High in the Ecuadorian Andes, at about 13,123 feet of altitude, you can find a network of hiking trails that will satisfy your desire to get closer to nature. There are trails well known to the general public, trails you can find in every guidebook, on maps and through organized guided tours. Of course, they are all worth visiting, but the hidden paths that only local people know are the real jewels of the Andes. Forgotten corners of popular national parks that only the lamas and the wild horses inhabit are the places you should look for when visiting the Andes.
The Uku Path is one of the most beautiful, little known hiking trails in the Ecuadorian Andes. Only a 30-minute bus ride from the colonial city of Cuenca, you’ll reach the first entrance of Cajas National Park which lies at 10,367 feet. The first entrance of the park is a place that many people don’t know about because everybody goes to the highest point where there is a visitor’s center, restaurants, and a refuge.
What’s so great about the Uku Trail is that it’s entirely hidden between the mountains and few people know it’s there. When you get off the bus, you need to hike for about 2 miles to get to the head of the trail. On the way, you’ll get to see picturesque views of the green Andes, creeks, and lots of cows on both sides of the cobbled path.
As you reach the starting point of the Uku Path, the Llaviucu Lagoon will reveal itself in front of you. It’s a large body of water, and it is home to many bird species that like to nest around the lake. Ducks are the most frequent visitors to the lagoon, so if you like bird watching this would be a perfect trail for you.
The first part of the path goes through rainforest of moss covered trees on the sides. Walking here, you feel like you are in a green tunnel equipped with a surround sound system with the most relaxing bird choruses. The Uku Path is an easy trail suitable for all ages. It goes around the Llaviucu Lagoon, providing visitors with stunning views of the lake and the birdlife. When you finish the tour around the lagoon, you can either go back or keep walking to the next set of features that this path offers.
Carrying on, you’ll see a beautiful valley in front of you, with the Andes on both sides and a pure-water river in the middle. Fishing is allowed in the area, so if you’re interested in doing some angling you may catch a freshwater trout to cook for dinner over a campfire. If you are an animal lover, you’ll be very happy to see the groups of wild horses that run freely in the area. What’s even more interesting is that they share the same space with a herd of llamas that will stop eating and just stare at you as you approach. Photography enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the chance to make some cool shots of these gorgeous animals.
Going on up the river, you’ll eventually reach a set of waterfalls hidden behind the thick forest. Be careful if you try to get close to them because there is no path and you would need a machete to cut a way through. Still, it’s exciting to hear them all around you. As you climb further, you’ll find creeks with drinkable water with no animal or human traces in it. This water is said to be safe to drink without any treatment, and you should get your bottles refilled for the way back.
The Uku Path is a great one-day hiking opportunity, hidden within the majestic grandeur of the Andean Mountain ranges. If you’re ever nearby, don’t miss the chance to visit it. Good luck!
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