Lookout from the Sierra Nevada trail

Nearby Temuco, in the South of Chile, there is a gem waiting to be seen. Conguillío National Park is full of postcard perfect scenery. Dominated by the powerful Volcan Llaima in almost every part of the park, you can really experience the full force of nature here.

View from the Sierra Nevada trail

Llaima Volcano is one of Chile’s largest and most active volcanos. At its base are multiple lakes and forests of Araucaria, which gave rise to the name Conguillío – piñones in the water in the native language of the Mapuche people. The piñón is the pine nut of the Araucaria tree, which is abundant in this park.

Volcan Llaima framed by two Araucarias. View from the road that runs through the park

What hikes to do?

Sendero Sierra Nevada – a stratovolcano that is a hike of moderate difficulty. It takes you through native forests, including the amazing Araucaria trees and allows a stunning view of Volcan Llaima. From this hike you can also see Lake Conguillío, and the flight of condors. 12km total distance. If you need to choose, this is the number 1 hike to do

A woodpecker or carpintero seen on the hike

Sendero Los Carpinteros – this is a hike of easy difficulty. It takes you to the Araucaria Madre, a 1800 year old tree and through forests where woodpeckers live. It finishes at Lake Captrén, and you can return the same way you got there or by the road for vehicles. If you have a car, I would not do the whole hike on foot. Instead, I would walk to where the woodpeckers are and then turn back. You can visit Lake Captrén by car, which can save you time & energy. The hike between Los Carpinteros and Lake Captrén does not boast spectacular views, the main thing to see is the Araucaria Madre & the woodpeckers. 12km total distance

Sendero Pastos Blancos – this hike takes you from Lake Captrén to Laguna Verde. It offers views of Sierra Nevada & the Llaima Volcano as you walk through old lava fields and volcanic stone. To return you can walk back through the trail, hitchhike or walk the road for vehicles. If you have a car, I’d recommend using it to drive from one lake to the other. 13km one way, medium difficulty

Short walks – there are multiple short walks that can be done such as the Laguna Arcoiris, La Araucarias, Las Vertientes and more

How to get there?

Private transport – this is by far the easiest way to get to the park, and there are 3 entrances. There is a paved road all the way to the entrance, and inside Conguillío there is an unpaved road that takes you through the whole length of the park. This makes it easy to get from one trail to another. Drive towards the small town of Melipeuco, and from there you can reach the park easily (especially for those without 4WDs). Melipeuco takes you to the southern entrance, which is generally easier to drive in a non 4WD car and accessible all year round.

Two other options are to enter from the north or western entrance.

The northern entrance is via the town Curacautín. The road can get tough in winter months and bad weather, however it is usually accessible by 2WD in high season.

The western entrance is via Cherquenco, it takes you to the ski resort Los Paraguas but does not take you to the main hiking trails, campsites or visitor centre.

Without private transport – for those fellow backpackers out there it is more of a challenge to reach the park. The amount of transport options to the park also change with the season.

In summer it is easier, get to the town of Temuco first. Once there, there are buses that run from Temuco to Parque Conguillío from the Rural Bus Terminal.

Outside of summer, it is more challenging. For the northern entrance, you can get a bus from Curacautín that takes you about 5km from the entrance (possibly further away in winter depending on conditions).

For the southern entrance, get a bus from Temuco to Melipeuco via the Rural Bus Terminal. Once in Melipeuco you need to hitchhike to the park entrance or attempt to walk the 21km distance.

How much?

To enter the park it costs $18 for foreigners, $9 for children between 12-17 & for children below the age 12 it is free.

In low season the entrance fee is less – $12 for foreigners & $6 for children. Note: entrance fees change every year

There is only private camping in the park, run by Sendas Conguillío. This can run from $15-$120 per day, depending on if you choose a shared campsite or a cabin. The price also varies according to high or low season. For other private accommodation options in the park click this link.

We were on a budget and travelling with a camper. So we decided to sleep in our car to save money. There are picnic spots by Laguna Conguillío where camp stoves are allowed. There are also toilets at the visitor centre.

Please respect the park, take all rubbish out with you and only use camp stoves in the designated spots.

A condor flying over the Sierra Nevada trail