Cotopaxi, the central feature of the national park, is nearly 5,900 m in height and is one of the highest active volcanoes on earth, although its present activity is limited to a few steam fumaroles. The landscape of the park is typical of recently active volcanic areas, and there are several peaks in the protected zone well over 4,000 m in altitude.
Flora and fauna
With most of the park well above 3,500 m in altitude, the vegetation is typical of the tropical high Andes with scrubby woodlands in protected valley areas and open grasslands covering the lower slopes of Cotopaxi and other peaks. The landscape of the Paramo is an important feature of the park, a natual water filtering system for the streams coming off Cotopaxi's glacial areas. That water is an important part of Quito's water supply.
A number of rare Andean species are protected in the park including infrequently seen condors, spectacled bear, and brocket deer along with more commonly viewed foxes, white tail deer and rabbits.
Although Cotopaxi is only about 100 km south of the equator, its climate is dictated by altitude and there is perpetual snow about 4,500 m. In the more popular areas of the park, the highest temperatures rarely exceed 20 degrees, and night temperatures fall below freezing. The rainy season is Summer, late December to March, although rain is possible at other times as well.
Cotopaxi is accessible by car from the Ecuadorian capital Quito, and other parts, too.
There is no entrance fee. Additional fees are charged to ascend Cotopaxi, and guides are required.
The entrance is free, a guide is required for a hike on the peak.
The beautiful landscape that the andean region has. Mountain biking paradise. You have to hire bikes in advance, no bikes available at the park. Horseback riding is superb! ask at Hacienda El Porvenir www.tierradelvolcan.com for horseback rides, or at Pedregal Community, 5 km from the North Entrance to the park. Bird watching in Limpiopungo Lake. Climb Rumiñahui Volcano
You can eat at the lodge on the hike up Cotopaxi.
There is a hostel an hour's drive away called Secret Garden - Cotopaxi. Cost is $38/per person per night in a dorm. Includes three meals. Private room is $44-49/per person per night, based on two people. Private bath and toilet. Contact Secret Garden in Quito.
Inside the park there are refugios for climbers, but most lodging is outside the park limits, and some visitors come on day trips out from Quito. All inclusive lodging is available at several quite luxurious haciendas near the park limits, for example Hacienda el Porvenir, while cheaper lodging is available in the small towns close to the park. There is a working hacienda on the east side of the park that offers campsites (firepit, running water, bathroom) as well as individual rooms. See www.haciendayanahurco.com.
Parque Nacional Cotopaxi has two camp sites administered by Ministerio del Ambiente - La Rinconda and Condirhuaico. Both are free and are located just South of Laguna de Limpiopungo. The La Rinconda campsite (on the right heading south from the Laguna) has toilet, cooking facilities and water. Note that it is also used for picnics and football games, so it is best not to pitch your tent in the middle of the large grass space. Camping is also possible at the Area Nacional de Recreacion el Boliche on the western edge of the park.