01 Apr Epic Girón Waterfall Hike: Day Trip from Cuenca, Ecuador
The mountain town of Girón is about a one-hour, $1 bus ride from Cuenca, Ecuador and is best known for the spectacular waterfalls in the hills above the town. While most people visit the lower falls just a short walk from the “check in station,” those up for an adventure (and a real work out) will not be disappointed by the trek up to the next tier of falls.
During our time in Cuenca, we were fortunate enough to meet another Pacific Northwest family who was taking a year sabbatical there; they’re the ones who introduced us to this epic waterfall hike.
How to Get to Girón by Bus
- Go to the Terminal Terrestre bus station in Cuenca (25 cents on a city bus)
- Pay 10 cents to get through the turn-style in the station and ask where the buses to Girón are
- Take the bus to Girón (less than an hour, $1)
- Get off in Girón on the main road
- Flag down a taxi (white trucks with green stripe) and get a ride up to El Chorro ($5)
- When you arrive, ask for the driver’s phone number so you can call for a ride back down
- Check in at the station and pay the $2 entrance fee ($1 for residents)
I know some people hike up the road from the town of Girón instead of taking a taxi. This would be quite a hike in itself and could be a good option if you’re only going to the lower falls. If you want to do the epic upper falls hike, I would not recommend walking up the road on top of that unless you’re training for the Olympics.
The “station” at El Chorro has a shop with food and drinks, bathrooms, seating areas, and the little office to pay your park fee ($2). We were hoping to get a map or more specific directions for the hike to the upper falls, but they only had a photo of the mountain. We were told to follow the trail along the farm and the ridge and when we came to a fork, take the lower route on the left. That was it. So I did my best to recreate our path on this birds-eye view map (above).
Hiking to the Upper Falls
From El Chorro office/shop, you’ll actually walk back down the road maybe 100 yards. At a bend in the road, there is a dirt path on the left that appears to be an old, rocky creek bed. This is where the trail begins.
El Chorro is about 8,000 feet above sea level, and the hike gains about 2,800 feet. Total distance to the upper falls and back is about 5 miles.
When we went, it was pretty dry but there were still a few spots of mud on the path. The terrain varies, passing steep farmland, but it’s mostly shady as you zigzag up. We found most of the hike to be pretty strenuous, especially with the altitude.
After going up and up the old creek bed, the trail eventually starts to follow a ridge with a barbed wire fence. When we came to a fork in the woods, we took the lower trail to the left and the path became very grassy. After maybe 30 minutes we found ourselves crossing the stream above the lower falls.
After a bit more steep climbing, we came out on this spectacular cow pasture with the upper falls in the background. We weren’t quite sure where to go at that point, but eventually realized the trail continues on the next ridge if you take a right and cross the field.
This second section of the trail is a bit more overgrown with some low branches to maneuver around. I think it took us about an hour and a half to reach the middle falls.
Apparently it is possible to get even further up to the very top set of waterfalls somehow, but this was epic enough for us! We refueled with a picnic lunch and enjoyed the amazing scene before us.
As we descended, clouds starting rolling in below us. Back at the bottom, we grabbed some drinks and took a much-needed breather at the El Chorro rest area before calling the taxi. None of us got cell service up there, so they were kind enough to let us use the office phone to make the call. Within an hour, we were back in Cuenca!
If you have any questions about this hike, let us know. If you’re fit and adventurous, we definitely recommend it!
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