March 8, 2018
This scenic hike around the lakes has a shorter option and a longer option that includes a couple of more lakes. We did the longer circuit but in late summer these two outer lagunas were dryer and not as pretty as the lakes on the short circuit. The forest on both routes is a combination of open forest with huge trees and more closed in forest with considerable underbrush.
Staying at the Refugio Tinquilco (see the following post) just at the start of the Los Lagos hike is a definite advantage for those who want to stay ahead of the crowds. This is a very popular hike, but starting out from the refugio at 9:30 we were ahead of most everyone. We only saw one guy and one couple until later in the day when we were heading back down. A real luxury on such a beautiful late summer day.
The trail is steep. Not as steep as the trail up Cerro San Sebatián, but still the long circuit has a total ascent of over 1000 meters, the short circuit over 700 meters. These are not easy hikes for those who are not used to steep trails.
It’s a 1.7k hike up the road from the CONAF parking area to the Tinquilco Refugio where we started the hike. From here it’s about 2k up a wide trail to the control point for the Los Lagos trail. The trail gets prettier as you leave civilization behind and enter the old growth forest. The climb for the most part is well graded.
Past the control point the climb becomes steeper, some of it aided by stairways and a plank path with foot holds.
Along the ascent there are two detours to visit waterfalls. Both go down, down, down to the falls. We only went to the first falls, Nido de Aguila. Pretty but for me not worth the descent and climb back up. The falls are probably more impressive earlier in the year when there is more water running.
There are also two viewpoints with views of Lake Tinquilco and the Villarrica Volcano.
Trail markers note the distance and time to Lago Verde. It took us about 2 hours from the refugio with frequent photo stops, about what the signs said.
Once up the ridge and down a bit the trail levels off somewhat around the lakes. Lago Chico is the first. A scenic spot to snap a view photos. The trail runs along Lago Chico and then on to Lago Verde, A beautiful deep lake.
From here you have a choice to go Lago Toro for the short circuit or up to Lagos Pato and Huerquehue.
The trail climbs to Lago Pato, a brown dry pond of not much interest but with a great stand of Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana).
This is near the high point of the trail but not the last of the steep sections. The trail continues through the forest and then a long descent to Lake Huerquehue, another brown dry pond of even less interest.
From Lago Huerquehue the trail continues mostly down to Lago Toro, a pretty lake with a grassy shore, before climbing again.
Walking along the ridge with views of the lake between the trees was my favorite section of the trail. The track descends and climbs a couple of more times before you hit the short cutoff trail that connects to the trail leading back down.
From the refugio it took us 6 hours with a short lunch at Lago Huerquehue. Overall it’s a beautiful walk through an old growth forest with lake views.
For more information, the Travel Aid website has detailed trail descriptions and maps for a number of hikes around Pucón.