Earth : South America : Ecuador : Cotopaxi
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 seas on 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.
In 2008 entrance to the park is US$10. Additional fees are charged to ascend Cotopaxi, and guides are required.
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 $25/per person per night in a dorm. Includes three meals. Private room is $30/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.
Parque Nacional Cotopaxi has several camping sites without facilities, and camping is also possible at the Area Nacional de Recreacion el Boliche on the western edge of the park.