Sangay National Park

Ecuador South America icon South America

Sangay National Park is located in the central part of Ecuador on the Andes mountains' eastern side.  The park covers an area of just under 2,000 square miles (5,178 sq km), making it the third-largest protected area in the country.

Like much of the country, the national park represents a vast diversity of ecosystems and wildlife.  The vegetation and habitats vary by elevation and location within the park’s boundaries.  There are over 3,000 species of vegetation blanketing the rugged landscape created by the Andes.

The park comprises tropical rainforests, cloud forests, montane forests, mountains, valleys, grasslands, wetlands, and even glaciers.  The Andes mountain range is at the heart of the national park, which features the extinct El Altar volcano and two active volcanoes known as Sangay and Tungurahua.

There are more than 320 lagoons scattered across the park’s mountainous region.  The park’s elevations range from 2,952 feet (900 m) to 17,450 feet (5,319 m) above sea level.  These elevation and terrain changes give way to a richly biodiverse region.

The various ecosystems of dense forests and thick vegetation serve as tremendous habitats for various unique wildlife.  Some of the most popular animal predators include the jaguar, ocelot, cougar, paramo wolf, and the pampas cat.  Other hopeful wildlife sightings include Brazilian tapir, mountain tapir, margay, spider monkey, red brocket deer, Northern pudu, anteaters, spectacled bear, and the white-tailed deer.

Sangay Highlights

The park's wildlife is a highlight for many people, although much of it is elusive and hard to find, making it more rewarding when sightings occur.  The Andes mountains sit as the park's primary attraction with the volcanoes serving as the focal points.

Sangay Volcano

Sangay Volcano is where the name of the park is derived.  It is an active stratovolcano featuring a symmetrical cone.  The summit of the volcano reaches a height of 17,400 feet (5,300 m).

Sangay is the most active volcano in all of Ecuador.  Sitting atop the intersection of two pieces of the earth’s crust has kept the volcano active since it began erupting in 1934.  Climbing the mountain is popular even though several challenges surround the ascent.

Tungurahua Volcano

Tungurahua is an active stratovolcano is affectionately known as “Throat of Fire.”  The volcano began erupting and discharging in 1999.  The most recent eruption occurred in February of 2014.

Tungurahua does not display the same symmetry that Sangay does; however, it is still a striking and picturesque volcano.  It reaches a height of 16,480 feet (5,023 m) and serves as another popular ascent for climbers.

El Altar

El Altar is an extinct volcano that features a summit of 17,451 feet (5,319 m), which makes it a little taller than the park’s namesake Sangay.  The massif was created from two separate stratovolcanoes, followed by a caldera on the west side.

The mountain displays several peaks that, to some, resemble four friars and two nuns listening to a bishop as they surround a church altar.  This is where the name of the mountain was derived, “El altar.”

9 different peaks reach over 16,400 feet (5,000 m) that display as a horseshoe-shaped ridge.  Laguna Collanes is a crater lake situated toward the middle of the caldera.  This is another popular ascent for climbers with astounding panoramic views of the crater lake and surrounding peaks.

Trails of Sangay National Park

Hiking in the park is a popular activity; however, it does come with challenges due to the altitude and elevation changes.  That said, there are still shorter and easier trails engaged by those not interested in the ascents.

Myrtle Forest Trail: This is a short 1.86-mile (3 km) trail that traverses across a river to look out over the Sardinas River.  The trail is often engaged by those who want to go rafting, fishing, or even kayaking.

Qhapaq Nan Trail: This is one of the most popular trails because of the views of Sangay Volcano that are provided to those who embark on the journey.  The old traditional Inca trail covers a distance of 4.97 miles (8 km) while also engaging some archaeological sites along the journey out to Sangay's views.

Jungle Excursions: You can partner with guided excursions that will take you hiking on an Amazon rainforest outing that gives you a rich taste of Amazon’s rich biodiversity.

Park Protection

Sangay National Park was created to protect a rich and diverse ecosystem comprised of amazing flora and fauna.  The park also protects the vulnerable mountain tapir and spectacled bear species from extinction within the country.

The park is highly invested in the mountain tapir, which is successfully living within the park’s borders.  The other wildlife in the park falls under the same protection, which prevents it from moving into vulnerable and endangered status.

Because of the importance the park plays in the survival of many species, UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site.

Sangay Highlights

  • Sangay Volcano
  • Tungurahua Volcano
  • El Altar

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