Quito does a good job of teasing visitors with its stunning views of snow capped mountains in every direction. But between tackling the likes of Cotopaxi and Antisana, there are a few good day hikes within a stone throw of the capital to get acclimatised.
Pasochoa is one. This reserve offers some pretty sweet views of the capital, and a trail long and steep enough to feel like a solid achievement, without being too tough.
Getting to Pasochoa is a simple matter of catching an Amaguaña bound bus from Quito’s Marin station. Ask the driver to let you off at Pasochoa, and they should drop you on the side of the highway about 45 minutes out of the city. From there, either hire a truck to take you to the reserve, or walk about an hour, following the road to the right of the chapel near the highway. It’s easy: just get off the bus, look for the chapel, then look for the sign, and follow the path as it weaves between dairy farms. You’ll be surprised just how rural the road to Pasochoa is, given how close you are to the city. Try not to trip over any chickens.
The trail inside the park is a rapid 1 hour ascent through humid forest, followed by around 4 hours to the summit along a ridge with great views on both sides. I’d suggest setting out from Quito early; I slept in and didn’t hit the trail until midday, and had to turn back half way to the summit (the park closes late afternoon). Also, bring water, as you wont find any above the tree line (unless perhaps you hit up the little house on the ridge).
Before going to the park for myself, I’d read there is an entrance fee — this isn’t true. Entry is free, though I’m not sure if there’s a camping fee. One person told me a family that lives on the ridge lets people camp on their property without asking for a cent, though I’m a little sceptical. Expect to pay a few bucks to spend the night on the ridge, and think of it as a bonus if you get a free campsite. Bear in mind there’s no pressing need to camp, unless you’re keen for some incredible night photos of the city below. In total, the route to the summit is a solid 8 hour round trip, so it can be done in a day if you’re an early bird.