Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

We were standing on top of the Sierra Negra Volcano with a steady sprinkle of rain falling down. “Let’s take a minute of silence. Close your eyes, absorb the energy of the Galapagos Islands, and feel your surroundings,” Pablo, our naturalist guide, instructed. As we closed our eyes, a cool breeze brushed our cheeks and as though by magic, the rain came to a halt. We were connected to the land and it was powerful.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

The Sierra Negra Volcano is one of five active volcanoes located on Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands. Sierra Negra is the only volcano that visitors are allowed to hike, and it is only accessible with a guide. Hiking the volcano takes around 5-6 hours from start to finish. Even though the incline of the trail is gradual, the hike can be strenuous for some due to the distance and heat of the equatorial sun.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

We were excited to see the volcano hike on the itinerary of our 11-day Galapagos Islands adventure tour with Galakiwi. The morning of the hike, we hopped in the group vans and rode 30 minutes or so to the base of the Sierra Negra Volcano. We were welcomed with full cloud coverage and no rain—the hike was definitely getting off to a good start!

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

During the first portion of our hike, the terrain was very lush and green. We made our way along the dirt paths and occasionally stopped to observe different species of plants and birds. As we walked, Pablo told us stories about the volcano, as well as information about plants and wildlife that make this area their home.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

The further we hiked, the more grateful we became for the cloud coverage. It was still quite warm and humid, but not having the scorching sun beat down on us was much appreciated. Eventually, we made it to an opening in the vegetation, and the volcano’s caldera came into view.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

I knew the caldera was going to be large, but I didn’t realize just how expansive it would appear. It was massive. The caldera is six miles wide and it is the 2nd largest volcanic crater in the world. We reached the viewpoint just in time—as we soaked up the views, a cloudy fog rolled in and engulfed the landscape before us. After a short break and snack time, it started to rain, and we continued our hike along the rim of the caldera.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

The last time the Sierra Negra Volcano erupted was in 2005, and our guide Pablo was there to witness the spectacle firsthand. He told us that while he was in town reading a book, he felt the earth start to shake. At first, he thought nothing of it, but eventually he realized that a volcano was erupting. Pablo made his way to Sierra Negra and watched as lava spewed from the volcano. The eruption lasted around eight days, Pablo was amazed to see the earth change right before his eyes.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Once you reach the top of the volcano, the last portion of the hike brings you over a rocky landscape with little vegetation. You can still see the rocky landscapes that were decimated by lava years prior. It is easy to imagine that this is once what the entire chain of Galapagos Islands looked like. We saw life growing and evolving right in front of our eyes, and we were able to see full circle how the islands came to be.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

The views overlooking the caldera and the island from the top of the volcano were spectacular. We could see the entire volcanic crater on one side, and views of the lush island landscape and ocean on the other. After our moment of silence, we explored the rocky landscape before us and found steam rising from thermal vents and signs of life slowly starting to grow up through the rocks.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Eventually, it was time to head back down the volcano. Our next break point was at a picnic shelter. We stopped and dug into the lunch that Galakiwi had sent along with us. Our lunch bags were packed with a bowl full of rice, veggies, and chicken, plus an apple, granola bar, chocolate bar and juice. It was a delicious lunch and it gave us just enough fuel to push through the last portion of the hike.

 

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

As we finished our lunch, the rain slowly began to fall again. That was our signal to get moving, and so we quickly packed up and got on our way. The rest of our hike down the volcano was through the rain, and by the time we reached the bottom, we were soaked! Thankfully, the rain worked wonders at cooling us down from a hot morning of hiking. Despite ending the hike with some rain and muddy trails, we had a wonderful time hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano. It ended up being one of our favorite adventures of the trip, and one we won’t be forgetting anytime soon!

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos Islands

Trail Information & Tips:

Distance: Between 5 miles and 7.5 miles depending on route

Starting Point: Sierra Negra Park Entrance in the highlands of Isabela Island

Tips: 

  • The trail is only accessible with a guide, so you need to book a tour or hire a guide.
  • The trails are open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily.
  • Plan for the hike to take around 5-6 hours roundtrip.
  • Be sure to stay on the trail and don’t feed or touch the wildlife–be respectful of the land and animals!
  • Make sure to bring snacks and plenty of water as it is a long hike and can get very hot.
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes–the trail is easy, but it can get rocky and muddy.
  • Pack rain gear as it often rains on the volcano.

