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GPT38 - Glaciar Chico

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Glaciar Chico visto from Piedra Grande

This is a simplified track file, not suitable for navigation on terrain. To get the detailed file see the following section on the main Greater Patagonian Trail article

__ Main trail
__ Packrafting

Instructions to follow the track in your smartphone
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Summary (editar)
Activity Trekking
Location Chile, Villa O'Higgins
Atractions Vistas panorámicas
Duration días
"Días" no está en la lista de valores posibles (3 horas o menos, 1/2 día, 3/4 día, 1 día, 1 día y medio, 2 días, 3 días, 4 días, 5 días, 3 - 5 días, 6 - 7 días, 8 - 10 días, 11 - 14 días, 15 - 20 días, 20 - 25 días, 26 - 35 días, 36 - 60 días, 61 - 89 días, más de 90 días) para esta propiedad.
Trail Siempre Claro
Signage Inexistente
Infraestructure Inexistente
Topology Cruce
Gain/Loss (meters) +3613, -3370
Distance (k) 75.8
Skills No requiere
Original creator Jan Dudeck
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Recent Alerts and Suggestions

  • 13 to 17 of February 2023 / Véronica & Zach / GPT38 RR SOBO / also Option 2 to Glaciar O'Higgins / 5 days

Route: Candelario Mancilla - Río Bullicioso - Lago Chico - Mirador Glaciar O'Higgins - Glaciar Chico - Lago Diablo - AR Border Control

This may have been my favourite section of the GPT yet this year. After 4 days waiting in Villa Ohiggins for a calm ferry day, we waited at the Chilean carabineros post because the computer systems were down and it was lunchtime so everyone seemed to be on break. They asked everyone only occupations and marital status, nothing about our planned route. We were able to start walking only around 3 p.m. although we arrived at Candelario Mancilla around 1 p.m.

The trail that veers off the minor road was clearly marked and easy to follow. Tons of crowberries/murtillas up in the alpine. We camped before the pass at km 14.5 when the trail was still going through sheltered forests. Up on the pass the next day, it was very cold and exposed and windy, with some snow on the ground. The trees start appearing again much later, when you can see Lago O'Higgins again. The trail switchbacks down to the settler's house at km 23.5 (Estancia Ventisquero Chico) were overgrown and confusing, branching into many paths.

We wanted to take Option 2 in order to see Glaciar O'Higgins. This detour took us an extra day and a half. We crossed the narrow channel at km 25.1 in Zach's packraft quite easily, even though the wind was gusty from the south. There were virtually no waves and the water was flat. We met the settler Luis at km 25.3 (Estancia La Carmela), who was friendly and indicated the trail toward Glaciar O'Higgins. Both waypointed campsites on the west side of the peninsula are great and sheltered from the fierce west wind in the forest. The views of the lake and mountains and glaciers on this section of trail are beyond words beautiful.

The way up the pass at km 40.5 is straightforward despite the lack of trail. The descent into the next valley is steep and somewhat tiring, but not dangerous, down a mountainside covered with murtilla plants. We stopped at the orange refugio (km 47.3) late in the afternoon. It is in great condition. The only thing deteriorated is the missing battery from the solar system. Feels like an airplane fusilage with some loud resonance when the wind is strong. Perfect place to shelter from the wind.

We stayed mostly in the left side of the river as we traveled cross-country to the put-in at Lago Chico. The packrafting back to the east shore of the lake was wavy and windy, the wind coming strong off Glaciar Chico (southerly), requiring a hearty ferry crossing in front of the hanging ice.  From the put-in, the island (which appears on sattelite but not maps) looks like a peninsula, but if you paddle into what looks like a cove, you'll see the gap. We went around south of the island, then rode the wind northward to the takeout in a small cove.

The refuge {38} [52.9+0.3/297] was clipped closed with two padlocks as chain links. Someone left clothes hanging and a plastic chest full of food which mice seem to have enjoyed. The floor was literally covered in mouse poop. Seemed hanta-ed. 👻 The climb back up to the regular hiking route was long but pleasant, and mostly cross-country across rock slabs and brushy fields.

Back on the regular route, Refugio Diablo on the Argentine side of the border has a wooden table and platforms that could sleep four. When we got to the Argentine border control with a three-day-old Chilean exit stamp, the friendly border agent gave us our entry stamp without question. When asked about the wind on Lago Del Desierto, he walked Zach to the Gendarmeria boat captain who gave useful advice.

