I’ve been traveling through Latin America for almost two years now, and I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard of people skipping Ecuador. If you like adventure, there’s no reason to skip over this country! Hiking Rucu Pichincha is one of the adventures, and you don’t have to leave Quito to do it.
If you plan to do other high-altitude climbs in Ecuador, like Chimborazo, this is a good hike to acclimatize with.
You can make this hike even longer by skipping the Teleferico like we did (but it wasn’t on purpose, as you’ll find out why later).
In this guide, I’ll go over all the details about Rucu Pichincha so you can hike it with confidence.
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What is Rucu Pichincha?
Behind Quito is the Pichincha volcano, which is still technically active. Rucu Pichincha is one of three peaks that you’re able to climb. The other two are called Guagua Pichincha and Padre Encantado.
Guagua is the tallest of the three peaks and sits at 4,784 meters or 15,696 feet.
When completing Rucu, you must hike through different terrains to reach the summit. This includes rock walls, gravel sand inclines, and climbing a steeper rock peak to the top.
Where is it Located?
Rucu is five miles west of Quito and easily accessible as a day hike. The best and fastest way to get here is to rent a car or take a taxi to the cable car. From here, you can ride up to the trailhead.
Currently, it’s running and operational. When I visited back in August, there were issues with the Teleferico, and it had to shut down.
Things to Know About Rucu Pichincha
Finding information on the Rucu Pichincha hike was difficult for me, especially when we had to add an extra 10 miles to it because the Teleferico was broken.
Below, I will tell you all the information needed to plan your hike accordingly.
When I tried going in July of 2023, it was shut down for a few months. I didn’t get to experience this magical ride, but I heard it’s worth taking up even if you’re not doing this hike.
I’d suggest looking at their X (formerly Twitter) to keep up to date with their current situation.
The cost of the Quito Teleférico was $8.50, but I heard they raised it to $9.00. It’s a bit more expensive than I thought it’d be, but the views are unmatched!
Amenities at the Top
When you arrive at the top, there’ll be a coffee shop where you can sit and enjoy the views. It looked like there would also be some vendors, but everything was closed when we went because the cable car was broken.
There are also some activities that can be done besides hiking. There’s the “bridge in the clouds” photo and swings; you can rent bikes too.
Mirador de los Volcanes
The views of the volcanoes at the top of the Teleferico would be my #1 reason to visit this area of Quito. You’ll have the opportunity to see the volcanoes from Cotopaxi to Chimbarzo.
Cotopaxi was a really active volcano during our time here, and you could easily see the smoke coming from it.
Rucu Pichincha Elevation
The elevation of Rucu Pichincha is 4,698 meters or 15,413 ft. This makes it a great opportunity to get some high-altitude climbing in almost immediately after arriving in Ecuador.
It’s also a great hike if you plan on doing the Quilotoa Loop.
I would suggest not hiking or doing this activity the day you arrive. Give yourself at least a day or two before moving up in altitude.
Another hike that I enjoyed doing near Quito that isn’t as high as Rucu is Cruz del Illalo. This is a dormant volcano that only reaches a height of 3,194 meters.
Rucu Pichincha Hike Details
- Distance: This hike is a 5.9-mile out & back trail. This depends on whether you take the Teleférico or not.
- Duration: On average, it will take people 5 – 6 hours to finish. This depends on fitness level and if you take the Teleférico.
- Difficulty: I’d rank this hike moderate to hard because of the elevation.
- Incline: The elevation for this hike is around 2565 feet or 782 meters.
- Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public
What to Bring
This hike was extremely long for us, especially because we took the longer route. We could’ve been in trouble if we didn’t bring the right gear.
Below is my suggested gear for this hike.
What if You Don’t Want to Take the Teleférico?
We had no choice but to take the longer route up to the trailhead. Alltrails calls it the Cruzloma, adding almost an extra six miles to your hike.
