Backpack to Refugio Frey

14.9 Miles Total - 2460.6 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Leah Slaten

Easily accessed from Bariloche, this day or overnight hike provides stunning views along the way and a nice hut at the end.

The most common way to access the Refugio is via the trail from Villa Catedral (there are other paths, as well as a multi-day backpacking route in the park). The town and recreation area of Villa Catedral can be reached from Bariloche by a bus that leaves from the center every  hour and takes about 45 minutes. Get off at the last stop, and follow the sign in the parking lot to “FREY.” The sign will point towards the left of the parking lot.

At the beginning of the hike, a couple ski roads intersect the trail. Do not turn on these to walk up or down; the trail remains flat for this portion. After about 10 minutes of walking, you will reach the official trailhead with information and rules about the park.

To reach Frey from Villa Catedral takes about 4 hours. The first three hours are relatively flat. For two hours you will walk along a ridge with great views of the town of Bariloche in the distance. Then you will turn right, with Lago Gutierrez below you on your left. Eventually you will reach a fork to either descend to the lake or to ascend for Frey. Continue up and you will shortly reach a small shelter, Refugio Piedritas, which is built into the rock surface (Piedritas means small rocks). This could be a good break spot before continuing up the mountain.

The final hour from Piedritas to Frey is pure ascent. At first you will hike through the forest, and for the final kilometer you will break above the tree line (around 5000 feet) to scramble on rocks and boulders.

At Frey, there is a shelter and campground next to a lake. You can either camp here for the night or stop for a lunch break. Frey also offers abundant climbing opportunities, and I met several people who were staying at the site for multiple days to climb. If you arrive early, you can walk around the lake or climb to the lookout on the left side of the lake. Just follow the trail around the left side of the lake until it starts heading up. The path is not well marked but you just want to get to the top via the route of least resistance.

Turn back the way you came, continue on for a multi day backpacking trip, or hike to the cable care to return down. I walked back the way I climbed up.

Notes about camping:

1. In the summer season, it is important to book your spot in advance. I am not sure if the rangers would turn anyone away, especially if you have your own gear, but always best to be responsible. This can be done through the Club Andino website.

2. There is a Refugio as well as camping spots. Camping is free, while a bed in the Refugio costs about 20 USD. There are also basic food items available for purchase, as well as a full board option.

3. If camping, be aware that wind conditions can get quite strong at this elevation and exposure level. Additionally, the ground at the campsites is not ideal for planting stakes. When I attempted to pitch my tent, it blew down the mountain as I was securing the rain fly. In the end I was too scared to set it up again and ended up sleeping under the stars. 

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Overall rating: 

Amazing hike!!!!

One of the best hikes I’ve ever been on!! Amazing terrain but definitely challenging if you continue up the mountain past the refugio and trek across the summit to the chair lift!! There’s a bit of everything in this hike, beautiful views, water, bouldering, and scorching heat! If you continue up the mountain definitely have a hat and be prepared for a hike!!! Well worth it though!!!

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