Sumaco volcano is the most important attraction of the Biosphere Reserve Sumaco and Sumaco Napo Galeras National Park and surely one of the most intense experiences you can have in Ecuador. This volcano has a height of 3732m, with a variety of ecosystems (6 climatic zones), and therefore unique species of flora and fauna on the planet!
Pacto Sumaco (1486 m) is a little town with approximately 300 people, mostly who were installed there after the 1987 earthquake where many people mainly from el Chaco area were relocated to this site. Living from agriculture (naranjilla and tree tomato) and livestock and also wood. With support of the German government (GTZ) the community has been organized in recent years to form a tourism organization to build 3 shelters, maintain the trail and offer guiding services.
Hiring a guide is "mandatory", the cost is 38 USD per day, it includes the guide and the use of the shelters (depends on the group size and extra guide will be necessary).
Take a bus from the terminal terrestre in Quito to Coca, there are buses every hour from companies likes Coop. Baños and Amazonas. Ask to be droped at Wawa Sumaco it will take you some 6 hours to Wawa Sumaco.
At Wawa Sumaco you can hire a pick up truk for 7 USD, its 7.5 km if you decide to walk (45 min aprox)
By car, take the road Quito-Baeza-Tena and then take the Hollin-Loreto-Coca road, about 1 hour of this junction is "Wawa Sumaco" Take the dirt road on the left to the community of Pacto Sumaco. You will pass an information center on the left. There, the rangers will be able to give information about lodging in Pacto Sumaco and hiring naturalist guides, a requirement to enter Sumaco Napo Galeras National Park.
Despite that the distance is not too long this hike (41.06 km round trip), because it is a trail of mud and through forests with several ups and downs, the journey takes a lot.
Pacto Sumaco - Shelter 1 the Mirador (1754 m) 7.37 km 3 to 5 hours average.
The first day you walk through several farms on a trail of logs with moderate ups and downs, mainly "flat." You pass some creeks and small streams until you reach a stream called "Sapo" (as its known locally) from here the way it is performed by the river to connect again with the log path above.
In this first section there are many trails that connect the local’s farms, so it is advisable to go with a guide. After passing a barbed wire fence you enter the buffer zone of the park, the streams from here can be a reliable source for drinking water (remember to treated) no livestock or humans above to pollute.
Three quarters of the way you come to a rest (wooden house) where a sign indicates the border of Sumaco National Park, apparently this line free of vegetations goes all the way around the park and is maintained by local communities along its way who are hired by the Ministry of Environment. From here on, the path is one without any deviations, except where trees and vegetation have cut Shelter 1 is on top of a hill where you can have some nice views of the mountain and forest. This shelter has two bedrooms, gas stove and utensils, bunk beds (no mattress), water bath, water tank (rain water collected from the roof) and a small fire pit covered on the outside.
Return time from shelter 1 to Pacto Sumaco 2 hours to 3.5 hours
Shelter 1 El Mirador - Refugio 2 Laguna Wawa Sumaco (2491 m) 6.58 km 5 to 8 hours
This section begins with a moderate decline until reaching a clearing where huge trees have fallen breaking step, once sorted the logs you should go to the north where the trails starts going up a small hill. In this portion there are 2 places to rest (wooden houses) the first is about 2 hours approx, the second around 30 min of the first, the second rest is located at the base of a slope rather steep and a bit difficult to go, the vegetation on this portion is dense and low in some places making it difficult to travel with backpacks, the guides will try to opened the way with their machetes, but remember they opened to their height which in most cases is rather small so beware of the branches edges that after the machete the ends are very pointy and at your eye level. At the end of this hill is the refuge 2, with a breathtaking view of the volcano and a small lake which is about 20 meters below, there is a path by which you can go down to the lake. This shelter has 2 rooms with bunk beds without mattresses, gas stove, cooking utensils, bathroom, sink and water tank who collect rainwater from the roof, there are some blankets.
Return time from shelter 2 to shelter 1 2.5 hours to 4 hours
Wawa Laguna Sumaco Shelter 2 - 3 Pavayacu Refuge (2695 m) 3.22 km 1.5 to 2.5 hours
This stretch of the hike is relatively short, begins with a low pitch rise, then down and across to the other arm of a small hill, the hill climbs and continues along a well marked trail with moderate slope, then you walk along the top of the ridge for a while. Immediately begins a steep descent that ends at Pavayacu shelter 3, this shelter has one room with bunk beds, no mattresses, no stove, but there is some cooking utensils, outside has a small fire pit for cooking. It has a bathroom and water tank that collects water from the roof.
