This national park is one of my absolute favourites of Chile, and even South America. It has a mix of my favourite things in nature – ancient Araucaria forests (a species from the Jurassic period), volcanos, alpine lakes, rivers, waterfalls and condors.
There are many trails available in this park, and I 100% recommend camping for at least one night to see all the hikes here. Warning: it gets cold at night.
Two of the great trails that are available almost all year round (they will probably not be covered in snow) are: Sendero Los Lagos and Sendero Quinchol.
Sendero Los Lagos – offers amazing views of lakes, volcanos, and Araucaria forests. It is a tough climb up, but the views are worth it. 12km, 7 hours total
Sendero Quinchol – you climb through a thick forest of Araucaria trees, and reach the summit with a view of 4 volcanos. Depending on the snow you may be limited as to how far up you can climb. 5km, 4 hours total
Sendero San Sebastián – a continuation of the hike Sendero Quinchol. Not available when there is snow covering the path or bad weather. It allows a panoramic view of lakes, volcanos and snowy mountain peaks. If you’re lucky you can also see condors flying here. 13km, 8 hours total
Sendero Los Huerquenes – forests, lakes, waterfalls and a continuation of the Los Lagos trail. It is currently closed in 2020 due to high risk of fires and safety issues. 27 km, 4 days there and back
How to get there, where to sleep and how much?
It is so easy to get to this park! Which is one of the reasons why I love it. A bus goes in between the park and the bus terminal of Pucón multiple times day. The price is very reasonable and great for backpackers. Arrive early to grab a seat, or be prepared to stand the whole drive.
You can also get here by private transport, with a car park available in the national park.
We camped in one of the many campsites provided, there are also bathrooms with running water available. Camping is run through Conaf (the administrators of the national parks of Chile). I believe there are private cabins near the park as well.
For foreigners it costs $7000 CLP, or $14 AUD to enter, and camping was $15,000 CLP (or $30 AUD) a night. Check Conaf for the updated entrance fees.
When to go?
I recommend summer and early autumn for this park. We arrived early summer and there were still some trails closed due to snow. Mid-summer and onwards will have most of the snow melted, and all the higher altitude hikes will probably be available.
It will also make for a more comfortable camp overnight, as the temperature can drop quite low without sunlight.