Backpack Patagonia's Northern Lakes, Volcanoes, and Rainforests

Walk high ridges among jagged peaks to the flanks of the massive Tronador volcano in the northern Andes of Argentina, with glaciers cascading from far above and a hundred blue lakes below. Descend to camp by picture-perfect glacial lakes surrounded by lush forests. Cruise by boat back to your starting point, or cross the Andes crest into Chile’s Lakes District on the famous Cruce Andino ferry to hike high on more impressive volcanoes and into the remote Cochamo valley, the ‘Yosemite of Chile’.

Starting in the cosmopolitan adventure hub of Bariloche, Argentina, explore deep into Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, the largest and oldest of Argentina’s national parks, which protects a huge chunk of the Andean cordillera and innumerable large and small lakes as well as the imposing massif of an extinct volcano, Cerro Tronador (11,453 ft) straddling the Argentine–Chilean border.  (This area is known as “Argentine Switzerland” for its snowy peaks and lakes surrounded by verdant meadows and forest.) Its snowy top reflects in lovely lakes at its base, and glaciers cling to its heights in all directions.   The park’s name comes from the native Mapuche language for “Isle of the Tiger” and refers to the jaguars that once roamed the region. Heavy rainfall supports thick temperate rainforest in the lowlands, including rare tree species such as the alerce, which can reach a great size and age, along with other species typical of sub-Antarctic Patagonia.   The park offers trekkers and backpackers a well-developed infrastructure of trails and refuges among its peaks, lakes and waterfalls, including extended trails that sample the full range of terrain and extraordinary views.   Stay and enjoy full board at refugios, or camp in undeveloped backcountry beside remote lakes.

Then, those who wish to explore further can cross into Chile’s Lakes District by bus and ferry on a chain of lakes – a famous journey called “Cruce Andino” (the Andes Crossing) - into an area studded with several impressive snow-topped extinct volcanic cones overlooking pristine rainforest and many more lakes, progressing to the Pacific coast in a dense concentration of National Parks and reserves.  Dayhike high on Volcan Osorno (8,701 ft) overlooking Lago Todos Los Santos, and on Volcan Calbuco (6,570’) high above Lago Llanquihue.  Walk deep river valleys to waterfalls and hot springs in thick rainforest.  Hike deep into the pristine Valle Cochamó – called the “Yosemite of Chile” - where the Patagonian Andes rise steeply up from both sides of the turquoise Cochamó River in sheer granite walls and domes, with numerous waterfalls and 3,000-year-old alerce trees in the native rain forest.  Then enjoy the unique ambiance of the town of Puerto Varas on the shore of Lago Llanquihue with the cones of Tronador, Osorno and Calbuco looming above. 

  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Day Hiking, Exploring Nature, Global Adventures
  • Seasons: January, February, March, April, November, December
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Length: 75.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 15,000 ft
  • 6,572 ft
  • Land Manager: Land Manager Varies
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12

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