From its jungle trails to its highland tracks, Ecuador's hiking options are virtually limitless. In many places, the terrain is challenging, the altitude a serious consideration, or the forest thick, which is why organized hikes are quite popular. Stays at the nature lodges of the Oriente and the cruise down the Napo River include guided hikes through the rainforest, while options in the Andes range from short hikes through the countryside around mountain lodges to acclimation and summit hikes on the slopes and peaks of snowcapped volcanoes and full-on trekking safaris to some of the country's most remote protected areas.
Popular trips include walks on the well-marked trails of the Pasochoa Reserve, near Quito; treks up the slopes of Cotopaxi or Chimborazo; or hikes around the crater lake of Cuicocha or down a section of the old Inca trail to the ruins of Ingapirca. Hikers who want to do it on their own should pick up the book Trekking in Ecuador, by Robert and Daisy Kunstaetter. When planning a hiking expedition, it is good to pay attention to the country's regional rainy seasons. Though the Sierra is largely sunny from June to September, and partially sunny in December and January, the eastern peaks and valleys are influenced by the inclement climate of the Oriente, where the wettest months are June, July, and August. The wettest months on the country's Pacific side are February through May.
The Black Sheep Inn (tel. 03/2814-587; www.blacksheepinn.com), beautifully located in Chugchilán, Cotopaxi, offers guests guided day hikes around Quilotoa Lake and through the surrounding countryside.
Moggely Climbing (tel. 02/2906-656; www.moggely.com), a Danish-owned mountaineering outfitter, offers economical hiking tours of Cotopaxi National Park and the area around Papallacta, as well as ascents of such secondary peaks as extinct Volcán Pasochoa (approximately 5,000m/16,400 ft.).
Safari Ecuador (tel. 02/2552-505; www.safari.com.ec) runs multiday hiking trips for serious hikers to the remote indigenous village of Tigua, around Cotopaxi and Antisana national parks, and up several of the country's secondary peaks that can serve as acclimatization hikes for further mountaineering expeditions.
Surtrek (tel. 866/978-7398 in the U.S. and Canada, or 02/2231-534 in Ecuador; www.surtrek.com) offers a dozen 3- to 6-day treks through some of the country's most spectacular regions, complete with pack horses and a cook. Among the tours are a 5-day trek around Volcán Cotopaxi and the Ilinizas peaks, a trek on the Inca Trail, and 4 days in Podocarpus National Park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.