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Parque Nacional La Campana - Activity Info. - Chile

Area code: 33

Altitude: lowest: 400 meters (1,312 ft); highest: 2,222 m (7,290 ft)

Occupying 8,000 hectares (80 square kilometers) in the middle of the coastal mountain range, Parque Nacional La Campana is one of the central zone's definitive areas. Created in 1967 and named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1984, the park is home to one of Chile's last remaining palm forests and the imposing Cerro La Campana, one of the most-climbed peaks in Chile. The park lies 60 kilometers (37 mi) east of Viña del Mar and 112 kilometers (70 mi) northwest of Santiago, where the forests of southern Chile spill into the the desert brush of the north. The park has three sectors: Ocoa, Granizo and Cajón Grande; each is connected by trails that meet in the center at the Portezuelo Ocoa.

Parqe Nacional La Campana has a Mediterranean climate, and receives coastal mists and fog. Summers are scorching, while winters are rainy. The park is flush with flora and fauna–there are more than 300 different plant and 50 bird species. Srubland vegetation and roble (oak) forest are predominant, while patagua (a type of evergreeen) and quillay (soap bark tree) thrive in the park's arid summers and deciduous forests, cacti and shrubbery flourish at higher elevations. The park's star flora are the slow-growing Chilean palms (palma de coquitos), which often top out at 30 meters (98 ft) and live to be 1,000 years old. The trees feature tiny cocounut-like fruits and bulgy trunks that can measure a meter or more in diameter. Thanks to a reforestation program and protection efforts the palm has bounced back from an overexploited past in which it was all but wiped out. The palm is favored for its sap, used to make miel de palma. It is not unusual to come across burnt-out, discarded ovens in the park, once used to boil the tree's sap. The park is home to foxes, wildcats, a variety of rodents such vizcachas and chinchillas, skunks, and legions of bird species. Finches, mockingbirds, tapaculos, owls and giant hummingbirds are just a few of the many species that make Parque Nacional La Campana a prime birding destination.

Trekking is the park's star activity–hiking Cerro La Campana will test even the most tried hikers. Granite rock climbing is possible below the summit. The park's giant network of linked hiking trails make for endless exploring and reward with ocean and Andes views. Biking and horseback riding opportunities exist as well. Parque Nacional La Campana is open year-round, and spring is considered the best time to visit. Park Rangers collect admission fees at the entrances–it is cheaper for children and the retired–and sometimes have maps and books on flora, fauna and conservation. Tour operators offer hiking trips from October to April. The best are El Caminante (071-197-0096, turismocaminante@trekkingchile.com, www.trekkingchile.com) and Altué Active Travel (562-235-1519, www.altue.com).

Ocoa

Around 5440 meters in area, northern Ocoa is home to the world's most southerly palm groves and is popular with birders and hikers. Two kilometers past the sector entrance, Sendero El Amasijo begins and climbs up through palm forest to the Portezuelo de Granizo (good views on clear days), where it forks: Sendero Los Robles descends south to Cajón Grande, while Sendero Los Peumos heads west to Granizo. Both legs Starting from Ocoa and fnishing via either leg takes the better part of a day. Potable water is almost nonexistent, so come prepared. An four-hour round trip on Sendero La Cascada gets you to and from Salto de la Cortadera, a 30-meter (98-ft) waterfall that swells during spring runoff. The giant hummingbird is most widely seen here in spring and summer.

Granizo

Lush 972-hectare Granizo is a trekker's utopia. Sendero Los Peumos runs from the entrance to the Portezuelo Ocoa, while hiking Sendero La Canasta provides the sector's best survey of the flora and fauna. Hiking Sendero Andinista leads to Cerro La Campana's 1880-meter (6168-ft) summit, where Charles Darwin stood in 1834. The view from the top includes the Pacific, the Andes and Santiago. To say the hike is arduous, is an understatement. Normally an eight-hour roundtrip, the terrrain is often suspect and change in elevation is swift: a rise of 1455 meters (4773 ft) in 7 kilometers (4 mi). Most of the hike is shaded, and the trail passes through three natural springs with potable water–the last, la mina, is an abandoned mine site with drive-in campground. Above the springs, at around 1500 meters, there are two commemorative markings: one honoring Darwin, and the other remembering climbers who died in an 1868 landslide. Adjacent to Granizo, 1,588-hectare Cajón Grande features an oak forest-filled canyon, El Plateau and La Poza del Coipo, a freshwater pond.

Where to stay

Camping is the park's only accommodation option. Each sector has a number of tent campsites. Camping in the backcountry requires the permission of Conaf. Lodging outside the park can be found in Olmué, Limache, Villa Alemana, and Viña del Mar. In Olmué, try Hosteria el Copihué (Diego Portales 2203, 441-544) or Residencial Sarmiento (Blanco Encalada 4647, 441-263)<acc_price></acc_price>.

Getting to and away

Granizo and Cajón Grande are accessed via Olmué, a kilometer southwest of the park. Buses run from Viña del Mar and and Santiago through Limache to Olmué. You can also reach Granizo from Valparaíso (60 kilometers to the east) by hopping on Limache-bound buses that run along Errázuriz. Direct access to Ocoa is tricky. Most northbound buses from Santiago drop you off at Hijuelas and from there you must hitchhike or walk the remaining 12 kilometers (7 mi) to the entrance, or grab a taxi. If you have your own transportation, from Santiago, take Ruta 5 Norte, turning at kilometer 100 and following the road for 12.5 kilometers (8 mi) until you hit the Ocoa entrance. If you are Olmué-bounded, you can either take Ruta 5 Norte followed by Ruta 60, or drive Ruta 5 Norte and Til-Til.

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