Trip Report    

Backpack Central Patagonia's Cerro Castillo Circuit & San Lorenzo Basecamp

These two treks are premier short (3-5 day) treks in Central Patagonia with gorgeous views, suitable for strong hikers who have the gear, fitness and experience to carry a pack with all their food and overnight gear up to 10 miles/day and 2200’/day of gain on somewhat rugged terrain (steep slopes and scree ascents and descents) for 4-5 days.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Mostly well-marked, well-defined trail with reasonable grade, except for a few sections with very steep scree to climb and descend.  Weather can be highly changeable and wet, even in the 'high season' of January-February.

The Cerro Castillo circuit is a well-known 4-5 day trek in Central Patagonia known for stunning views across a high lake to jagged Cerro Castillo (aptly named Castle Mountain).  The San Lorenzo trek is most commonly frequented by climbers who pass along the trekking route on their way to the basecamp, but this trail also accesses gorgeous routes up into high cirques and moraine below the peak.   

These treks are suitable for moderately to very strong participants who have the gear, fitness and experience to carry a pack with all their food and overnight gear up to 10 miles/day and 2200’/day of gain on somewhat rugged terrain (steep slopes and scree ascents and descents) for 4-5 days.  (The descent from Lago Castillo to Camp Portadores on the Cerro Castillo circuit is a very steep scree descent, and the optional day walk to Paso Comedor on the San Lorenzo route involves hiking up and down a steep boulder field with considerable rockfall risk.)

The camps on the Cerro Castillo circuit are first-come-first-served and the camps were fairly full when we were there - particularly crowded at Camp Portadores.  There is a 5000 peso entry fee for the park which must be paid at an entry station along the trail at one end or the other.  Fundo San Lorenzo is private property and requires advance permission from the Soto family (contact info not available) to pass through and to camp but the facilities at the Fundo are very nice for camping including toilets and a dining hut (and the owners prepared an asado for us, barbequing one of their own lambs!).  There are also first-come-first-served basic hut facilities at Toni Rohrer refuge just below Laguna San Lorenzo, and a nice roomy campground next to the refuge about 3-4 hours walk from the Fundo.

We worked through Terra Luna Lodge to arrange for guides, food and transport for both of these treks and had a lovely overnight between them at the gorgeous and comfortable Terra Luna Lodge on Lago General Carrera http://terraluna.cl/en/terra-luna-patagonia/.  The routes on both treks are fairly well marked so you could go easily without a guide, though the cost for all the services through Terra Luna were quite reasonable and really saved a lot of time and headaches related to transportation and allowed us to do some off-the-beaten-track side trips that might have been treacherous without a guide.

Transportation for both treks requires flying into the Balmaceda airport which is quite a ways from the trailhead on mostly dirt road.  Public transport comes from the town of Coyhaique which is about an hour north of Balmaceda, and operates only a few days a week.

  • Cerro Castillo – we went in at the Las Horquetas trailhead and ended on a road near Villa Cerro Castillo, approx. 2 hours each way. Also possible to begin and end from Villa Cerro Castillo but that skips some of the prettiest terrain coming in.
  • Fundo San Lorenzo is off a small private road: buses operate to Cochrane from Coyhaique but requires private hired transport from there; approx. 9 hours of road time to the trailhead

We spent the night of our arrival in Coyhaique so that anyone with delayed bags could have a bit of time for them to catch up.  Luckily that wasn’t an issue this time.

We had mostly very good weather, which is lucky at any time of year in this region.  It is notoriously wet and stormy even in high summer.

See the following google photos albums for pictures from the two treks:

If anyone would like more details on the itinerary and other logistics details, contact the trip leader Cheryl Talbert at cascadehiker@earthlink.net.