The stunning El Cocuy National Park, which has been completely closed to visitors since February 2016, is set to reopen, albeit only partially, this Thursday, April 6. After extensive negotiations between the U’Wa indigenous community, who consider the park sacred, and the National Parks office of Colombia it has been announced that sections of the park will be accessible once again to travellers wanting to experience this remarkably beautiful area firsthand.
The reopening carries many firm conditions however: there will be no overnight stays permitted in the park, with visitors allowed to enter between 5 and 9am, and able to leave between 1 and 6pm. There will be a 10 minute induction speech, compulsory to all visitors, and no visitor is permitted beyond the snow line on any of the three routes that will be available. Travellers will be able to choose between 3 main hiking routes during their day in the park: the Ritacuba trail to the snow-line of Ritacuba Blanco, the Laguna Grande trail to one of the park’s most impressive lakes, and the Pulpito del Diable trail to the snow-line of the Pulpito del Diablo peak (pictured below). The total length of these three treks combined is 25km.
The reopening of the park is huge news for the tourism authorities of Boyaca department, and great news for travellers wanting to experience some stunning high-altitude trekking within the park. It might not be perfect (having been lucky enough to trek the full 5 day circuit in 2011, I can say that El Cocuy has a great deal for to offer), but until it is clear that the environmental concerns of the U’Wa and environmentalists have been sufficiently addressed then this is the best option available.