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.