Yunguilla – Maquipucuna Trek

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.

ITINERARY:

Day 1

9:00

We leave Quito and head northwest to Yunguilla, a small community located at about 50km away from the capital and about an hour away. Yunguilla is a mixed community of around 50 families maintaining a conservation project supported by NGOs, working on sustainable productive activities like the cultivation of organic farms, the elaboration of dairy products and fruit jams, and ecoturism. In 2013 Yunguilla was declared an Area of Conservation and Sustainable Use within the protected areas of the Metropolitan District of Quito.

11:00

After a small stop to visit the community of Yunguilla, we start a gentle climbing until a pass at 3000 meters, the highest point of the walk. We continue along the vehicle road, which at times it climbs for short distances, but it always continues to lose altitude overall. We will reach small streams flowing across the road, especially during rainy season. In about two hours walk the scenery will begin to change from pastures and scrubby secondary growth to increasingly lush cloud forest filled with beautiful bird songs and fluttering butterflies. We will find a nice spot to eat lunch, rest, and enjoy the forest.
In an additional hour we’ll find fine views down to the valleys of the Río Santa Rosa to the southwest and the Río Umachaca to the northeast. The forest is very beautiful here.
After one additional hour we will be back in pasture land again, as we get to Escopetas Auca where we will set our camp. Having completed a 4-hour trek we will enjoy the rest of the afternoon, prepare a delicious dinner and call it the day.

Day 2

9:00

Day two involves a five-hours walk to the Maquipucuna reserve. The road vehicle that was walked the previous day ends in Escopetas Auca, and we will now walk in a much narrower trail carved into a gully. The trail now drops more steeply through dense woods, and in many places the track has been worn into the soft soil by years of use, and we will find ourselves in gullies deeper than we are high. The walls are thick with moss and the trench barely wide enough to accommodate our backpacks. The going is rougher here, but also very beautiful as the sounds of birds and insects accompany all the way. On a sunny day, butterflies are everywhere.
Along the descent we can hear the Río Umachaca below to our right. It will take us three hours to reach the river, at an altitude of 1400 meters. We will make a stop in a small sandy area where we can enjoy a bath, have lunch and enjoy a well-deserved rest.
The trail climbs a bit steeply from here, with many ups and downs along the way. We will remain mostly in the woods, and will cross several small streams along this section. In about two hours we will emerge into pastures once again until we arrive to the Maquipucuna Reserve, where we will take our transportation back to Quito, arriving in two hours.

*This trek can also be done in one day, if it’s preferred not to camp one night and not to carry the heavy camping equipment. If done in one day it will be a 9-hours walk, which can be very manageable since we’ll be climbing down and going lightweight.

**We will be carrying the camping gear with us (tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc.) so endurance and strength to carry the weight is needed. During rainy season the terrain can be very muddy and it can rain from early afternoon till night. In general it will not be cold but we can get wet and it can be harder to walk on a muddy trail.

INCLUDED:

  • Tents
  • Gas tanks and burners
  • Food and beverages during the trek (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Private transportation
  • Bilingual mountain guide
  • Entrance to the Yunguilla community

NOT INCLUDED:

  • Pack animals
  • Personal equipment (sleeping bag, mat)
  • Tips

WHAT TO BRING:

  • Swimming suit
  • Small towel
  • Raining boots
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Long sleeves and easy to dry T-Shirts

GENERAL LIST:

  • 60-80 liters backpack
  • 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 *

*Optional