Considered one of most beautiful national parks in Chile's Lake District, Parque Nacional (PN) ConguillĂo has deep valleys and steep hills blanketed with aracaria. Laguna CaptrĂ©n, with its drowned forest, exudes a mystical ambiance. In other parts of the park, a lunar landscape burned by lava flows astounds visitors. Main protagonist in the molding of this landscape is VolcĂˇn Lalima (3125 m/10,157 ft). This volcano has erupted 49 times in recent history, the greatest eruptions having been in 1927 and 1957. It is presently active, with a major eruption in April 2009. The Mapuche's name for this swath of land reflected tranquility: KongĂĽjim, which in MapudungĂşn means â€śnestled in the pine nuts,â€ť referring to the fruits of the araucaria tree. The name Truful-Truful, one of the sectors of the park, signifies â€śmany fallsâ€ť in the same language.
Established in 195, PN ConguillĂo encompasses 60,832 hectares. It has a temperate climate. Temperatures range widely, from a summer average of 15ÂşC (59ÂşF) in January and in winter 6ÂşC (43ÂşF) average. The park receives 2000-2500 millimeters (79-99 in) of precipitation per year. Lower altitudes experience up to one meter (3.25 ft) of snow.
Aside from the extensive forests of araucaria (monkeypuzzle tree, Araucaria araucana) on top of hills, PN ConguillĂo also has roble (Nothofagus oblicua), coigĂĽe (Nothofagus dombeyi), lirio del campo (Inca Lily, Alstroemeria violacea ), capachito (jovellana, Jovellana punctata), lenga (lenga beech, Nothofagus pumilio), Ă±irre (Antarctic beech, Nothofagus Antarctica, lleuque (plum-fruited yew, Prumnopitys andina), ciprĂ©s de la cordillera (Chilean cedar, Austurocedrus chilensis), canelo (winter's bark, Drimys winteri) and raulĂ (Nothofagus alpina). Fauna to be found amongst the brush are puma (Puma concolor), zorro culpeo (Patagonian fox, Lycalopex culpaeus) and zorro chilla (South American grey fox, Psuedolopex griseus). Twenty-three species of birds may be observed, including Condor (Vultur gryphus), Carpintero Negro (Magellanic woodpecker, Campephilus magellanicus), Avutarda (ashy-headed goose, ChloĂ«phaga poliocephala), Tagua (red-gartered coot, Fulica armillata), Yeco (neotropic cormorant, Phalacrocorax brasilianus) and Pato Anteojillo (spectacled duck, Anas specularis), as well as other varieties of ducks.
PN ConguillĂo has many trails wending through its impressive landscapes. Whether you are just looking for some day hikes or the greatest challenges Chileâ€™s national parks offer, you can find it here. Below are a selection of the trails you can strike out on (all times are one way). Because of VolcĂˇn Llaimaâ€™s present activity, check with Conaf and the ranger stations within the park to see if any trails or sectors of the park are closed. Some senderos require park administration authorization.
For hikers with little experience, PN ConguillĂo has several interpretive trails that can be wandered:
CaĂ±adĂłn Truful-Truful (Distance: 0.8 km/ 0.5 mi, difficulty: easy, duration: 45 minutes) â€“ The main features of this path are geologic formations (basalt columns and lava flows), the Truful-Trufl waterfalls and birdwatching. This is the habitat of the Pato Correntino (torrent duck, Merganetta armata).
Las Vertientes (Distance: 0.8 km/0.5 mi, difficulty: easy, duration: 45 minutes) â€“ A path that passes through a varied forest.
Las Araucarias (Distance: 0.8 km/0.5 mi, difficulty: easy, duration: 45 minutes) â€“ Traversing araucaria forest, this track has 13 interpretive stations and the Velo de la Novia waterfall.
Trekkers looking for a bit more of a challenge can undertake one of these trails:
Sierra Nevada (Distance: 10 km/6 mi, difficulty: medium, duration: 3 hours) â€“ a loop through the mountains to 2554 meter (8300 ft) altitude. From the top you can clearly see VolcĂˇn Llaima. There are many waterfalls along the way and it is possible to see condors.
Los Carpinteros (Distance: 8 km/ 4.8 mi, difficulty: easy, duration: 2.5 hours) â€“ This part of the Sendero de Chile goes through ancient and dense araucaria forest, 1800 years old. It is the exclusive habitat of carpintero negro. In the MallĂn wetlands are much waterfowl.
