Hike and Camp in Cerro Castillo

Rate this Adventure 7.5 miles 1640.4 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Zee Lilani

Hike and camp for the day in the hidden jewel of Patagonia.

Like most places in Patagonia, the adventure begins the moment you decide on your next destination (if you don't have a car). The start of the hike is in Villa Cerro Castillo. However, because the town is barely 2 streets and only one bus stop, you will have to ask the bus driver to stop at this town before leaving the bus station. Most routes go from Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Coyhaique, or vice versa, with Villa Cerro Castillo in the middle. In my case, I had to buy the full fare bus ticket from Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Coyhaique and the bus made a stop roughly 4 hours later in Villa Cerro Castillo. 

The town is extremely small so finding a hostel is easy. Make sure to come with enough money because there are no ATMs. We arrived late at night and spent the next day buying food, repacking our bags for the trek and resting. Most hostels will allow you to leave any extra items you don't want to take on the trek in a safe locker or storage room. 

To get to the trail: Return to the Carretera Austral and cross the street to follow the dirt road veering left. You will see a sign for a restaurant-Puesto Huemul. Follow this road, cross the bridge and walk through the picnic area. The road eventually turns into a trail. This is the one and only trail that leads to Cerro Castillo. After about 10 minutes of walking you reach the entrance where you register and pay 5,000 CLP/person (~$7.) 

The trail begins to ascend immediately after the entrance. It levels off here and there but for the majority of the trek it is all uphill and also requires scrambling up rocks in certain areas. The first half is on private property and is used by many rangers and farmers. Don't be surprised if you see men riding by on horses or someone working alongside the trail. There will be 3 wooden gates you have to open and pass through. Although the mountain is not in sight yet, I really enjoyed this part of the hike. It gives you a feel of what Patagonia must have been like before tourism hit it. 

Eventually the forested area will end and the trail becomes completely exposed. At this point the trail turns into a series of steep switchbacks over grasslands and eventually loose rocks. Scrambling is required to navigate over large boulders but nothing too dangerous or difficult. The jagged peaks will be in sight and inevitably recharge your adrenaline. Once you reach the top of the switchbacks, it is just a short walk down to the water. There is no trail so caution is needed while descending. We arrived when the clouds were passing through the mountains but it was still so beautiful and there was no one else there! 

We decided to spend the night at the campsite by the water so we could take our time and watch the sunset over Cerro Castillo. Besides, it's free to camp in the reserve so why not save a little money and relish in the beauty! To reach the campsite, follow the trail to the right of the lake. There are about 5 open spots under trees along side the stream. 

The next morning, return back to town by descending the same way you came. I highly suggest stopping at the restaurant Puesto Huemul, which will be along the dirt road just outside of town. Their empanadas are to die for and they even serve Patagonian Beer!

Note: Water is drinkable from all the streams and rivers. Please remember to pick up your trash and only use biodegradable soap if washing dishes or yourself.

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