For the most extreme and motivated backpackers, we present this amazing route located in the XII Region of Chile.Are you looking for a challenge? What about reaching the southmost point in the american continent? Nature at its purest state is what this adventure promises, combining beautiful landscapes, flora and fauna along the Magellan Strait. The toughness and severity of the weather will test your will, enriching what will without a doubt be an unforgettable experience. Cabo Froward is waiting for backpackers like you!Share this destination:
Duration: 6 days
Distance: 83,5 km
Physical Difficulty: Medium/High
Technical Difficulty: Medium/High
AccessThis route starts along the shores of the Magellan Strait at the San Pedro river's mouth, which is located 65,7 km south of the city of Punta Arenas. The city has an airport with daily flights to and from Santiago. The price of the round-trip plane ticket is around CLP 85.000 if bought in advance. It is possible to get to the San Pedro river's mouth by car from Punta Arenas. The ideal scenario is to arrange with someone to leave you in the river's mouth and go pick you up 5 days later. In case this is not an option there are buses that go to the Santa Maria river, 3 km to the north of the San Pedro river. It is recommended to ask for the buses' time schedule in Punta Arenas. Going by taxi is another alternative, although this is the most expensive one.The RouteThis route starts along the shores of the Magellan Strait at the San Pedro river's mouth as mentioned before, and it reaches the Cross of the Seas located in Cabo Froward 41,8 km away. This route can be done in 5 days (round-trip), although we recommend to do it in 6 days, in order to enjoy it to the fullest.Albeit this being an isolated and not frequently traveled route, it is very difficult to get lost given that the trail advances along the shores of the Magellan Strait during most of the trek. The journey includes river crossings, for which you have to be specially careful with the tides, which will be addressed further in the precautions section. The main obstacles of this route are the aforementioned river crossings, the cold and unpredictable weather, sections of slippery rocks (many times covered by algae) and above all the physical demand. The walking journeys, that can last more than 6 hrs, are over sand, slippery rocks and bog, terrains that are particularly exhausting to be walked over. Not to mention the heavy backpack over your shoulders.This is a unique trek, filled with contrasts which make it an amazing destination for nature lovers and people interested in the historic heritage of the region. Calm moments of silence and peace make way, in the blink of an eye, to the violence and inclemency characteristic of the weather of this region. It is an isolated and desolate place, yet full of life and beauty. The vestiges of the ancestral human occupation along the way are a journey into the past that allow us to evoke the adventures of the first inhabitants, explorers and pioneers. This route is not for everyone; it is tough and demanding, and without a doubt one of the most rewarding for those who love a challenge in one of the most authentic routes in Chile.The route has 6 sections:1.- San Pedro river - Bahia del Aguila
2.- Bahia del Aguila - San Nicolas river
3.- San Nicolas river - Cabo Froward
4.- Cabo Froward - San Nicolas river
5.- San Nicolas river - Bahia del Aguila
6.- Bahia del Aguila - San Pedro river
This section covers a distance of 13 km with an expected time of 5 to 6 hrs, not being very physically demanding. It starts in the San Pedro river's mouth and ends in Bahia del Aguila (eagle bay), passing by the San Isidro lighthouse, one of the most interesting milestones of the route because of its history and amazing views as well as the presence of the San Isidro inn, in which you can reserve and find accommodation and other services for the traveler.In this section you will be able to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the Magellan Strait and Dawson island, and with a little bit of luck, marine mammals like Bottlenose dolphins and sea lions along the shore. Bahia del Aguila is a beautiful place where you can also find vestiges of what was once the facilities of the Sociedad Ballenera de Magallanes whaling company, which operated at the beginning of the XX century. You can find good places to camp near the Beth estuary.Section N°2This section has a distance of 11,7 km and an expected time of 6 hrs, starting to be more physically demanding and difficult. The sand and gravel of the beach turns rapidly into slippery and rocky terrain, many times covered by algae and moss that increase the danger of falling and suffering an injury. This changes in the terrain make it difficult to maintain a regular advance. After advancing around 4,5 km you will reach the Yumbel river. It is recommended to bring a printed copy with the tide tables of the area, in order to cross it with low tide where the flow rate and depth are lower. Water can reach your ankles in some sections of the river and shouldn't be an important obstacle if crossed during low tide (although water level can reach your waist depending on the tide and level of precipitations). There is an abandoned house near the river that has been used many times by backpackers to rest and shelter from the weather. You can find innumerable messages and testimonies of these adventurers on its walls.The route continues passing through the Escondida and Bouchage bays, where you have to be attentive to the marks that indicate the trail that enters the forest. The section ends in the San Nicolas (or De Gennes) river's mouth, where depending on the tide level you will be able to cross it right there or will have to wait to cross it the next morning. This is a deep river, where getting wet will be inevitable. Even with low tide (use tide tables to plan the crossing) the water level can reach your chest on the deepest sections of the river. In this scenario you will have to take out your clothes, take your backpack over your head, and be ready to cross the cold water! There are good camping spots in both sides of the river.
