Sights and Recreation
From a trailhead near Caleta Gonzalo café, the Sendero Cascadas climbs and winds through thick rainforest to a high falls; figure about 1.5 hours each way. At the Centro de Información, it’s possible to arrange a tour of the apiaries at Fundo Pillán, across the Fiordo de Reñihué, and to obtain fishing licenses (hunting is strictly prohibited).
From a trailhead about 12 kilometers south of Caleta Gonzalo, west of the highway, the Sendero Laguna Tronador crosses a pasarela (hanging bridge) before ascending a string of slippery stepladders to the Mirador Michinmahuida, a platform where, on clear days, there are astounding views of the volcano’s icy summit. The trail continues through nearly pristine forest, dropping gradually to the amphitheater lake where Tompkins’s employees have built a stylish two-site campground with picnic tables, a deck, and an outhouse. It’s about 1.5 hours to or from the trailhead.
A short distance farther south, on the highway’s east side, Sendero los Alerces crosses the Río Blanco to a large alerce grove. Just a little farther south on the west side, the Sendero Cascadas Escondidas is longer and more strenuous than the signposted three hours would suggest. It is mostly boardwalk—through the swampy, soggy forest—and catwalk along precipitous rock walls, with some steep stepladders as well. The hardest part, though, is boulder-hopping the river on slippery granite or, better and perhaps safer, wading across. On the other side, the trail climbs steeply another 15–20 minutes, then drops into a narrow canyon where, on a dangerous-looking stepladder anchored by a rope, the bravest hikers can continue around the rock to get the best view of the “hidden” falls.
Seventeen kilometers south of Caleta Gonzalo, at its namesake campground, Sendero Lago Negro leads 800 meters through dense forest to reed-lined Lago Negro. Just north of the park entrance on the Chaitén–Caleta Gonzalo road, the Sendero de Interpretación is a 1.8-kilometer walk in the woods starting from the Volcán ranger station, which provides an explanatory map.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition