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Top 11 Hikes and Treks in Chile

by on 24th November, 2021

The Best Hikes & Treks in Chile

Chile’s sleek and elongated geography helps make it one of the best trekking destinations in the world. The country stretches some 2,690 miles (4,329km) from north to south; South America’s distinctive spine formed thanks to Chile’s mighty Andean mountain ranges.

It’s almost impossible to define what is the best hike in Chile because of the endless variety. Instead, we’ll show you the best treks in Chile, from the world’s driest desert to the glaciers of the Patagonian fjords.

There are day treks to longer and more challenging hikes, with something for every walking fan. The hardest part is deciding which trail you’ll do first.

Discover the best hikes in Chile with our guide to trekking in this beautiful country. Drop us a line for more information.

 

Chile’s best hiking and trekking routes

Torres del Paine ‘W’ trek

Torres del Paine has long been considered the jewel in Chile’s trekking crown. The Paine W trek follows a W-shaped route past spectacular sights, with lodging options from excellent campsites, refugios, eco-camps, or luxury hotels.

Highlights include the dramatic granite spires that give the trek its name, Torres del Paine, Paine’s Towers in English. Views from the French Valley and hiking up close to the Grey Glacier are just two of many memorable moments. The trek can be completed clockwise or anticlockwise.

Access to the park is via Puerto Natales. We offer the classic hike over seven days as well as a shorter, five-day version loaded with high spots.

The shoulder seasons (Sep-Nov and Mar-Apr) avoid the peak crowds of December to February. Whenever you go, the vibrant weather, beautiful lakes and views will make it unforgettable.

Autumn in torres-del-paine-np-chile-patagonia

 

Torres del Paine Circuit, The ‘O’ trek

The Paine Circuit, also known as the ‘O’ trek, is one of Chile’s most challenging and rewarding hikes. The ‘O’ incorporates the W trek plus extra days walking in the remote and less-visited northern part of the Torres del Paine National Park.

Walkers who choose the circuit and head into Chile’s wilderness will enjoy a 360-view of the Torres del Paine massif. The John Gardner pass offers beautiful views while the possibility of wildlife sightings, including puma and condors, increase in the more remote sections.

Grey Glacier

Great news for people short on time; you can see the Grey Glacier in just one day!

The Grey Glacier hangs at the top left-hand point of Torres del Paine’s W trek, in the north-western sector of the park. Trekkers can catch an early morning bus (two hours approx.) from Puerto Natales to Pudeto, then take a 45-minute ferry across Lago Pehoe to the Grey Glacier trailhead.

It’s a 3-4 hour hike to the glacier and the same on the return (6-8 hours total) for fit hikers walking at a good pace. The path is undulating and can be windy. You need to make sure you can get back in time for the last ferry back over Lago Pehoe to catch the bus back to Puerto Natales.

Don’t worry, you can turn back early at a viewpoint if you are worried about time. You can overnight at several hotels and refugios near the glacier if you don’t think you can fit the hike into one day.

lago-grey-sunrise-Paine chile

 

Cerro Tenerifé, Puerto Natales

Spain’s highest peak is Mount Teide on Tenerife. What does that have to do with Chile? Well, Chile’s Cerro Tenerifé shares the island’s name and Mount Teide’s shape — and that’s where the similarities end.

Cerro Tenerifé is a bushwhacking and wild Patagonia summit. It takes a full day to reach the summit at 1,562m (5,125ft) by following animal trails, with scree and winds to navigate once you leave the forested lower reaches.

The peak offers a 360° view of Torres del Paine National Park to the north, Sierra Baguales mountain range to the west, Puerto Natales to the south, and the Chacabuco mountain range to the east.

There is an option to camp out and bag a second peak (1,461m/4,793ft.) the following day. You’ll encounter some short scrambles and climbs as you head into true wilderness. At the top, the summit gives beautiful views of Balmaceda mountain and its glaciers. Walking out involves crossing rivers and battling thick bushes all under the watch of lovely deciduous forests.

Dientes de Navarino Trek

Walkers wanting to get away from it all need to hike the Dientes de Navarino trek, the southernmost hiking route in the world.

Such a boast doesn’t come without commitment. Hikers need to brave challenging weather and strong winds on a trail that take you around Isla Navarino, a stone’s throw from Cape Horn.

The reward? Stunning views over the Beagle Channel and Nassau Bay alongside empty paths traversed by very few humans. We recommend taking a guide on this trek.

