Hiking Puyehue Volcano
Just a bit of info and some tips on doing one of the Chilean Lake District’s most amazing hikes. I could only find scraps of information online about Puyehue Volcano so thought I would write a bit to help out any wannabe Chile volcano baggers! While there are more famous volcanos to hike in Pucon, this one is equally spectacular and won’t break the bank!
I did this hike while staying at Patagonia Adventures at Centro Turismo Anticura, I was doing Workaway here where I volunteered in return for a bed in a cabin and food as well as the chance to explore Puyehue National Park. I got a bunch of advice from the guys who work there which was super helpful.
From Anticura it is a 2km walk along the road to El Caulle, a restaurant at the trail head where you pay 5000 pesos to hike the volcano. This helps to keep the midway Refugio (refuge/ bothy/ cabin) free and also means you have registered your info and when you plan to return in case you have any problems.
The hike itself is usually split into two sections, the first takes approximately 3-4 hours and climbs steeply through the forest up to the refugio and the second is another 3-4 hours or so up to the summit. If you are feeling energetic or are short on time like me, you can choose to do it all in one day. I have to admit that I found it hard but if you have a good level of fitness it is definitely doable. The other option that many take is to hike to the refugio and spend the night there then head up to the summit the following day when you are rested and fresh.
From El Caulle, the path runs along a farm track and after a sign marking the left turn, the track begins to climb a little through the trees. After a short flat clearing, the route goes up steeply through the forest for around 2.5-3.5 hours until you reach the Refugio. The path is marked with coloured tape/ ribbons and painted spots on trees so keep an eye out for these to make sure you don’t take a wrong turn.
While I was hiking I found myself being tailed by two horses, one carrying a rider and one carrying a load of ski gear which put the pressure on a bit. There’s nothing like a very large horse breathing down your neck to make you get a wriggle on! I didn’t realise until we reached the refugio that the horses were supporting a group of Argentinian guys who were planning to hike up and ski down the volcano. They were just getting a little four-legged help with the first bit.
The Refugio is a good place to stop either for the night or just for a rest and a bite to eat. As a place to stay it is very basic with just bedframes and a stove but with good friends and/ or good wine it makes for a great place to stop over to catch sunrise and sunset over the surrounding mountains. There is also a small stream nearby for fresh water should you need to top up your water bottle.
From the Refugio, the path runs off to the right and then curves around avoiding a couple of deep gullies. The start of the path is marked with a tall stick and then is easy to follow through the tall grass and across the dark remains of the lava flow from the last eruption. Cairns (piles of stones) and sticks are used to mark the route as you begin to climb.
Continuing my penchant for being stalked by animals, at this point I was followed by an eagle for most of the climb, I think he was either after my sandwiches or hoping I would die and he would have first dibs on my carcass!
I did this hike in spring (October) and so I was soon faced with a completely snow covered face and it was time to pull on my snowshoes. At this point, ahead you can see a false summit (just a warning so as not to get your hopes up) and here I climbed straight, keeping to the left of the dark ridge. When you get to the top of this section, it is not far to the real summit and crater of the volcano. Just keep slightly right and then follow the shape of the landscape as it curves to the left leading you up to the crater.
Unfortunately, when I was at the top my views consisted mainly of cloud. However, when the cloud did lift briefly there were incredible views across the surrounding lakes and peaks.
The way back down is pretty straight forward, you just go back the way you came, hopefully with lots of incredible photos from the summit!