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Explore Ventisquero Colgante: The Hanging Glacier at Queulat National Park

If you are traveling anywhere between Coyhaique and Puyuhuapi on Carretera Austral, you will surely be visiting the incredible Vestisquero Colgante, as known as the hanging glacier, at Queulat National Park. It is a wild place where you will find moderate jungles, sharp valleys, Andeans icefields and mountains, and South-Pacific channels and fjords.

Queulat National Park hanging glacier

The hanging glacier at Queulat National Park

Queulat National Park has neither been discovered nor colonized, so it still remains as a remote and unexplored part of Chile. The park was opened to the public on October 13, 1983, and the most popular attraction in this park is Ventisquero Colgante, aka the Hanging Glacier.

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Location

Queulat National Park is 23-kilometers away from its nearest town, Puyuhuapi, a beautiful and peaceful fishing village. It is a remote place for travelers to enjoy aquamarine sports, fishing trips, spa treatments, and craftsmanship.

The hanging Glacier at Queulat National Park

Puyuhuapi, a quaint fishing village on Carretera Austral, Patagonia, Chile

Getting to Queulat National Park: a dreadful road trip in Patagonia

There is a bus departing daily from Puyuhuapi to the park but the schedule is unreliable and the price is exorbitant for a 30-minute ride, so I decided to hitchhike, which is a common way of travel through Carretera Austral.

Luckily, the hostel owner’s son was on his way to the park, so she asked me to hitch a ride with him with two French guests, Paul and Anna. Though we were happy that we did not need to stand on the road and wait for a ride, it turned out that this 23km ride to the Queulat National Park was a terrible experience.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

There were serious road constructions taking place with traffic lights and impatient drivers. The part where the construction work was going on was a one-lane road, so we had to wait for vehicles in the opposite direction to pass. Unfortunately, this never happened.

The road was blocked on both sides for the road work and there was little communication on how long the road would be opened to us to cross. We queued up for an hour and a half before we saw a boat and hopped on it to cross the river to the other side. When we returned, we spent another 90 minutes in the car for the same routine. We lost hours waiting on the road and what was supposed to be a few hours’ trip turned into a very long day.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

This is the part where the road blocked on both sides for construction work

The boat ride was less than ten minutes but it did offer some stunning panoramic views of the lake and the mountains in the remote region of Patagonia.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

When the boat comes, the pressure still goes on, as the boat can only hold limited number of vehicles.

Queulat National Park entrance fee and hours

Admission to Queulat National Park is CLP $4000 for adult foreigners. The park is open daily until 4pm-5pm.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

The signpost and the map at Queulat National Park entrance | photo credit: Neil Wilkie via Flicker

Hike to the hanging glacier

The only way to reach the glacier is to hike in and there are several different trails designed for people with all ages and physicality. Among them, Iceberg Lagoon circuit is very short at 600 meters, and the trail is flat. We decided to walk on the Mirador Trail, which is a 3.3 km one-way hike through the enchanted forest leading us to a higher observation platform facing the glacier and the turquoise lagoon underneath.

Follow the map, we turned left from the ticket office and crossed through the suspension bridge with a raging river underneath. We then entered the forest where the real hike began.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

Crossing suspension bridge with raging river underneath inside Queulat National Park

The difficulty level of this hike is medium, as it marked on the map. The path is unpaved and flat at the beginning. Shortly after, the ascent begins. At some point, the trail becomes dodgy with trees blocking the path, poorly maintained stairs high up to my knees, and plenty of mud and swamps that we needed to hop around. I would recommend that you wear a pair of waterproof boots so you do not get your feet wet if you accidentally step into the mud.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

Hike in the enchanged forest to the hanging Glacier | photo credit: Cristian Gonzalez G via Flicker

After two hours hiking in the forest and a small creek crossing, we arrived at the observation platform with a panoramic view of the glacier. The glacier was hanging on the mountains and formed a waterfall constantly running off and dropping into the Ventisquero River and lagoon. The vista is incredible and even the cloudy day did not ruin how beautiful this glacier is.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

Ventisquero Colgante: view of the hanging glacier on a cloudy day

If you cannot see the glacier because of the cloudy sky, wait for at least 20 minutes. Once the sky is clear, you can see the mountains and lagoons surrounding the hanging glacier in its full beauty and glory. If you are lucky, you can even see the glacier melting into the water and creating an explosive sound.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

The hike back to the visitor center was easier and only took us an hour. The trail was a bit steep, slippery, and muddy in parts so I just jumped and ran. We then turned right at the visitor center and took a 600-meter walk to view Iceberg Lagoon. The walk was easy and the view of the glacier was equally beautiful.

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Queulat National Park trip tips

Hiking: You do not need to be super fit to hike the 3.3-km Mirador Trail, as the trail is not difficult to walk. There are sections where it is a bit treacherous, steep and muddy, and you just need to be careful walking around. If you have bad knees or have problems walking around the rocks or jagged surfaces, I do not recommend it.

Queulat National Park Hanging Glacier

Walk in the enchanted forest to the hanging glacier in the Queulat National Park | photo credit: Vera & Jean-Christophe via Flicker

Guide and camping: There is no need to hire a guide to visit the park. The map at the visitor center is clear and it is impossible to get lost on the trail. If you want to stay longer, you can camp in the park for CLP $5,000 and stargaze.

Hitchhiking: If you need to hitchhike, start talking to people and ask around in the hostels and in the park, so you do not lose time waiting for a ride on the road. We know it is difficult for three people to get a ride, so we approached two locals in the parking lot and they were willing to take us.

The weather: The climate in Queulat National Park is unpredictable; it can be sunny in an hour and cloudy and raining in another hour. If you visit during the winter season, be prepared to walk through the snow on the trail. You need to exercise some luck when it comes to seeing the hanging glacier under the blue sky.

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Queulat National Park's Hanging Glacier in Patagonia Chile

Julie Cao
 

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and has made her way to Toronto Canada. In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people and the place.

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