Lakutaia Cape Horn Patagonia Chile

 

Huerquehue National Park

The little-known Huerqueque National Park is a hidden gem. Located near Pucón in the north of the Chilean Lake District, Huerqueque offers many day hikes, mountain views, and fascinating fauna and fauna.

The Los Lagos walk takes you past crystal-clear lakes and through ancient forests, as well as some thermal springs for those that fancy a dip. The Quinchol hike is a short walk from Lago Tinquilo up through the woods to a viewpoint that is spectacular on sunny days.

Mirador de Los Cóndores, Cajón del Maipo valley

One of the best trekking options near Santiago is the Cajón del Maipo valley, about an hour away from Chile’s capital city.

The Mirador de Los Cóndores promises excellent views and, at 2,000m (6,561ft), it won’t cause any high altitude issues. A steady ascent over 3 miles (5km) makes for a pleasant walk through arid Andean mountains, with fantastic valley vistas at all times.

Keep an eye out for condors as you approach the summit. There are lovely views of snow-capped Andean peaks from the top, making this a fantastic day trip from Santiago.

A shorter city hike is to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago itself, affording a wonderful perspective of the city from the base of Santiago’s iconic “La Virgen” statue.

Cerro Castillo

Cerro Castillo is a new national park (2018) south of Coyhaique in Chile’s Aysén region, named after the highest peak in the central Patagonian Andes. The area offers many day walks and horseback riding but is gaining fame for its Las Horquetas circuit hike.

Las Horquetas is a four or five-day hike through Andean beech forests over 28 miles (45km) that pass mountain streams and emerald green lakes. The highest pass is at 1,750m (5,740ft), and trekkers get up close to spectacular hanging glaciers. Keep your eyes peeled for the endangered huemul deer springing into your path.

Laguna Cerro Castillo, Patagonia, Chile

 

Atacama Desert

San Pedro de Atacama is the driest place on the planet, and no less beautiful for it. Sunsets and clear night skies make this lunar landscape one of Chile’s most captivating destinations.

A classic wander for all is to see the sunset at the Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley. Dunes and strange geological formations define the landscape, which you must visit on an organised trip.

If you want to test yourself in one of the world’s harshest environments, then try our seven-day Atacama trek. Very few people attempt this hike due to lack of time, but it’s worth your attention. Hike when the moon is half full or smaller to enjoy unforgettable night skies.

Cochamó Valley Trek

Nestled among Chile’s Lake District lie Cochamó and La Junta Valley, often compared to Yosemite because of their granite mountains.

Cochamó, full of lakes, rivers, and mountains, is a place to enjoy daily walks. Having made an effort to reach Cochamó, it’s worth staying for a few days to appreciate the area fully.

La Junta mountain, Cochamo, Chile

 

Ruta de Los Parques (Route of the Parks)

One for the national park baggers! In 2019, the Chilean authorities devised a 1,700 mile (2,735km) route through SIX national parks covering the best of Patagonia.

A full exploration of each could take up to six months, including hikes, cycling, and driving. The idea is to get people to visit Chile’s less well-known but equally gorgeous parks.

The recommended six-park route starts in Patagonia’s north at Alerce Andino National Park, replete with forests, mountains, and more than 50 lakes. Next, Queulat National Park, whose meaning is “the sound of waterfalls” and tells all a visitor need to know.

Travelling further south, you head next to Cerro Castillo National Park (see above) in Aysén, for walking, kayaking, and wildlife, as well as a glimpse into gaucho culture. Patagonia National Park — not home to Torres del Paine — is a potent mix of rivers, colours, steppe, grasslands, and forests.

The penultimate park listed is Laguna San Rafael National Park, with calving glaciers, an enormous icefield, and Chile’s famous Marble Caves.

Finally, it’s Kawesqar National Park, an enormous seven million acre park of fjords, islands, and mountains, named after the local Kawesqar tribe. There is no accommodation or official trails, and exploration is best done with a guide.

There are now 17 national parks in Chile; check the official Ruta de Los Parques website for more.

 

The best treks and best hikes in Chile

These are just some ideas for this mind-blowing country. As always, we’ve got more.

Read our glacier hikes, our top hikes in Patagonia, and Kathy’s very own Northern Patagonia trip, part one and part two. And don’t forget that the best hikes in Chile require good kit, so check our guide to clothing for Patagonia.

We can help organise any of these treks, and more, across Chile. Contact us for more. 

Hotel Antumalal, Pucon, Chile

 

 

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