Pastos Blancos (Distance: 11 km/6.6 mi, difficulty: medium, duration: 5 hours) â€“ A trail between Lago ConguillĂo and VolcĂˇn Llaima that traverses escoriales (lava flows) of the Valle de la Luna, with views of Lagunas, lakes and scars of volcanic eruptions.
Tramo de los Escoriales (Distance: 20 km/12 mi, difficulty: medium, duration: 7 hours) â€“ This connects Lago CaptrĂ©n and Truful-Truful ranger stations. You need sturdy boots resistant to razor-sharp lava landscape, as well as sun protection and water; park permission necessary.
El Contrabandista (Distance: 15 km/9 mi, difficulty: high, duration: 3.5 hours) â€“ Part of Sendero de Chile that was originally used by Pehuelche hunters, later by Chilean-Argentine smugglers. It wends along RĂo Blanco, Lagos Icalma and Calletue, providing opportunities to visit Pehuelche communities.
PN ConguillĂo has some senderos that are only for people who have expertise in mountain and glacier climbing:
TravesĂa RĂo Blanco (Distance: 5 km/3 mi, difficulty: expert, duration: 5 hours) â€“ This climb, which goes to 2500 meters (8125 ft) altitude, requires experience and mountain climbing equipment.
TravesĂa Malalcahuello (Distance: 10 km/6 mi, difficulty: expert, duration: 48 hours) â€“ This excursion into Sierra Nevada (to 1600 m/ 5200 ft altitude), towards Malalcahuello is only for those who are highly experienced; snow and ice equipment, and authorization from park are needed.
Ruta al Llaima (Distance: 8 km/4.8 mi, difficulty: expert, duration: 8 hours) â€“ The first part of this trail, as far as CaptrĂ©n, is easy. The goal of this trek is to the volcanoâ€™s crater at 3125 meters (10,157 ft). Adequate snow and ice climbing equipment, and park authorization are necessary.
ConguillĂo â€“ Los Paraguas (Distance: 9 km/5.4 mi, difficulty: expert, duration: 10 hours) â€“ This expedition is only for those with extensive glacier and mountaineering experience, and the proper equipment. Park permission is required.
PN ConguillĂo remains open year-long, providing snow sport enthusiasts opportunities to ski, snow board and do other activities. One resort is Los Paraguas, reached from GuarderĂa Agua las NiĂ±as. The resort has a hosterĂa, restaurant, refuge and ski slopes (Tel.: 045-56-2313).
The main administration of PN ConguillĂo is located in Sector Arco Iris. This is open only November-June. During the rest of the year, the administration moves to Sector Los Paraguas. In addition, there are four ranger stations: Truful-Truful (2 km/1.2 mi from the park entrance, 12 km/7.2 mi from AdministraciĂłn Arco Iris and 12 km/7.2 mi from Melipueco; open all year), Los Paraguas (3 km/1.8 mi from the entrance; open all year), Caseta CaptrĂ©n (11 km/ 6.6 mi from the entrance; open November-June) and Centro de Visitantes (10 km/6 mi from Caseta CaptrĂ©n, 17 km/10.2 mi from Truful-Truful, 5 km/3 mi from AdministraciĂłn Arco Iris; open December-March). The entry fee into is different, depending on where you enter. At Caseta Los Paraguas the cost for Chileans is adults $1, seniors $0.50 and children $0.40; for foreigners adults $2, seniors and children $1. At the Truful-Truful ranger station, Chileans are charged adults $6, seniors $3 and children $2, and foreigners adults $8, seniors and children $4.
The Temuco office of Conaf has a topographical map-brochure of PN ConguillĂo showing the trails, campsites and other services. The park administration also publishes a bilingual pamphlet-map, entitled GuĂa Senderos / AraucanĂa Trails (free) which has GPS coordinates for ConguillĂo and other regional national parks. Check for current road and weather conditions with Conaf or the carabineros.
The park has camping at Laguna CaptrĂ©n and Lago ConguillĂo, and cabaĂ±as (information / reservations Tel.: 045-29-8210, E-mail: email@example.com).
Camping: December 15-February 28 $30, March 1-December 14 $20
CabaĂ±as: December 15-February 28 $90-110, March 1-December 14 $70-80
La Baita ConguillĂo eco-lodge has cabins on RĂo Truful with views of VolcĂˇn Llaima. Facilities include restaurant, spa and tours (045-58-1253, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, URL: www.labaitaconguillio.cl). Hotels, restaurants and other services are also available in CuracautĂn to the west and Melipueco to the south.