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To Do

A typical visit to Siempre Verde might include hiking on area trails, day trips to nearby villages, lectures by regional experts, study of the local culture and language, and volunteering with children at Escuela Rio Cenepa.


Arriba Trail 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. River Trail Difficulty: moderate/difficult
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. Waterfall Trail Difficulty: moderate
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. Arriba Shortcut Trail Difficulty: moderate
Description: This trail goes 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.


Hot Springs A scenic one-hour drive through Santa Rosa and Apuela will take you to Piscinas de Nangulvi. The picturesque surroundings of the hot springs make this side trip a worthwhile experience to those willing to make the journey. Otavalo and Quito About two hours away from Santa Rosa is the market town of Otavalo. Saturday is market day in Otavalo, a great time to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and livestock, as well as handmade textiles and crafts--such as purses and belts woven from the agave plant--that cater to the tourist trade. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, about four hours from Santa Rosa.


In 1990, when Lovett Science teachers Connie and Bob Braddy passed through Santa Rosa, a village within the Andean cloudforest of Northwest Ecuador, they found the town's local school in desperate need of repair. The teachers pledged to assist the community with rebuilding the school. Within a year Lovett's Ecology Club raised funds, and the village fathers built the school, Escuela Rio Cenepa, establishing a bond between Santa Rosa and Lovett's Siempre Verde. In the 20-plus years since, students have continued to help provide for the school, offering supplies, uniforms, textbooks, and the like. Every Lovett-sponsored trip to Siempre Verde schedules time for visiting with the schoolchildren of Santa Rosa. Creating a relationship with the youth of the area is one of the most memorable lessons that students visting Siempre Verde learn.

Getting to know the residents of these neighboring towns is a key component to a visit to Siempre Verde. Visitors to Siempre Verde are not trying to impose American values and ideas on the Ecuadorians, but rather to learn from them and to provide some vision and assistance to the Ecuadorians’ own goals.

To See


An abundance of flora and fauna can be found in the area surrounding Siempre Verde. 

The CloudForest is home to a variety of animal species, including mammals (such as the spectacled bear), birds, and reptiles. The plate-billed mountain toucan, the yellow-eared parrot, and the resplendent quetzal are just a few of the endangered bird species sighted in the branches surrounding the research station. A population of rare frogs are found within this protected forest, as well.


The plant species at Siempre Verde are among the most diverse and rarest on the planet. Specimens include orchids, bromeliads, and even a hemiparasite that grows underground and only emerges from its host when it blossoms. Because of the wonderful flora, many students leave Siempre Verde with a newfound interest in botany. ORCHIDS AT SIEMPRE VERDE When you think of an orchid, you may think of a high school prom corsage, but others (like me) think smaller. Ecuador now has over 4,000 species of orchids, and the greatest diversity of orchids in the world occurs in the Andes. In July 2010, orchid researcher and long-time friend Lorena Endara visited Siempre Verde and went hunting for miniature orchids, her speciality. The last time I saw Lorena was in 2004 at the Los Cedros reserve, which is also in the Intag river valley. She is currently doing her graduate work on a specific group of diminutive orchids, so I knew that getting her to visit Siempre Verde would be a great opportunity to identify many of these tiny orchids found at the reserve. I really enjoyed getting a chance to find these little gems. Keep an eye out for an orchid guide for Siempre Verde, coming soon. I’ve identified and photographed over 75 species of orchids from the reserve so far, and I’m finding new ones each visit. - Alex Reynolds, Director


List of known mammals List of known birds FROM BATS TO BEARS Nathan Muchhala, a renowned bat researcher, visited Siempre Verde in November 2009. After a week of mistnetting bats, Muchhala and his team caught 48 individuals from nine species, one of which has yet to be identified. They also confirmed at least nine species of bat-pollinated flowers and took nectar and pollen samples for later analysis. Muchhala was searching for a specific bat species he identified for the first time ever in 2006. He didn’t find it on this trip, but found multiple flowers of a plant specifically pollinated by that species, so he is optimistic he will find it on his next visit. He wrote, saying “[Siempre Verde] turns out to be a bit of a paradise for nectar bats,” with a “remarkably high density of bat-pollinated flowers.” This is not surprising because bats make up a very important part of the pollination ecology of high elevation cloudforests. This type of research provides so much insight into an otherwise under-appreciated forest inhabitant.

The Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is South America’s only bear species and one of the most important conservation symbols in the Andes. This small bear (avg. 300-400 lbs.) is a shy tree dweller and mostly vegetarian. But it is now threatened with extinction largely because like us, it loves corn, which makes for unfriendly relationships with local farmers. Recently, we spotted two cubs in or near the reserve and found numerous signs of bears using the Arriba Trail. The Andean Bear Project operates out of the nearby town of Pucará and regularly tracks bears at Siempre Verde.