pluvial wasteland comprises between 3,900 and 4,400 m.a.s.l. with temperatures of 3º to 6º C and rainfall of 1,000 to 2,000 mm per year. This area occupies a good extension of the Park, mainly on the slopes of the Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui volcanoes. Within its flora, we still see the predominance of moor straw, lichen and lycopodia.

The Andean storm tundra located between 4,400 to 4,700 m.a.s.l., average temperatures of 1.5º to 3º C and annual rainfall of 1,000 to 2,000 mm. The great feature is that the vegetation forms colonies and the grasses disappear since this area is especially below the snowy area and the sandy areas. One of the main representatives are the well-known pads (Werneria sp.), And Senecio (Culcitium canescens); In addition, we find moss, lichens and some other species in smaller quantities.

The snow floor includes the entire surface covered by snow and glaciers where there is no vegetation. On the Cotopaxi volcano, the snow starts at an average height of 4,800m, although there are currently areas like its western side starting at 5,100m and on its eastern flanks this level can start from 4,600m. of altitude.


It is worth making a very important note regarding the theme of the flora of the Cotopaxi National Park, and this refers to a special theme such as that of pine forests. Around the PNC there are large pine plantations (Pinus radiata), a species native to California-North America, which was introduced in 1976 and which are made for commercial purposes. Although it is true, most of these plantations are outside the limits of the Park, these plantations have created “microhabitats” that in most have displaced the characteristic moorland, and have also changed the dynamics of ecosystems, so that also in some cases they have served as a refuge for some species of animals such as white-tailed deer and small bird species (Coello, 1996).

Among the mammals that inhabit the park are South American camelids like the llama, as well as there are herds of wild horses in the northern and eastern sectors of the park. There are also white-tailed deer, spectacled bear, puma, wild rabbits, the wolf of the moor, the cervicabra, the skunk, the zarigüella or raposa, the mole mouse, and the Andean weasel.

The most important birds are the hawk, hawk, duck, owl, owl, caracara, condor, Andean toucan and hummingbirds

Geology: natural lagoons, trails, snowy Cotopaxi.

Infrastructure: cabins, high mountain center, camping center, travelers center, Jose Ribas Shelter, SJ.

Archeology: Ruins of Citadel of the Puruháes.

Astronomy: Center for Integrated Surveys of Natural Resources by Remote Sensors (CLIRSEN).

The Park is a very sheltered place of the night city light. For this reason, in addition to its height and equatorial location, it is very treasured by fans as an ideal place to observe the stars of the night sky.





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