Adventure Guide: Parque Nacional Huerquehue (Pucon), Chile

My Huerquehue Experience

In a nutshell, my Pucon and Huerquehue adventure was a #faillaughlearn experience in its finest.

Three of us were making our way down Chile from Santiago to the Patagonian South, and we had heard rumours that this little outdoor town was a must-see. Although the four days involved a series of misadventures, I’m super glad we stopped.

DAY 1

  • ‘Bobbi? We thought you were male. We have no female dorm beds left.’ So we found the local library and rolled out our sleeping bags behind it.

DAY 2

  • No plans. An inkling for wild spaces. Stolen wifi. And the discovery of a bus that would take us to Huerquehue.
  • Shot gun decisions = no opportunity to store extra gear = me + a 50 lb backpack.
  • Payment and registration is followed by a slow and steady ascent to camp… for 13 kilometers.
  • A gear stash. An appreciated rotation of backpacks. And then forests, volcanoes, valleys and vistas.
  • Arrival at the campground, followed by an attempt to set up home base. Turns out the one-person tent really is for one person (not two).
  • Refugio it is.

DAY 3

  • A quest for the elusive natural hot springs.
  • We get lost. We wander in the wilderness. We go back to our pivot point and we look for signs (we couldn’t possibly have to cross the stream and follow the road on the other side?). We cross the stream and follow the road on the other side. We get found.
  • Rain.
  • The hot springs are everything we could have hoped for (only exception: we’re poor, and they cost money).
  • We head back. More rain.
  • More rain.
  • And more rain.
  • A glimpse of the Refugio: SHELTER. A couple greets us. I shiver in wet clothes in the entranceway – for what seems like hours.
  • A hot cup of soup is passed my way. The kindness of strangers has stayed with me ever since.

DAY 4

  • Up and out: there’s a shuttle to catch. But this time… it’s all downhill.
  • We arrive in Pucon. We eat. We spend some time in the market, and some more time by the lake.
  • We catch a bus and wave goodbye to Volcan Villarrica.
  • Next stop: Valdivia and its microbreweries.

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Getting There

Pucon offers great accessibility to Huerquehue, providing affordable public transportation to and from the national park a few times a day.

If you’re planning on hiking any significant distance the same day, consider grabbing the first shuttle out.

 

Top Three Descriptors

  1. Lush… While some parts made me feel like I was back in Ontario, the others made me feel as though I was in a dense old growth forest.
  2. Scenic… One minute you’re hiking alongside a lake, the next you’re looking at a volcano. How cool is that!?
  3. Accessible… Chile knows where it’s at in terms of public transportation.

Things to Consider

  1. If coming from the North, reaching Pucon means you’ve also reached the gateway to Patagonia. True to it’s reputation, Patagonia brings breathtaking beauty along with unpredictable weather. Pack your raincoat, pack your thermal layers, pack all of the gear for comfort!
  2. All visitors to the Park must register and pay a fee. Ensure that your pass is visible on your pack while in the park to let rangers know you’ve done your due diligence. At the time of publication, the price for entrance was 5,000 pesos (equivalent to ~10CAD).
  3. There is limited camping in the park itself: Besides at the entrance, the only other spot to camp overnight was permitted in the interior at Camping Renahue, where the refugio is located. There is a fee associated with the permit (which is a few more pesos during the months of January and February).
  4. All of the trails were incredibly well marked. We only had trouble upon leaving the premises.
  5. If you’re looking for the hot springs, they are out of the park boundaries and privately owned. As a result, they come at a fee but well worth it.
  6. Their on-season is inverse to ours in the Northern Hemisphere: December to March. Try to hit the outside edges of this timeframe to avoid the big crowds while still taking advantage of decent temperatures (March was perfect!).
  7. We spent more time in the park and less in the town of Pucon itself, but there was a ton more to see and do. Ziplining, kayaking, volcano summits – all in one little town!

The Huerquehue Top Three

  1. Stop at the miradors (the views are so worth it);
  2. Make friends at the Refugio (everyone is worth getting to know); and
  3. Visit the hot springs (it’s a great way to see the whole park).

An Insider’s Secret

Take some love, leave some love: there are usually a few discarded or leftover items left in the Refugio for those in need. In case you forget, there could be some coffee waiting for you upon your arrival.

Did you finish your book while there? Bring some extra spices? The next person coming through will be just as appreciative. 🙂

But is it Recommended?

Yes. While Pucon draws in the tourists, Huerquehue provides an opportunity to get away from the crowds and see some beautiful, wild places. 

An alternative, lesser-travelled version of Pucon is Puerto Varas, for those who want to skip the crowds altogether. Adventure Guide to come!

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Patagonian Andes 

GoChile’s PN Huerquehue website

PN Huerquehue CONAF Website

Did we miss anything? Have you been? We’d love to hear about your Pucon/Huerquehue experience!

 

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