Alao – Laguna Negra

Duration: 2 days – 1 night

Walking distance: 22km

Rating: Moderately Difficult

Altitude: We will be hiking from 2850masl to 4000masl

Best time to visit: December through February are the driest months. April through June can be very wet.

Observations: This is a very challenging and physically demanding trek, not only because we will be increasing in altitude but because it’s a humid area and it can rain constantly and the road can be very muddy, adding some extra difficulties to it. Even under the more ideal conditions water streams keep parts of the route muddy all year around, and we will be crossing some rivers. Therefore, raining boots and waterproof clothing are a must. We will walk in the company of arrieros (mule drivers) and mules, which will carry the gear, equipment and food. The first is an easy four-hours walk, but the second day we will be walking for eight hours.

TREK DESCRIPTION: This trek takes place in the Sangay National Park, being this the reason for being in a humid area and having large chances of rain and fog, as we will be hiking in between the Sierra and the Oriente (jungle). This is also why we will encounter plenty of water streams, rivers and waterfalls along the way, making it a very beautiful place to be in. The gateway for this trek is the friendly and very traditional indigenous town of Alao, about two hours south of Riobamba. From Alao the road climbs very gradually, going parallel to the river. Leaving town the road goes through green pastures that soon give way to tussock-covered  páramo. We will encounter impressive flora including native trees such as the pumamaqui, fical, and alder, a variety of orchids and other colorful flowers, mosses, lichens, mushrooms, and a great many ferns. In the second day we will arrive to Laguna Negra at 4000masl, a beautiful high Andean lake, nestled in the grassy páramo at the foot of Cerro Mirador.


Day 1


We leave from Quito and head south for a four-and-a-half hours drive to Alao, a small town located and hour away from Riobamba. We will stop to have breakfast on the road.


While our arrieros (mule drivers) load our baggage and gear on the mules, we start our walk thru a vehicle road not largely used. This road will take us up to our camping spot four-hours apart, which makes for easy walking along the first part of the hike. Our first steps will be through green pastures that soon will give way to tussock-covered páramo. We will be amazed at the vegetation surrounding us, and will have beautiful views of the valley and the Alao river under us. We will find a nice spot to have lunch along the way, and at the term of completing around four-hours walking we will arrive to a small shelter with some flat spots suitable for camping, where we will spend the night. If weather permits we can go fishing or hiking to the Alao river, and then return to the shelter for dinner and resting.

Day 2

We will wake up early in the morning to start our hike toward Laguna Negra. We will go without the pack animals, taking supplies only for the day. Along the way we will have beautiful views of the Alao Valley and surrounding ridges. We will now be walking along the east shore of the Alao river, and the road will deteriorate and will be in parts no more than a track. Small streams overflow, and water runs on the trail surrounded by moss, small bushes, and flowers. The trail climbs more steeply and offers fine views of waterfalls such as Quebrada Quilimas tumbling down to the snaking Río Alao below. After a three-hours walk we will get to our destination, located at 4000masl. Laguna Negra is a beautiful high Andean lake, nestled in the grassy páramo at the foot of Cerro Mirador. Ducks are commonly seen here. We will have lunch at the lake and then start the return to the shelter where we slept the night before (a two-hours hike) to pack our things and return to Alao (a three-hours hike). In total, we will walk eight-ours this day, making it a challenging one. We will then return back to Quito, arriving at night.


  • Tents
  • Gas tanks and burners
  • Food and beverages during the trek (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Private transportation
  • Bilingual mountain guide
  • Pack animals


  • Tips


  • Swimming suit (in case you want to adventure to take a quick bath in a cold river)
  • Small towel
  • Raining boots
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Long sleeves and easy to dry T-Shirts



  • 30 liters backpack (to carry with you during the trek)
  • Easy-to-dry pants
  • Long sleeves and easy-to-dry T-Shirts (Cotton should be avoided)
  • Polar Tec
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Gloves
  • Sun cap (for sun protection) and beanie (for cold protection)
  • Buff
  • Hiking boots or hiking shoes (to be used when camping)
  • Socks for each day (for trekking)
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Knife*
  • Camera*
  • Personal hygiene kit
  • Sun block (at least 50)
  • Water bottles
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Personal medical supplies
  • Trekking Poles *