  • 2023 Jan / Yannic & Mirjam / Southbound

The exit on the Chilean side worked without any problems and the officials did not ask about our route. No one was at home at the Estancia Ventisquiero Chico settler. We spent the night a little further away by the stream. The hike along Lago Chico was nice and easy. We made a detour via option 4. It is worth going almost to the end to the viewpoint at 1104 m a.s.l. The view of the glacier and the ice field was unique and one of the best viewpoints on the whole GPT. The next day we went to the Argentine border authorities. The officials were relaxed and since we wanted to spend the night there anyway, we agreed to do the stamp the next day. The exit stamp, which was 4 days old in the meantime, was no problem at all...

  • 2019-11-10 / Jan Dudeck

The regular hiking and packrafting route passes the Chilean border control post in Candelario Mansilla and the Argentine border control post at the northern end of Lago el Desierto. These posts are 26 km apart (shortest distance) and if you do not walk into these two border controls posts yourself you will not get the required exit and entry stamp and become an “illegal immigrant” in the neighboring country. Don’t expect anything at the border itself or to get stopped by the police in the corresponding places.

Be aware that the GPT route takes a significant detour between these border controls and crosses the actual border at an non-officil location at the Refugio el Diabolo. If you ask the border police for permission to cross the border in this location than your request will probably be denied so better don’t ask and just tell that you are on the way to the Chile/Argentina without specifying the exact route (when asking for your exit stamp).

We have taken this non-official route twice in January 2017 and January 2019 without any issue.

Worst case scenario is that you arrive with a several days old exit stamp on the other side and the border control police becomes upset and ask you to walk back on the shortest route (Option 1) to get a fresh stamp but I have not heard this happening in recent years.

Season Section Log

  • 19-Apr-2023 to 21-Apr-2023 / SOBO / RR / Martin & Helena

Beautiful section! The detour to Glaciar Chico is definitely worth it, and so is the viewpoint.

On the first day, starting around 8 AM, we passed the border control without any problem, and followed the trail in quite good pace to the pass. It was very windy there in our case, but there are places to hide. The trail is pretty clear all the time. This changes during the descent down to the peninsula, where you need to look carefully at the navigation as the path divides into different directions. Marked camp on the peninsula looked like a good place to stay, but we decided to do some more and continued for about 4 km. We camped in the forest, where we were able to find a few spots almost without wind, but in more extreme conditions it might be harder to find a 100% safe place.

On the next day we continued and left our backpacks in the forest to go check the viewpoint. It took us a little over 3 hrs + some time for the photos etc. The trail is very easy to follow and except of the beginning and end its not even that windy. If the weather is not the best or you don’t have time, we would recommend to do at least first few hundred meters of the optional trail to get better view of the glacier and floating icebergs. Back on the RR we made a little less than half of the way to the border control and again camped in the forest.

The last day was all about forest walking. First views of the Fitz Roy on the way to the border control. There, the officer noticed the old stamp and asked where we stayed, but was probably just curious and had no problem with our honest answer about doing the detour and camping in the forest.

Contact: @martin_hanzelka @helenneka

  • 20.03. - 22.03.23 / Anna & Christopher / SOBO,

Villa O'Higgins - Lago del Desierto / RR + option 4

Amazing section, one of our favourites so far!

In march and april the ferry that crosses Lago O'Higgins only leaves twice a week, which is mondays and thursdays at 8 a.m. (company Las Ruedas, reservation possible via whatsapp +56 966278836).

We started with seven days worth of food, because we planned to go to El Chaltén without a resupply (GPT 38+39 with all options). The weather was great on our first day and after we got through the border control we started walking around 11:15 a.m. The trail is in a pretty good condition. Your feet will get wet though. With the nice weather and the good trail we camped at km 21 in the forest close to the stream.

Then the trail becomes gradually a bit worse and we had to do some BB and CC along the lake. At the junction with option 4 we left our packs and went to the mirador. We had good weather and the view from up there is amazing. We highly recommend doing it, if the weather is good. Then we went back down again and camped in the forest at the junction. There is a stream close by to fetch water.

The trail becomes super good again once you reach the settler at Lago del Desierto. The border control was fast and the staff was really friendly. We continued along the lake. At some point it started to rain, so we camped next to a stream at approx. km 4.6. At km 4.3 there would have been a more rain and wind protected camp.

The next day we had a great view of Fitz Roy in the morning sun. We arrived at the other side around 10 a.m. There is no bus leaving around this hour, opposite of what the gendarm at the border told us. All the buses/cars leave in the afternoon around 4 p.m. We made a break at the restaurant and enjoyed a warming mate tea before we continued to section 39.

