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Hiking in Chile | Huerquehue National Park Adventure Guide

39.1685° S, 71.7255° W

Clear mountain lake surrounded by trees in Huerquehue National Park.

HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK NEAR THE TOWN OF PUCON, CHILE IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO EXPLORE THE FAMOUS ARAUCANIA TREES AND TAKE IN VIEWS OF CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN LAKES. LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS CHILEAN NATIONAL PARK BELOW.

 



If you are an adventure traveler in search of stunning natural scenery, clear alpine lakes and pre-historic trees, then you need to add Huerquehue National Park to your Chile bucket list. This large national park is located in the heart of the Lake District in central Chile and within a short drive (or more likely, bus ride) from the top-tier adventure town of Pucón.


We visited Huerquehue in mid-December and found it to be absolutely stunning: vibrant green forests with moss-covered trees, gently rolling streams, singing birds and lizards sunning themselves on sparkly granite rocks.


While the trails were a bit crowded - we journeyed to the park on a beautiful Saturday in the heart of the busy season - we were still able to find a bit of solitude, especially past the two main lakes of Lago Verde and Lago Toro.


If you are a hiker, birder or someone who just wants to escape the business of Pucón, then definitely make sure to spend a day (or more) in Huerquehue National Park during your visit to central Chile.


➳ You will need to make a reservation before you head to the national park. You must do this online, find the link here.




HISTORY OF HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK

This centrally located national park is actually one of Chile’s oldest protected wildlands. In fact, its history dates all the way back to 1912 when the Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna Park was created. Later on, that park's name changed to Colico and also added a decent amount of land to its boundaries (at its height, the national park encompassed 265,000 hectares). Finally, in 1967 the park was officially renamed Huerquehue National Park and downsized to 12,500 hectares (which is what it stands at today).


❔GOOD TO KNOW: while the national park only includes 12,500 hectares, the rest of the land that once made up Colico is still protected. It has just been divided into other parks and reserves.




THE BEST TIME TO VISIT HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK

The national park experiences two major seasonal climates: a warm, dry summer that lasts for about 4 months of the year and a cold, icy winter caused by the park's high altitude (snow is actually quite common during the winter, especially in the higher lakes area).


Likewise, the wettest months in the region are from May to September. Overall, between that time, you can expect around 80 inches of rain (especially during the months of June and August).


In our opinion, one of the best times to visit Huerquehue National Park is between the months of December and February when the weather is at its nicest (or at least warmest). January is usually the busiest time in the Pucón area, so if you want to avoid large crowds and busy trails, consider visiting in December.









EXPLORING HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK | THE NITTY-GRITTY


COST: 8,000 CLP to enter (~ $8.50 USD) per person as a foreigner (4,000 CLP as a Chilean)

HOW TO GET THERE: by public bus from the town of Pucón or via a private car

LOCATION: the national park is located 1.5 hours (by bus) from downtown Pucón near the town of Caburgua

TOP ADVENTURE: hiking up to the many lakes (lagos) and stopping to check out a few large waterfalls (saltos)



❔ GOOD TO KNOW: the national park is only open Tuesday - Sunday (it's closed on Mondays) and the gate opens at 8:30 AM.






\\ Why Visit Huerquehue National Park


Located on the banks of Lago Tinquilco (Tinquilco Lake) and high up in the forested hills, Huerquehue National Park is a fantastic place to head to if you want to explore high mountain lakes, see some raging waterfalls and check out some local flora and fauna.


The national park is home to Chilla and Culpeo foxes, Chiloé marsupials (a small animal affectionately called the “Mountain Monkey” in Spanish because of its appearance), the Pudú, aka the smallest species of deer in the world, and finally, pumas. Likewise, within the park you have a good chance of spotting various birds, insects and lizards.


Likewise, Huerquehue National Park is actually one of the best examples of a Valdivian temperate rainforest, which is an ecoregion found on the west coast of southern South America and mostly within the countries of Chile and Argentina. This type of forest is characterized by dense undergrowth and plant species such as bamboo, ferns, and large deciduous trees.




Mountain lake in Huerquehue National Park, Chile.





\\ How to Get to Huerquehue National Park


The easiest and most affordable way to get to Huerquehue National Park is to take a public bus. It costs 5,200 CLP ($5.90 USD) per person to get to the national park and then back to Pucón (aka a round-trip ticket).


You will need to pick up the national park bus at the Caburgua bus station in downtown Pucón (exact location). The first bus leaves the station at 8:30 AM. It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the national park entrance from downtown Pucón.


❔GOOD TO KNOW: if you choose to buy the full round-trip ticket up front (which we recommend), then you will need to hang on to your ticket so you can show it to the driver before you hop on the return bus. The ticket is a small piece of paper so make sure to keep it somewhere safe.


The last bus leaves the national park entrance (where you will also be dropped off) at ~5:10 PM. Unless you want to hitchhike back to Pucón, this is the bus you need to be on.






