What should I expect?
Aysen has some of the most exciting hikes in Patagonia, whether you day hike from the Carretera Austral or trek into the Andes on a multi-day expedition. The Aysen Glacier Trail is a unique trail that explores the privately owned valleys on the fringes of the Northern Ice Cap and is often said to be the best trek in Patagonia.
The Cerro Castillo range has a couple of exceptional day hikes to glacial lakes under the dominant Cerro Castillo mountains or a multi-day hike crossing challenging passes and camping in pristine forests. Often the best trails through the region are those the first pioneers followed, that run parrallel with the Carretera Austral. There are excellent day hikes in Queulat, Patagonia National Park, Cerro Castillo and throughout the region - whether you go self guided or with a local guide.
Day Hikes from the Carretera Austral
Queulat National Park
The Queulat National Park has three day hikes that can be completed, using the road as a starting point. They are all relatively easy and well marked so can be completed independently. The Bosque Encantado is in the south of the park and climbs through fuschias to a glacial lake with hanging glacier and wonderful views to surrounding forest. The hanging glacier trail is manned by park ranger and leaves from a car park 20km south of Puyuhuapi village. The puma trail in the northern area of Queulat National Park is a 5.6km path that climbs steeply through the natural woodland, and in its last stretch reaches the Los Pumas Lagoon.
There are two main day hikes in the Cerro Castillo. The first, to Laguna Cerro Castillo, can be done on horseback or on foot and passes through lenga forest until you reach the tree line and have great panorama views over the Ibanez valley, and then a scree slog up to Laguna Cerro Castillo (a turquoise lake at the foot of Cerro Castillo Peak). The second day hike is to Cerro Palo, a distinct knobby peak through a beautiful wooded valley.
The new Patagonia National Park has three main areas to explore. The Jeinimeini area has a 7km hike that takes in the rock formations of the moon valley, piedra clavada (an interesting rock formation) and some rock paintings. You can also drive to Jeinimeini Lake and hike up to a beautiful viewpoint above the lake. The Lagunas Altas hike in the Chacabuco Valley is a 20km trek that takes you to a high altitude plateau with numerous lakes and beautiful lenga forest, a nice contrast with the dry steppe in the main valley. In the Tamango area you can combine a boat trip along the Cochrane River to Cochrane Lake with a hike of either 3.5km or 11km.
There are four full day hikes of 7-9 hours in this area for which you will need a guide, or a short hike to Cerro Santiago that can be done self guided. The hike to Refugio Mosco is all in wonderful old lenga forests and is all about enjoying the woodland. The Cerro Submarino hike gives you outstanding views on a clear day, climbing to glacier Cerro Submarino. The Cerro Altavista hike is a hilly walk in between woods where you also reach nice viewpoints to small lakes and ponds. You can also hike to reach Tigre Glacier, a truly off the beaten track trail, from where it's easy to appreciate the marks and shapes on the rocks which show where the glacier had once been and how it has carved the landscape.
Day Hiking Trips
Combine Cerro Castillo reserve with the beautiful marble caves on this multi-sport activity including trekking, horse-back riding and kayaking. Amazing views and away from the crowds, a lovely trip to include as part of a self-drive road trip in Aysen.…
Multi Day Hiking
The trails of Cerro Castillo can be accessed from Lago Monreal in the north, Las Horquetas in the east and Cerro Castillo Village in the south. The section in from the north is the least frequently hiked and the most challenging, making a six day hike. Starting the hike in Las Horquetas means crossing two passes with an additional hike up to the Cerro Palo area. Both of the hikes end in Cerro Castillo Village where you can continue south into Aysen or return to Coyhaique. A three day hike starting and finishing in Cerro Castillo Village, avoiding the most challenging passes, is the best option for less experienced hikers but all of these hikes are challenging with lots of climbing.
Patagonia National Park: Jeinimeini to Aviles
This is a great four day hike for those that don't want the physical challenges of Cerro Castillo. This is a wild hike with numerous river crossings, thick forests and remote glaciers passing from the technicolor rocks of the Jeinimeini reserve into the dryer steppe landscape in the Chacabuco valley. You could extend this hike by two days and hike through to Cochrane on the huemul trail.
Multi Day Hiking Trips
Challenging Treks and Expeditions
The most exciting trekking in Aysen takes place on the fringes of the Northern Ice Field. The Aysen Glacier Trail is one of the best treks in Patagonia and is great for those who want a fully supported trek with excellent food. There are other alternatives in the area, great for those with a smaller budget looking for more of a bushwhack and carrying their own gear.
Mountaineers will find Cerro San Lorenzo or San Valentin to be challenging peaks where the weather and your mental ability to cope with the conditions count for more than physical ability.
Challenging Treks and Expeditions Trips
Aysen has some of the most spectacular scenery in Patagonia and although it is hard to access, with the right guide you can day hike, trek close to glaciers or go on a three week expedition onto the Ice Cap - and almost always have the trails to yourself.
What our customers think
The trip across Lago O'Higgins on the 'Quetru' was spectacular. Other highlights in Aysen... Lagunas Atlas hike was beautiful and solitary - we only saw one other couple all day.
Sarah and Charles UK March 2017
FAQs about Hiking in Aysen
Most people fly to Balmaceda airport, which has regular flights from Santiago and Puerto Montt. The other alternative is to come overland, but Aysen is days from everywhere.
On some of the day hikes a guide is not necessary but most of the routes in Aysen are remote, with no mountain rescue and often on private land, so having a local guide does pay off. A guide will give you peace of mind as well as access to some out-of-bounds areas.
If you are hiring a guide then all your camping equipment, except sleeping bag and mat, will be provided. And in Aysen they like their food! So although you could bring freeze dried food with you we'd recommend waiting and seeing what your guide pulls out of their pack to cook for you at the end of the day.
The Cerro Castillo trek was the first I ever did and I was totally spoilt. We attempted to fish from the rivers, saw huemul deer, waded rivers, scrambled down scree and saw only one gaucho in two weeks of trekking.
Harriet Pike Trekking, Mountaineering & Cycling Specialist
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