If you are traveling anywhere between Coyhaique and Puyuhuapi on Carretera Austral, you will surely be visiting the incredible Vestisquero Colgante 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.
The 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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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.
Getting to Queulat National Park from Puyuhuapi: 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.
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.
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 entrance fee and hours
Admission to Queulat National Park is CLP $4000 for adult foreigners. The park is open daily until 4pm-5pm.
Hike to the Ventisquero Colgante (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More on traveling in Chile: Rafting through Patagonia in the Beautiful Futaleufu River
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.
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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