Duration: 2 days – 1 night*
Walking distance: 22km
Rating: Moderately Difficult**
Altitude: We will be descending from 3000 m to 1200 m. In the second day the descend will be abrupt as the trail drops more steeply descending to the river.
Best time to visit: From June through September. However, being a rain-forest area, an afternoon downpour is common in any season.
Observations: This is a very accessible trek since we are diminishing in altitude throughout the walk. Weather is generally warm, and when rainy and foggy it doesn’t get too cold either. However, during rainy season the trail can get very muddy and it can rain continuously during the day. Weather in the sierra may be very changing regardless of the season, thus raining boots are a must at any time. Also, we will be carrying the camping gear with us (tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, food, etc.) so endurance and strength to carry the weight is needed.
TREK DESCRIPTION: This trek is often referred as the Toucan Trail or the Auca Trail, and runs from Yunguilla (in the Pululahua volcano vicinity) to the Maquipucuna reserve (in the Nanegalito area), both fairly close to Quito. This trail was used by the Yumbos (aboriginal inhabitants of the area who have since vanished) for centuries for trade in goods between the Sierra and the Coast (salt and cotton among other products), and later by dealers of liquor during the prohibition period. The first part of the walk is on an abandoned vehicle road (now closed to cars by vegetation and several landslides), the remainder on narrow trails deep in the forest.
Maquipucuna is the closest pristine rainforest to Quito, a private nature reserve of 4500-hectare with an altitudinal range stretching from 900 meters to almost 2700 meters above sea level. Maquipucuna harbors over 4% of the world bird diversity, including spectacular birds such as the Toucan Barbet, Cock -of-the Rock, Plate-billed mountain toucan, Lanceolated Monklet, Esmeraldas antbird, Read headed barbet, Golden headed quetzal, and many varieties of brilliant hummingbirds. The flora is exceptionally rich in epiphytes, such as orchids, ferns, and bromeliads. There are at least 45 species of mammals, including pumas, Spectacled Bear, agoutis, and deer (during the fruiting season of a small avocado type plant, one can see Spectacled Bears). It is the birds and butterflies, however, that really make this walk a delight.