trip report: Patagonia, January 2019 – part 6: Parque Nacional Queulat & Ventisquero Colgante

The vastness of Patagonia contains many spectacular mountains, valleys, glaciers, and lakes. Many of these areas are untouched by trails and very difficult to access without extensive skills. It may be one of the hopes of the Chile’s Route of Parks initiative to eventually expand accessibility for hikers and tourists to these hidden vistas. But for now, we would only catch a glimpse of the glacier spilling out between the rock faces. That sums up my descriptions of the popular Ventisquero Colgante, one of the only established and open hikes in the area around Parque Nacional Queulat.

This is part 6 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

index

1 planning & research
2 trip report: getting in & Huemul Circuit
3 trip report: Ruta 40 & driving on the Carretera Austral
4 trip report: Marble Cave on General Carrera Lake & Glaciar Exploradores
5 trip report: Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo
6 trip report: Parque Nacional Queulat & Ventisquero Colgante
      6.1 trail information
      6.2 report
      6.3 ratings
7 trip report: Futaleafú
8 trip report: Pumalín National Park
9 trip report: getting out via San Carlos de Bariloche & Mexico City
10 final impressions & budget

This part of the trip report details our adventures on day 12 of our travels on Ruta 40 and the Carretera Austral. For the complete summary of the road trip, see part 3 of the trip report.

trail information

  • Mirador Ventisquero Colgante & Mirador Panorámico
  • gps track – alltrails wikiloc
  • type: in & out
  • distance: 4.5 miles (7.24 km)
  • elevation change: 1679 ft ascent & descent (512 m)
  • time: 3:01 hours (2:14 hours moving)
  • location: Parque Nacional Queulat, Aysén, Chile near Puyuhaupi (google maps)

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There are 4 specific trails in the Ventisquero Colgante section of Parque Nacional Queulat. Our hike consisted of Mirador Ventisquero Colgante and Mirador Panorámico. The former is the main hike here while the latter is a viewpoint hike from the parking area.

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Alternatively, Laguna Témpanos trail (alltrails) is a short distance hike to the docks on Laguna Témpanos with a view of the hanging glacier as well.

El Aluvión trail (youtube), which is an interpretative trail that goes through a cave formed by a few large boulders and next to Río Ventisquero.

The only other established trail in Parque Nacional Queulat was Bosque Encantado (wikiexplora) further south on the Carretera Austral, but it was closed during our visit due to a landslide (CONAF).

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report

It rained continuously overnight and was drizzling lightly on and off as we pulled up to the entrance of Ventisquero Colgante of Parque Nacional Queulat.

The cost to enter the park was CLP$5000 per person (CLP$10000 for 2, USD$14.91 at the time of purchase) and we were required to show our passport. It was a short drive past the campsites in the park until we reached the parking area for the hikes. Nearby, there was a small building with information on the area and a bathroom.

The Ventisquero Colgante hike is a popular hike among travelers on Carretera Austral, especially since it is the only established and open hike for several kilometers around. So our plan was to hike it early before larger crowds gathered. We were the second car in the lot around about 10 minutes after 8:30 am, when the trail opens.

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There was a bathroom here and a small building near the parking lot with some information on the area and possible meeting place. After visiting the former, we started on the Ventisquero Colgante trail.

The trail begins by heading down toward Río Ventisquero draining Laguna Témpanos. There is a long bridge over the river with our first a glimpse of the hanging glacier in the distance.

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On the other side of the bridge, we come to the junction differentiating the trail toward Mirador Ventisquero Colgante and Laguna Témpanos, we took the the left option toward the viewpoint.

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Immediately we were greeted with the mess we’d have to hike through for the majority of the trail, which was a very muddy trail. The continuous rain from the previous night and the drizzle we felt during our entire hike didn’t help either. Perhaps it was just our experience, but it seemed like the area around Parque Nacional Queulat sees more precipitation.

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After 0.3 miles, the trail started to climb above a ridge that may have been the moraine of the glacier at one point. The uphill consisted of muddy switchbacks with wooden stairs and sports built in here and there for half a mile at a grade about 22.2% grade. This would cover majority of the elevation gain for the hike. Between the muddy trail and elevation gain, I would recommend taking it slow. Hiking sticks would be useful as well. Along the way, there are viewpoints allowing you to catch your breath.

Once you reach the top of the ridge around 0.8 miles, the trail fattens out and continues through the forest with puddles and mud holes for you to jump around here and there. There isn’t much to see during the next 0.8 mile section either.

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At roughly the 1.7 mile mark of the hike, there is one more short quarter mile uphill section at a grade about 16.8% mainly consisting of stepping up some rocks with water cascading down the mossy walls.

Another 0.2 miles and we reached the end of the trail and the viewpoint, 2.14 miles from the parking lot. While the hanging glacier cool looking, the viewpoint only provides only a small view of it as a whole. Secondly, the rapidly growing shrubs here really starts to block out the view of Laguna Témpanos below. My hope for the future is a continuation of the trail to climb higher providing an over the top view of Ventisquero Colgante.

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We hung out here for a few minutes with the group of two hikers that was ahead of us. There is a bench here with a shelter. The viewpoint itself wasn’t a big area.

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On our way back, we passed hikers every few minutes. I imagine the viewpoint to be a crowded one during the main part of the day. I also understood how the muddy condition of the trail came to be with the high volume of hikers in addition to the wetness. Again hopefully in the future, more trails in the area will disperse the crowds leading to less ware on this specific hike.

Once we returned to the parking lot at about 4.16 miles, we took the short walk to Mirador Panorámico mainly to see if the muddy mess to Mirador Ventisquero Colgante was worth it.

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And the answer was a resounding yes and Mirador Panorámico didn’t provide for much of a panorama.

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ratings (range: 1-5; click link for detailed breakdown)

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view: 3. The hanging glacier (Ventisquero Colgante) coming down between the rock faces over the teal Laguna Témpanos does provide for a nice view and is the highlight of the hike. However, the rest of the hike is mainly a muddy hike through the forest. As I mentioned in my report, I would love to see future trail work continuing on the current trail to climb to an elevation above the Ventisquero Colgante to a viewpoint where more of the massive glacier can be seen.

Some other features that I enjoyed were the crossing of Río Ventisquero and the water runoffs on the mossy wall further up. I would recommend checking out the view from Laguna Témpanos trail as I think it would provide for a better view of the lake itself.

difficulty: 2. The trail gains most of elevation gain in a short half mile section early on a 0.8 mile stretch. The most difficult part is the mud and wetness that you’ll have to endure. The rangers have put significant effort into wooden steps at the worst parts, so it may get better with more work in the future.

technical: 1. The trail is well marked and there is no ambiguity in navigation. While it is muddy, there is no climbing skills necessary, just being sure footed and taking your time.

Written by John

I'm a graduate student that likes to hike and travel.

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