Reserva Nacional Coyhaique
Few cities anywhere have so much wild country so near as this mountainous 2,676-hectare reserve, with its top-of-the-world views of Coyhaique, Cerro Macay, and Cerro Castillo to the south, the Río Simpson valley to the west, and the Patagonian plains sprawling eastward. Local residents enjoy weekend picnics and barbecues here, only five kilometers north of town, but there’s always space away from the crowds, and on weekdays it’s almost empty.
The main sights are literally that—the seemingly infinite panoramas in every direction. Several nature trails offer different perspectives on those panoramas: the 800-meter Sendero Laguna Verde, the four-kilometer Sendero Laguna Venus, and the Sendero Las Piedras, which leads to the summit of Cerro Cinchao.
Most visitors stay in town, but Conaf (tel. 067/212125 in Coyhaique) has a rustic six-site campground at Laguna Verde and a 10-siter at Casa Bruja. Each charges US$6.50 for up to six persons; two of the Laguna Verde sites have roofed shelters. All have picnic tables, fresh water, and fire pits; Casa Bruja has toilets and hot showers. Bring as much food as necessary. At the entrance, Conaf collects an admission fee of US$1 for adults, US$0.35 for children.
Three kilometers north of town via the paved highway to Puerto Chacabuco, a dirt lateral climbs steeply east to the reserve. The road is passable for most vehicles in summer but difficult or impossible with rain. It’s close enough to the city, though, that anyone in decent physical condition should be able to walk from the highway to the park entrance in about half an hour.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition