Bahía Tierras Blancas
Just before reaching the airfield, the trail from San Juan passes an unmarked but conspicuous lateral that descends to the island’s principal fur seal colony at Bahía Tierras Blancas. The zigzag trail is wide, but it has loose volcanic rock and many eroded gullies that require scrambling to reach the seashore. Figure about two hours down and back, including time to photograph the seals (keep a respectful distance from the animals).
Some visitors hike to the airfield to catch their flights back to the mainland, but this requires an early departure and might limit your time at the seal colony. On the other hand, if the flight is delayed for weather conditions, it might entail camping a night at the barren airfield. Another option, though, is to hike from the airfield to San Juan; it’s possible to do this on arrival, as the boat to San Juan will normally deliver your baggage to your hotel or residencial.
It’s also possible to spend the first night or more in San Juan, then catch a boat to Bahía del Padre for a hike back to the village on another day; this ensures an earlier arrival at San Juan, with more time for sightseeing breaks. The western approach is also more gradual, though it also climbs steeply to Selkirk’s lookout. Still, it takes 4–5 hours, or even longer with wet weather.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition