Tucked in by raising mountains and three massive volcanoes, the small town of Pucon, Chile has become a growing destination for adventure enthusiast. Easily accessible by bus, this mountain town makes for a great stop in the Lakes District. The Lakes District, aptly named for the large number of lakes in the Andean foothills, it is huge covering areas in both Chile and Argentina. There are countless places to stop and a traveler could spend months exploring them all. We were pleased with our choice to stop in Pucon and visit the unique flora offerings of Parque Nacional Huerquehue.
Pucon is southeast from Temuco.
We started our explorations of the area with El Cani, a nature sanctuary a short bus ride from town.
The start of the hike we kept seeing lots of different bugs crossing the trail.
So shiny and green.
We saw a heap more of these guys and unofficially called this 'The Bug Hike.'
Then we came upon all of these beautiful red Chilco fuchsia flowers.
But the real unique feature of this reserve were the monkey puzzle trees.
Their branches were like a sturdy arm like tentacle coming off the the main trunk with star like bristles.
The bark looked so surreal to me.
These trees tower over the rest of the forest.
After a day trip to El Cani, we headed to camp in Parque Nacional Huerquehue, one of Chile's oldest protected areas.
The park can be a bit crazy on nice days with day hikers, so camping is definitely the way to give you an early start on the trail and miss the crowds ascending.
In this park you get to hike up a fairly descent mountain side...
...and get great views of three pristine lakes, Lago Verde, Laguna Sin Nombre and Laguna El Toro.
Yet in these mountains, one never knows what the weather is going to do. We didn't get many pictures from the rest of the lakes hike because, aside from wearing t-shirts earlier that day, it rained, snowed, hailed and blew strong winds across our face as we were hiking.
But we had our sights set on bigger hikes the following day.
Thanks to the owner at Camping Olga, he told us about the benefits of hiking to the view point of San Sebestian.
The hike is on the map, but hardly any one makes the trek. If you only have one day, it's not feasible to complete.
But if you have the time, the hike is amazing and this was our lunch spot (all to ourselves) admiring the snow capped volcano in front of us.
We still got to view the lakes that the day before were barely visible through all the hail hitting our face.
Laguna San Manuel providing fresh water and habit for hundreds of different wildlife.
We were lucky with the weather, as two weeks before there were some forest fires and the visibility was very poor. Right before we went to the park it poured rain for two entire days straight, then gave way to sun shine, one of the best recipes for maximum visibility of the distant volcanoes.
We continued hiking along snow covered ridge lines.
I loved the way the green trees are growing amongst those massive scree (all the loose rock) fields.
It just kept getting better and better.
Chris pausing to admire the view...
...as there was a lot to take in.
The temperature kept dropping as we kept climbing.
But it didn't damper our enthusiasm...
... as we finally reached the summit.
We descended back into the warmth of the forest...
...and got to view more monkey puzzle trees.
They have got to be one of the neatest trees to look at.
We continued to descend as the temperature increased and yellow flowers lined the trail as we made our way back to our campsite.
If you are lucky also, you can have two horrendous days of rain, stay inside all day (with internet!) as Hector and Patricia (the hostal owners) keep the wood fire going, then head off to the park enjoy the great views we did. These ancient Araucaria forest are listed as endangered by the IUCN because of their decline in abundance. These forests live to about 3000 years old and with an ever increasing demand for resources, it's more and more important to keep these guys from getting chopped. Hopefully the Chilean government continues to uphold strong protection of this national park so that all who wish can go and see these ancient living fossils: the monkey puzzle trees.
If you go:
In Pucon, definitely stay at:
Hostal Andino, Palguin 261, Pucon, Chile. 84586561, 045-441574
This is a hostal that is really the home Hector and Patricia. They are amazingly kind hosts.
$20,000 CLP for two people, shared bath.
There are multiple campsites within the park. If you are keen or have good reason, you can hike up the mountain to stay at the park camping for $12,000 for two people, for two nights.
We didn't know about that option and stayed about a two kilometer walk in from the park at Camping Olga (there's signs showing you where to go) for $9000 CLP per person. But - we were really glad we did because then we could access the San Sebastian hike. The camping area was nice with a cooking shelter if needed and each site had it's own designated space. If you want a hot shower, $500 CLP pp.
Bus to the park $3600 return pp.
Park entrance fee $4500 pp. Ask for the sticker!