Cotopaxi, Ecuador: Mountain Biking one of the World´s Largest Active Volcanos

Cotopaxi Ecuador Volcano Refugio
From our launch spot at the Volcano Refugio at Cotopaxi, Ecuador

The parking lot just below the snow caped peak of Cotopaxi is cold and covered with snow. We´re 4800 meters up and level with the thick, early morning clouds. The guide and shuttle driver unload our bikes as the rest of us scramble to stay warm. I´m joined on this adventure by a German couple, Dutch couple and a british bloke and his online-ordered Colombian fiance (who didn´t understand a word he was saying).

The hour and a half ride to our drop-off point at Cotopaxi from Quito gave us time to get aquainted and take jabs at each other’s national athletic success.

Mountain Biking Cotopaxi Volcano in Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Bombing down Cotopaxi Volcano

With helmets strapped, gloves secured and brakes checked we were given a quick run down of the terrain and then let loose to bomb down one of the world´s largest active volcanos. Our guide darted ahead and vanished beyond the first switch back while myself and the German competed to stay close.

The ground was damp and loose, which kicked the back tire out a few times and I had to quickly re-gain control before the mountain took the upper hand.

The race down Cotopaxi was an incredible, heart-pounding rush complete with dodging boulders, hydroplaning puddles and staying off the ledge on tight turns.

Mountain Biking Cotopaxi Volcano in Cotopaxi, Ecuador
The guide thought it was funny that I decided to go through all the puddles instead of around.

We decended a large portion of the volcano in about 15 minutes and once everyone reached our pre-determined crossroads, we traversed across the base of Cotopaxi for another 30 minutes to a beautiful hidden gem tucked into the side of the mountain.

Mountain Biking Cotopaxi Volcano in Cotopaxi, Ecuador
The volcano oasis where we rested and drank fresh Cotopaxi Volcano water

We all crashed along the side of the volcano-sourced stream and chugged the crystal clear water as we caught our breathes from the intense morning ride. Our guide wouldn’t let us get too comfortable though and after a quick break we were back on our bikes and trekking across the incredibly wide-open land, which was once a major highway along the Inca trail.

Mountain Biking Cotopaxi Volcano in Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Beautiful open trails below Cotopaxi Volcano

For the next hour I struggled climbing steap inclines, flew down rocky drop offs and enjoyed cruising by old Inca ruins under the giant shadow of Cotopaxi. As morning turned to afternoon, hail began raining down and we channeled every last bit of energy to peddle harder to make it back to the main road for lunch.

Mountain Biking Cotopaxi Volcano in Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Grabbing some fresh water after an amazing day mountain biking

Drained, sweaty, hungry and happy we arrived back at base where our shuttle and lunch was waiting. Noboday complained when our guide called it a day after lunch as the rain picked up. It was a beautiful, intense day of mountain biking at one of the biggest active volcanos in the world at Cotopaxi, Ecuador.


Epecial thanks to travel friends Dave and Lisa for recommending Biking Dutchmen Bike Tours based out of Quito, Ecuador. The entire day of mountain biking and lunch cost me $25. Depart from Quito at 9am and return around 3pm.

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


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