  • 16 - 20/03/2023 / SOBO / RR + option 5 / 4 days / Louis & Rémi

We started at Candelario Mansilla and we wanted to go in front of the Glaciar O'Higgins following the lake with option 5 and then option 2. Option 5 is really worth it, views all along the lake are incredible, I highly recommend it. We slept near the Settler @km 17.8, nobody was there. The next day we tried to cross this water canal between Lago O'Higgins and Lago Chico, but it is unfordable, you have to yell for the settler who lives on the other side. We did, we saw him, but he didnt come... So we slept next to the settler @km 23.5 on RR and we tried the 3rd day too but still nobody to help us to cross. Well, I think this settler isnt reliable if you wanna do option 2 without a packraft. So we continued our way to Argentina, sleeping @km 31.4 (the puesto is more than abandonned, it is destroyed but it is flat and there is no wind). This portion provide a nice view of the Glaciar Chico. Next we went directly to the Argentinian border and we didn't have any problem to get the stamp on our passports. We slept there, it is free, there is nobody and the view of the Fitz Roy above the Lago del Desierto is definitely worth it !

  • 2023-Mar-4-7 / SOBO / RR + Option 4 / Ondrej / Candelario Mansilla - Lago Desierto / 3.5 days

I wasn’t lucky with the weather so this section turned out into rainy, muddy and snowy feat for me. It felt remote and adventurous. If I could choose I would do at least the second day in a good weather to enjoy the views.

On the first day, I got dropped of by the boat at Candelario Marcilla around 10am. Getting the stamp from Chilean carabineros took longer than expected, around one hour. A number of hikers accumulated there and the carabineros said that we have wait for them to upload our names to the system(?). Then they just asked for my occupation and gave me the exit stamp. I then hiked the stretch on the main road, forded Rio Obstaculo right after (the deepest ford on the section I would say, it was easy even after a day of rain) and then over the pass. At the pass you will come into a long flat valley which in my case started turning into a big muddy/swampy plain. It also started snowing. The falling wet snow and the soaky trails pushed the hike to the boundaries of my comfort limits (but still manageable). I camped at the Settler waypoint (km23.5). According to a person running a hostel in villa o higgins, the Settler’s place has been abandonded for a while now (presumably someone other bought the land) and both locals and international hikers are now using the garden of the settler’s house to camp. The area around the house features thick tall trees that provide a good shelter from wind and rain, some open sheds with a good roof (but all looked uncomfortable for sleeping) and a dry toilet. The house itself is locked with a padlock and cannot be used by visitors. I stayed in a tree covered area next to the house for two nights as the next day was raining all day. Foxes, various birds and wild cows kept me a company.

From the settler, it is a relatively easy trail up to the crossroad at km33.4. The trail is ocassionaly overgrown and muddy but nothing dramatic. Nice views over the lake Chico and the glacier. I was impressed by a floating iceberg that made its way slowly across the lake. I had my lunch at the crossroad (km33.4) and decided to leave my backpack there and hike/jog to the glaciar viewpoint (Option 4). It took me about 2:10 hours there and back to the crossroad. I jogged parts of it. The weather got bad during the loop (clouds and rain/snow) so I unfortnunately saw nothing but a bit more of the Glaciar Chico once reaching the viewpoint. All distant peaks were obscured in clouds. My recommendation is to do the Option 4 only if the visibility is good, otherwise the detour might be not worth it. Once finished with the loop, I hiked over the Argentinian border and slept inside Refugio Diablo at km34.4. It is in good shape overall. Just the fireplace might not run well (i have not tried) as the chimney is broken. The refugio has two elevated platforms for sleeping (easily fits 4-8 people), a table and stools, and a dry toilet nearby. If staying there, I recommend to take water from a stream flowing into the lake Diablo before reaching the refugio. There is no quick water access from the building - one must go down to one of the lakes.

From Refugio Diablo it took me about 5 hours to reach the argentinian police checkpoint at Lago Desierto. The part is relatively straightforward, again a bit swampy in my case. At he Argentinian police checkpoint I was actually asked why I had a three day old stamp. I wanted to avoid problems, so I said that I took a slow pace and did not walk on some days because it was raining constantly (which was true). I said that I built my tent, read a book and trying to wait out the rain. This (in a hindsight really poor) excuse was fortunately enough for the officer. He nodded and gave me the stamp. Maybe the policeman was simply curious and even if I told him where I came from he would be eventually fine with that. I didn’t want to take my chances though.

  • 2023 Helen and Craig 10th of January, 2 days

>Lago Desertio ferry cost about 50 dollars (we didn't take it)

>O'Higgins ferry cost 60 dollars and they give you a lift to V O'Higgins at the other end

>We took the lake side trail. Beautifull veiws over Fitzroy range. Campsite at the border crossing is exposed but harbours some of the best campside veiws. 2nd best camp of GPT for us (but would be unpleasant in high winds)

Border crossing was very easy with no proplems or searches either side. Had to take shorter route due to higher winds coming in and the O'Higgins ferry not due to run for the next week after. Shorter variation was very easy trail markings. Easy to walk in 4-5 hours Was sad to miss the extended route.

  • 2022 9th December half a day SOBO Frank

The first 12KM of the direct route from Candelario Mansilla is on a road. There is a guy with a jeep who meets the ferry & may offer to take luggage or even passengers along the road. At the pass a trail continues down to the Argentine border post. I continued around Laguna del Desierto the same day.

  • 2022 Jan - Alexis y Iris - Northbound

Took 4 days between the two stamps without issues. The Chilean carabineros just asked our route and we said we hiked through Refugio Diablo. To ressuply in Candilla Mancilla, it is possible to ask Maria Louisa at the camping. There are more items than you could imagine but it's a bit expensive. Of note, it is possible to arrange a transfer directly to Bahia Pescado on the same boat that goes to Villa O'Higgins to hike the GPT37H, just ask the captain directly.

The fare for a complete transfer is 60k CLP or 70 USD. We don't know the price for a drop off in Bahia Pescado.

  • 2019 Dec 12 -Arnaud et Adriane - North to South

According to the team of our hotel in Villa O'Higgins, we officially have 24h to cross the 2 borders. So we prefered not to take risks with customs of Chile and Argentina and walked directly from Mancilla (chilean border) to punta Norte (argentinien border). There is 21km to walk and it is very easy. After the argentinian border, we walked to the mirador on the glaciar chico. It is the last 15kms of the real section 38. The view on the glaciar is amazing there and really worth the effort. After just walked back to the argentinian border. The walk is easy with some elevation but easy. We took a path that was marked but differed a little with the gps track (maybe sometimes 300m away) and had only one easy riverford. Don't say to the argentinian customs that you were there because the mirador is officially in chile (200m after the border but without any puesto) just say that you walked to the refugio del Diablo which is on the path and 200m before the border. This refugio is very basic in metal and can help in case of rain but is not cosy at all. It is a total of 51kms and without any risk with the 2 borders but you maybe miss some other highlights of the real section 38. We did it in 1 day and a half.

Comment Jan Dudeck: In recent years we and other hikers had no issues staying several days between the Chilean and Argentine border post. Some years ago the situation was different but both sides seams more relaxed now as long as you arrive on the other side with an exit stamp.

  • 2019-Nov-10 / Lea Geibel, Kevin Moe / 1 day / northbound / regular hiking route

We chose to do this hike in one long day, but were told we could camp near the Argentinian passport control, or in the sort of no-mans-land up the trail further between borders. Make sure you know what day the ferry is leaving before hiking or you could end up waiting in Candelaria a couple days! There aren't any stores in Candelaria, though we heard the lady at the campground might sell you some eggs or some other supplies.

Summary Table

GPT38: Glaciar Chico
GPT38: Glaciar Chico Hiking Packrafting
Group I: Campo de Hielo Sur 1 Total 48.1 km 16 h 71.4 km 25 h
Region Chile & Argentina: Aysén (XI) & Rio Negro Trails (TL) 41.6 km 86.4% 42.2 km 59.1%
Start Candelario Mancillo Minor Roads (MR) 6.6 km 13.6% 6.6 km 9.2%
Finish Lago El Desierto (Gendarmeria) Primary Roads (PR) - - - -
Status Published & Verified Cross-Country (CC) - - 17.7 km 24.8%
Traversable Nov - Apr (Maybe: Sep, Oct, May) Bush-Bashing (BB) - - - -
Packraft Very Useful Ferry (FY) - - - -
Connects to GPT37H, GPT37P, GPT39 Investigation (I) - - (2.0 km) (2.8%)
Options 101 km (4 Options & Variants) Exploration (EXP) - - - -
Hiking Packrafting Total on Water 4.9 km 6.8%
Attraction 5 (of 5) 5 (of 5) River (RI) 0.1 km 0.1%
Difficulty 2 (of 5) 4 (of 5) Lake (LK) 4.8 km 6.7%
Direction Both ↓↑ Both ↓↑ Fjord (FJ) - -
Comment -
Character Valdivian Rain Forest, Glaciers, Settlers, Lake Packrafting
Challenges Demanding River Fords, Exposure to Elements, Demanding Navigation, Possibly Impassable

Satellite Image Map

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile of Regular Hiking Route

Elevation Profile of Regular Hiking Route (2019)

Elevation Profile of Regular Packrafting Route

Elevation Profile of Regular Hiking Route (2019)

Section Planning Status

Greater Patagonian Trail section 38, by Matus Lasan

Recommended Travel Period

Benefits of Hiking and Packrafting

Recommended Travel Direction

Section Length and Travel Duration

Suitable Section Combinations

Section Attractiveness

Section Difficulty


Resupply Town

Shopping: Food

Shopping: Fuel

Shopping: Equipment

Services: Restaurants

Services: Laundry

Services: ATM and Money Exchange

Accommodation: Hostals and Hotels

Accommodation: Cabañas

Accommodation: Camping

Transport: Ground Transport

Transport: Ferries

Transport: Shipping Services

Resupply on the Trail

Location, Names, Available Items and Services

Access to Route and Return

Access to Start

Return from Finish

Escape Options

Permits, Entry Fees and Right-of-Way Issues

Regular Route

Regular Hiking Route

Regular Packrafting Route

  • Route description by Kara Davis after Season 2017/18:

Notes to consider before beginning: At Calendario Mancilla, there is a Carabineros border control outpost. They asked that we fill out an expedition hiking form since the GPT follows a little used route. After discussing the route, the Carabineros informed us that entering Argentina at Lago Diablo, which is the current GPS route, is illegal. There is an alternate route, as described below, which remains in Chile that we decided to take instead.

From the Chilean border control, follow the gravel road for a short distance and turn onto a trail marked by white sign with green lettering that says “Rio Obsticulos” as shown by the current GPS track (hikers may want to consider following the alternate listed at the end of this section description to and from Glacier O’Higgins because that trail is of much higher quality, more scenic, and more pleasant than the one that follows the bank of Lago O’Higgins/San Martin).

After crossing the wooden bridge, hike along an ill-defined track that winds up and down the shoreline of Lago O’Higgins/San Martin to the land bridge north of Lago Chico. There is one residence as well as the occasional small camp spot along this route.

There is another residence located on the east side of the land bridge, and hikers may pass through a wire gate on north side of the corral. A faint trail heads west and terminates at the bank of the narrow channel that connects Lago O’Higgins/San Martin and Lago Chico. A packraft is required to cross this channel.

There is another residence on the west side of the channel. When the large ferry out of Villa O’Higgins is functional, it drops people off near this residence so they may hike the Sendero a Candelario Mancilla which is marked with orange and white blazes. This trail is well-formed and climbs the hill south of the residence. After exiting the treeline, be aware that there is limited camping for many kilometers. From this point, the route is very exposed and there is no cover until the route re-crosses Lago Chico.

Glacier O’Higgins is beautiful; it is composed of glistening blue ice that terminates into the lake. Sadly, as the University of Valdevía has documented, the glacier is receding at an alarming rate and is in danger. As you enjoy the views, the trail continues to wind up and down above the lake but eventually disappears. Navigation is easy due to a lack of vegetation, but camping is poor due to exposure and the steep terrain.

An orange refugio is located 2 km from Lago Chico on the glacial moraine. It is equipped with solar panels and is a good place to ride out a storm. The route continues down rocks and sand to the lake edge. The lake paddle is very pleasant, and depending on the season, it may involve weaving through icebergs to get to open water. Be careful not to get too close to the icebergs! Many of them are unstable and falling ice is common.

Alternate: The GPS route indicates a northbound float on Lago Chico for approximately 4 km until take-out, but high winds forced us off of the lake early. We exited at the southern end of Lago Chico and from there faced a very difficult, brushy, and steep climb up to a trail at about elevation 750 m. Weather permitting, it may be easier to packraft all the way back to the land bridge between Lago Chico and Lago O’Higgins/San Martin. The trail on east side of the lake is well-formed, however, and there is one established campsite near a run down shack at the Lago Diablo turn off.

In order to avoid the illegal Lago Diablo crossing into Argentina, just after passing a large wooden sign that says “Sendero de Chile,” turn off to the east on a well-formed track and climb up through the forest. The track is well-formed, easy to follow, and passes by several good places to camp. There are some orange and white blazes which are hard to spot because they mark the track in the opposite direction. There is a brief cross-country section over the pass through open tundra, but the trail reappears as the route renters the trees. There are a couple river crossing, and the trail ends at the gravel road. Follow the road north back to the Carabineros outpost to inform them you made it back safely and to obtain an exit stamp.

Optional Routes

Investigations and Explorations

Links to other Resources

Alerts and Logs of Past Seasons