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GPT32 - Cerro Castillo

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Cerro Castillo, by Tobías Hellwig

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, Coyhaique
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) +30144, -3016
Distance (k) 84.5
Skills No requiere
Original creator Jan Dudeck
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Recent Alerts and Suggestions

  • 10-Feb-2024 / Hiking / SOBO / 4 days / RR + Option B (attempted) / Ella & Cristopher

Day 1, we walked through the sections of private property without running into anyone, but met other local hikers a bit afterwards who said they have previously had problems with one of the landowners on the route we took, and that he has now installed cameras. Got to the section with the traverse and attempted to take Option B - definitely do not recommend this option. It took us about 2 hours to walk less than a mile on the super steep and loose dirt/skree. Multiple dangerous moments. Part of this option also seems to pass through dense forest which looked difficult to bushwhack, but we didn't make it that far before turning back as it was getting late with no end in sight. We camped right at the beginning of Option B, where there is a flatter patch and stream that you can walk down to. It was a good view, but we realized later that a better and equally beautiful place to camp would have been where the land plateaus a bit and there are multiple small streams, on the RR about a km after you pass the start of Option B. Day 2, we woke up to super windy and rainy conditions, and waited for it to clear until about 3 pm before starting the traverse. The RR turned out to be a relatively safer route than Option B, though we were still glad we waited for the bad weather to pass before attempting. Followed advice from Veronica at the difficult parts, which worked well for us. Definitely budget extra time for this stretch. Camped right after the traverse when it drops down to the river, which you follow to cross the first pass. The area doesn't get a lot of sun so it was really cold at night, but still a nice place to camp with flat spots and a river. Day 3, trail before uniting with the CONAF area was difficult to follow at points and slow because you are walking a lot on loose rocks. We were very confused when reaching a waterfall with no visible trail, but a few cairns about. Following advice from Will, we crossed the river just before the waterfall to go up the left side of the valley. Climb through the trees and then cross a few meters of steep loose dirt/skree, and you should be able to see where the trail then continues in the forest. Some bushwhacking after this but relatively easy to follow GPS track until linking with the CONAF Las Horquetas trail. Camped in El Bosque Camping which had a toilet but no water tap (though there is a river close by). Day 4, relatively easy and super beautiful walking all day. We took the RR all the way to the road, which does in fact avoid the CONAF checkpoint so we never had to pay. Ran into other hikers who said CONAF is only charging when you leave the park. Got very lucky with a hitch to Villa Cerro Castillo, but I would not count on it and the road gets a lot of sun and I didn't see a water source. Bus from Villa Cerro Castillo leaves at 6 pm and goes to Coyhaique for 9.000.

  • Feb 2023 Frank

There is no need for any rock climbing on this route. After the gully where you climb out on grass (described by Veronica) there are two rock bands running perpendicular to the route. You can go below both of them & bypass them at treeline.

  • 05-Apr-2023 / Hiking / SOBO / Martin & Helena

We really enjoyed this one. It's definitely worth waiting for good weather, not only for safe traverse of the steep part in the northern part of the park and following obstacles that are quite demanding but also for the views that were just incredible.

Starting from Villa Frei in the late afternoon, we made it on that day to the turn before Lago La Paloma, where we camped right behind a fence, before a little river, that you need to cross to follow the RR. There are 2 settlements, but still far enough, so no problem. You have to cross one fence and a gate on the way up. To avoid right-of-way conflict, we followed Cristopher & Anna's advice (thanks guys!) and turned right after the first gate behind the beginning of the optional trail. From there you just need to follow MR, cross a few gates and you will end up on a fenced field with bee hives on one side. Crossing them will take you directly to RR, so no bush-bashing is necessary. From there, the trail is pretty straightforward. We liked the view from Option B viewpoint and in good conditions it must be a perfect spot for camping, definitely doable in one day. The steep traverse didn't feel that dangerous for us, but we had really good conditions. The next obstacle, already described by others, is at the end of the traverse. We followed there a small ridge that will take you to the beginning of the grass parts. It's a little steep, but doable. From there we followed the grass parts, which create almost 'stairs' allowing you to climb up. It's again steep, but you can use your hands to pull yourself up, holding the grass patches. After that is the last challenging part, a rock that you need to climb over. We got there already after sunset and without an option to explore the best and safest way over, we decided to follow the old overgrown trail, that descends down without the need to climb over the rock. It seemed to be hard in the beginning, but after we got through the first few trees (without any leaves, just branches), we found a little strip without them, that takes you all the way down to the river, where we camped. It took us around 15 min to get down, so it might be a good alternative. From there you just need to walk through a little part of the forest and then continue by the river, so you are actually avoiding also the descent down, which some described as challenging as well.

After the first marked pass and descent in rocky terrain, the CC part connects to an old trail, that later becomes a MR. The connection was easy to find by following the GPS. We had no problems passing around the rangers house, again by following the track files, at first through the forest and later around the river. From there the trail connects to the official way which makes navigation easy. We spent the night in the official campsite around 2 km before Laguna Carro Castillo, which is the only one open. There were 5-6 other tents, no ranger. The next day the weather got way way worse, which made us skip the last pass and go down from the laguna via one of the official routes. We met a ranger on the way up, pointing us to the official trail around yellow cairns, to sign off from the park. With no intention to pay on our way from the park, we actually followed some old trail (according to the old signs we met) that took us to the main road, right in front of the bridge. We had to cross one fence, but no other problem. It's a faster and safe way from the park.

  • 23/02/2023 - 25/02/2023 / RR NOBO / Jakub+Veronika:

1) Lago La Paloma, right of way conflict on RH (32, km 17.5): Owner of the land (and nearby houses) is called Cesar, according to him, the right way is by the mud road (OH 32-L) and not on the trail, which passes some 20m next to his house. The reason why there was a conflict might have been caused by Cesar's relative who didn't like tourists walking on their land.

2) Trail has been changed 3 years ago because of right of way conflict between CONAF and private owners on the OH (32-E). The new official trail (with official park entrance) leads on OH (32-E) for the first 2km, then turns right and goes down towards Rio Ibáñez to RR (32, km 85), well marked by metal yellow triangles.

  • 2019 Jan/ OIlrik / Northbound

We ended up doing the normal Cerro Castillo hike as the weather was forecasting heavy rain and snow so we did not want to be on the pass. The regular trail is just gorgeous and the park is beautiful. The trail in the north is not on the new CONAF maps but is marked on the old ones.

  • Jan 2020 / RH Northbound / Matthieu

No technical difficulties in the park, just following the trail and enjoying the views.

To follow the GPT northbound, leave the parc trail to go north. It is an "old sendero" in the forest, but well maintained and easy to follow during the beginning (it is marked on maps of the parc). In this direction, no problem to leave the forest in a safe spot, but southbound, looking behind, seemed hard to find the entrance of the forest and of the safe trail ! No technical difficulties until the first pass, rocky terrain like the rest of the park.

The dangerous part is indeed between the 2 passes. You dont go in the valley in front of you but follow the altitude line until the pass that you see at the right side of the valley. Very steepy rolling stones path. I was a little bit afraid. I tried to be smarter than the tracks, trying more uphill... this was a dangerous mistake that took me long to repair and go back to the tracks. There are indeed two river crossing (no dangerous waterstream) but they are circled by cliffs, so not easily crossable. The track follow mostly the tree line (I.e the separations between the little trees and the stones) So my recommendations : - follow the gps tracks : they follow the tree line who is safer with a solid ground and grass. Sometimes you have to cross the stones, no choice, so go slowly, choose your paces wisely and it's doable. Try to aim for the grounds of grass in the middle, which are solid, or the stones with foam on them, which mostly didn't move for a while. For the rivercrossing, it aims a good spot with no need to climb down or up. - choose a good weather day : for me it was sunny and no wind, so perfect day, and it was already mentally hard (not speaking of the horseflies getting you crazy during the hard moments !). I wouldn't try it with rain or big wind in this river of rolling stones. - if you don't feel it, easy escape by the normal trail of the parc

However, I can assure that the prize for the effort, going northbound, is amazing !! But I won't spoil ! After the second pass, no technical difficulties, you find a Conaf trail easily, and I even cross some tourists with a guide.

  • 2020-Jan-18 and 19 / Regular Hiking Southbound / Martin Lizondo

The starting minor road gets into the private propiety of Pedro Sangüesa (+56 9 9099 9083) at 45º 52' 15,55" S, 72º 2' 46,28" O. He didn’t like people to pass through and denied that there was a trail, but it turned out to be a Conaf’s well signed area. He said in the future he will ask for money, but finally left me pass for no charge. I met other day hikers going to « El Mirador ». Snow was easy at the passes. The trail was in good conditions until the cross country. There are two spots which I consider dangerous, so I don’t recomend doing this section alone: 1) the gps tracks passes through a very vertical rocky (nearly climbing). I was scared and I can’t recommend doing it, except you asume this risk. I could see later in a map that the original route went all way down in the valley through lenga forest, but if there was a trail it’s invisible now. 2) When the cross country leaves the tree line and becomes a small trail into the lenga forest at 45º 58' 23,54" S, 72º 6' 10,02" O (“minor road” starts later, despite the gps track info); it’s very stepy and unmaintained. I made a mistake and started to follow the stream all way down, but you have to look up and search the beginning of the hidden path. It’s very vertical and easy to fell down, because of recent land slides. Be extremely carefull. The rest of Cerro Castillo from Las Horquetas is well maintained, beautifull and enjoyable. Cons: Lots of people. When leaving at the Nezoelandes entrance, you’ll have to pass near to the payment cabin. I didn’ t have to pay, but it was because I spent only a short time in the park. The cost for foreigners is normaly CLP 29,000.

  • 2019-Nov-29 / Lea Geibel, Kevin Moe

Snow line is at around 1200 Meters but all passes are safely traversable. The National Park Entrance Fee got raised to 29000 CLP per person for overnight hikes in season 19/20. The park generally seemed very poorly organized, we were told the passes are "closed" at first, whereas they were easy and safe to traverse. The ranger insisted that we could not hike the normal route northbound but have to sign out of the park at the Las Horquetas checkpoint. In high season, the ranger station in the park is manned, so maybe it is possible so sign out there and head northbound.

  • 2019-Nov-12 / Eva Havlová

There is still lots of snow in the National Park. I arrived to Villa Cerro Castillo 3 days ago (Novembre 12, 2019) and planed to hike nortbound but rangers didn't let me go. I saw the pass they were talking about (avalanche risk) and I don't think any avalanche could occure, but the thuth is that there is lots of water runing down and the trail is like a stream. They said it might be possible to do it next week.

Season Section Log

  • 23/02/2023 - 25/02/2023 / RR NOBO / Jakub+Veronika:

We've walked all section 32 from Villa Frei to Villa Cerro Castillo. The part from Lago Paloma to Rio Turbio is very difficult and might be even dangerous (especially in bad weather). The CC travers on the stones (in our case with strong wind and snow) was the hardest part. The MR leading down to the valley is partially overgrown. The second part is well marked with good camping possibilities. After heavy rains on Sunday 25th, the park has been closed for more than a week. There are 2 alerts on the road (see above).

  • 23/02/2023 - 25/02/2023 / RR SOBO / Louis, Rémi & Noé :

We started at Lago La Paloma, taking the bus from Coyhaique to Villa Frei (leaves at 8:15,15:30,17:30&19:30 from monday to friday and at 8:00 and 14:00 on saturday (no bus on sunday)). Then we hitchiked to the lake without problem and we camped there. Ready to start in the morning the next day.

Day 1 - Campamento Rio Turbio - 26.5km - +1800m/-1200m A big day but we hadnt the choice : heavy rain was announced for the next day... Cross country is demanding, better follow the tracks all the way long. A great camp site if you want to split this day is at the end of Option B. No water, windy but incredible view. The waypoint camp before is nice too.

Day 2 - Campamento El Bosque - 10km - +800m/-800m The 2 camps sites on the GPT at47.8 and at 50.3 are now forbidden. The new campsite is approx at km 49, in the middle. There is guardaparques, but no need to show the permit for us.

Day 3 - Cerro Castillo - 11km - +800m/-1500m The pass after Cerro Castillo was closed due to the wind. If you want to go to the other side, you have to get down at the park entrance and to go up again at the other entrance. We just went to the town. The regular route going down from there, from the Cerro Castillo, is not the one on the GPT. Actually, it goes more on the west side. At the end, there is a guardaparque, we checked out (even though we didn’t checked in) but no need to pay. Fortunately. Luck was with us.

  • Feb 17 RR 3 days SOBO Frank

Walked from Villa Frei. After about 12KM there is a food truck next to the road. Owners live there so should open for you. The owner of the private land wasn't there so had no access issues. You can camp in a big meadow @ 1250 metres or in good weather at a pass @ about 1325 metres (not marked on track file) just before the difficult CC section begins. Followed Veronica's advice to get up the gully on grass which worked well, thanks Veronica. There is no need for any rock climbing on this route. After the gully there are two rock bands running perpendicular to the route. You can go below both of them & bypass them at treeline. The second bypass is not very obvious but stay at the treeline & you will get through easily. After the pass, descending scree you come to a waterfall. Go left into the forest immediately before the waterfall - you may see a small cairn marking the spot. Just footprints at first but pick up a small trail as you go in. Leaving the park the RR to the left goes through private land. The optional route straight down is now the main trail, it goes down to a checkpoint just before the road. Checkpoint is at a stile over a fence so can't be avoided. It is run as a private 'concession' from CONAF. The workers were friendly & didn't charge me anything. However next year the concession will be run by a different company so depends who is there.

  • 15.02.23 -18.02.23 / Anna & Christopher / SOBO

Coyhaique - Villa Cerro Castillo

We hitchhiked from Coyhaique to Lago Paloma and started walking around 13:30 pm following the main path.

The trail at the beginning is pretty good. At the junction with the option at km 17,5 you can walk further uphill along the fence for a couple of meters to enter the fence through a gate. This option is not in the gpx files. We decided to follow that to avoid the settlers after all.Then you can follow the dirtroad through two more gates until you reach a fence that you have to jump to the right to get to a meadow with beehives. There is another gate there and then you reach the main route again. In total we only had to jump two fences.

Then we followed the main route. Soon after we went through the gate of the National park Cerro Castillo and we (unfortunately) met two guardians of the park. After some back and forth they made us turn around, telling us that this path is closed and we have to enter the park via the main entrance and pay the 30.000 clp. So we had to take the option to las Horquetas.

After a few good km on a dirtroad, the path of option 1 gets bad. It seems like it hasn't been used for a long time. It was often hard to find and involved some bushbashing. It took us quite some time to get through there. Once you are at the river it gets much better. We forded the river next to the entrance to avoid the detour until Horquetas. The option was not very nice. Mostly just walking in the forest with BB so we would definetly recommend to try the main route.

The entrance closes at 2 pm but the guards there were much nicer than the first two, and it was also no problem to get in at 3 pm. We had to register us and pay the 30.000 clp p.p. though. The rest of the trek we were not asked to show the tickets. The park guardians tell you that there is no water crossing both passes and you have to carry it from the official camps, which is simply not true. There is only no water after Laguna Castillo.

At the exit (following the RR) we had to register us again. From there we planned to hitchhike to Villa Cerro Castillo, but there were no cars passing by. In the afternoon/evening it's probably easier to get a ride, because lots of cars parked at the exit. We would recommend Option E to avoid the dull roadwalk to Villa Cerro Castillo.

We stayed at Camping El Rincon, which was only 4.000 clp p.p., with no electricity, but the owner washed our clothes after we asked and we received it dry the next morning :)

  • 5 to 7 of February 2023 / Will / SOBO / 3 days

Amazing section! I was worried about the tricky part, but sticking to the gpx track it didn't feel dangerous to me. Though I did have to leave the track to find easier ways around the cliffs.

There weren't any buses south out of Coyhaique on Sunday (except maybe early morning?). I ended up taking an Uber to villa frei, for a bearable 14000 pesos. The road walk was beautiful except for the wind trying to blow me into the cars. I caught a ride to Lago Monreal, from where I walked back up to variant L and then to the 23.6 campsite.

I didn't have any right of way trouble, I just had to pass through a few unlocked gates with no people or buildings in sight. There were even a few groups of day hikers who passed by my camp on the way to the Lago Paloma mirador (variant B - must see!).

I also took variant D up to the glacier lake, worth it if it fits your schedule. I didn't have time to keep going up to the glacier itself, it looked like steeper rocky cross country.

Even in the touristy parts the trail was surprisingly slow and rocky. I ran into a few rangers, who look like normal hikers except with red and white baseball hats. They were ok with me not having a ticket once I explained my weird route.

  • 18 to 21 of January 2023 / Véronica / GPT32 RR SOBO / 3.5 days

Route: Villa Freí - Lago La Paloma - north part of Parque Nacional Cerro Castillo - Las Horquetas trail (south part of Parque Nacional Cerro Castillo) - Villa Cerro Castillo

First off I want to say that I think this section deserves a 5 on the Attractiveness Scale. It is simply mind-blowingly beautiful and definitely on par with other sections further north that have a 5 on this scale. I also think the Difficulty Rating should be upped to a 5 as well, due to the technical, and arguably dangerous at times, section in the northern part of the park on the Regular Route. Wish I had someone with me during this stretch, but oh well, such is life.

I was lucky and caught a hitch most of the way to Lago La Paloma on the first day. It was hot and I don't think the road walk has any water sources until you get to the end. I then followed the new RR which bypasses the problematic right-of-way settler in the Lago Monreal area. However, this new detour is not fun. It involves climbing over (or crawling through/under) multiple barbed wire fences. I lost count after the 5th or 6th one. Also, the path and cross-country area are full of thorny plants, they got everywhere on my pack and clothing. I think it would just be better to take Option 32-L and chat with the settler instead to try and get through. Once you reach RH-MR-V {32} [18.9+4.7], it's all good, easy walking until the camp at 23.6 km.

I reccomend taking Option 32-A after the campsite instead of the CC straight through the cow pasture. It is wet and muddy, whereas 32-A remains dry and easy to follow in the forest at the edge of the meadow. I also strongly recommend taking the short detour to the mirador at the end of Option 32-B. The views there of the cliffs and mountains surrounding Lago La Paloma are incredible. You could even camp there if you brought sufficient water and the weather is calm.

Now for the difficult part in the 8-km cross-country section. This section was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. The first pass is at S 45° 55.740', W 072° 04.501'. It is easy walking up past the treeline into the alpine up to this point. The first challenge is a steep and unstable scree traverse, which begins at S 45° 56.019', W 072° 04.567'. Follow the GPS tracks here. At first I tried to go lower, right along the treeline, which was a big mistake that got me stuck in a terrible gully of slippery hard-packed sand. Very treacherous and scary trying to traverse it on all fours. After that ordeal, I scrambled back up to the altitude of the GPS tracks. This first scree traverse lasts about a km, the rocks are loose and it is very steep. I was tense and went very slowly. Got harassed by tábanos the whole way, but at least the weather was good.

Then at S 45° 56.288', W 072° 05.184', you reach the end of the bad scree and end up in a deep gully with a vertical wall face on the other side. Figuring out how to get up that cliff was hard for me. I left my pack at the bottom and tried climbing up various different ways with no success, only tiring myself out and getting myself in precarious situations where I could barely climb back down. I finally figured out the best way was to try and get to the lowest grassy patch to the left of the vertical rock wall. The easiest way to reach that grassy patch was to go upstream a bit, then traverse on the hard slippery sand northward, instead of trying to climb vertically straight up to it. Once you reach the grass, you can use the traction and stability of vegetation to clamber up and out of the gully.

The next big obstacle is at S 45° 56.320', W 072° 05.446'. Like others have written, this is the vertical rock wall that spans up and down the mountain and that you have to climb over. I scouted ways up without my pack at first, trying to find the easiest way. At least with this rock wall, the handholds and footholds are solid — no slippery gravel/sand/scree.  But it does require actual rock climbing moves. If you fall you would likely tumble down the mountain, so please be very careful. A light backpack makes it relatively safer and easier.

On the other side of this wall, you can finally see where the trees end, and the lovely river you are supposed to climb down to reach. But there is still more scree to traverse here, and it is slow and unstable again. I tried taking a shortcut down a shallow gully filled with grass. I figured it would be safer than the rocks, but it was very steep and got unexpectedly muddy at one point, and I ended up slipping and sliding down the mountainside about 10 meters before being able to stop myself. Didn't get seriously hurt, just bruised up, but it really shook me and just added to the stress and fear of this whole section. So I guess my advice here is to again follow the GPS tracks across the scree and go down gradually to the river instead of trying to go straight down.

Once you reach the riverbed, it is easy walking to the top of the pass, with occasional cairns (and some good swimming holes). Down the south side of the pass, there are still a couple scree sections, but not nearly as bad as before. Lots of boulders, so slow going, but at least they felt more solid.

As Martin Lizondo has written, finding the start of RH-MR-V {32} [34.1+1.7] is tricky. It is not a minor road, it is an old footpath. The cross-country section ends at a creek as it turns into a high and steep waterfall. You have to cross the creek and look up to find a faint, overgrown trail that goes up into the forest. Once you find it though, it is simple enough to follow. There is a stretch though of several hundred meters where it is more of a bushwhack than anything else, nature has taken over.

I followed the regular route that cuts through the forest to Río Turbío, I assume this is to avoid the ranger station nearby. The "bushbashing" section is easy through a mature forest, and then you just follow the bouldery riverbank.

Once you get to the popular Las Horquetas trail, everything is easy until the end of the section. Some snow at the top of the first pass (Paso Peñón), but very manageable. The views of the saw-toothed mountains, lakes, and glaciers are spectacular. Despite reports of the park being "overrun," I only met a handful of other hikers in this trail, and most of them after Laguna Castillo. No rangers at all.

I think the Regular Route in its current configuration avoids the blue payment tent at the end of the park trail, but I didn't know that when I passed through, and ended up just following the riverbank down to the minor road to be safe (and avoid paying the ridiculous 30,000 clp access fee). The road walk to Cerro Castillo was easy and uneventful.

  • 2022 Feb: 05-07, SoBo, RR, Kris&Stiina

We continued into this section straight from the previous one - 31H and the start of it, about first 16km, is like the whole previous section - dirt road. We hiked about 5 of those 16km and hitched the rest which I think was possible quite easy because it was weekend and a lot of cars with families were going to the Lago La Paloma.

The interesting part started once we were at the gate after crossing the outflow of Lago Monreal. The big sign was posted there stating that this is not some Sendero de Chile and that passing through here is strictly forbidden. We saw a guy at the gate when we were approaching, but as it was lunch time for us we stayed at the stream. Afterwards the guy was gone and there was no phone signal to call the nr. that Martin Lizondo has provided. After considering options of different routes we decided to keep it cool and climbed over the gate with fingers crossed. There were houses a few hundred meters up the road, but nobody seemed to be at home at that point, perhaps working in the field somewhere in the back, so we walked through the forbidden land without anyone intercepting, luck was with us. A few more gates later we climbed up into the forest and finally the Cerro Castillo National park with a big old welcoming sign. We stayed at the first marked campsite at 22,7km, there is a stream.

Next morning as we were having our breakfast about 30 cows showed up and were completely dazzled by our presence. They stared at us for about 15min until they finally relaxed a bit, but not fully. As we were packing our camp some sudden movement must have scared them and they all went running for their lives as if a Kraken himself was after them, silly cows, we thought. Once we were all packed and ready to go we crossed the stream into the next meadow, and saw all the cows about 200m to our left. I am not exactly sure how cows work, but as soon as they saw us they organized a gang and all of them started running right at us. We of course were standing our ground so the cows would stop just 5m from us and look all tough. I would try to scare them away by counter attack in the form of a shouting, hiking pole waving lunatic. It worked to some extent, as we could slowly walk out of it, but the cows kept persistently be really close and walk/run at us. I guess they were trying to protect their pasture, maybe someone can enlighten me about cow-dynamics.

After the great battle of 2022, we disappeared in the forest and enjoyed the nice forest path while it lasted. Once out of the three line the path disappeared so we more or less followed the GPS marking. Neither of our maps showed the mentioned old path descending down into the valley, it was actually matching with the GPS, more or less. Up to the first pass, which is not marked, but is at about 26,8km the cross country was easy and then as mentioned before it got pretty difficult. If it would just be steep scree slope it would be alright, but this one had hard packed sand under the scree or sometimes no scree on it so it was very slippery (in dry conditions). Lots of prayers went to the Gods of Friction which helped us with traversing the treacherous slopes, with plenty of chances to become a statistic. I don’t think that that traverse is possible in wet conditions, not without crampons. And as for every good cake there is always a cherry on top, which was a little rock climbing session, which I personally didn’t mind, but I am not sure other hikers would appreciate. After that we still had to descend a steep scree down to the river. If there is a potential trail or option to go down the valley after the pass and then follow the river bank up, I think it is definitely a better, faster and safer option, especially if weather is not favorable. And looking from above down the valley it seemed like a feasible option to follow the river as the river itself was easily crossable and we didn’t spot any cliffs there, maybe next time.

After reaching the river at the valley bottom the way up to the second pass was easy and straight forward, even though still “sin sendero”. The way down from the pass is steep and bouldery but not dangerous and after a short bit some first signs of an old trail can be noticed, some cairs appear. Then once the trail gets down to the tree line there are a few bushy places, but nothing too bad and the closer to the actual trail you get the better it becomes. We also somewhat followed the GPS track but stayed more in the forest rather than beach to avoid the ranger hut.

Once we made it to the Las Horquetas trail all our worries were behind us and we could enjoy the nice trail and magnificent views. I don’t think I have ever seen tree line ending almost at the edge of the glacier in Europe it was happening a century ago, pretty cool stuff. We camped at the “segundo camping” with many other hikers, none doing the GPT though. And an interesting thing we observed was that people would just drink straight from the silty glacier stream without filtering or treating their water at all. Observation was made of different groups of people at different campsites. Is that a Chilean thing? Very impressive gut, if they can do it, unless ignorance is a bliss or they knew something that we didn’t.

Nevertheless, two more mountain passes and we were heading down to Villa Cerro Castillo, with crowds of day-hikers that had come up to the Mirador Cerro Castillo. From there we actually didn’t follow the GPS track but headed down straight to the town. The ticket office with the park official is actually around this area: (46º 6.7520' S, 72º 12.0032' W). And the trail leading there is the official trail. The one that seemed on the map like the official, was actually not in use, not sure why. The satellite view on Gaia and info on the maps is somehow outdated. We tried to sneak past the office to avoid all explaining we had to do, but it’s kind of strategically placed so it wasn’t possible and we ended up just talking to the girl that was making sure everyone is checking out of the park. We had to pay 18.000 pesos per person which is the ticket for foreigners that want to go up to the mirador. We didn’t spill the beans about camping in the park and our small backpacks kept the suspicion low, so in the end it all worked out pretty good. From there it is still almost 5km to the town on a very dusty road, but with all the day hikers leaving a hitch was not a problem.

The town is really nice with plenty of shops and accommodations options. The only thing we didn’t manage to find was the threaded gas canister, but we found a few half-empty ones left in the Nordic Patagonia mess tent.

For more stories of the trail, pictures, videos and in case you want to ask us anything you can find us on Instagram: @smallfootprint_bigadventures

  • Section 32, Option 7: Valle Balboa. Southbound. 11 days (including waiting out a snow storm). Party (3): Mum, Sis and I.*

After walking Section 35 we emerged in Cochrane to a world changed by the virus. We retreated to the now unfriendly Chili Chico and caught the ferry across to Ibáñez in the morning. For my mum and sister, getting back to Santiago to catch a flight home had been the priority, but on the way they shifted more to the stance I was taking: what was the point? Get stuck in Australia, or here? Patagonia didn't seem all that bad, and apart from facemasks and hand sanitiser, there were no shortages like back home. By the time we reached Coyhaique we'd all decided to stay a week or so to hatch a plan. We met up with Aldo and camped in his backyard for almost a week. I helped build his house a bit, but time was mostly filled with playing chess, dice, cards and guitar. The atmosphere seemed to encourage a lethargic state, blurring the days together and bending time. Finally however, we packed and walked into the town centre to make a start on the interesting option #007 of Section 32 through Valle Balboa, (traversing roughly from Lago Desierto to Río Ibáñez). With the virus and public transport on hold, it seemed unlikely the bus to Villa Freí (that we took last time for the RR of Section 32) would be running. We asked a taxi driver for a quote to drive us out. We grabbed some more supplies, and then caught a taxi with a much friendlier driver to Lago Elizalde ($15k). The driver showed us a great public camping spot on the shore of the lake. There were many established camp sites back from [close to] the beach. It was such a nice spot that we decided to lay back and spend the afternoon and night there.

In the morning, we walked the road to Río Paloma, scoring a lift for 5ks or so. We camped by the river not far before the end of the road.

In the morning we walked the last bit of the public road to where it ends at the very rickety bridge over Río Mogote. There is a nice little camping spot here (-45.91100, -72.31823). Climbing over the locked gate, we walked the private road to the ford. We tossed up visiting Lago Desierto and the people living next to it, but with the virus decided against it. This meant we didn't actually have to cross the river, instead locating the old road to the south. (The track files follow the road, but it is no longer used by vehicles and it is actually easier to head back down the main road a couple of hundred metres to where a cattle trail exists (-45.91601, -72.30806)).

Following this distinct road for some time, it seemed to be used for horse riding tours as there were coloured signs like "Spanglish" and "Toobooku" on the side. You will soon reach the gate included in the track files. Here there is also access to a bridge across Estero Balboa. It looks like you can then access trails most of the way up to Cerró Negro. This might be interesting if someone wants to explore.

A couple hundred metres after the gate the old road ends and an obvious trail continues to a miskept farmhouse. Continue along the well defined trail that gets a bit scrubby/overgrown before entering the forest. The trail is then very well maintained although quite muddy in spots (I could see it being quite bad after rain). You will need to ford a tributary not marked in the track files (-45.95592, -72.35114). Shortly afterwards is a junction (-45.95654, -72.35216). The route up the side valley could be explored if someone wants - we went only a short way to a corral. The track will dip back down to the river where there is an established camp (-45.97039, -72.35461). Continuing up the valley, there are many more established camps - the best are generally in close proximity to the fords.

The first time you cross the estero is about here: (-45.98105, -72.36205). There is only one ford, not two as the track files indicate. At the next couple of fords, the actual track deviates slightly from the track files. If you follow the current track files, you will avoid crossing the river at all, but will end up bush bashing briefly. We crossed the next two fords, but by staying on the west side of the river they should also be easily avoidable.

The trail exits the forest (-46.02116, -72.42538)(the camp marked in the track files here is a swamp - go further up the valley!) from where it is cross country walking, not actually a trail as indicated. We camped next to the puesto which incorporates some pieces of a crashed plane (we found another piece whist exploring, but not the actual crash site). The route up to the Laguna Campana is also open and straight forward.

We waited out a rainy day only to wake to a snow storm the next!... and the next!. We ended up waiting 4 nights experimenting with some different bread recipes whilst we waited out the inclement weather.

Finally a sunny day! Continue up the valley, CC walking past an old corral. At the Nacimiento del Estero Balboa you again briefly enter the trees. Like the previous marked camp, again this whole area was very swampy and I didn't see a suitable place to camp. The camp included in the track files is in the middle of a swamp! We picked up fragments of a track heading up through the trees, but I think it is very vague or overgrown. That said, we had nearly a foot of snow in places so we could have easily missed things! There is a very obvious section of track here : (-46.05648, -72.47298). You'll quickly exit the trees (-46.05923, -72.47005) and start a long CC section in the alpine. We found some sections of trail, but for us it was mostly cross country walking. Plenty of water options the whole way.

When you enter the forest after completing the alpine section (-46.08687, -72.43537), you will be bush bashing for a long time! There was no discernible track even when we criss-crossed over the track files searching for it (no snow here anymore). Approaching the deep gorge, I decided to lead us a different, less steep way. This worked well and we camped at a very nice spot by the stream at the bottom (-46.09414, -72.42582).

The next day we were debating simply following the river down (I wish we had!). Instead, we headed straight up the other side of the gorge. We located part of an old track here (-46.09685, -72.42463) but quickly lost it as we passed through the saddle (I think maybe it continues north?). Rejoining the suggested investigation route (EXP-OP-TL-I@32-07-#003), there is a good stream (-46.10202, -72.42403) and some camping on its banks.

After some horrible bush bashing, we finally made it to a ravine gashing steeply down the mountain (-46.10598, -72.41534). There were many drops and it was impossible to go directly down. We later found out that the only other party to do this part had a rope! I can't really recommend going down here [and my sister can't recommend it at all! - "This is shit!"] Again, I'd recommend taking the main valley. The climbs we did were much more difficult than those on the northern part of Section 32 RR that people complain about. Also, if doing this option, it would be much easier travelling north! You could also consult the settlers on a better route. We finally reached the bottom where it opens up after about ~6hrs!

Continuing, if you do follow EXP-OP-TL-V@32-07A-#003, the track files indicate there is a trail, but it is not quite so. There are CC sections and a labyrinth of cattle trails. You will need to use them to your advantage where they exist, and leave them when they go the wrong way. We went this way for a little while, but then tried following a primary cattle track that seemed to be heading directly down to the river... but we got stopped by a swamp (-46.11623, -72.41080). Continuing along EXP-OP-TL-V@32-07A-#003, you will get CC walking from the woods (after a cliff) about here: (-46.11546, -72.42372) If we were there again we would follow EXP-OP-CC-A@32-07-#004 down past the settler to the river. It then looked easy to walk along the river north to the cable car.

The cable car: Don't use this by yourself! Don't use it if you are only two! Use it with three people minimum! I can't stress this enough. There is a lot of fiction and the locals we talked to here don't even consider it safe. They used the boat which has its own steel cable allowing you to tack across with relative ease. You will get wet feet if using the boat.

Taking the cable car, we only just made it across with one in the car and two hauling on the rope, and at one point it looked like my sister might get stranded on the far side (she had a nightmare that night!).

Carretera Austral: We waited the entire day by the Carretera Austral. Finally catching a colectivo late in the afternoon. With the virus, it was hard/imposible to hitchhike. We paid an inflated price ($3kpp) for transport to Cerró Castillo.

  • 2020-March-6 / Ty & America / 4.5 Days SOBO RR. Start @ El Blanco

We started in El Blanco, opting to hike by Lago Montreal, which was pretty nice. No traffic though, so if you’re wanting a hitch the regular start in Villa freí may be a better option. Settlers in Lago Montreal are super friendly. There’s a bit of water there as you pass by the lake. We camped there. I recommend going further to the marked camp though because the next day is a big challenge. RH-CC-A@32-25.2+7.9 Is the Cruz of the section. After this all good. I do not recommend doing this unless you’re very comfortable on your feet and have a lightweight pack.

-stick to the treeline/marked path on this. The traversing is tough, but completely doable. 2-3 km in is the gully with the very difficult climb. Keep the the grassy patch, getting to the base of it was the most dangerous part for us. Very slippery rock. I had America drop her pack. High risk, but I was MUCH more comfortable.

-about a k after is the second dangerous area. This is a straight rock wall that spans all the way up& down the mountain. The only way through is to climb around. I checked below it and didn’t find a way through the trees. I took both Sanita & America’s packs through this section; as again, it’s very high risk..with an actual climbing move involved. Again, it’s important you’re very comfortable with your pack to get through these parts.

After these dangerous sections we were wiped out and camped in the valley before the pass. Lots of places to camp with good water. Be aware of slight rockfall risk. There’s an amazing place to camp with ideal conditions at the top of the pass.

Going on, all smooth, both marked camps on the way up the second pass are actually closed...there’s an open camp right between the two.

Amazing places to camp up by Laguna Castillo.

We snuck around the riverbed once we saw the blue tent at the bottom (where you might have to pay) and got by with no problems.

  • 2019-Nov-29/ Lea Geibel, Kevin Moe/ 3

days / Northbound / Regular Hiking Route with OH-MR-V (Villa Cerro Castillo to Las Horquetas)/ The section follows the rather popular tourist Hiking route Las Horquetas for the first two days, meaning there will be less solitude but also rather well maintained trails. The national park and the region around Cerro Castillo was very impressive, we especially enjoyed to take all the side trails and visit the numerous beautiful glacier lagoons. The only unpleasant part of the hike was the organization of the national park. The exorbitant high entrance fees are in no relation to the other parks, which is due to a high ratio of private land in the area but makes the park rather unattractive for tourists. some rangers seemed poorly informed and couldn't give much information (e.g. insisted that passes were "closed" and only after asking numerous times agreed to check with his colleagues that told that they are "open"). They also said it is not possible to hike the regular route of the GPT, because we have to check out of the NP at the checkpoint Las Horquetas. There is an optional hiking route continuing North from there. Due to bad weather coming up we ended up not finishing the northern stretch of the trail and just followed the entire Las Horquetas Route at the Carretera Austral.

Jan 2020 GPT32 South 7days

_____________________ Coyhaique to Villa Freí: There is a bus from the bus terminal in Coyhaique to Villa Freí. From there it was a hot dusty road.

_____________________ Accessing the park : You have to pass through 4 private properties to enter the first sector of the park. We met some people. Had short friendly chats, but no problems with access. Just before you enter the park (where there are two trail options) there is easy access to the river via a cow trail. However water in general was no issue and I didn't carry water for the entire 7 days through the park.

The camp site used to be an official campsite before the sector was closed due to access problems. The dunny is in great shape.

_____________________ Through the first sector : The trail is in great shape until after the mirador. You then cut upwards into the alpine which is also easy walking. After passing through a saddle, you contour around above the treeline. This is the most difficult part of the section. Quite a bit of step scree traversing. Not for everyone. Once you drop into the valley waking is again easier. There are some occasional cairns that become more and more frequent as you drop into the other valley. As you contour left an intermittent trail is evident. When you enter the lenga forest (-45.97321, -72.10278) there is a great trail down that turns into a road here : (-45.97886, -72.10358) (Jan: maybe you want to update the track files to reflect this?) Then is road walking to join the popular walk.

_____________________ Popular sector of Cerró Castillo : There are some side trips not included in the track files. They're on the map you get. Note that the old Bosque site (-46.06197, -72.16016) and La Tetera (-46.07200, -72.18390) are now closed. You can not camp there. For most people this means camping at the new el Bosque : (-46.06418, -72.16964)(Jan : maybe you want to update the track files?) Get to Laguna Cerró Castillo before 12 to beat the walkers heading up for the day. But this shouldn't be an issue as you need to cross the pass early : an important thing we would have liked to know is that the pass (-46.08030, -72.21103) can be closed in the afternoon due to strong winds. There is literally a ranger there that can turn people around. Not much water over the pass either. And the poza cerca mirador doesn't look welcoming. Carry water here. In the next valley there were more rangers and we saw some people get checked for permits. It's a shame this park is now being comercialalised :(

_____________________ Getting back to Coyhaique : Not much traffic. The last bus heads back at 6pm

_____________________ I'll try upload some map photos and a breakdown of the entrance fees when I get the photos off my camera.

