The valley of Cochamo, hidden in the south of Chile, is an amazing place surrounded by granite mountains, forests, rivers and lakes. This beautiful corner of the country invites you to see and enjoy all sorts of flora and fauna, while facing a changing weather and making the ascents to the top of the mountains. Amazing panoramic views and beautiful trails more than justify the effort. This is without a doubt an incredible destination for backpackers!Share this destination:
Duration: 7-8 days
Distance: 100 km
Physical Difficulty: Medium/High
Technical Difficulty: Medium/Low
AccessYou can take buses from the city of Puerto Montt that pass through the bridge of the Cochamo river, where you have to get off the bus. The ticket has a cost of CLP 3.000 per person to this point. From the bridge you have two choices: take another bus from this point that take you 8 km closer to La Junta area (starting point of the route), for a cost of CLP 1.500 per person. The second alternative is to walk this distance. It is important to keep in mind that entrance to the park is allowed until 16:00 and you CAN'T get to La Junta by car.The RouteThe proposed route has 5 sections. This is a physically demanding route, since it includes long walking sections of 6 hrs or more and mountain ascents. The weather can complicate things as well, since this is a rainy area. Even in summer you can have both sunny and rainy days in the same week. It is important to go well prepared with waterproof gear and a good pair of trekking boots.The enormous and imposing granite mountains of Cochamo will always stand out in the horizon along this route, immersed in an exuberant nature. Rivers, lakes and forests complement this spectacular trip into the heart of the South. The warmth and kindness of the local people are a strong point as well of this destination.This is an area that is well cared for and receives many backpackers each year. This place is not a park protected by CONAF (Government branch in charge of protecting forests and national parks in general), therefore special care should be taken in order to protect and preserve this place so that everyone can enjoy it now and in the future.This route has 7 sections:1.-Cochamo- La Junta
2.-La Junta- El Arco
3.-El Arco- Lake Vidal Gormaz
4.-Lake Vidal Gormaz- Torrentoso
5.-Torrentoso- El León pass
6.-El León pass- Lake Vidal Gormaz
7.- Lake Vidal Gormaz- La Junta
Section N°1This section has an expected time of 4-5 hrs and a distance of 13 km, ending in La Junta area. The trail is easy to follow since it always has the river to the right as a reference. After a 1 hr walk you have to cross the Piedra river. It will depend on the flow rate whether you will have to get a little wet to cross it, without being a considerable obstacle in any case. After crossing the river the trail starts to get steeper as we advance. After a 2 hrs walk you will reach a swampy area, which will make advancing more difficult. From this point you have another 2 hrs to La Junta, where you will find the Cochamo refuge, your first stop.Section N°2This section has a distance of 10 km and an expected time of 5 hrs. After crossing the La Junta river you will have to continue straight ahead heading to the east, and not taking the trail to the left that heads north to Los Toboganes. You will eventually arrive to the Traidor river, which is quite shallow and can be crossed walking. Water resupply at this point is recommended, since it will be the only source of drinkable water for the next 3 hrs. After an hour walk you will reach the Valverde river bridge (its water not suitable for drinking), and after another 2,5 hrs you will arrive to the Arco river, where the imposing stone arch that gives its name to this area is located (arco meaning arch). After crossing the river you arrive to the campsite and refuge, which are free to use.Section N°3This section has a distance of 8 km and an expected time of 5-6 hrs. It starts in the refuge heading to the east deeper into the forest, where it is quite easy to lose track of the trail. You have to be attentive to footprints and other other marks that signal the road to follow. After 1 hr the trail starts to get steeper. This is the so called "stairway to heaven" section of the route. This ascent will lead you to a point where you will be over 1.000 masl, being able to enjoy spectacular panoramic views. From here the descent starts and continues for around 1,5 hrs. Eventually you will arrive to a river that can be crossed walking over trunks. On the other side of the river there is a poster that signals the way to the Los Coihues campsite. This campsite is located on the north side of the Vidal Gormaz lake, and is simply and amazing and beautiful place to camp. It has a cost of CLP 2.000, with access to water, tables and a latrine.
Section N°4This section offers 2 alternatives to reach Torrentoso. The first one is walking along the border of the lake, in which case this section has an expected time of 7 hrs and a distance of 15 km. The second alternative is to cross the lake by motorboat. In this scenario, the crossing takes 45 min and then you have to walk for another 2 hrs to Torrentoso. The motorboat crossing has a cost of CLP 25.000 per trip, for a maximum of 5 people (this is, CLP 5.000 when full).On the southern border of the lake you will find the house of the Soto family, who offer a campsite and food products like bread or eggs. After crossing the lake the trail continues for 40 min till you reach a fork in the road, where you must take the path on the left heading to Torrentoso. From this point you have a 2 hr walk to the campsite.Section N°5From Torrentoso you have to head northeast through Valle del León (Lion Valley) for about 3 hrs, always with the Manso river to your right as reference, till you reach a waterstream, Arroyo del Quemado, where you will find a bridge to cross it. From this point, you have a 1 hr walk to the León pass, where you have to give notice in the carabinero's (police) office that you are doing this route. This place is right next to the frontier with Argentina, where you will find a house which was built halfway in Chile and halfway in Argentina. Near this point you will find a campsite with a cost of CLP 4.000.Section N°6This section has an expected time of 5 hrs, ending in the north side of the Vidal Gormaz lake. First, you must do a 2,5 hr walk from the Leon pass to Alto León. This trail heads north and ascends over a mountain, where you get to a beautiful mountain lake, which you have to border on its eastern side and serves as reference. From here you have a 2,5 hr walk before you reach Los Coihues campsite near the lake. The second half of this section consists in the descent to the lake.Section N°7The last section of this route is already traveled road (Sections 1 and 2). If your legs are up to the task, you can do both sections in one day (10 hours), or you might as well do it in 2 days.
La JuntaIt is worth noting that this route does not include a set of other attractive treks that can be done from La Junta to the north. Beautiful trails can be walked in 1 day treks, so it's a good idea to consider staying 3 or 4 more days in this place. A lot of backpackers go to La Junta in summer, a good instance to share a "piscola" with friends and get to know other backpackers.
Precautions and Recommendations
1. Season: November to April. During this period the weather improves, with better temperatures and less precipitations.2. Food: It is important to be prepared and bring with us the amount of food we will need to do the route. There's the possibility to buy food in the park, though the product range is limited and quite expensive.3. Gear: A tent is mandatory to do this route. Although it gets really hot in summer, it is more than likely to get rainy days. Waterproof clothing and boots are recommended.4. Physical Condition: This is a challenging and physically demanding route. Having a good physical condition is advisable.5. 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!