\\ The Top Hikes in Huerquehue National Park


There are a good number of hiking trails within Huerquehue National Park - including one of the most famous hikes in the Pucón area, the Huerquehue Lakes Trail.


A few important things to know about hiking in Huerquehue National Park is that almost all of the trails will include a decent amount of uphill. This is because the entrance station is at the edge of the lake and at the lowest elevation. To reach any of the major points of interest (lakes, waterfalls or mountain tops) you will need to gain a decent amount of elevation.


Likewise, expect the trails to be a bit muddy and/or slippery. In some sections - especially near the waterfalls - the trail can be quite soaked and therefore a bit slick and tougher to walk around on.


But with all of that being said, hiking in Huerquehue is a fantastic adventure and definitely one worth doing. Explore our breakdown of the main hiking trails below.








HUERQUEHUE LAKES TRAIL (LOS LAGOS)

DISTANCE: 13 kilometers // 8 miles round trip

ELEVATION GAIN: 689 meters // 2,260 feet


The main trail in the national park is the Los Lagos loop (really more of a lollipop) that starts and ends at the park entrance station (where the public bus drops you off). The Los Lagos trail is partly on a road until you reach Refugio Trinquilo - a building off the side of the trail. From there the trail is mostly singletrack and uphill. Luckily, almost the whole trail is shaded - making it definitely bearable and really quite pleasant even on the hottest days.


After almost a mile of climbing you will reach another national park gate and sign. This guard station was unmanned when we did the hike, though the bathrooms were still open and usable (and not too dirty). From the guard station it is 1.5 miles of climbing until you see your first lake (Lago Chico). Along this section of the trail you have the opportunity to check out two waterfalls - Nido de Aguila and Cascada Trufulco.


Between the guard station and the first lake the trail is mostly switchbacks. There are a few flat(ish) sections but for the most part it is up and up some more. If you are not in the best of shape or if you have sore knees, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get up this section. Likewise, the trail is not very wide and it can be busy - on the weekends especially. So if you see someone heading down and you can let them by you, please do (and do the same when heading down if you see someone hiking up).


Once you get past Lago Chico you will need to decide if you want to do the full small loop (aka finish the lollipop) or just head to one of the lakes nearby (either Lago Verde or Lago Toro).


We decided to head to Lago Toro and do the loop counter-clockwise (this ended up not exactly happening). First we ate lunch along the bank of Toro and refilled our water bottles before continuing on down the trail. By the time we got to the cut off for the smaller loop we were itching to see more of the forest - which at this point was full of colorful flowers and hundreds of araucania trees - so we decided to take on the longer loop.


If you don't want to do the longer loop (see more on it below) you will need to turn left and make your way toward Lago Verde (or vice versa - Lago Verde to Lago Toro). We did hear that the trail between the two lakes was a bit overgrown, so be prepared to climb over some large fallen trees.


➳ Check out the Alltrails hiking map for more information on the main Huerquehue Lakes Loop.







LARGER LAKE LOOP (+ LAGUNA HUERQUEHUE)

DISTANCE: 16 kilometers // 10 miles round trip

ELEVATION GAIN: ~ 914 meters // 3,000 feet (up and down)


If the shorter loop isn't enough for you, then definitely consider taking on the bigger loop in Huerquehue National Park. Measuring 10 miles round-trip (or around 16 kilometers) this loop starts at the end of Lago Toro and heads up and around to Lago Huerquehue, which has some awesome araucaria (monkey puzzle) trees. Then you keep going on the singletrack trail - which at this point is going up and down quite a bit - until you reach the next lake, Laguna de Los Patos.


This much smaller lake - or laguna - was actually one of our favorites because the water was so clear and the trees were so big that it almost felt like we were in prehistoric times (we also saw a pretty golden tarantula here, which was kind of neat).


Once you get your fill of Laguna de Los Patos, you will continue on the trail as it winds its way down to the bank of Laguna Verde - one of the largest lakes in the national park. During this part of the hike you will likely need to climb over some large fallen trees. But altogether, even though the larger loop seems to not be nearly as popular as the smaller one, the trail was in good condition and really easy to follow.


Then once you finish checking out the lakes you will simply return back on the same trail that you hiked in on. Just watch your step on some of the steeper sections - for it can be slick.


💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are taking the last public bus back to Pucón (which leaves around 5:10 PM) you may need to push the pace on the downhill section to make it back in time. We got back to the entrance station after completing the big loop with about 20 minutes to spare.





Grove of tall trees along a clear mountain lake shore.





OTHER HIKING TRAILS IN HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK

Besides the two lake trails above, there is also the option to hike to the top of Quinchol Hill (8 kilometers / 5 miles round trip) or to go all the way to the summit of San Sebastián Hill, one of the highest points in the park at 2,000 meters or 6,561 feet. The longer trail up to the top of San Sebastian is 14 kilometers / 8.7 miles round trip with a decent amount of elevation gain.


