Huerquehue National Park - Chilean Lakes Patagonia
Huerquehue National Park in Chile's Lakes District in Patagonia is a watery wonderland of lagoons, lakes, rivers, springs and waterfalls. All against a backdrop of towering native forests of araucarias (Monkey Puzzle Trees), coirón and lengas. In all, 12,500 hectares with an elevation of 720 to 2,000 metres.
All that lush rainforest and green valleys comes at a price - some 2,000 mm (81 inches) of rain falls each year here. Thankfully, most of it comes down during the winter. In summer, the climate is usually warm and relatively dry, with an average temperature of 16C during February. In July the average temperature is 8C.
Huerquehue National Park is 33km (20 miles) from the adventure town of Pucon in the Chilean region of Araucania, which is in Northern Chilean Patagonia. Buses (Jac) run four times a day in summer, and twice a day in winter.
By car, take the road out of Pucón towards Lago Caburga, and take the right turn to Huerquehue (signposted). The road is unmade and can be very dusty in summer and muddy in winter.
Conaf (La Corporación Nacional Forestal), which manages the park, charges $8 (2013) for adults and $4 for children. The fee includes a map marked with the main trails.
The Park Entrance and Administration is open every day from 8.30 am to 6pm (11pm in peak season).
Lago Tinquilco is the first lake you'll meet when you enter Huerquehue. Stop here for kayaking, row boat hire, fly fishing and horse riding.
The Park offers a compact network of short treks close to the adventure hub of Pucon, making it popular for day treks. Here's a selection.
Trés Lagos Trek (short)
- 8.8 kilometers (5.5 miles)
- 3.5 hours
- moderately difficult
- altitude gain 730 metres
- Atmospheric native forests dripping with ferns - look out for Araucarías (Monkey Puzzle Trees), Mañíos and Coigües
- Top of the world views of snow-topped Volcán Villarrica and a dazzling display of jewel-colored lakes
Trés Lagos Trek (long)
- 16km (10 miles)
- altitude gain 1080 metres
- 6 hours
- moderately difficult
- All of the above plus Laguna Los Patos, a beautiful forest-clad lagoon high in the mountains
- See the biggest and best Monkey Puzzle Trees
Cerro Quinchol Trek
- 8 km (5 miles)
- 3.5 hours
- medium difficulty
- 740m altitude gain
- Thick Forests of Araucarias (Monkey Puzzle Trees), Lengas and other species
- Spectacular views from atop of Cerro Quinchol - snowy volcanoes, crystalline lakes and lush forested mountain slopes
- Uncrowded trails
Cerro San Sebastién Trek
- 13.8km (8.5 miles)
- 7 hours
- altitude gain 1,250m
- Araucaria, Coigüe and Lenga forest
- Spectacular lake and volcano panoramas from the 2000m high Cerro San Sebastién
Where to Stay
Within its borders Huerquehue National Park has just one refugio and two campsites. Camping costs from $28 and a bunk in the refugio is $14 (take your own sleeping bag). Just outside the park's borders is Camping Olga and Cabañas Tinquilco.
Wild camping is banned.
Has hostel bunks, double rooms (some ensuite), and lots of local hiking info close to the park entrance (www.tinquilco.cl).
Conaf campsite set in woodland.
Grassy Conaf campsite on the Trés Lagos Trek.
This is a popular campsite on the shores on the shores of Lago Tinquilco, about 2km from the Park entrance. Apart from independent hiking, there's plenty to do here, with Camping Olga organizing its own wildlife walks and educational talks as well as renting out fishing boats, from the private beach.
Other facilities include a fire pit, a shelter, a volleyball court and a picnic area.
A pitch for one tent sleeping two people costs $17; for three people the cost is $21. Each additional person costs about $4. Hot showers are $1.
About 300m from the Lago Tinquilco, these cabañas or rustic lodges have ensuite bathrooms and small terraces from $80. Each sleeps four people.
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