Hiking at Santa Lucía
Santa Lucía is a hikers' paradise with six trails starting at the lodge (1,920 metres) ranging in altitude from 1,300 to 2,600 metres, passing through primary and secondary forest, reforested areas, pastures, and organic banana and sugar cane fields. Part of the attraction of Santa Lucía is that it can only be reached by hiking, either via the Principal Trail (one to two hours) or the day long hike from Yunguilla. Hikes range in difficulty from moderate to very difficult, and from 45 minutes to 8 hours. Please note that in the rainy season hiking can be considerably more challenging. Rubber boots are recommended particularly in the rainy season.
The Cock-of-the-Rock Trail
The hike to see the spectacular sight and sound of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock birds perform their mating ritual (lek). Leave the lodge at 4am to arrive at the lek before 6 am. (Depending on the time of year, there is sometimes an afternoon lek.) During some months, you will also be able to hear (and sometimes see) the Club-winged Manakin lek along the way. These tiny little colorful birds dance along a horizontal branch, clicking their wings to attract females.
The hike there takes about an hour and a half and is in darkness giving you a completely different experience of the forest. Passing through areas of primary forest, there are areas with beautiful tree ferns and on the way back there are also spectacular views over the surrounding mountains with good opportunities to see raptors.
You will be sitting on the ground watching and listening to the lek for an hour. The birds are extremely sensitive to any disturbance and so it is vital that you are as still and quiet as possible. No brightly colored clothing or flash photography please. For the dawn lek you will need a torch, preferably a head torch.
Approx. time: 5 hours round trip including time spent at the lek. Round trip distance 7.5 km.
This is one of the most beautiful trails in Santa Lucía. The trail descends down steeply into a thick primary forest of giant trees laden with bromeliads, epiphytes, and orchids hanging from the trees. When you reach a 'Y' you can firstly take the trail to the left to three mountain waterfalls: an excellent trail for finding the rare Giant Antpitta and the wary Dark-backed Wood-Quail as well as the Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl. The very rare White -faced Nunbird can sometimes be found here as well, sunning themselves in the tall trees - recently groups of up to four of these lethargic birds have been seen at a time.
Doubling back for a short way, you can then turn to the right, past more waterfalls to a swimming hole: a beautiful place to relax and appreciate the forest. Here the adventurous can walk waist-deep in the river upstream to a fabulous waterfall. The return walk back to the lodge is back by the same route or can include a diversion to the sugar cane field.
Approx Time: 4 hours. Round trip distance approx. 5.5 km
Principal Trail to Santa Lucía
This is the route that most visitors take to arrive at Santa Lucía lodge. (Ask for details about transport to the trailhead.) An uphill hike through beautiful primary forest which takes from one to two hours or longer if birding, there are various seating places to rest and enjoy being in the forest. Depending on the cloud cover you will be rewarded with spectacular views when you reach the lodge. This is also the main route that people take when leaving Santa Lucía.
Approx Time: 1 - 2 hours. Distance: 2 km.
Spectacled Bear Trail - Yunguilla to Santa Lucía
This beautiful day-long hike with a box lunch is the alternative route to reach Santa Lucía. It is mainly through dense primary forest thick with bromeliads, orchids and other epiphytes and areas of bamboo, but also open areas with spectacular views of Pichincha and Cotacachi volcanoes as well as pastureland. The trail ranges from 2,600 to 1,900 metres in elevation providing the opportunity to experience changing flora and fauna. It is likely that you will see the higher elevation birds such as the Chestnut-crowned and Giant Antpitta, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Beautiful Jay and the gorgeous Mountain Tanagers. The little Tapaculo birds which are almost always impossible to see will scream at you as you pass by.
This hike is usually only done on the first day of your visit to Santa Lucía and usually needs to be done within a pre-arranged package. The trail begins at Ali Mountain, an hour's drive on a scenic dirt road from the mountain village of Yunguilla. Yunguilla is four kilometres from the main Calacali highway and an hour's drive from Quito. (Ask for details about transport.)
Approx time - six to nine hours. Distance - ten kilometers
Day-Long Hike From Santa Lucía
The trail winds through dense primary forest but also passes silvopasture and open areas which afford picturesque views. Have lunch at a forest refuge located in the highest part of the reserve where there is the opportunity to see the higher elevation birds such as the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Pacific Tufted Cheek, Gorgeted Sunangel and White-tailed Tyrannulet. Return by the same route. NB This hike follows the same trail as the Yunguilla - Santa Lucia hike, but in reverse.
Approx time - 5.5 to 7.5 hours including breakfast and lunch breaks. Round trip distance - 12.4 km
Pre-Inca Yumbo Trail
This hike includes part of an ancient trail used as a trade route between the mountains and the coast by the pre-Inca Yumbo people who lived in this area between the years 1500 BC to 500 AC. Some of the trail is along deep trench-like 'culuncos' made by the Yumbos. The hike passes by our banana field, waterfalls and pristine primary forest including an area of gorgeous tree ferns (helechos gigantes) and you might see wild pigs or the elusive Puma. A highlight is a stop at the Santa Rosa River where (depending on the water levels of the river) you can walk upstream a hundred meters to reach a waterfall which cascades into a crystal clear pool where you can swim. At the end of the hike, the trail opens out to a lush green meadow with fantastic views of the river below. For birders this is a place to spot a White-throated Crake or a Torrent Duck on the river.
This ideal for your last day as it takes you from the lodge to the road where we can arrange transport to to Nanegal/Nanegalito for the bus to Quito or transport directly to Quito.
Approx time - six hours with a lunch stop. Distance - six kilometers
An hour's moderate walk on a circular trail near the lodge through beautiful primary and secondary forest with open areas and great views across the surrounding areas. It is accompanied by a brochure explaining each of fifteen points of interest marked along the trail, including the orchid garden and the popular giant tree swing. With or without a guide.
Sugar-Cane Field Trail
An hour's moderate walk by the pasture and through the forest to the sugar cane field and replica of a
traditional sugar production workshop where we make organic panela (brown sugar) and the toffee-like melcocha. (Need to book ahead for a demonstration of panela production - not always available.) The workshop has a
display of the history and process of panela production This walk starts on the same trail as the pre-Inca Yumbo Trail. Return to the lodge by the same trail or make a loop and join the Cascade Trail. Alternatively continue on
thirty minutes to the banana fields. With or without a guide.