I have heard about this route potentially being unsafe due to robberies, but we ran into no issues. Taking a truck up to the top is possible if you don’t feel safe taking this route.
Ask your hostel, and they should know more about this!
Is Rucu Pichincha Safe?
Overall, Rucu is a safe hike, and I had no issues. The sketchiest part is when you get near the top. It starts to become a rock scramble, and you must ensure you’re taking the correct path.
Also, go back the same way you came; the original mini-loop back down to the trail is slightly eroded.
How to Get to Rucu Pichincha
Getting to Rucu is rather easy. The best is to get a ride to the cable car either by taxi or Uber unless you have your own car.
There will be parking spots at the Teleférico where you can park if that’s the case.
Quito to Rucu
We took an Uber as it’s the most convenient way to get a ride for us in Quito. The cost was around $2 and will cost around the same for you.
We stayed near Parque La Carolina; it was only a 10-minute drive. Any taxi you get in will know what you’re talking about when mentioning Teleférico.
You can hop on the cable car or take the trail straight up. The trail to Rucu is easy to follow, but I still suggest downloading some form of offline map, just in case.
My Experience Hiking Rucu Pichincha
My experience hiking Rucu will be different than most. I wanted to hike this in the middle of July, but a few days beforehand, I checked the Teleférico, and it said: “temporarily closed.”
I then went to their Twitter and saw they were doing repairs because people started getting stuck! We were in Quito first, so we decided to wait until the end of our trip to see if it was fixed by then.
This was fine because I wanted to get as much practice in hiking as I could before I hiked Huayna Potosi in Bolivia.
So, five weeks later, we headed to the cable car and started our hike up.
The first section of our hike was around three miles up to where the cable car would let us out. At first, I thought this part would suck due to the terrain, but it opened up.
I was blown away by the views we were presented with on our way up the mountain. It was possible for us to see the smoke coming from Cotopaxi.
It’s active enough to the point where you’re not allowed to summit it (at least during our time in the country).
This part of the hike was no joke as it was very steep, but at least there were a decent amount of shades in certain sections.
The Hike to the Top
The views were out of this world for most of the hike up to the top! The sun was beating down on us, and I actually got quite sunburnt on my neck.
The trail was easy to follow and had some steep sections, but it wasn’t anything crazy.
About 70% into this part of the hike, we came across mini-rock scrambles, which weren’t that difficult to go past.
The last section, right before the rock scrambled to the top, was my least favorite. The trail was hard to follow, and the terrain became more sand-like.
This part didn’t last too long, but it wasn’t the most fun, I’ll say that. After the sand trail,, hook a left and start following the white boxes.
There will be some confusing parts, but you should be fine if you follow these boxes. If the clouds start rolling in and you can’t see anything, bail.
The last rock scramble for the summit push will become more dangerous if you can’t see what’s in front of you.
Best Places to Stay in Quito, Ecuador
Quito is the perfect launching point for your trip to Ecuador. Explore the old town and visit popular locations like the Middle of the World City.
Below are some great options for accommodations during your visit to Quito.
- La Casona de la Ronda Hotel: This is one of the most beautiful hotels in Quito. Enjoy your stay here with an American-style buffet breakfast included.
- Dakani Hotel Boutique: A new hotel in Quito that is recently gaining a lot of buzz. Stay at this stunning boutique hotel for a startlingly great price!
- El Patio Hostel: This is one of my favorite hostels in Quito because of the great prices for private rooms ($25) and dorms! You won’t be disappointed when staying here.
Final Thoughts on the Rucu Pichincha Hike
The beauty of this hike is you can go as far or short as you want, and it’ll still be extremely rewarding. I was blown away by the views of not only Quito but the volcanos. This hike will be difficult for most, but it’s worth it. If you plan on doing other high-altitude hikes in Quito during your travels, I highly recommend climbing this one.
Thank you for reading my guide on the Rucu Pichincha hike! I hope this guide helps you plan your acclimatization hikes accordingly.