39.1685° S, 71.7255° W
HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK NEAR THE TOWN OF PUCON, CHILE IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO EXPLORE THE FAMOUS ARAUCANIA TREES AND TAKE IN VIEWS OF CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN LAKES. LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS CHILEAN NATIONAL PARK BELOW.
If you are an adventure traveler in search of stunning natural scenery, clear alpine lakes and pre-historic trees, then you need to add Huerquehue National Park to your Chile bucket list. This large national park is located in the heart of the Lake District in central Chile and within a short drive (or more likely, bus ride) from the top-tier adventure town of Pucón.
We visited Huerquehue in mid-December and found it to be absolutely stunning: vibrant green forests with moss-covered trees, gently rolling streams, singing birds and lizards sunning themselves on sparkly granite rocks.
While the trails were a bit crowded - we journeyed to the park on a beautiful Saturday in the heart of the busy season - we were still able to find a bit of solitude, especially past the two main lakes of Lago Verde and Lago Toro.
If you are a hiker, birder or someone who just wants to escape the business of Pucón, then definitely make sure to spend a day (or more) in Huerquehue National Park during your visit to central Chile.
➳ You will need to make a reservation before you head to the national park. You must do this online, find the link here.
HISTORY OF HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK
This centrally located national park is actually one of Chile’s oldest protected wildlands. In fact, its history dates all the way back to 1912 when the Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna Park was created. Later on, that park's name changed to Colico and also added a decent amount of land to its boundaries (at its height, the national park encompassed 265,000 hectares). Finally, in 1967 the park was officially renamed Huerquehue National Park and downsized to 12,500 hectares (which is what it stands at today).
❔GOOD TO KNOW: while the national park only includes 12,500 hectares, the rest of the land that once made up Colico is still protected. It has just been divided into other parks and reserves.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK
The national park experiences two major seasonal climates: a warm, dry summer that lasts for about 4 months of the year and a cold, icy winter caused by the park's high altitude (snow is actually quite common during the winter, especially in the higher lakes area).
Likewise, the wettest months in the region are from May to September. Overall, between that time, you can expect around 80 inches of rain (especially during the months of June and August).
In our opinion, one of the best times to visit Huerquehue National Park is between the months of December and February when the weather is at its nicest (or at least warmest). January is usually the busiest time in the Pucón area, so if you want to avoid large crowds and busy trails, consider visiting in December.
EXPLORING HUERQUEHUE NATIONAL PARK | THE NITTY-GRITTY
COST: 8,000 CLP to enter (~ $8.50 USD) per person as a foreigner (4,000 CLP as a Chilean)
HOW TO GET THERE: by public bus from the town of Pucón or via a private car
LOCATION: the national park is located 1.5 hours (by bus) from downtown Pucón near the town of Caburgua
TOP ADVENTURE: hiking up to the many lakes (lagos) and stopping to check out a few large waterfalls (saltos)
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: the national park is only open Tuesday - Sunday (it's closed on Mondays) and the gate opens at 8:30 AM.
\\ Why Visit Huerquehue National Park
Located on the banks of Lago Tinquilco (Tinquilco Lake) and high up in the forested hills, Huerquehue National Park is a fantastic place to head to if you want to explore high mountain lakes, see some raging waterfalls and check out some local flora and fauna.
The national park is home to Chilla and Culpeo foxes, Chiloé marsupials (a small animal affectionately called the “Mountain Monkey” in Spanish because of its appearance), the Pudú, aka the smallest species of deer in the world, and finally, pumas. Likewise, within the park you have a good chance of spotting various birds, insects and lizards.
Likewise, Huerquehue National Park is actually one of the best examples of a Valdivian temperate rainforest, which is an ecoregion found on the west coast of southern South America and mostly within the countries of Chile and Argentina. This type of forest is characterized by dense undergrowth and plant species such as bamboo, ferns, and large deciduous trees.
\\ How to Get to Huerquehue National Park
The easiest and most affordable way to get to Huerquehue National Park is to take a public bus. It costs 5,200 CLP ($5.90 USD) per person to get to the national park and then back to Pucón (aka a round-trip ticket).
You will need to pick up the national park bus at the Caburgua bus station in downtown Pucón (exact location). The first bus leaves the station at 8:30 AM. It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the national park entrance from downtown Pucón.
❔GOOD TO KNOW: if you choose to buy the full round-trip ticket up front (which we recommend), then you will need to hang on to your ticket so you can show it to the driver before you hop on the return bus. The ticket is a small piece of paper so make sure to keep it somewhere safe.
The last bus leaves the national park entrance (where you will also be dropped off) at ~5:10 PM. Unless you want to hitchhike back to Pucón, this is the bus you need to be on.
\\ The Top Hikes in Huerquehue National Park
There are a good number of hiking trails within Huerquehue National Park - including one of the most famous hikes in the Pucón area, the Huerquehue Lakes Trail.
A few important things to know about hiking in Huerquehue National Park is that almost all of the trails will include a decent amount of uphill. This is because the entrance station is at the edge of the lake and at the lowest elevation. To reach any of the major points of interest (lakes, waterfalls or mountain tops) you will need to gain a decent amount of elevation.
Likewise, expect the trails to be a bit muddy and/or slippery. In some sections - especially near the waterfalls - the trail can be quite soaked and therefore a bit slick and tougher to walk around on.
But with all of that being said, hiking in Huerquehue is a fantastic adventure and definitely one worth doing. Explore our breakdown of the main hiking trails below.
HUERQUEHUE LAKES TRAIL (LOS LAGOS)
DISTANCE: 13 kilometers // 8 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 689 meters // 2,260 feet
The main trail in the national park is the Los Lagos loop (really more of a lollipop) that starts and ends at the park entrance station (where the public bus drops you off). The Los Lagos trail is partly on a road until you reach Refugio Trinquilo - a building off the side of the trail. From there the trail is mostly singletrack and uphill. Luckily, almost the whole trail is shaded - making it definitely bearable and really quite pleasant even on the hottest days.
After almost a mile of climbing you will reach another national park gate and sign. This guard station was unmanned when we did the hike, though the bathrooms were still open and usable (and not too dirty). From the guard station it is 1.5 miles of climbing until you see your first lake (Lago Chico). Along this section of the trail you have the opportunity to check out two waterfalls - Nido de Aguila and Cascada Trufulco.
Between the guard station and the first lake the trail is mostly switchbacks. There are a few flat(ish) sections but for the most part it is up and up some more. If you are not in the best of shape or if you have sore knees, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get up this section. Likewise, the trail is not very wide and it can be busy - on the weekends especially. So if you see someone heading down and you can let them by you, please do (and do the same when heading down if you see someone hiking up).
Once you get past Lago Chico you will need to decide if you want to do the full small loop (aka finish the lollipop) or just head to one of the lakes nearby (either Lago Verde or Lago Toro).
We decided to head to Lago Toro and do the loop counter-clockwise (this ended up not exactly happening). First we ate lunch along the bank of Toro and refilled our water bottles before continuing on down the trail. By the time we got to the cut off for the smaller loop we were itching to see more of the forest - which at this point was full of colorful flowers and hundreds of araucania trees - so we decided to take on the longer loop.
If you don't want to do the longer loop (see more on it below) you will need to turn left and make your way toward Lago Verde (or vice versa - Lago Verde to Lago Toro). We did hear that the trail between the two lakes was a bit overgrown, so be prepared to climb over some large fallen trees.
➳ Check out the Alltrails hiking map for more information on the main Huerquehue Lakes Loop.