Poco a poco. Little by little. I reminded myself of this as I slid through volcanic sand and rock climbed my way towards the frigid summit of Rucu Pichincha (Pinchincha Volcano). Accessible by the TeleferiQo, I assumed the Rucu Pichincha hike outside of Quito would be one of those easy morning “hikes” where I’d be back and chowing down on empanadas by 2 pm. Yeah, well, trekking in South America is never so quick.
In Quito, you start your day at 9,350 ft. The TeleferiQo brings you up further still to 12,943 ft and the summit Rucu Pichincha is at a literally breathtaking 15,413 ft. You can get winded just tying your shoes in Quito, so climbing a volcano is nothing short of exhausting. But for views of the sprawling city and the neighboring Cotopaxi volcano climbing to a still-higher 19,347 ft? Rucu Pichincha is definitely worth the climb.
Are you looking for a little adventure outside of Quito? Rucu Pichincha is a lot safer and lots more awesome than you’ve read. Check out our guide to hiking Rucu Pichincha and more details about trekking in Ecuador.
Traveling in Ecuador? You might also like our post on 51 fun + unique things to do in Ecuador!
Where is Rucu Pichincha?
Rucu Pichincha is a volcano that sits just outside of Quito. To get to the hiking trail, you’ll take the TeleferiQo ($8.50) up to 12,943 ft (3,945 meters). From there, hiking Rucu Pichincha will take 3-4 hours.
Is Rucu Pichincha Safe?
A quick search about trekking to Rucu Pichincha will yield horror stories. Several years ago, hiking to the summit was considered unsafe due to armed robberies. I asked several people before going, and everyone said the hike has been totally safe since 2016. The trails are uncrowded, but I never felt nervous about the hikers I did pass. As with any hike, I’d recommend going as a pair or a group, but there’s not much to worry about these days. Let someone know where you’re going, leave unnecessary valuables at home, and get the hell up there!
Rucu Pichincha Volcano Hike
The hike to the top of Rucu Pichincha is about 10 km (6 miles) and will take 3-4 hours. The trail isn’t extraordinarily well marked (with trail markers often pointing backward), but enough visitors have come through to stomp a trail. Here’s a video we made from our hike:
Hiking Instructions: You’ll head left from the TeleferiQo and down a hill. From there, the trail winds to the right side of the volcano, and you’ll begin your ascent. The early parts of the trail are well-packed dirt lined with green grass and cactus’ flowering orange. It’s more of an amble at first with gradual inclines and slow hills.
After about an hour, the trail clips in on the right side and becomes more of a rocky, narrow climb. Eventually, the trail becomes quite ambiguous, but for lack of better route, you’ll keep going straight. Just when you think you’re getting close, you’ll look left and see a steep incline of volcanic sand leading up to the jagged summit. While this is the last hour of the climb, it is undoubtedly the hardest. You can either attempt to slide through the sand or head to the far right side for a longer climb along more packed earth.
Once you’ve gotten through the sand, the summit is just 15-20 minutes away, but you’ll need to find hand and foot holds as you climb your way up to the summit. The summit puts you above the clouds and offers views in all directions.
Definitely! This hike is unique in that it’s totally accessible from the city. For as little as a taxi ride and your TeleferiQo ticket, you can get some of the best views in Quito making this one of the most convenient options for trekking in Ecuador. The trails were uncrowded, and it was pretty gratifying for a day hike.
MayaNovember 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm
Your pictures are gorgeous! I can’t wait to get to Ecuador next year and possibly hike Rucu Pichincha 🙂
Taylor RecordNovember 13, 2016 at 4:20 pm
Thank you so much, Maya! Will you guys be going straight from Central America?
MayaNovember 13, 2016 at 4:46 pm
Not straight, we are starting in Venezuela soon and then going south on the west coast.
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DollyJune 21, 2018 at 1:07 am
Ecuador is in my bucket list. Just didn’t get around much to do the research. I’m into climbing the mountain.
I’m thinking Cotopaxi or something else. I like the outdoor. Any recommendation will be appreciated.
TaylorJune 21, 2018 at 3:27 pm
Hi Dolly. Hope you get the chance to go! Ecuador was even better than I expected. If you go, and are interested in hiking, Cotopaxi, The Quilotoa Loop, Chimborazo, and Rucu Pichincha are the most popular options. Good luck with your planning!
Daniel AlejandroJuly 11, 2018 at 3:56 pm
Totally amazing. There is a less known trail which begins at the entrance of the private neighborhood Iñaquito Alto. You have to hike all the way up to the antenas first, if you need some help to find the route you can use google maps, just set as final destination “antenas del pichincha”. Almost halfway there is a gate which has a lot of “private property” signs, don’t worry about it, everyone is allowed to pass it today, just say hello to the people who live there and tell them you are going to the summit, sometimes cops are there too. Once you reach the summit, you have to take another path that is behind the last antena. You will recognize it because you will see a lot of big wires attached to the ground. Walk down following that path and then up to the mountain that is in front of you, once you reach its summit you will see Rucu’s summit, from that point it is a different adventure, you should take a short rest before you go to Rucu.
People don’t usually take this route because it is phisically demanding and takes too long, it is a full day hike, it will take you 6 or 7 hours only one way, so you should start really early in the morning and take enough snacks and water with you. Don’t worry about thieves and tickets, It’s safe and free. This path is frequented by joggers, mountain bikers and hikers, especially on weekends.
As a last tip, it will be better if you go with a friend or group, just in case of an emergency. As I said before, cops are there sometimes, but if they are not, you are going to be by yourself there.
TaylorAugust 17, 2018 at 12:25 pm
Thanks for the tip, Daniel! I wish I’d known about it beforehand. That sounds really cool and hopefully, this will inspire someone else to take that route!
PaulMarch 9, 2019 at 9:05 pm
Thanks for the info including pictures.
Question: Do you know id its possible to get a guide at the teleferico ? Or recomend a somewhere to contact?
Is there sny need for equipment?
TaylorMarch 10, 2019 at 12:49 pm
Hey Paul. Glad you found it helpful! There’s a visitor center at the top of the Teleferico, but I don’t remember seeing too many staff around. If you’re looking for a guide, you’d be best off hiring on in Quito. It’s just a day hike, so I reckon it wouldn’t be too expensive. As for equipment, none needed! Just some sturdy shoes, snacks, and plenty of water. Also a hat and a decent jacket as it can get cold at that elevation. Good luck and let me know how it goes!
StephanieMay 14, 2019 at 2:12 am
Thanks for the detailed info. Was the hike 3-4 hours one way or round trip? We would also like to see Mitad del Mundo so I was wondering if we might be able to get to both in one day! Did you guys have issue with altitude sickness? We will be coming in from the Cuyabeno the day before. Thanks a bunch!
TaylorMay 17, 2019 at 11:24 pm
Hey Stephanie. It’s 3-4 hours round trip from the top of the Teleferiqo, but you’ll want to factor in transport time (both up and down the mountain in the cable car and to the stop from the city center), maybe 5 hours in total? I just took a look, and it’s about 40 minutes from the Teleferiqo to Mitad del Mundo. It’s open until 6, so if you don’t mind a bit of a hustle, you should be able to knock out both in one day. I didn’t go to Mitad, so can’t say for sure how long you’d want to spend there. Hope this helps a bit and enjoy your time in Quito!