As one of Ecuador’s greatest National parks, Cajas is a must when visiting the city of Cuenca. Just about an hour away from the city’s bus terminal, this park has everything you wished for in the paramo, from high altitude summits to foxes hanging out outside of the refugio.
For $2 you can take a bus going towards Guayaquil. Buses usually leave every other hour from the bus terminal and will drop you off right next to the main refugio of the park, which is surrounded by the beautiful “Laguna Toreadora”.
Britt and I arrived there during carnival weekend with the plan of camping at the park. Surprisingly the refugio was almost empty and we were recommended by the park ranger to sleep there at night with no extra cost. Park entrance fee is only $2 for Ecuadorean nationals and $4 for foreigners.
We took the advice of the park ranger and left our things at the refugio. In the afternoon we had some time to walk around Laguna Toreador, an easy and straightforward trek. At night, while having dinner at the refugio porch, a paramo Fox appeared close by. The first I’ve seen one of these guys in almost 2 years of hiking mountains in the paramo!
There are many trekking routes with different difficulty levels throughout the park and the next morning we decided to do route 1. After an hour or so, we saw some waterfalls that were part of a different route so we did a little change of plans as our main goal was to climb Cerro San Luis at 4,252 m.
Cerro San Luis is an awesome hike with some steep parts and loose rocks. As you climb this Cerro, it seems like you’ve reached the summit only to find that there is still some climbing to do. This happened like 3 times until we finally reached the main summit. It’s definitely worth it, as you have beautiful views of the surrounding lakes and mountains. Make sure to try the truchas at the park’s restaurant next to the refugio!
Cajas is a massive park that will surely take more than two days to explore.