It’s hard to believe, but while I was living in Ecuador for four years, I didn’t do all that much hiking. The main reason was accessibility. Though I lived in the Andes, and there are ample trails within a fairly short radius of Quito, the problem was that you can’t easily bus to many of these places. The main hiking I did was whenever we left Quito for a longer weekend trip!
This Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit Cóndor Machay waterfall. Cóndor Machay is a great hike that is an easy day trip from Quito.
Cóndor Machay Waterfall Trail Review
- Hiked: mid-December
- Distance from Quito: 1 hr 15 min
- Accessibility: Difficult. There is a very bumpy, cobblestoned (empedrada, in Spanish) road that covers the last several miles to the trailhead. And if you’re in a lower car, be prepared to be smashing the underbody on the many enormous speed bumps.
- Length: ~5 miles roundtrip
- Difficulty: 5/10
- Crowds: 7/10
- Trail views: 4/10
- Water features: 9/10
- Overall: 8/10
When you arrive at the trailhead, you’ll need to pay a $2 fee per person to enter the hike, and a $1 parking fee. There are bathrooms available for visitors, free of charge, in the parking area. The hike starts by crossing over a bridge, and it quickly becomes more verdant as the trees become more prevalent. You’ll hike alongside a little watershed area and then it starts to feel more like a trail.
The majority of the trail, the river is either on the left or ride side. You rarely lose sight of the water, and the sound of the flowing water is so peaceful. There are also 29 bridges along the trail (each way!) Some are more exciting than others.
The trail is mostly gentle, with no major inclines or descents. But the altitude can make it feel more difficult if you aren’t acclimated. The toughest part of the trail is that the footing is sometimes tricky and slick. Some of the bridges are a bit run-down, and you’ll want to watch where you’re stepping.
30 minutes into the hike, you come across the first waterfall! It’s actually not just one waterfall that this trail takes you to, but three.
The second set of waterfalls is called “Las Gemelas”: The Twins. You can see why. It’s about one hour into the hike, and right off the trail!
Finally, after another 20 minutes or so, Cóndor Machay comes into view. It’s a sight to behold. Towering at about 260 feet, it throws a substantial amount of mist at the bottom.
It got pretty wet and chilly at the base of the falls, so we were glad to have our jackets while we enjoyed the views. The mist has a far reach, and it’s pretty loud as well.
After enjoying the falls for about half an hour, we hit the trail to head back to the car. On our way back, we stopped shortly before the end of the trail and dipped our feet in the river. It was absolutely freezing and felt so good! I wouldn’t swim there, but cold water on tired feet feels fantastic.