Difficulty: very challenging
Description: Imagine a ridgeline hike that leaves you breathless - literally. The Arriba trail is an uphill haul that leads to a breathtaking view of Mt. Cotacachi above and an emerald green valley below. Your hike begins from the research center at approximately 8,500 feet and ascends to 10,900 feet at the summit. You'll pass through three different ecological zones and spy a distant fourth as your mind attempts to grasp a dizzying array of plant life. If you have ever imagined that a character from a fairytale might step from the pages of a childhood story, you will believe it possible as you pass through the elfin forest near the summit. The trees here grow only slightly taller than your head but they are adorned with robes of moss, and about their feet and crowns clouds of mist pass through in airy transformation. For those less inclined to take on the most difficult hike, they can pull up a log at the first plateau to enjoy the flashes of hummingbirds, listen to water pouring through the valley below, and soak up the scents of clean air and vegetation tat surrounds them.
Description: The headwaters of the River Trail leave the snowfields of Mt. Cotacachi high above the verdant hillsides of Siempre Verde. These are the cool clear waters of Rio Taobunche. During heavy winter rains and particularly El Nino years, these same relatively calm waters roll boulders the size of automobiles down their winding pathway. In drier years, the surrounding forests reclaim land that the river scours clean. This natural cycle of give and take assures us of a trail that is never the same, for our trail is the river itself. The first touches of the river are startling and few believe a swim very plausible. However, after a few bends of rock hopping, assisted crossings, and a little time under a warm equatorial sun, a natural rock slide over a deep swirling pool is difficult to pass up.
Description: This hike takes about one hour from the crossroads of the three trails (Arriba, Waterfall, River). It is a relatively flat trail with only a few elevation changes. Along the way are breathtaking views of the river below and the high ridges of the Arriba trail above. A short distance from the crossroads is a clearing where bamboo has taken a strong hold of this area. This trail is conducive to birding as many of the ground dwelling birds work their way up from the river and flowers along the trail that attract many different species of hummingbirds. The trail culminates with a spectacular waterfall that drops about 10 meters. The forest is very thick at this point and is a favorite site of many visitors.
Description: This trail is past the two latrines behind the research station, which is also an excellent birding site. You can either sit in one of the spacious latrines and listen to the sounds of the river and birds up above, or take a hike up to the Arriba Trail. Along the way are spectacular views of the river below and the adjacent property on the other side of the river. There are many places to stop and watch for birds and orchids hanging off the high walls across the river, as well as a tree midway up the trail which has a small hole where a mated pair of trogans can sometimes be seen and heard. A good pair of binoculars is a must.