The majestic blues and greens that make up the views of the Lake District are amplified even more when seen from the top of one of the Andes’ peaks. Refugios, or shelters, are conveniently scattered at various high altitude destinations. The refugios provide a hiking landmark and a bed to sleep in if you decide to stay the night in one of the remote locations.
These refuges may not have fully stocked kitchens and grade A king size mattresses, but their rugged interior is a perfect match for the surroundings and your body will be happy to find the bed at all at the end of the long trekking day. Bariloche is the biggest city in the Lake District where many gather their trail information from Club Andino in the city center and set off on their trekking adventures. But just to get started, here are a few of our recommendations.
Refugio Frey is a day hike that begins at the base of Cerro Catedral, the ski resort outside of Bariloche. This hike is fairly easy which is no problem to complete in a day; however, if you decided you’d like to stay the night, the Refuge is also stocked with bunk beds and a few food options so you don’t have to pack your dinner with you. The rugged stone building is tucked within a stunning display of granite spires in all directions that is accessible year round. There are several hikes one can do from here using the refugio as your base, or you can continue on trekking to other refugios.
Refugio Cerro Otto Meiling
Another option in the Lake District is the trek that will take you to Mt. Tronador. On the shoulder of this beautiful mountain you will find Refugio Cerro Otto Meiling and one of the most spectacular views of the region. The trek up to this spot takes you right to the confluence of glacier Castano Overa and glacier Alerce. It can get fairly steep and tiring, but the reward, the view, will make your effort worthwhile. Words can not do justice to the views.
San Martin Refuge
The San Martin Refuge is a two-day excursion which leads you to the shores of Lake Jacob for one of the most fabulous views in the region. Begin your trekking adventure from Villa Catedral or from Colonia Suiza. The Refuge itself can host up to 80 people so once you get to the top you can rest your legs for a night of good sleep. If you choose to do so there are numerous walks and hikes that you can take from there and return to your home base at Refugio San Martin.
Arrayanes National Park
The Arrayanes National Park is a one of a kind area and different from the other treks previously mentioned. A forest full of the cinnamon colored twisted Arrayanes trees cannot be found at any other location in the world which makes this park a highly demanded, and highly protected area.
Upon arriving from Bariloche on one of the regular boat tours, each group is allotted a short 45 minutes of grazing time – this regulation has been mandated in an attempt to preserve the natural state of the forest. You can get make it through the man-made wooden paths that lead you through the forest in this amount of time. But, truth be told, if you are wanting to truly soak it all in this is hardly enough time to capture the Arranyanes and their true wonder.
The good news is, there is an alternative. The boat tours that leave from the shores of Puerto Panuelo, take the eager visitors to the Arrayanes Park, and then head off to the enchanting Isla Victoria. However if you’d prefer to extend your trekking adventures, you can abandon ship at the Arrayanes National Park and hike through the forest back to the little town of Villa la Angostura. This will give you extra free time to adventure through the Arrayanes without feeling the pressure of the tour boat’s clock.
And of course if starting in Villa la Angostura, hiking to the Arrayanes Park and back can be done in a day, keeping in mind that there is no place to stay in the forest. The hike is very easy, and once you’ve arrived in the forest, there are even wooden paths that act as a guide through its beauty. With this trek, you may not experience that natural ‘I’m on top of the world’ high that is experienced upon reaching a huge Andes peak; however the ease of the hike will allow to soak in the incredible surroundings and experience something new.
While in Villa la Angostura, listen close and you’ll hear talk of another hike in the area that will offer a slightly bigger challenge – Volcano Lanin.
For very experienced climbers that have had the full training of using crampons and ropes, there is no reason to not head straight to the base and go for Volcano Lanin. However most opt to ascend to the top alongside a guide who will lead their guests along unmarked routes with no signs, shelter or trails. It is a three or four day hike round trip that includes high country tents, 3776m of an intense vertical workout, glaciers, and spectacular views. This demanding hike requires a high level of physical fitness and is best scheduled from November to April.
If this sounds appealing but the intensity makes you tentative, there are also other adventure treks available that take place on the slopes of Lanin. Most of these tours take place from the towns of San Martin and Junin de los Andes where Lanin can be seen in the near distance.
San Martin de Los Andes
If the sound of San Martin trekking sounds appealing, but not necessarily the volcano, there are many smaller hikes available in the area. Quila Quina is a small community that sits on Lake Escondido where one can adventure through the forests, Mapuche villages, and waterfalls at an easy pace for a few hours or a full day. Hua Hum and Pucara are two additional trekking options that are similar. The beautiful surroundings of this area and the vastness of the waters will make the experience very worthwhile.
El Bolson is a very popular trekking area that attracts many young travelers and offers the many trekking options. Two refuges that lie in the center of the El Bolson beauty are Regufio Hielo Azul and Refugio Cajon de Azul.
If it is a day hike you are looking for both are great options, or another great option for those wanting to spend a little more time to spend in the rugged outdoors is to hike first to Refugio Cajon del Azul which borders the Andes Mountain range at 10km and spend night one there. Then after a good night of sleep continue on to Refugio Hielo Azul for a second night before heading back to the village.
Also there are Refugio Perito Moreno which is the ski resort outside of El Bolson that also comes with a great dining option at the top, Cerro Lindo which takes you to Lake Tricolor on a two day adventure, and Piltriquitron which offers a stunning view of Volcano Osorno that sits in Chile. All are great options that will leave you with tired legs and a smile on your face.
Just about any trekking info on the Lake District you are looking for will be available to you at Club Andino
Club Andino Piltriquitrón
Tel: (02944) 492600
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