Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta
In the coast range west of Angol, 6,832-hectare Nahuelbuta is the last major coast range sanctuary for the araucaria (monkey puzzle) tree, a rare conifer also known as the paragua (umbrella) for the shape of its crown (the Mapuche refer to it as pehuén or pewen). Dramatically undervisited, except on summer weekends, the park features a series of medium-length loop trails through the forest; from the highest summits, reaching almost 1,600 meters, several Andean volcanoes are visible to the east and south.
Sights and Recreation
Camping and hiking are the main activities. From the park Administración at Pehuenco, a twisting four-kilometer footpath climbs through monkey puzzle forests to 1,379-meter Piedra del Aguila, a granodiorite pinnacle with awesome panoramas of the snow-topped Andean volcanoes from Antuco in the north to Villarrica, Lanín, and sometimes as far as Osorno in the south (Nahuelbuta occupies a transitional zone between the clear and almost cloudless Mediterranean climate to the north and the frequently drizzly marine west coast climate to the.
To the west, the Pacific stretches to infinity. Rather than returning by the same route, follow the trail that zigzags south into the valley of the Estero Cabrería from the west side of Piedra del Aguila; just beyond the main stream crossing, the trail becomes a road that leads back to Pehuenco.
From the picnic ground at Coimallín, a shorter footpath through flatter terrain reaches the 1,450-meter summit of Cerro Anay, which offers comparable vistas. The park’s highest point, 1,530-meter Cerro Alto Nahuelbuta, is once again open to hikers after being closed for a puma reintroduction project several years ago.
Accommodations and Food
Near the park administration, Camping Pehuenco (US$10 for up to six people) has 11 secluded sites; all have picnic tables, flush toilets, and (cold) showers. There are no concessionaires in the park, so buy supplies in Angol or elsewhere before coming here.
At Los Portones, the park’s eastern entrance, 35 kilometers from Angol, Conaf rangers collect an admission charge of US$4.50 for adults, US$1 for children; it’s open 8 a.m.–1 p.m. and 4–8 p.m. daily. At Pehuenco, five kilometers farther west, Conaf’s Centro de Informaciones Ecológicas includes a small museum where rangers sometimes provide slide shows or video shows on park ecology. It keeps the same hours, but in spring and summer only.
From Angol’s Terminal Rural (Ilabaca 422, tel. 045/712021), daily except Sunday, Buses Nahuelbuta (tel. 045/715611) and Buses Carrasco (tel. 045/715287) alternate service to Vegas Blancas (US$2.25), seven kilometers west of the Los Portones entrance, at 6:45 a.m. and 4 p.m.; return times are 9 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.
On summer Sundays, Buses Angol (Ilabaca 422, tel. 045/712021) goes to Pehuenco (US$5 round-trip), leaving early in the morning and returning early evening.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition