Appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the Andese in Ecuador by exploring it on feet or on wheels. With trails ranging from 1 hour to several days adventures, you'll find some of the best hikes and biking trails in the region.  From the presteine Podacarpus national park to the mountain ranges surrounding the region of Loja.  Centered around the iconic townshiop of Vilcabamba, the choices of landscapes, rock formations, gullys, rivers and spectacular mountain views make exploring Ecuador a life-long experience.

The use of this website is free to all users and provides an instrument to assist and promote the hiking tourism in the Vilcabamba Valley.

A Few Notes on Hiking in the Vilcabamba-Valley

To the locals of Vilcabamba, the concept of hiking just for a pastime, is completely alien. If one has to hike, it’s for the sake to do the fieldwork, to tend the animals in the outlying pastures or, in earlier days, hunting. In times where there were few vehicle-roads, people would walk to places in order to buy & sell their farm produce, or to visit family or friends.

For this reason, there never existed a system of touristic hiking trails in the valley, instead, trails developed where they were needed for the traditional use.

Things changed with the arrival of tourists, beginning in the early eighties, in the wake & fame following coverage of renowned magazines about the longevity in the valley, and with the creation of the Podocarpus National park in December 1982.

Five Refugio’s (mountain refuges), accessible from Vilcabamba, were created, just at the border of the park, four of them private owned (Solomaco, Las Palmas, El Gavilan & La Tasca) and the community-based Refugio AVETUR.

Access to this Refugio’s, like most of the other trails, lead partly over private owned farms or land. Traditionally, there exists an unofficial Code of right of trespassing for most of the common used trails in the area. However, with the arrival of tourists, some landowners started to cash in on the most popular destinations (like Agua de Hierro, Mandango-Trail, or El Palto Waterfall). Meanwhile, most of them have again given up this practice for practical reasons.

An exception is the private owned Rumi-Wilco reserve, which maintains its own self-guided Trail-System with provided maps & plant labeling. (Entrance fee $ 2.-)

In order to keep grazing animals within the fincas borders, barbed wire fences obstruct many of the less frequented hiking trails crossing from one Finca to the other. Some crossings are equipped with proper metal-frame gates, while others don simple, flexible barbed wire Gates. Important: Always leave the doors as you find them!  Some fence crossings have neither, in this case you have the inconvenience to climb either under or over them. Make Shure not to destroy any fence in doing so!

Under normal circumstances, local Finca-& landowners don’t object of trespassing their property, according to traditional custom. However, I’m sorry to notice, that there is a tendency among landowners, to try to prevent not only tourists, but locals as well from using traditional trails on newly acquired Lands. I hope things will change in time.

Way signs in the valley are few! Except for some marked trails, (by Hostería Izhcailuma)  it is very easy to get lost. The main difficulty of many a trail is more by finding the right trail, then by the topography of the trail itself. That is where this Web-Site comes in and should help the individual by downloading the tracks onto their GPS or IPhone (with a special app) or by a map print out. But remember, run down batteries or misreading of the tracks can still result in uneasy situations. If you’re not confident by what you are doing, it is always better to contract a local guide who can assure you a stress-free outing.                  

National park entry Fees:

“As of January 17th 2012, Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment suspended the collection of entrance fees and declared free entrance for all its national parks, except for the Galápagos Islands, which will maintain the $100 fee for foreigners.”

This means, that if any of the tour operators or guides tries to charge or collect any entrance fees for PN Podocarpus, (not for the private owned reserves) it is not legal, and should be discouraged.


How to use the map guide.

The numbering of the hiking tracks is by geographical orientation.

A-Tracks for the eastern direction of Vilcabamba. (El Palto waterfall, Las Palmas- & Solomaco Refugios etc.)

B-Tracks for the north-eastern direction of town, (Cerro Guaranga, Sunungo- Uruchi– Uchima valleys)

C-Tracks for the north western direction, (Cararango pass, Cucanama, El Chaupi, canal road)

D-Tracks for the south western direction, (Mandango, Lambunuma pass, Tumianuma, Masanamaca)

E-Tracks for the southerly direction, (Mollepamba, Montesueño, Yasanga, Cerro Sananangui)

F-Tracks for out of the valley tracks like Cajanuma & Bombuscara sections of PN Podocarpus, old Road Rumizhitana)

0.1 / 0.2 stand for variations of the same track.

You also can filter the tracks by name, difficulties or track lenghts.

By moving the cursor over the elevation profile you can follow the track and get the distance and altitude of the respective section indicated. By clicking on the pins in the map, a window with additional information pops up. You can resize the map by clicking on the  + / -   Icons. You also have a choice of four different map types.


A word about Responsibility & safety.

Even though the author tried to research the trails as precise as possible and puts much effort in keeping the Information updated, things are not static and change constantly. Landslides occur, new roads are cut into the landscapes, landowners erect new fences, old ones are torn down, gates are newly locked or unlocked, new bridges erected ore washed away, trails overgrown after the rainy season etc. With more than 300 recorded hiking kilometers I can’t check all trails as often as I would like to.

No guidebook or website can replace common sense nor make up for a lack of experience. Therefore:

The author cannot take responsibility for any mishaps, accidents or other occurrences related to the information given in this website. Responsability always remains with the Hiker himself!! He has to collect all the information regarding the planned hike, has to equip himself accordingly, observe the weather, and check the river-levels before fording etc.