When we visited the national park in mid-December both of the above trails were closed. If you are hoping to summit one of the hills in the park, make sure to look on the park's website beforehand to see if the trails are open or closed.






\\ What to Pack for Hiking in Huerquehue National Park



WATER BOTTLE

We have been absolutely loving our LARQ water bottles - especially when we have them out on the trails. Thanks to their super handy UV filter we feel comfortable drinking water from all kinds of sources; including, from rivers and lakes, popular restaurants and even bus stations.


Along the trail up to the lakes, there are a few places to refill your water bottles (including from the rivers that the waterfalls flow down). If you have a water bottle with a filter, or just a regular water filter (like this one from Katadyn) you should be totally fine.




Person drinking from a LARQ water bottle.
Our LARQ bottle in action.



BUG SPRAY + SUNSCREEN

While we noticed the bugs aren't nearly as bad in Chile as they were in countries like Colombia and Peru (at least in the Lake District) we did notice that the mosquitos were pretty bad along the lake shores. If you are someone who attracts mosquitos (like Madalyne does), then make sure to either pack some bug spray with you or use it before you start your hike.


Likewise, do your skin some favors and use sunscreen, and reapply once you start to really sweat.




A HAT + SUNGLASSES

The sun can be absolutely brutal in this part of Chile. Not only can it give you a nice burn, but it can also easily sap the energy (no fun). Therefore, definitely come prepared with either a hat to shield your face or a pair of sunglasses (or both).


We personally tend to travel with one or two pairs of durable sunglasses just because we have a bad habit of losing or breaking them. One brand we have really been enjoying is goodr. This super fun company focuses on making high-quality adventure sunglasses that can handle long runs on the trail, rappelling into tight slot canyons, and of course, bright days on the beach. Check them out for yourself here.




HIKING BOOTS

For any of the hikes in the national park you will want to wear nice comfortable hiking boots - preferably ones with good traction. The trail up to the lakes is relatively steep and usually quite muddy, so be prepared for some slipping and sliding, both on the out hike and then once you turn around and make your way back down to the entrance station.


We recommend these hiking boots from Oboz since they are made of a nice durable leather material that is also waterproof. Plus, their comfortable soles are built for long days on the trail.









\\ Extra Adventure Tips for Exploring Huerquehue National Park



CAMPING

The national park does offer camping within its borders, so if you are looking to spend even more time surrounded by nature then we highly suggest grabbing your tent and booking a night at their 18-spot campground.


It costs 24,000 CLP for a foreigner and 20,000 CLP for a Chilean (per night). You can make your camping reservations by calling +569 61574089.




BE A SUSTAINABLE ADVENTURER IN HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK

One of the most important things to remember when traveling and exploring this stunning world is to be the most responsible and sustainable traveler possible.


In order to be a more sustainable adventurer (not only in Huerquehue but everywhere) you need to carry out all trash with you (and pick up any you see along the trail), only take photos and nothing else (not even that cool branch from an aracaunia tree), leave no trace of you being there (so no graffiti, marking on trees or disturbing the plant life), and finally, do not disturb any wildlife - including the birds.




USEFUL SPANISH TERMS TO KNOW FOR HIKING IN CHILE


| Lago - lake

| Mirador - viewpoint

| El sendero - the trail

| Refugio - refuge

| Salto - waterfall

| Resbaloso - slippery




Entrance gate to Huerquehue National Park in Chile.



Huerquehue National Park is one of the best places to head to in the Pucón area if you are an adventure traveler looking to hit the trails, take in some beautiful natural sites, and explore a lush, pre-historic and lively forest.


Hopefully, this national park guide helps you plan the perfect adventure in Huerquehue. But if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or reach out to us directly.



► Find even more adventure travel inspiration on our Instagram (@backroad_packers).




 

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PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR HIKING IN CHILE


| Reusable water bottle: we love LARQ water bottles since they are the world's first self-cleaning water bottle and water purification system. Plus, they are rechargeable!


| Eco-friendly sunscreen: we love MadHippie sunscreen because it’s cruelty-free, vegan, broad spectrum, and reef safe. And even better, they donate $1 for every purchase to conservation efforts.


| Allbirds shoes: comfortable shoes can make or break an adventure or travel day, these eco-conscious and cozy shoes from Allbirds have been our faves for years.



► Find our full sustainable travel packing list here.



 


STAYING SAFE & PLANNING AHEAD


| SafetyWing: make sure you are staying safe with this easy-to-sign-up health insurance that is specifically meant for digital nomads. You can even sign up once you are already abroad.


| WayAway: this flight aggregator helps travelers find the best rates on airline tickets.


| BusBud: explore millions of bus routes and destinations in one easy-to-use search; plus, you can compare prices and book your tickets online.


| Rentalcars.com: check out the world’s biggest online car rental service that is available in over 150 countries worldwide.


| iVisa: this site helps make sure you have all the necessary documents and entry requirements while traveling.


| Wise: an app that makes it super easy to transfer money between currencies while abroad.

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