Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
811.00 m (2,660.76 ft)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
12.30 km (7.64 mi)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Loma Cochapamba is a day hike out of the village of Isinliví, one of the major stops along the multi-day Quilotoa Loop trek. It’s a somewhat short but rather sustained and difficult in areas, and thus a great hike to begin acclimatizing for the region if you plan on ascending the Quilotoa volcano or other, even larger Ecuadorian Peaks, like Cojitambo or Cotopaxi. It also provides a great sampling for the local terrain and sights, having both local houses along the track as well as stunning vistas that take you far and above civilization. From September through December, you can even harvest some delicious blueberries from the mountain itself.

Any time you go hiking along the Quilotoa Loop, be prepared for the 10,000+ feet of altitude. This means lots of water (hydration is one of the most important components to acclimatization), sunscreen, and warm layers. For those sensitive to altitude, cocoa leaves are a naturopathic altitude sickness medication to chew on while you hike.

The Hike

At the edge Isinliví, just before where the road goes on to Sigchos, a small path passing houses intersects perpendicular to the main road. Take this path. Shortly ahead, the path splits three ways. You will see a house on the right (to which the rightmost path leads), where you will continue straight down the center path into a mildly inclined dirt gully.

Follow this path for 400 meters until it intersects with a road. Do not turn onto the road. Instead, find where the path picks up on the other side of the road and continue along it. If the day is clear, you can see the distant Quilotoa crater off to the right.

About 600 meters later, you will pass a house with a red roof. Take the path about 50 meters farther going up to the left along a row of pine and eucalyptus trees. Warning: Another path goes off to the left after the red-roofed house. This trail leads to another house, so do not take it.

After following the trees up the hill, the trail will intersect with a road. Turn right onto the road and continue for 0.7 kilometer until it curves to the left. Take the small, narrow path uphill, exiting the road to the right. Do not take another small path going downhill to the right just before it; this path leads back the way you came.

Continue along this steep path, following the fence lining farm fields. Near the top, you will pass a water tank before reaching another main road. Turn right onto the road and follow it for 1 kilometer until you reach a large left bend with a stunning view ahead. Take the small path leading off to the right just around the corner. This path will be a wide, grassy path filled with patches of plants and cow pies. You’ll need to cross several barbed wire fences along here. Just remember: If you open any gates, shut them behind you. Much of the land you’re hiking on is private farmland, which locals are happy to open for travelers and hikers… provided you don’t inconsiderately or absentmindedly release their livestock while you’re doing it. Be respectful of the locals and their animals alike.

At the end of the path, 600 meters later, you’ll reach another road and turn right.

After walking on this road for a short while, you will see Loma Cochapamba rising up immediately to the left, as well as some rocky cliffs in the distance. You’ll need to first cross a barricade of spiky, huge aloe plants (look for the single large gap in the plants) before making your own path up the dry, scrub-grass mountain.

Warning: Bulls frequently roam this mountain, especially in the early day. They can be mean and dangerous. You might even run into men who tell you there is a fine for going up there. (There isn’t, but they’re trying to discourage tourists from getting hurt.) If you see any bulls blocking your path, especially any lone ones, turn back and continue along the road as it loops around the mountain.

After you reach the top of the mountain, you can either go back the way you came and continue along the road looping around the mountain, or you can take a shortcut. To do this, cut down the opposite side of the mountain from which you came up. You’ll see the road below, and you’ll have to get down a steep 10-foot embankment, of which there are only a few makeshift paths down.

Once down on the road, turn left and keep walking for 2 kilometers until you see power lines crossing the road overhead. Take the small path spurring off the road on the right and keep going downhill until you come to yet another road (the same one you briefly walked along earlier after the water tank). Turn right and walk downhill along the road the same short distant until you see the water tank. Turn left toward it and retrace your steps again back to the next road intersection.

From there, you can continue to retrace your steps all the way back to the village, or you can make a mini loop of the end by taking the small left path spurring off the main road. Keep following the ridge down this path (despite whatever other paths intersect with your way) until you pass a single dilapidated stone building on your left. On the right will be a very steep field sloping toward the clearly visible village of Isinliví. There is no easy way to get back to the village from here. This field is steep no matter where you choose to tackle it.

At the bottom, you will need to cross the barbed wire fence on the right and get onto the path that goes in between the field and a farmhouse. This path will lead you to the concrete walls of the local colegio, where you should turn right following the wall. The path leads to the main road, on which you again turn right and follow right back to Isinliví.

Navigation

Hiking in the Quilotoa area, whether on the loop itself or on the many trails weaving in and out of it, can be extremely confusing and frustrating, and any hostel-provided direction sheets are next to useless. They use subjective walk times and vague instructions, such as, “After 10 minutes go left on the faint grassy path.” In reality, there are about 10 grassy paths that could realistically be the right way. Know that it’s normal and total inconsequential to get lost. There are tons of little houses and rural villages with locals who will point you in the right direction (though you’ll definitely need a basic understanding of directional Spanish vocabulary!). These directions were written with a GPS tracking app and thus distances are accurate and exact and will hopefully spare you a lot of head scratching and backtracking.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Panoramic views. Lush vegetation. Seasonal blueberry picking. Good intro to hiking at higher altitude.

Cons

Aggressive farm animals. Confusing navigation. Lots of intersecting paths.

Trailhead Elevation

9,609.58 ft (2,929.00 m)

Highest point

12,024.28 ft (3,665.00 m)

Features

Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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