The Cerro Castillo National Reserve was created on June 19, 1970 and has an area of 138,164 hectares. It is made up of three independent sectors called: Lake Elizalde, Lake Paloma and Cerro Castillo. In 2018, it was re-designated as one of the new national parks of Chile, as one of the principle jewels of the new “Ruta de los Parques.”
The park is located in the Region of Aysén, in the municipalities of Coyhaique and Río Ibáñez, approximately 64 km south of the city of Coyhaique, capital of the region. It has good connections to a wide range of tourist and transport services.
Furthermore, its proximity to the Balmaceda airport, Coyhaique and Puerto Chacabuco, places where almost all the tourists enter the region, gives it center stage to exploring the region. It stands out for its impressive mountain range and peaks, most well-known Mount Castillo (2318 masl), Palo, Vieja, and Chocolate. The park is also known for their excellent program and conservation efforts in protecting the native huemul.
The first ascent of Mount Castillo was in 1966 by the Chileans Gastón Oyarzun, Osvaldo Latorre, Antonio Marcel and Raúl Aguilera from the west face. For years the first ascension was credited to a group of New Zealanders, who tried in 1976. They arrived 20 m from the summit, when Nick Groves of England achieved the second ascent. Lucky for them, many areas in the park were names for them, such as Lake Duff and the infamous New Zealand Camp.
In the last twenty years, mountaineers from all over the world have increased their interest in the Castillo Mountain range, achieving first ascents in all the main peaks, with many local climbers from Coyhaique opening new routes.
This beautiful place has increased its recognition and interest both nationally and internationally, becoming a national park, where the number of visits increases every year.
For this reason, CONAF requested for the first time a concession of the tourist trails. The entrance “Las Horquetas” is located at KM 70 of the Carretera Austral, Ruta 7, south of Coyhaique. The trail has an approximate length of 51 km. Las Horquetas is the main access for visitors looking to walk the Cerro Castillo circuit, continuing along the Estero Bosque trail or the Estero Parada trail.
SECTION1 1: CASETA LAS HORQUETAS – CAMPAMENTO TURBIO
15.4 kms. | LOW DIFFICULTY
Duration: 5-6 hours aprox.
Ascent: 440 mts.
Descent: 250 mts.
The Las Horquetas trail head is located along Route 7 (Southern Highway) south of Coyhaique approximately 67 kilometers towards the town of Cerro Castillo. At a sharp curve in the road, you’ll find a small parking area and after crossing the river, our ranger station. Here you can register and pay your park entrance fee. The trail follows an old logging road, weaving in and out of the forest with relatively no incline. Once reaching the official park boundary, continue another 2.5 kms until Camp Turbio. There are several small streams to cross and beautiful beech forests with Spanish moss.
SECTION 2: CAMPAMENTO TURBIO – CAMPAMENTO BOSQUE
9.8 kms. | HIGH DIFFICULTY
Duration: 5-7 hours aprox.
Ascent: 570 mts.
Descent: 554 mts.
The second leg of the hike ascends to the Peñón Pass, climbing to 1,300 msnm, and back down in to the valley to Camp Bosque. Leaving Camp Turbio, you’ll begin hiking through the beautiful Turbio Valley until reaching the tree line and hiking through the saddle. The Penon Pass not only has snow in the winter, but can also be snow covered between the months of October and January. Hike through with extreme caution and beware of the loose rocks on descent. Camp Bosque is located next to the Bosque River and at the feet of the mountains.
SECTION 3: CAMPAMENTO BOSQUE – CAMPAMENTO LA TETERA
2.5 kms. |MEDIUM DIFFICULTY
Duration: 2 hours aprox.
Descent: 300 mts.
Just after leaving Camp Bosque, the trail crosses the rapid Bosque River where a bridge will help you cross. The trail ascends rapidly towards Cerro Castillo, where you’ll begin to see the beauty of the rock face itself along with its impressive glaciers. This section is short, but gains elevation quickly.
Arriving at Camp La Tetera you’ll find sites with the best views in the park.
SECTION 4: CAMPAMENTO LA TETERA – CAMPAMENTO PORTEADORES
5.7 kms. | HIGH DIFFICULTY
Duration: 6-7 hours aprox.
Ascent: 440 mts.
Descent: 374 mts.
This leg of the trail brings you to the famous glacial lake of Cerro Castillo, where you’ll be able to see its glaciers and peaks in their entirety. You can also make the decision to continue the hike through to Camp Porteadores, or take the private trail and concession of Jorge Aguilar directly to the town of Cerro Castillo.
The route passes the tree line and ascends towards the overlook of Cerro Castillo along a rocky trail approximately 150 meters pass the head of the Bosque River, towards the ridgeline. Once reaching the overlook, continue hiking along the ridge over “Morro Negro” until descending to Camp Porteadores, a steep 500 meter descent.
This section of the trail is very exposed to high winds, steep cliffs and loose rock scree. It’s a critical spot on the trail and visitors should try to cross the pass in the morning. If the weather deteriorates while hiking to the overlook, it’s best to hike down directly to Villa Cerro Castillo. Visitors can experience white outs and fog surrounding the peaks making it difficult to follow the trail over the pass.
The drainage from the Castillo lake is one of the last places visitors will be able to find water while hiking from the lake over to Camp Porteadores. Be sure to fill up there before continuing your ascent.
SECTION 5: CAMPAMENTO PORTEADORES – CAMPAMENTO NEOZELANDÉS
3.3 kms. | MEDIUM DIFFICULTY
Duration: 2 hours aprox.
Ascent: 285 mts.
This part of the trail gradually climbs to the final valley, Estero Parada, as it meanders through mystical old growth forests before arriving at Camp Neozelandes. A natural glacial cirque, visitors will be amazed at the beauty of the different peaks and glaciers, specifically the Northwestern face of Cerro Castillo, Cerro Palo, and Cerro Chocolate. The trail to Lake Duff is accessed from this valley as well, which is not within our trail concession.
One of the shorter sections on the route, visitors can hike for the day to the Estero Parada valley and Camp Neozelandes and return to Camp Porteadores to sleep without moving camp.
SECTION 6: CAMPAMENTO NEOZELANDES – CASETA ESTERO PARADA
7.7 kms. | MEDIUM DIFFICULTY
Duration: 4.5 hours aprox.
Descent: 865 mts.
The final section of the trail descends rapidly to the trail head and road leading to the town of Cerro Castillo. It’s full of life with Andean beech forests, both old and second growth, wild strawberries, and orchids.
After arriving at the road, there are approximately 6 kilometers before arriving back at town.