Sights and Recreation
Parque Nacional Puyehue consists of three distinct sectors: Aguas Calientes at its southwestern border, Antillanca at its southeastern border, and Anticura, mostly north of Ruta 215.
From the Termas de Puyehue junction, a paved road leads four kilometers south to Termas Aguas Calientes (tel. 064/331710), where the highlight is its namesake thermal baths, open to hotel guests, campers, and day-trippers alike. Under the same management as Termas de Puyehue, its rates are more affordable.
Several short nature trails and one longer hike start here. The six-kilometer Sendero El Pionero switchbacks through dense Valdivian forest to a ridgetop with panoramic northern vistas of Lago Puyehue, the wooded Río Golgol valley, and the Volcán Puyehue’s barren cone, before continuing to Lago Espejo and then returning along the Antillanca road. Along its namesake river, the Sendero Rápidos del Chanleufú passes through 1,200 meters of gallery forest. The 11-kilometer Sendero Lago Bertín climbs steadily to its namesake lake, where backcountry camping is possible.
From Aguas Calientes, the road becomes a gravel surface that leads another 18 kilometers to the base of Volcán Casablanca, where Antillanca is a popular hotel and ski resort between early June and late October; in summer it’s open for hikers, mountain bikers, anglers, and general recreationists even though there’s no campground in the area. Pool access for nonguests costs US$5 per person, while mountain-bike rental costs US$15 per day.
Where the public road ends, the Club Andino Osorno maintains a toll road (US$5 per vehicle) to the 1,262-meter Cráter Raihuén, an extinct but scenic volcanic crater, and Cerro Mirador, the starting point for several high-country trails. Pay at the hotel office, which opens the gate and provides a decent topographic map.
Ranging from 1,050 meters at its base to 1,514 meters above sea level on Cerro Haique, the ski area itself has beginner, intermediate, and expert slopes. For more details, contact the Centro Turístico Deportivo Antillanca at the Club Andino Osorno (Casilla 765, O’Higgins 1073, Osorno, tel. 064/232297, fax 064/238877, www.skiantillanca.com).
From Termas de Puyehue, Ruta 215 heads northeast up the Río Golgol valley for 17 kilometers to Anticura, before continuing to Chilean customs and immigration at Pajaritos and on to the Argentine border. At Anticura, there is camping and access to several short trails and some longer ones.
The 950-meter Sendero Educativo Salto del Indio is a signed nature trail leading to a waterfall on the Río Golgol; it takes its name from a local legend that a fugitive Mapuche hid to avoid forced labor in a colonial gold mine. An overnight excursion up the Río Anticura valley leads to Pampa Frutilla, now part of the Sendero de Chile. Areas east of Pajaritos, the Chilean border post, require Conaf permission to hike or otherwise explore because it’s a legal no-man’s land and, unfortunately, this means limited access to large parts of the park.
From El Caulle, two kilometers west of Anticura, a 16-kilometer trail climbs steeply to the flanks of Volcán Puyehue, where there’s a simple refugio and camping is also possible; alternatively, continue through a barren volcanic landscape of fumaroles and lava flows to rustic thermal pools where it’s also possible to camp.
At the trailhead, though, ex-UDI senator Marcos Cariola’s Turismo El Caulle (Ruta 215, Km 90, tel. 099/6412000, www.elcaulle.com) demands a US$16 toll for the right to pass through his property; this includes use of the refugio, but Cariola’s cattle have badly eroded parts of the trail. It’s possible to hike through to Riñinahue, at Lago Ranco’s south end (where there’s a smaller US$4 toll) rather than return to El Caulle.
Volcán Puyehue itself is a flat-topped Holocene caldera, measuring 2.4 kilometers in diameter; it sits within a larger caldera measuring five kilometers across. The most recent eruptions have come not from the summit caldera, but from vents on its western, southern, and eastern flanks, and a small cone on the southern flank.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition