March 7. 2018
Huerquehue National Park, about an hour from Pucón, has really just two main trails, the climb up Cerro San Sebatián and Los Lagos (See the following post for Los Lagos). With the rain coming maybe tomorrow afternoon we thought we would do the more clear-sky –dependent trek today and the hike around the lakes the following day.
The trail starts a short way up the road from the CONAF parking area. Most of the trail is steep, 1200 meter gain in elevation over 12K.
The first part of the trail is steep switch backs through a dense, rather unattractive forest. I was beginning to wonder why we were doing this trail
but about 45 minutes, up at the first viewpoint, the forest opens up with beautiful old growth trees that unfortunately block the view of the lake.
The trail continues to climb steadily until you reach a clearing with the first views of the top.
Across the clearing where the trail dips down onto a ridge was my favorite part of the trail. Here the track passes through a lovely forest of the crazy Monkey Puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana). The conical evergreen is native to this area and has thick leaves that hug the branches resulting in something that resembles spiny green snakes suspended out from a main trunk, the largest of which are gigantic and have a bark 6 inches thick.
From the ridge there are views overlooking the valley and the volcanos in the distance.
Nearing the end of the forested section the trail climbs more steeply. There are two stretches of dirt path through high shrubs where the thick branches and root structure aid your climb, otherwise the bare dirt is quite slippery. I can’t imagine what it would be like when wet. The first of the two is steeper and harder than the second.
Once through the shrubs the trail is exposed for the rest of the climb, often scrambling over boulders. It’s only very steep in short sections and you can see the end point at the end of the ridge.
The top was busy on this beautiful day, with lots of people picnicking on the rocks. I imagine it is worse in the height of the summer season.
From the top there are 360° views of lakes and volcanoes, including into Argentina.
Took us 3 and half hours up and 3 hours down.
For more information, the Travel Aid website has detailed trail descriptions and maps for a number of hikes around Pucón.