One of the best treks in Chile, its beauty and charm is many times compared with destinations such as Torres del Paine. However, this trek is far less traveled and known to people than the aforementioned route, which gives it an additional appeal. It is you, nature and this beautiful trek in the austral region of Chile. Forests, mountains, glaciers and perhaps one or two South Andean deer will join you in this journey.Share this destination:
Duration: 4 days
Distance: 50 km
Physical Difficulty: Medium/High
Technical Difficulty: Medium/High
AccessThe access route to the Cerro Castillo natural reserve is the austral highway (Route 7), road that passes through the reserve. To reach the starting point you can take a bus in Coyhaique heading to Cochrane, and asking the driver to leave you in the section of the road called Horquetas Grandes (CLP 5.000). Hitchhiking is another alternative. There are daily flights to Coyhaique from Santiago.There is a CLP 5.000 fee to do the trek, which includes the right to use the campsites. You can pay this fee in 3 places: the offices of CONAF in Coyhaique, the administrative office in the entrance of the reserve located in Chiguay lagoon, and in the control post of CONAF located in the campsite "Primer Puesto de Verano", the first campsite of the trek. The moment you pay you must also give advance notice of your intentions of doing the Cerro Castillo trek.The RouteThis route starts in the Horquetas Grandes section of the austral highway, 75 km to the south of Coyhaique, and ends in the town Villa Cerro Castillo, after covering a distance of 50 km. The difficulty of this trek lies in its physical demand and some relatively dangerous sections of the trail, if one is not careful. Long walks, steep slopes in trails of loose rocks and strong winds in some sections of the trail are some of the obstacles.The Cerro Castillo trek presents the opportunity to enjoy pristine nature, being a seldom visited destination. The trail passes through beautiful forests of lengas and windy mountain passes, where you can gaze upon hanging glaciers in the slopes of the mountains, which descend and turn into green amazing valleys of southern forest. The reserve is also a sanctuary of the Huemul (South Andean deer), a national icon in danger of extinction. There are good odds one can see one or two of these gracious animals. The imposing summit of Cerro Castillo on the horizon crowns this journey.The proposed route has 4 sections:1.- Las Horquetas - Río Turbio campsite
2.- Río Turbio campsite - La Tetera campsite
3.- La Tetera campsite - Neozelandes campsite
4.- Neozelandes campsite - Villa Cerro Castillo
Section N°1This section of 15 km has an expected time of 6 hrs (7 if you start in Laguna Chiguay). In this section of the trek you will ford a series of streams following a 4x4 dirt road, passing through an area of cattle, meadows and forests of lengas. After about 5 hrs you will arrive to the first campsite of CONAF, which has a fireplace, latrine and tables. It is a good place to rest, although it is recommended not to camp here and continue to the next campsite. After a 1 hour walk you will arrive to the Río Turbio campsite, immersed in the valley of the same name, where this section ends.Section N°2This section of 14 km has an expected time of 6 hrs. Here the slope starts to increase, and the forest gradually starts to disappear as you get closer to the Peñon mountain pass. Once you reach this point, about 1.450 masl, you can see Cerro Castillo lagoon in the distance, indicating the way to follow. It is likely to find snow in the pass and strong winds. After crossing the pass, the terrain descends abruptly. Here you will have to be extra careful, since this is one of the most dangerous sections of the route where you will be descending over loose rocks.Along the way you will pass El Bosque campsite, where you can rest and have something to eat in its picnic tables. Again, it is recommended to continue to the next campsite and not camp at this point. After an hour walk you will reach La Tetera campsite, where this section ends.Section N°3
This section of 11 km has an expected time of 6 hrs. Along the trail you will pass near Cerro Castillo lagoon, a beautiful lagoon located in the base of the imposing mountain of the same name. Here you will be able to see hanging glaciers and breathtaking panoramic views. It is worth noting that this place is very exposed to the wind and cold temperatures, therefore it is not recommended to camp here. Further ahead you will be able to see Villa Cerro Castillo in the distance, immersed in the Ibáñez valley.The descent to the Estero Parada valley must be done with special precautions, since it has a steep slope and there is no distinguishable trail to follow. You must descend to the tree area, where you will eventually find the trail again that heads north to the Neozelandes campsite. Backpackers that wish to avoid or skip the trek to the Neozelandes campsite can instead go south (this will shorten 1 day the expected time of the route).
Section N°4The final section has a distance of 13 km and an expected time of 5 hrs, being the easiest section. From the Neozelandes campsite, you will continuously descend heading south. After a 2 hour walk you will reach Los Porteadores campsite, which has tables and a latrine. The trail continues through the Estero Parada valley till you reach an area of grassland and cattle. Always heading south, you will eventually reach a vehicle road. From this point, you must continue eastwards toward Villa Cerro Castillo, 1 hour away.
Precautions and Recommendations
1. Experience: Although this route is signal-posted (mostly), some sections are not clear or not signal-posted at all. Some sections of this route are also quite dangerous if one is not careful. It is therefore recommended to have some experience trekking routes of this nature.2. Season: November to March. Between the last days of December and the first days of January horseflies can be an inconvenience, although this is relative to both wind and temperature and can vary year to year.3. Food: Since this is a less traveled and somewhat isolated route, it is recommended to bring food for one or two additional days, in case something unexpected happens.4. Gear: There are no refuges in the route, so a tent is a must. Good trekking boots to do the ascents and descents is a necessity as well. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also recommended.5. Company: It is strongly recommended to do this route with at least one other person, regardless of our experience as backpackers. Accidents may occur, so being with someone else that may provide assistance or get help is extremely important.6. Physical Condition: This is a challenging route mostly because of its physical demand. There are several ascents and descents through mountainous trails. If we additionally consider long hours walking with a heavy backpack on our backs, we have a challenge that shouldn't be underestimated. Having a good physical condition is not necessarily mandatory, but can help a lot.7. 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 taken care of!