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Reserva Nacional Coyhaique

Created in 1948, Reserva Nacional (RN) Coyhaique is one of the oldest nature preserves in the Aysén region. This 2,150-hectare (5,313-acre) reserve on the southern slopes of Cerro Chicao is surrounded by forest, agricultural and cattle lands. Various small rivers flow through the park, to the Río Coyhaique. Major bodies of water are the lagoons (lagunas) Verde, Los Mallines, Venus and Los Sapos. RN Coyhaique has a relatively dry climate, in comparison with other parts of the zone. It receives only 1100 millimeters (43.5 in) of rain per year. In summer, temperatures average 12.5ºC (55ºF) and in winter 4.5ºC (40ºF).


RN Coyhaique has a mixed forest of coigüe común (Nothofagus dombeyi), lenga (lenga beech, Nothofagus pumilio) and ñire (Antarctic beech, Nothofagus antarctica). This park could easily be nicknamed Strawberry Fields for its common ground cover, frutilla Silvestre (wild strawberry, Fregaria chiloensis). Fauna frequently seen are puma (Puma concolor), zorro colorado (Patagonian fox, Lycalopex culpaeus) and chingue de la Patagonia (Patagonian skunk, Conepatus humboldti). Flitting through the forests are Cometocino Patagónico (Patagonian Sierra Finch, Phrygilus patagonicus), Jilguero (Black-chinned Siskin, Carduelis barbatus), Águila (Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Geranoetus melanoleucus), Carancho (Southern Caracara, Polyborus plancus), Carpintero Negro, (Magellanic Woodpecker, Campephilus magellanicus), Cachaña (Austral Parakeet, Enicognathus ferrugineus) and other avifauna. Introduced mammal species include liebre (common hare, Lepus capensis) and visón (American mink, Mustela vison). Exotic birds like Gorrión (House Sparrow, Passer domesticus), Cordorniz Californiana (California Quail, Callipepla californica) and Faisán (Common Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus) can also be found.


The reserve is divided into two sectors: Casa Bruja and Laguna Verde. Sector Casa Bruja has a historical museum. In Sector Laguna Verde are an arboretum featuring the park’s major tree species and various hiking trails, or senderos, including:

  • Los Leñeros (Distance: 2.1 km / 1.25 mi, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 1.5 hr) – From the Laguna Verde ranger post to Casa Bruja.
  • Los Troperos (Distance: 1.5 km / 1 mi, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 1 hr) – An interpretive trail from Laguna Verde to the Las Piedras trailhead; watch the signs, as this is a fragile ecosystem.
  • Los Carboneros (Distance: 960 m / 0.6 mi, Difficulty: easy-medium, Duration: 30 min) – From Laguna Los Mallines to Laguna Venus; walk quietly so you can observe the wildlife.
  • Los Tejuelos (Distance: 1.9 km / 1.2 mi, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 1 hr) – From Laguna Venus to Laguna Los Sapos, through an area frequented by pumas.
  • El Chucao (Distance: 2.1 km / 1.3 mi, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 1.30 hr) – downhill from Laguna Los Sapos to Laguna Verde ranger station.
  • Las Piedras (Distance: 6.64 km / 4.2 mi, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 3 hr) – From Sendero Tejuelos, around Cerro Chucao. Combined with the Los Tejuelos and El Chucao trails, this is a one-day hike.

All trail times given are one way. Many of the trails are continuations of others. In winter, they can be snowshoed or cross-country skied. Conaf has a topographical map of the park, showing the trails and GPS points. This is available at the Conaf office in Coyhaique (Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 2:30-5:30 p.m. Los Coigües s/n, Tel.: 21-2142). At any time of the year, warm clothing and windbreakers are recommended, especially on Sendero Las Piedras. Always carry food and water. RN Coyhaique is open all year, daily 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (except overnight camping). Entry into the park for foreigners is adult $4 and children $1; for Chileans, adult $1.60, children $0.60. Both sectors of RN Coyhaique have campgrounds, costing $9 per tent for up to six persons. Casa Bruja has five campground sites with bathhouse and showers, located two kilometers (1.2 mi) from the ranger station. Laguna Verde has four sites with bathhouse, wash basins and car park. Take precautions against hanta virus. There is also a private campsite at the crossroads before the park entrance ($8).


Other places nearby Reserva Nacional Coyhaique: Puerto Aysén, Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael , Puerto Bertrand, Puerto Chacabuco , Villa Cerro Castillo, Reserva Nacional Río Simpson, Chaitén, Parque Nacional Hornopirén, Monumento Nacional Dos Lagunas and Hornopirén Village.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

07 Jul 2009

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