Chile // The Lake District //

Skiing and hiking in Parque Nacional Conguillío

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The park splits neatly into two main sectors, formed by the volcano’s western and eastern slopes. The western slopes (Sector Los Paraguas) come into their own in winter, boasting a small ski centre, the Centro de Esquí Las Araucarias (45 239999), with breathtaking views, two drag lifts, three runs and a refuge near the tree line. In summer the focus shifts to the eastern slopes, which form the bulk of the park.

Day hikes

Those with sufficient experience, an ice axe and crampons can make the difficult seven-hour ascent of Volcán Llaima, but you need permission from Conaf. Be prepared to deal with crevasses and fumaroles, and beware of sulphur fumes at the summit. The park also offers a good selection of hikes for all abilities. For incredible views of the Sierra Nevada range through araucaría forest, take the 7km (2.5hr) trail from Playa Linda, at the east end of Lago Conguillío, to the base of the Sierra Nevada. The challenging Travesía Río Blanco (5km; 5hr), which crosses a small glacier before continuing into the Sierra Nevada proper, is recommended for very experienced trekkers only.

From the western shores of Laguna Verde, the 11km (5hr) Sendero Pastos Blancos runs to the Laguna Captrén, traversing spectacular scenery and rewarding you with panoramic views of Sierra Nevada, Lago Conguillío and the Truful-Truful valley. From the Truful-Truful Conaf ranger station, you can take the Sendero Subtramo Arpehue, part of the Sendero de Chile, to Laguna Captrén, passing the Andrés Huenupi Mapuche community along the way.

Short trails

The Truful-Truful ranger station is also the starting point for two short nature trails: the Cañadón Truful-Truful (900m; 30min) passes by colourful strata, exposed by the Río Truful-Truful’s flow, while the Las Vertientes trail (800m; 45min) is characterized by the subterranean springs that rush out of the ground. The Laguna Captrén ranger station is the starting point for the Sendero Los Carpinteros, also part of the Sendero de Chile, a fairly easy 8km, five-hour round-trip that starts from Lago Captrén, and loops around the lagoon before continuing to the administration centre and joining the El Contrabandista trail. This trail which was formerly used by the Pehuenche hunters and cattle rustlers going to and from Argentina. The highlight is an araucaría that’s estimated to be 1500 years old.

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