Rucu Pichincha Hiking
Climb to see the best views in Quito
- Season: January–December
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 9 kilometers (out‑and‑back)
- Elevation Gain: 760 meters
- Duration: 6–8 hours
About Rucu Pichincha
Pichincha Volcano known in Spanish as Rucu Pichincha, is an incredible 4,784 m.a.s.l. high volcano on the eastern side of Quito. The trailhead begins at Cruz de Loma, a lookout point after an 8 to 10-minute ride on the highest gondola in South America called the TeleferiQo. You’ll continue with the other hardcore adventurers for a few more hours, where you’ll get epic views of other Andean peaks including Antisana, Cayambe, Cotopaxí, Pasochoa, and Rummiñahui. You haven’t seen the capital until you’ve gone on this hike.
It’s a demanding hike to the top, but it is not a technical climb. It’s best to start in the morning because it often rains and gets cloudy and foggy in the afternoon. From the top of the TeleferiQo at Cruz de Loma, it will take about 3 to 4 hours round trip. The weather changes very frequently, so make sure you’re prepared with the right gear. Consult the Outtt day hiking packing list. If it’s not a good weather day it will be hard to see from the top, but you will most likely see Quito from Cruz de Loma.
Give yourself a few days to get acclimated to Quito’s high altitude of 2,800 m.a.s.l. before embarking on this adventure. The teleferiQo opened in July 2005, and is open 7-days a week, from 9:00 to 20:00 Tuesday - Thursday and 8:00 to 20:00 Friday - Monday. Please remember to bring a photo ID with you, which helps organizers keep track of who’s on the mountain.
To reach the trailhead, you must first take a 20-minute gondola called TeleferiQo, this will cost you $8.50 as a foreigner which is good for both directions. The gondola entrance starts at the base of the mountain near VulQano Park Amusement. To get to TeleferiQo there are a few options:
This is the easiest option and will cost you $5 from the Mariscal, where there are many accommodation options. Tell the taxi driver to drop you off in front of TeleferiQo, the entrance is located on the street Arnulfo Araujo and Avenida Occidental, Western Avenue (near the intersection with Gasca Avenue).
There are two close stops to the base: Antonio Jose de Sucre Y N25, bus numbers 154, 88, 208, 89, 154, 207, 51 and Jose Berrutieta Y Antonio Jose de Sucre (2), bus numbers, 131, 131-A. 15 to 20 min walk little over a km from the stop
Follow the same directions as the taxi. There is paid parking available.
After taking the Teleferico to the top at the Cruz de Loma viewpoint, at 3,900 m.a.s.l., the trail begins beyond the cable car station. From here, it’s a gradual increase to the base of the volcano. The trail is rather wide at this point, with plenty of nice open areas with vegetation and places to take a break and enjoy the view. There are some areas near the base, that you must be aware of your footing, as there was previously rock slides. The first two-thirds of the trail have excellent signage, going left at the forks tends to be the less challenging route.
The next section of the trail is where you’ll begin to see sand and leftover lava flows from previous eruptions. The hiking becomes more challenging here. There’s also a large sand slope near the top, which doesn’t have a real path, but footprints of previous hikers. There are two options, to go straight up the sand and hardened lava or take a right at the fork to take the switch back trails, which makes this a bit easier to tackle. The last one-third of the trail, you’ll have to scramble across the rocks until you reach the last 100 meters of the trail. From there, there’s a final set of very steep rocks to climb before reaching the summit. At the top, you’ll be at 4,680 m.a.s.l.. You’ll get incredible views, if it’s a clear day. Even if it’s clear below, the summit tends to be very cloudy and foggy preventing you from seeing more than a few meters away.
You will be gaining a significant amount of altitude, so remember to take breaks, especially at the top where the air is very thin.
- Parking (paid)
- Coffee shop and restaurant (at the top of the TeleferiQo)
After the TeleferiQo it's only mountain landscape. It's a good idea to pack food and water for your trip. Read Outtt's day hike packing guide for more tips on what to bring.
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