Hiking in the Andean Foothills: Parque Nacional Huerquehue

We’re all signed up to climb Pucon’s main attraction on Wednesday: Volcan Villarrica. In the meantime we thought we’d do some hiking in the popular Parque Nacional Huerquehue. As we’re travelling on our own and using only public transportation, our time in the park was limited and we were only able to hike a section of the Los Lagos trail.

Park entrance: Huerquehue National Park

Our day started with frustration. While the rest of the participating world turned its clocks backwards or forwards for Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, Chile is still a month off for this ritual. It seems that the major earthquake of 2010 affected the schedule, a fact we discovered an hour after our bus left the station. We had to take a taxi to the park instead (about US$40).

Our first glimpse of the smoking volcano, Villarrica, which can be seen from many viewpoints throughout the park.

At the entrance we were greeted by a Corporacion Nacional Forestal staff member. He explained the route to us, including the distances for each section. We paid the entrance fee (about US$8) and began our hike. We avoided the hilly and uneven road by walking along the Sendero Nirrico trail, a short informational walk that introduced us to the flora and fauna of the forest and explained how the high Andean lakes were formed.

We love brightly coloured wild fungus.

The Los Lagos trail began just after this initial 30 minute journey. We walked along the road leading to the forest and then the climbing began. Classed as a medium difficulty track, it is pretty much all uphill. Our guidebook told us it would take four hours to complete, but this would have only taken us halfway. Including the walk from the entrance gate, one should allow for the better part of a day to fully enjoy the park. The Los Lagos track itself is about nine kilometres.

The park is home to waterfalls and rivers. I was only able to capture the bottom of this one due to the glare on the sheer rocks above. These falls are worth the detour.

It’s worth it to make the climb for the views, however, and we enjoyed some gorgeous waterfalls, lakes and excellent views of Volcan Villarrica from the park. The track isn’t marked with signs once on the path but it would be very difficult to get lost. Maps can be purchased from the entrance hut when the admission fee is paid.

View from a Mirador lookout over Lago Tinquilco with Villarrica smoking in the background. We plan to climb that volcano this week.

Getting there: Buses Caburgua transport passengers from Pucon to Parque Nacional Huerquehue three times a day. The terminal is next to the Buses JAC station. At the time of writing the buses were departing Pucon at 8.30am, 1pm and 4pm daily, returning passengers from the park to Pucon about an hour later. Tickets are about US$4 one-way (discount for return trips) and the ride takes about 45 minutes.


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