 

 

Special thanks to Galakiwi for hosting us on an amazing adventure through the Galapagos Islands! As always, all opinions are our own.

Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
24 Comments
  • Angela Crampton
    Twitter:
    Posted at 01:55h, 17 November Reply

    What an amazing experience. Volcanoes are always one of the first things I head towards when traveling.
    Angela Crampton recently posted…5 Reasons Why Traveling in the United States IS TravelingMy Profile

  • Tamara
    Posted at 19:54h, 18 November Reply

    Gorgeous photos! I didn’t make it to Isabela when we were in the Galapagos, but we did visit Bartolome which is volcanic as well- so cool, it was like something from another planet!

  • Jayce Cairo
    Twitter:
    Posted at 01:03h, 19 November Reply

    The Galapagos is on my bucket list for sure and this hike is pretty interesting. The views are pretty awesome! Was it hot inside the caldera? I’m curious about your guide watching the eruption in 2005… did the lava just flow down the side of the volcano?
    Jayce Cairo recently posted…Free Paris Walking ToursMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:15h, 23 November Reply

      We didn’t hike inside the caldera, so I’m not sure what the temps would be there. As far as the eruption in 2005, it looked like the lava was spraying up quite a bit before flowing down into the caldera. I watched a few videos on YouTube (search for Sierra Negra Volcano eruption Galapagos if you are curious) and it looked pretty intense! I believe the point of the eruption was close to where all the black rocks were near the turn around point of our hike!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano in the Galapagos IslandsMy Profile

  • Jolina S.
    Posted at 03:07h, 19 November Reply

    What an awesome experience to hike around an active volcano — and on Galapagos no less! Love those islands, though we ourselves didn’t make it to the Sierra Negra Volcano. Love the contrast of your photos — the blacks and greens, in a way symbolizing how nature has the power to both give life and destroy life.

  • Paige
    Posted at 09:09h, 19 November Reply

    This sounds like an absolutely incredible hike. When I think of the Galapagos, I think of the animals, not volcanoes. A 6-mile-wide caldera??? That’s incredible! I’ve only been up to the top of one volcano, in Hawaii, and it blew my mind. I can’t wait to see this.

  • Carol Colborn
    Twitter:
    Posted at 11:49h, 19 November Reply

    What a hike and such a wide caldera! I’m afraid I will not be able to do this though. Easy but too long. I can only do up to 30 minutes of hiking.

  • Debra Schroeder
    Twitter:
    Posted at 13:12h, 19 November Reply

    What an awesome experience! Loved your photos, it definitely makes me want too visit. Although that is one long hike. I had better start getting in shape now. 🙂

  • Kirstie
    Posted at 16:17h, 19 November Reply

    Oohh it’s a short hike and should be with a guide. I think this is great for beginners who want to try hiking! The photos are so vivid and lovely!

  • Eloise
    Posted at 22:49h, 19 November Reply

    The Galapagos have been on my list for years for the amazing wildlife. I had no idea there was a volcano to hike there. I love hiking and I am yet to hike a volcano like this. Now I want to go more than ever, and I’d love to hear first hand from your guide’s experience of the eruption. It’s so unique!

  • Rashmi and Chalukya
    Posted at 23:37h, 20 November Reply

    The view of the caldera lined by the lush vegetation is awe-inspiring. Rain has added to the beauty of the surrounding. A hike to the volcano backed by the information and science behind the geographical phenomenon by a guide is definitely a unique experience.
    Rashmi and Chalukya recently posted…Top Things to do in Piran Slovenia – The Gem of Slovene RivieraMy Profile

  • Agness of a Tuk Tuk
    Twitter:
    Posted at 04:55h, 21 November Reply

    This is what I call a perfect hiking trail, Jenna. The scenery and the landscape are astonishing. How long did the hike last?

  • Jason Miller
    Posted at 06:14h, 25 November Reply

    WOW! This is definitely one hike to add to my bucket list. The scenery is out of this world!

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