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Visiting Mindo Cloud Forest







A scene from the Mindo Cloud Forest that reminds me of what an enchanting world it really is.

Intro: Our day tour from Quito to the Mindo Cloud Forest was not only a beautiful opportunity to trek through this mist-shrouded rainforest, but also proved to be a defining moment for us in a whole new passion for the outdoors.

After a spectacular 2-hour drive from Quito (and a short stop at Paraiso del Pescador), we finally arrived at our destination for the day – the Mindo Cloud Forest. It forms part of the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve, renowned for its incredible birdwatching opportunities, cascading waterfalls and dense green rainforest. It is set on the edge of Mindo village where small guesthouses and tourist cafes line the streets, but in this offseason, there were only a scattering of other tourists around as our private tour guide Gonzalo negotiated the town.

Sign posts en route to the Mindo Cloud Forest during our drive from the Ecuadorian capital Quito.

It was late morning by the time we pulled into the car park at the Mindo Cloud Forest and prepared ourselves for the day of hiking ahead. Neither Charlene nor I had done a lot of hiking, except the short jungle treks we had embarked on recently in the Amazon Rainforest, and we were really excited for the day that lay awaited. We had really enjoyed the challenges faced trekking through the muddy Amazon, and with Gonzalo as our guide, we knew we were in for more adventures.

Our first adventure of the day involved traversing a deep river valley in a small, zip-line cart.

Our first challenge of the day was nothing like we had expected, however, with a pulley-style cart suspended over the river providing the only means of crossing it. As someone who can’t swim, the idea of being suspended high above the water in a precarious-looking contraption was not my idea of fun, but the workers bundled us into the cart and we were off!

Gonzalo looking cool, calm, and collected on the return cart zip-line. Charlene not so much!

It turned out to be a short, but quite exhilarating, ride through the cloud forest canopy and over to the other side of the river valley, and an unexpected little adrenalin rush to kick off the day.

It was like a dense, fairy-tale wonderland within the Mindo Cloud Forest canopy.

Once on the other side of the valley, we headed off on foot, following Gonzalo along the trails that were flanked by lush greenery, adorned with water droplets from recent rainfall. Gonzalo had been through this forest countless times and knew the trails like the back of his hand, and I could see that he really loved to be within this magnificent natural environment with the calls of nature all around.

A precarious looking ladder leading down to the river bed alongside one of Mindo Cloud Forest’s waterfalls.

The trails were really well maintained with wooden fences for added safety and it was just a real pleasure to be completely immersed in the wilderness and be at one with nature. During the entire trek we only encountered perhaps two other groups of hikers, so there was a real sense that we were off-the-beaten-path and had this place largely to ourselves. I think if there had been lots of other people and human noise, our experience in the Mindo Cloud Forest would have been a completely different one.

One of the Mindo Cloud Forest’s waterfalls offering a great long-exposure photographic opportunity.

We both had our cameras with us and I was carrying my tripod, and not only was there great photographic potential around every corner, but some excellent long-exposure opportunities also. This was perhaps the first time I had really explored nature photography, and it ignited a real passion in me to pursue this more after I returned home.

A bridge beautifully suspended over one of the Mindo Cloud Forest’s rivers and atmospherically draped in jungle.

Actually, our whole experience in the Mindo Cloud Forest was quite groundbreaking for us, and I can safely say that my passion for hiking most definitely started here. When we returned to California we started going camping and backpacking – something we had never really done before – and I know that it was the experience of venturing deep into this spectacular tract of cloud forest that was the catalyst. There is something indescribable about being within natural environments and the peace it brings, and with my camera in hand I was in absolute heaven!

From high above the Mindo Cloud Forest appears as a dense swathe of impenetrable green.

After exploring the trails of the Mindo Cloud Forest and witnessing some of its stunning waterfalls, it was time to head back the way we came with another cart-ride across the river valley. I still remember how laid-back the operator was about it all while Charlene and I were trying to conceal our nerves!

Workers on the side of the road near Mindo agreed to have their photo taken. This image continues to give me warm memories of what was such a genuine human encounter.

With hungry bellies, we stopped in the town of Mindo to grab some lunch and have a short walk around before hitting the road back to Quito, but not without one last encounter. I spotted a group of men working on the side of the road and something about the scene sparked my interest – I really wanted to take their photo! Through Gonzalo’s translation I asked the men if it was ok and, luckily, they agreed warmheartedly.

It is sometimes a tricky thing asking to take peoples’ photos, and the last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable, but when I look back on this image now I have really great memories of those few minutes chatting with the men and that they offered this bit of time to me.

Looking out across the lush Ecuadorian countryside on the return drive to Quito from our day trip to the Mindo Cloud Forest.

As we headed back towards Quito, I knew that this day at the Mindo Cloud Forest had been more than just a day excursion from the busy Ecuadorian capital. This was our honeymoon and we were excited to start the next chapter of our lives on this trip, but it was also offering us experiences that proved to be influential in our outlook and how we wanted to shape our future.

Each time I am out hiking now or immersed in nature photography, I remember being within the misty interior of this beautiful cloud forest and the feelings of beauty and wonder it evoked in me.

Ominous skies over Quito as we arrive back into the Ecuadorian capital following our day tour of the Mindo Cloud Forest.


  • Book a private tour of the Mindo Cloud Forest so that they can tailor your visit based on your interests.
  • Don’t forget to embrace your fears, even open air suspended pulley carts that hover thousands of feet above ground level that will inevitably bring you closer to some glorious waterfalls.
  • Wear closed-toe hiking boots or tennis shoes since there will be a lot of hiking involved.
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