Cheers, Felix.

Summary Table

GPT32: Cerro Castillo
GPT32: Cerro Castillo Hiking Packrafting
Group H: Aysen Sur Total 67.0 km 23 h 90.8 km 30 h
Region Chile: Aysén (XI) Trails (TL) 22.2 km 33.1% 20.9 km 23.0%
Start Villa Frei Minor Roads (MR) 35.6 km 53.1% 47.5 km 52.3%
Finish Villa Cerro Castillo Primary Roads (PR) - - - -
Status Published & Verified Cross-Country (CC) 9.2 km 13.8% 3.8 km 4.2%
Traversable Dec - Mar (Maybe: Nov, Apr) Bush-Bashing (BB) - - 1.2 km 1.3%
Packraft Very Useful Ferry (FY) - - - -
Connects to GPT31H, GPT31P, GPT33H, GPT33P Investigation (I) - - - -
Options 199 km (8 Options & Variants) Exploration (EXP) - - - -
Hiking Packrafting Total on Water 17.5 km 19.2%
Attraction 4 (of 5) 4 (of 5) River (RI) - -
Difficulty 4 (of 5) 4 (of 5) Lake (LK) 17.5 km 19.2%
Direction Both ↓↑ Both ↓↑ Fjord (FJ) - -
Comment -
Character Valdivian Rain Forest, Alpine Terrain, Farmland, Settlers, Lake Packrafting
Challenges Exposure to Elements, Clambering, Bush Bashing, Demanding Navigation

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

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

Town: Villa Cerro Castillo. Villa Cerro Castillo has several restaurants, small markets, and plenty of lodging options, including a popular backpacker camping destination on the east side of 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

Buses to Villa Frei from Coyhaique bus terminal: Monday 7:30, 8:15, 15:30, 17:00, 19:30 Tuesday to Friday 8:15, 15:30, 17:30, 19:30 Saturday 08:00. No bus on Sunday. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Villa Frei & the bus generally turns around immediately & goes back to Coyhaique.

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:

A sandy beach with a visible structure in the grass is the take-out for Lago Elizalde. After exiting, make your way through the farmland until encountering a gravel road that leads past the house at the top of the hill up to Ruta X-686.

Ruta X-686 is a lightly trafficked but well-formed gravel road that is fenced on either side. After crossing the Río Paloma, Ruta X-686 makes a sharp left and begins to climb. 4 km after the sharp left turn, cross a bridge to the left and climb to a wooden gate. If you descend the steep slope to the left of the gate, there is camping under some trees.

The wooden gate marks the beginning of a very long driveway to a house located near the lake. The route takes you along this driveway until a river crossing. After crossing the river, walk northeast along its shore towards the Río Paloma. After reaching the end of the fenceline near the Río Paloma, turn east and walk along the fenceline until reaching Lago Desierto. At the river outlet, there is a nice beach to put in to Lago Desierto.

There is no camping along the shores of Lago Desierto. The take-out is a rocky beach at the base of a bluff. Walk up the bluff and cross country through the farmland to Lago Azul. At the east end of the farm, descend down a road to a rocky beach at the Lago Azul shoreline with a metal structure.

There are a couple of potential camping options along the shoreline of Lago Azul. There are also several residences on the north shore. The take-out is a long rocky beach set before a well manicured forest. On the east end of the land near Lago La Paloma is an expensive looking house surrounded by several other buildings.

There is a 4WD track to the west of the smaller red house located south of the big residence. Ascend the steep climb on a well-formed road that is criss-crossed with several smaller tracks labeled in english with wooden signs. Due to the steep slopes on either side of the cut out road, there is no camping here.

Eventually, the route turns off of the road onto an overgrown 4WD track. Camping off the track is still difficult because of prickly vegetation and steep terrain. This track ends 2.5 km from where the Regular Packrafting Route joins the Regular Hiking Route. From here, the route involves some bushwhacking and following a small trail as it winds in and out of existence. Just before joining with the Regular Hiking Route, the route widens into an old 4WD track that passes some destroyed structures.

The routes join up at a large rock cairn and continues to follow a 4WD track until reaching a large wooden sign with a map of the Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo. Here there is also a campsite and ranger station. There is a 5.000 CLP fee to enter the reserve.

The route from here is a popular track for backpackers with designated campsites. The trail is well-formed and winds through the forest. When the trail becomes less obvious, the way is shown with yellow markers. In this area there is a designated campsite with a latrine.

At treeline, follow the cairns and rocks painted with white and red stripes through the scree up and over the first pass (approximate elevation 1.450 m). After the steep descent, reenter the trees. There is a campsite, Camping El Bosque, soon after reaching treeline (approximately elevation 940 m) with water and a latrine.

The trail begins to wind up through the forest toward Laguna Castillo. The sights from Laguna Castillo, which is at the base of the pass, are stunning. There are two tracks that climb up to the pass. Make sure to take the path that climbs to the south instead of continuing southeast over the obvious saddle.

The track down to Ruta X-720 is well formed, marked, and popular, but occasionally braided. Follow it until reaching the wooden stile with a rangers hut. From there join Ruta X-720, a dirt road which leads to Highway 7 and Villa Cerro Castillo.

Optional Routes

Investigations and Explorations

Links to other Resources

Alerts and Logs of Past Seasons