Highlands of Ecuador Cajas National Park By: Buddy Huggins

Tours can be arranged in Cuenca through Angel Pánchez, ( His Cell is 08-589-9643 - E-mail is  anhelp_68@yahoo.com  ) The price can range from $50 to $65 depending on what tour service you use and whether lunch is included in your package.

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The Parque Nacional Cajas (Cajas National Park) is a national park in the highlands of Ecuador. It is located about 30 km west from Cuenca, the capital of the province of Azuay. The area of 285.44 km² (28,544 ha) between 3100m and 4450m above sea level offers a tundra vegetation on a jagged landscape of hills and valleys. It was declared a National Park on November 5, 1996 by resolution N° 057. Known for its more than 275 Andean lakes and many waterfalls, this national park is a popular destination for trout fishing, rugged hiking and camping.

 Also See:
Waterfall South of Cuenca, Ecuador - El Chorro with Buddy Huggins

When you arrive in the small town of Giron in the Azuay Province of Ecuador, you will be able to see the waterfalls cascading down from the mountain. Many buses do not make it all the way up to "El Chorro," the entrance to the park, so you will need to catch a taxi in the town of Giron (approximately $5.00).

Once you make the six kilometer "climb" up the mountain (by foot, by taxi or by car), you will be right in the heart of some gorgeous scenery with waterfalls, lakes (Lago de Cristal), and streams. The entrance to the park is 30 cents (each way), but is well worth the price! Some of the best views of the waterfall (El Chorro) can be seen from the road leading up to the park entrance, so make sure to take advantage of the photo opportunities on the way up.

El Chorro de Giron

Once you enter "El Chorro de Giron," the park entrance, you will be directed to a small parking lot which is privately owned (cost $1.00). There is a family-owned tienda, restaurant, and picnic area which gives you a panoramic view of the mountains, the Yunguilla Valley, and of the waterfalls (a total of three). It's a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch as there are tables, chairs and a stream filled with rainbow trout. The actual climb up to "El Chorro" begins at about 500 feet from the parking lot, where a ticket-taker will ask for an entrance fee ($1.00 for Ecuadorian citizens and $2.00 for tourists). It's advisable to wear comfortable clothing and tennis shoes as the steps are muddy and the wooden planks are wet and slippery.

Half way up the climb, there is a look-out area which is a great photo opportunity to view the entire waterfall without being "eclipsed" by the mountain. The trail is well marked, but it's very slippery so be sure to hang on to the rails that are provided for your safety. Once you reach the first waterfall, there is a wooden bridge that allows you to cross over to the other side. Extreme caution should be used when attempting to walk across the bridge as it is covered with water and can be dangerous. If you decide to make the crossing, make sure you have protective gear on and that your camera lens is covered. The "mist" from the waterfall often proves to be more like a rain shower and can be quite chilly depending on the season. At certain times when the waterfall isn't so full, you can actually hike down from the bridge and allow the water to fall in front of you.

There are a total of three waterfalls in the park. The base of (El Chorro), the largest waterfall, can be reached with a moderate degree of effort. The other two waterfalls are a bit more strenuous to walk to and may require the help of a guide depending on your strength and fitness level. If you're not in great shape, you may want to enjoy the view from the base of El Chorro!

Once you have taken advantage of all the photo opportunities, you will be ready to descend the same way you came. It's much easier on the way down, but caution still needs to be observed. Be advised that there is only one way up and one way down from the waterfall, so you will need to share the steps with foot traffic that is ascending and descending.

When you arrive back at the entrance, you will be invited to enjoy a free sugarcane drink, which is a specialty of the region. It comes in an alcoholic and non-alcoholic form. Although Giron is considered to have a subtropical climate, it still gets quite cold in the mountains and in the waterfall region, so a warm drink will help to take the chill out of the air.


The waterfalls of Giron are often overlooked as a tourist destination, but are well worth the time and effort in getting there. One expat living in Cuenca remarked, "It's one of the most breathtaking sights in all of Ecuador and should be at the top of your sightseeing list!"

Also See:

Waterfall South of Cuenca, Ecuador - El Chorro with Buddy huggins

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Highlands of Ecuador Cajas National Park By: Buddy Huggins


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