Patagonia is brimming with hiking trails and exciting parks that can be visited on foot. One of the least known is Cerro Castillo National Reserve, around 60-miles south of Coyhaique along the Carretera Austral. The park is recognizeable for the jagged peaks of Cerro Castillo and the cobalt blue waters of the lagoon at the base of the peak and has been described as the quieter alternative to Patagonia’s most famous national park, Torres del Paine.
Situated in the Aysen Region, the part of Chile that was recently voted by Lonely Planet as the sixth most exciting place in the world to explore this coming year, it goes without saying that this national reserve will soon be ranked as one of Chilean Patagonia’s most beautiful places to visit.
Highlights of Cerro Castillo National Reserve
Cerro Castillo or Castle Mountain is named to reflect the shape of the basalt walls of its summit. Only a few mountaineers have successfully reached the 7,600 ft. (2,320m) peak of Cerro Castillo but for less adventurous hikers, day and even multi-day treks allow excellent vantage points from which to view the mountain in its magnificence.
At 5,730 ft. (1,750m) above sea level, Cerro Iglesia is less striking than Cerro Castillo but is part of the chain of mountains in the reserve.
Hikes in Cerro Castillo National Reserve
Most visitors come here for the opportunity to hike through lenga and Antarctic beech trees as the glacier-topped peaks of the park rise up in front of you. There’s also a chance you may spot the Chilean national animal, the endangered huemul along with other symbols of Patagonia, the Andean condor and the guanaco.
From Villa Cerro Castillo: In one day, it’s possible to take the main trail from the town up to the colorful, glacier meltwaters of Laguna Cerro Castillo and return along the same route.
Estero Parada: This 16km hike leads up to Campamento Neozelandés to camp overnight. From here, you trek along the western slope of Cerro Castillo, camp overnight at Laguna Castillo and returns to the closest town, Villa Cerro Castillo the following day.
From Las Horquetas Grandes: A four-day hike, this begins 5-miles (8km) south of the park entrance at Las Horquetas Grandes and visits the park’s most impressive sights. This trail follows Rio Turbio, camps overnight at several basic campgrounds and reaches the lake at the base of the peak. It finishes in the nearby town.
How to get to the reserve
Located around two-thirds of the way along the Carretera Austral traveling south, this national reserve is accessed by car or public transport from Coyhaique. As most of this stretch of Route 7 is unpaved, the journey takes just under two hours.
Buses stop in nearby Villa Cerro Castillo, from where it’s possible to access the trails.
Things to consider before hiking
- Although it is possible to trek without a guide, it’s recommended that you organize a tour from Coyhaique as the trails aren’t very well-maintained and can be difficult to follow.
- Consider that the weather in Patagonia can change without warning. Always go hiking with a waterproof jacket and enough layers in case the temperature drops.
- Hiking here is of medium difficulty and only for those with some trekking experience.