Volcán Ilaló:
easy day hike close to Quito


The city of Quito has a truly unique location. Not only it has an altitude of 2.850 meters and is very close to the equator: the city is also surrounded by 14 volcanoes. This ensures endless possibilities for spectacular hikes, at just a short distance from the busy city center. If you’re looking for a nice half-day hike near Quito, we can recommend climbing Volcán Ilaló! The SOLEQ.travel team tried it out and is happy to share everything you should know to hike up Ilaló yourself.

Climbing Volcán Ilaló

While some of the volcanoes surrounding Quito are still active, Ilaló has been long-extinct. The last time it erupted was 1,6 million years ago. Nevertheless, in its surroundings you can still find many thermal pools and hot springs. One of these places is called El Tingo, which is from where you can start the hike. You can easily get here by bus or by car from Quito in about an hour. There is a parking lot near the start of the trail. This hike is not too long: it is approximately 2,5 kilometers up to the Cruz del Ilaló. However, the trail from El Tingo is quite steep, which makes it a bit more challenging – and rewarding!
What is great about this hike is that pretty much all along the way you can enjoy scenic views over the Valle de los Chillos (the southern part of Quito). Also the area itself is nice and diverse. We walked over cobblestone paths guarded by many dogs, rough dirt trails, grass and in the end we even passed through some natural tree tunnels. Along the way we kept looking around to spot hummingbirds and other bird species. The trail is marked with 14 white crosses along the way. This is a sign that the trail for some has a religious function, like a pilgrimage. When we got closer to the last cross, the Cruz del Ilaló, the clouds started rolling in. For a moment they completely covered the valley below us. This created a rather mysterious view. However, as quickly as the clouds came, they also drifted away.

“Ilaló is a great hike to acclimatize for more challenging treks at higher altitude, like the Condor Trek

Viewpoint Cruz del Ilaló

Unfortunately, when we reached the viewpoint with the huge cross, it was again quite cloudy so we did not have the best view. With its enormous size the Cruz del Ilaló seems to be marking the top of the volcano, but in fact this is not the actual summit. As the clouds started to look rather threatening, we settled for this semi-summit (3.035 m) and did not continue the hike up to the highest point (3.185 m). We did not want to have to descend in the rain, as the water would surely turn the trail into a muddy, slippery mess. Luckily, the rain didn’t come as soon as we feared so we descended without problems.

It is possible to take another trail for the descend, towards Tumbaco, but because we needed to get back to the car, we had to take the same way down as we climbed up. Yet, this was not at all boring. Going down, we could constantly look at the pretty views that had been behind us on the way up. In total the hike took us about 5 hours, including breaks and photo-moments.  

We all made it to the huge Cruz del Ilaló!

Practical info

Because the trail is not so long and the volcano is not that high, this is one of the easier hikes in Ecuador. This makes it suitable for families with children, for example. Also it can be a great way to acclimatize for more challenging hikes at higher altitudes, such as the beautiful and famous Condor Trek. Some parts of the trail are very uneven and sometimes even a bit slippery because of sand or mud. Therefore we do not recommend climbing Volcán Ilaló with or shortly after rainy weather. We brought hiking poles, which turned out to be very useful in these parts – also on the descent. Hiking shoes with a good grip are also recommended.

If you are looking for a nice hike close to Quito that you can easily do in a day, climbing Volcán Ilaló is a great choice! Now you have all the info you need. And if afterwards you’re up for a bigger challenge, maybe our Cotopaxi Climbing Tour will interest you!

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