Return time from shelter 3 to shelter 2 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Shelter 3 Pavayacu - Sumaco Volcano summit (3813 m) 3.63 km 2 to 4 hours.
From here on begins the endless slope, with some sections not as steep but still up, it's interesting to see the change in vegetation in this stretch as it goes to another floor and colder climate. At about 3200 meters you get out of the forest and have some spectacular views of the forest below. Here the path is a bit muddy and pretty steep. If the weather permits you can see the vast forest below and way to the summit.
Around 3450 m you get to a small ridge with drops on both sides which you have to be very careful here because the rubber boot doesn’t have as much traction as regular hiking boots and you will be walking on small loose rocks (gravel type).
At 3670 meters you reach the final ridge that leads to the false summit, then down about 50m and rising again to the edge of the crater and summit peak, from here you can see a house with communication antennas installed by the military. The crater has a small lake at the bottom probably some 70 m below you can also a tour around the crater and if the weather permits see Reventador among other mountains. In this journey from the shelter 3 there are no more water sources.
Return time from top to shelter 3 1 hour to 2.5 hours.
Insulation mat (shelters have wooden beds without mattresses)
Sleeping bag (shelter 2 has a few blankets)
Rubber boots for walking and light shoes or sandals to hang out in the shelter. We recommend using insoles from other shoes on the rubber boots to make them more comfortable, and of course double socks
Bug Repellent, sunscreen and bandages for blisters.
Sunglasses, hat, cap or buff.
Poncho or rain gear, backpack rain cover or a piece of construction plastic like the locals use (it won’t tear with branches).
Put things in plastic bags inside the backpack.
Several pairs of socks (use double to help avoid blisters)
Warm clothes for the night (make sure you have a complete change of dry clothes for the shelters)
Light clothing for walking, especially the type who dry faster, not cotton and it is advisable to use the same clothes for the hike since you will get wet and muddy in 10 minutes.
Bring food for the guide also (Plenty), guides primarily eat rice, pasta and / or potatoes and tuna (in sachet to lighten), does not sound very nice but the combination was exquisite after long hours of walking and eating enough carbohydrates is essential to recover energy.
There is a little store in Pacto with the essential staff.
Guardiania Parque Nacional Sumaco: 06 3018303 - 06 3018325 Luis Andi
firstname.lastname@example.org - email@example.com
Asosiacion de turismo Pacto Sumaco : 06 3018324 06 3018324 Germanico Ruiz guides chief.
Oficina del Ambiente en Tena: 06 2888497 06 2888497 ext 111 - 112
We did the trek in 3 long days, we started hiking day 1 at 7 am and went all the way to shelter 2 arrived around 5 pm with several stops for pictures and rest. Day 2 we went from shelter 2 to the summit and back to shelter 2, we woke up at 5 am and leave at 6:30 am, we return ant 7 pm to shelter 2 (because we had an injured it took us way longer than planed) Day 3 we left at 8 am all the way to Pacto Sumaco, arriving at 9 pm, again we moved very slow because of the injured team member. She hit her knee with a log when she got stoked in the mud (day 2 before we got of the forest on the way to the top) she hurt her tendon really bad (once in Quito she got a case on her leg for 10 days) going down this muddy steep hills can be really hard on your knees specially with the added weight of your pack and the clumsy steps with the rubber boots.
Another group we encounter did it like this:
Day 1: arrived after lunch at Pacto Sumaco, they advance to shelter 1
Day 2: The advance from shelter 1 to shelter 3 (remember to bring a stove if you are planning on cooking here)
Day 3: Summit day and back to shelter 2.
Day 4: Shelter 2 out to Pacto Sumaco. Arrived around 3 pm.
It is possible to camp in Pacto Sumaco, at the Ministerio del Ambiente guard station for free or there is a basic hostel run by the locals 7 USD per person. There is a fancy lodge (Wild Sumaco) a few meters before you get to Pacto Sumaco. If you are planning to camp in Pacto Sumaco consider that there is a new karaoke in town and they love it! And it runs from 11 pm to 5:30 am at max. volume…any day of the week so be prepared for a noisy night. Despite this it is a safe town, and a beautify hike. All the gear you won’t take to the hike you can leave it at the Ministerio del Ambiente station no problem.