Cerro Castillo Circuit, incredible scenery, unreal beauty, impressive glaciers, crystal clear rivers, ice cold lakes, bizarre shaped mountains, pine forest, untouched nature, and unpredictable Patagonian weather – all these you can see on the trek.
What is Cerro Castillo?
Cerro Castillo is a National Reserve, quite a big reserve – 180 000 hectares and one of the most famous hiking places in Chile. Why? If you look at the photos it’ll be quite clear; because here you can see and almost touch hanging glaciers, swim in freezing rivers, walk through beech forest and go over some passes that remain covered in snow even in summer! There are different routes to explore the park; 1/3/4-day hikes, we did 4-day and it was definitely worth of time and effort!
How to get to Cerro Castillo?
Reserve’s about 80km from Coyhaique (the capital of the region) and to get there you can catch a daily bus at 9.30 for 5000pesos/7$ or hitchhike (we did), here everything depends on your luck, you can wait for a long time or be lucky and get a ride in 15 minutes, we were lucky.
4-day trekking in Cerro Castillo
Valle de la Lima – Villa (village) Cerro Castillo. Valle de la Lima is 30km before (if you drive from Coyhaique) Villa Cerro Castillo. If you go by bus just ask a bus driver to stop there, if you hitch ask the same. We had some extra luggage and didn’t want to walk for 4 days with two backpacks each so we had to go first to Villa Cerro Castillo and ask to store our extra bags in one of the campings (for free), promising to stay there when we’re back. Because of this we decided not to waste more time and started the hike from Villa Cerro Castillo, did it backwards (we write the itinerary for standard way). It wouldn’t really matter if not the fact that we had to walk mostly up all four days.
The trek is about 45km long with some ups and downs, the path is very clear and easy to follow, there are free camp sites in the park, drinking water can be found everywhere (rivers, lakes, waterfalls). What we specially liked about the park there weren’t many tourists (compare to Torres del Paine or el Chalten) and we were there right on the high season.
Cerro Castillo Circuit, 4-day trek
1st day. Las Horquetas – Campamento Portezuelo, 15km.
Trek starts at Las Horquetas a turn from Carretera Austral to gravel road, between Coyhaique (80km) and Villa Cerro Castillo (30km). Form the turn to the park entrance about 13km, easy walk, mostly flat, on the gravel road through fields and forest. In my opinion it’s the most boring part of the trekking.
At the entrance you register and pay 5000pesos/7$ fee, get a map and actually you can camp right there, in Camping #1 but none does it probably because there is no water source nearby. Sometimes there is none at the entrance you just walk in without paying, they can charge you at the exit.
Next camping (Campamento Portezuelo) is about 2km away, near the river, most hikers stay there. It has a primitive toilet, tables, benches and beautiful view at the mountains and valley. All campings inside the park are free.
2nd day. Campamento Portazuelo – campamento El Bosque, 10km.
In the beginning nice easy walk through the forest along the river, about 4km. Then only one long steep up on the hike to El Penon pass, on the top of it you’ll get a chance to walk on the snow/ice, felt a bit strange in the middle of summer, it never melts!
Of course after the up always comes down, quite steep and rocky, be careful, don’t rush and watch your step. Walk to and over the pass takes about 5 hours, once you’re down it’s 1,5 hours more to El Bosque camping. Most hikers camp there but some prefer to keep walking till the next camping, at Laguna Castillo, 1 more hour. We camped at El Bosque (forest), due to its location it’s better protected from the wind.
3rd day. Campamento El Bosque – campamento Neozelandes, 11,5km.
In the beginning of the day after 1 hour walk you arrive at the lake, Laguna Castillo, one of the most impressive scenery on the hike, turquoise color lake, hanging glacier and mountains around, very beautiful.
From the lake you’ll start up, along the lake and over the pass, don’t forget to turn around and check the view from time to time, from the pass it’s even more impressive!
From the top you start long walking down, here you have to be very careful it’s very steep, rocky and windy, sometimes feels like the wind can blow you away.
After about 1,5 hours down you’ll find yourself at the river (camping Los Porteadores), you have two options to camp here and walk to Circo Glaciar without your backpack or keep walking (1,5 hours) till camping Neozelandes, which is near the glacier and camp there. We camped at Neozelandes, less crowded, there were 6 people including us, and with some beautiful views.
4th day. Campamento Neozelandes – Villa Cerro Castillo, 13km.
Last bit and only down, all the way to the road, about 3,5 hours and from there 1,5 hours to the village and campings.
At the exit you can be asked to show your ticket, keep it till the end. The trekking is not very difficult but can be if the weather is bad, the path is well marked, no dangerous animals or poison snakes, you walk between 6-7 hours daily.
What animals can you see in Cerro Castillo?
Huemules (deer), guanacos, foxes, hares, condors, eagles and some smaller animals and birds. We saw many hares, condors and eagles.
Villa Cerro Castillo
Near the park exit there is a village with the same name, nothing special, typical local village. There are a couple of campings, small shops, one or two restaurants and many hitch-hikers on the road. We stayed at Baqueanos de la Patagonia camping, 10 minutes away from the exit for 5000pesos/7$ per person. It has how shower, kitchen, electricity, outlets and wi-fi (wasn’t working).
To get away from Cerro Castillo you either hitch-hike or take a bus. Hitch can be difficult because of high competition – dozens backpackers, we hitched and waited less than an hour. If hitch-hiking is not your cup of tea you can catch a bus just need to know that public transport is very scarce in the area. There is a bus at 11am to Puerto Tranquilo (120km to the South) for 7000 pesos/10$. It was already full when arrived, very few people could get in.
80km away from Cerro Castillo, for the region is quite a big town, with huge Unimark, gear shops and secondhand shops (ropa Americana). It was quite important for me ’cause on the way I lost my big backpack with all my clothes! The town is your last chance to buy some gear or clothes, draw money, next ATM is in 400km, download movies etc.
There are many guest houses, hotels, hostels and campings, everything is expensive, to save some money in Patagonia you need a tent. The cheapest accommodation is 11000pesos/16,5$ per person, the cheapest camping 3500pesos/5$ per person. We stayed in El Camping, more expensive one (with wi-fi), for 5000pesos/7$ per person, to the left from the bus terminal, downhill, 10 minutes walk. We liked it, clean, spacious area, toilets, hot shower (from 7am to 11am, from 7pm to 11pm), outlets, wi-fi but no kitchen. There is free camping place at the river, next to Piedra del Indio.
Cerro Castillo was one of our first trekkings in Patagonia and had a big impact on our decision to do more trekking in the region. After we hiked O’Higgins – El Chalten, glacier El Chico and of course Torres del Paine.