Key information: Cerro Castillo
- Some of the finest landscape in mid Patagonia: dramatic eroded basalt mountains, deep valleys, waterfalls and lakes in this remote and unspoilt region.
- Walkopedia rating88
- Natural interest17
- Human interest2
- Negative points0
- Total rating88
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: 1,400m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.
Cerro Castillo (2,675m) sits 75km south of the city of Coyhaique in middle of the remote Cerro Castillo National Reserve. This is a range of high, heavily eroded and glaciated, basalt mountains separated by deeply-gouged valleys. The scenery is stunning and very varied, claimed to be some of the finest in the central Patagonian Andes: from forested upper valleys to hanging glaciers with waterfalls that cascade into the mountain lakes deep in among these impressive mountains. The most prominent, Cerro Castillo, owes its name to the striking basalt turrets and rocky ridges that give it the resemblance of an ancient castle.
Trek across the massif
There is a superb trek across the massif, which gets close in under the great cliffs and spires of Cerro Castillo itself, taking in lakes, gorges and fine highlands. The trek takes 4 days minimum, including a number of small(ish) river crossings, winding through open streamside pastures, wonderful alpine forests, glacial debris and a mountain pass at 1,400m, adjacent the towering turrets of Cerro Castillo. It is recommended you walk the trail north-south, as the northern end is just a roadside, while the village of Villa Cerro Castillo awaits you at the end. This is a reasonably demanding trek in remote mountains where you will need to be completely self-sufficient. Come prepared. The route is generally unmarked, so good route-finding will be important. Camping is the only option out in the park. Many walk the route unsupported, although guides are available and will add valuable knowledge.
This region has the advantage of being (relatively) sheltered from the prevailing weather by mountains to its west, so is drier than much of Patagonia. While the summer is generally good, January to March are the best times to trek high here. Beware the tabanos horseflies in February.
There are day walks from Villa Cerro Castillo.
Walkopedia friend Jacs Taylor-Smith describes this stunning hike below. Directions: as you round the bend on the Carrertera Austral and enter Villa Cerro Castillo from the north / Coyhaique, take a sharp right back on yourself onto an unpaved track "Camino Estero del Bosque" that runs past Refugio Cerro Castillo. Follow the track; it bears left round a corner, over a bridge and you arrive at a car park. The kiosk for the trailhead is just beyond the carpark. Note the chrges for this walk.
Set off through woods of Nothofagus beech trees, climbing quite steeply but always in the shade of mature and very beautiful woodland. The trail then emerges into open, grassy and exposed areas which become undulating, through camomile bushes and over many streams with logs straddling them for dry crossing. Then the climb steepens sharply again over loose scree, stones and earth paths. There are a few rope handrails in steeper sections. The trail is very well marked.
The views en route are panoramic and stunning. The Rio Ibáñez valley is laid below you and the Ibáñez river snakes south towards Puerto Ibáñez and Lago General Carrera beyond. But the best is yet to come. You come upon your destination on the southern side of Laguna Castillo where you have a grandstand amphitheatre view of the Cerro Castillo glaciers across the water, on the northern side. The hanging glaciers dropping down to the laguna are blindingly white with fringes of turquoise ice, set off by the brilliant blue of the laguna below. There are many spots to hunker down amongst rocks and take shelter from the wind.
1066m ascent to the top and 7kms exactly in distance each way. Circa 3 hrs to walk up and less to come down.
Lonely Planet's Trekking in the Patagonian Andes has an excellent chapter on this walk. (Now somewhat dated.)
We want to tell more - please send us your ideas, suggestions, experiences and photos.
OUR FRIENDS' EXPERIENCES
From Jacs Taylor-Smith (thank you,Jacs!)
This is a stunning one day hike in the staggeringly beautiful Cerro Castillo range. It would be easy to overlook this walk and just keep chugging south en route to other adventures, but doing that would deny you a gem of a hike. We completed many magnificent hikes in Patagonia but this one proved to be a favourite - a steep ascent with great variety in terrain, spectacular wide ranging views of the Ibáñez river valley and the reward of the magnificent Cerro Castillo hanging glaciers and laguna at the top. Glorious!
Directions: as you round the bend on the Carrertera Austral and enter Villa Cerro Castillo from the north / Coyhaique, take a sharp right back on yourself onto an unpaved track "Camino Estero del Bosque" that runs past Refugio Cerro Castillo. Follow the track; it bears left round a corner, over a bridge and you arrive at a car park. The kiosk for the trailhead is just beyond the carpark.
We were charged a $5,000 pesos CONAF fee and a $9,000 pesos landowner fee for the private land traversed in the early part of the hike. This is the Chilean nationals rate which, strangely, we were offered; it's usually $5,000 pesos more for international visitors. I saw some discussion online about the landowner's fee and this may now be waived; it's worth checking the current situation. There is a good map at the kiosk showing several routes to the top and guides who will offer to guide you or give advice.
We did the walk on a stunning summer's day, on the 30th December, 2019 in 22 degrees. There are three distinct sections to the walk.
We set off through woods of Nothofagus.....READ MORE
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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