Section N°3This section covers a distance of 17 km and has an expected time of 7 to 8 hrs, culminating in Cabo Froward with the ascent to the Cross of the Seas. Along this section you will have to cross 1 or 2 rivers (depending if you crossed the San Nicolas river the previous day). Again, you must plan the river crossings using the tide tables. The Nodales river, located 7,5 km from the San Nicolas river, is of similar flow rate and depth. This section is comparable with the previous section; you will walk along sand beaches, humid and slippery rocks, and some segments of forest. The landscape will nonetheless grow wilder and more rugged as you advance. You will be able to enjoy incredible panoramic views of Dawson island, San Nicolas bay, Rosa bay and Sampaio tip.The final segment of this section is one of the most challenging. Before you reach the start of the ascent to the cross, you will have to cover segments of big humid rocks, fallen trees over the beach, forests and steep gorges. A pair of white stakes indicate the start of the trail that leads to the Cross of the Seas. You can find at this point good places to make camp near the beach, where you can leave your backpack before you do the ascent to the cross.The ascents takes between 30 to 45 min, over a steep and muddy trail. The effort has nonetheless its reward: the Cross of the Seas, a 24 mt tall structure, awaits at the highest point of the Santa Agueda rock, where you can enjoy a deserved rest and amazing panoramic views of the Magellan Strait on all directions.From here, the next 3 sections will consist of repeating the previous 3 sections heading back to the starting point of the route.Additional section: Tarn hillIf there is motivation and energy left in you at the last section that heads back to the San Pedro river, you can add an extra section to the route: the ascent to the Tarn hill (blue on the map). This is a 830-meter high hill, and the ascent to the highest point was done by Charles Darin in 1834 during his exploring voyages. You can make camp at the starting point of the trail, 5 km north of the San Isidro lighthouse, near an estuary. The ascent takes around 3 hrs and the descent 2 hrs. It is not technically difficult to ascend, although doing it represents quite a challenge after having done the Cabo Froward route.
Precautions and Recommendations
Given the nature of this route, isolated and with a particularly inhospitable weather, it is very important to have in consideration the following precautions and recommendations:1. Give notice: It is important to give notice in the Faro San Isidro inn that one is going to do the Cabo Froward route, in case an accident happens. It is also recommended to talk to the inn's owners, really kind people that can give you more indications about the route.2. Experience: This is a challenging route that includes river crossings, long walking journeys over different terrains and a severe and changing weather. Doing this route as a first experience backpacking in the wild is not recommended.3. Best season: November to March, because of the higher temperatures, weather and sunlight hours.4. Food: Since this is an isolated route and rarely traveled, it is recommended to bring food for 1 or 2 extra days, in case something unexpected happens.5. Clothing and gear: Cold, rain, strong winds and mud; all of these elements can (and probably will) be a part o the journey, even if you do it in summer. Therefore, it is of vital importance to bring adequate gear for backpacking in these conditions. Bring thermal and waterproof clothing. Sunscreen and sunglasses are a necessity as well since this is a region with strong exposure to UV rays. It is recommended to bring a second set of basic clothing, in case the first one gets wet during the walk. It is recommended as well to bring a good synthetic sleeping bag and waterproof tent. 6. Footwear: Footwear is of particular importance in this route, since difficult, slippery and irregular terrain will be covered. It is recommended to bring a pair of high-topped and waterproof boots to avoid ankle injuries. It is also recommended not to use brand new boots, since this can cause blisters during the journey.7. Company: It is recommended to do this route with someone else or as a group, regardless of our experience as backpackers. It is a route where accidents can happen, and in such an isolated place having a companion that can help you or get assistance can be really important.8. Physical condition: This is a challenging route both because of the weather and its physical demand. One must endure long walking journeys with a heavy backpack over one's shoulders. Having a good physical condition is recommended, in addition to having done treks and routes less demanding in order to evaluate our capacities.9. Rivers: It is very important to plan the river crossings with low tide, using the tide tables of the area. It is recommended to bring a printed copy of this tables to the route. It is also important to bring a pair of sandals or "crocs" to cross. In general it will be necessary to take off your clothes in order to cross the rivers and carry your backpack above the water. It is recommended to have everything inside bags in the backpack, in case the backpack falls to the river by accident.10. Trash and Fire: DON'T leave any kind of trash or garbage in the route, nor make a campfire under any circumstances (for cooking use a portable gas stove). Also don't interfere in any way with the local flora and fauna. Be a responsible backpacker and contribute to make sure nature is well cared for!