Parque Nacional Puyehue
Barely an hour from Osorno, accessible Parque Nacional Puyehue still has plenty of untamed wilderness among its 106,772 hectares of Valdivian rainforest—at least where lava flows and ash from its volcanic vents and summits have not left it as barren as the Atacama Desert.
Statistically, it’s one of Chile’s most visited national parks, but statistics can deceive—the highly developed hot-springs resort at Aguas Calientes and its Antillanca ski area draw its mostly Chilean crowds. Except for trails near its hotels and campgrounds, the backcountry gets only small numbers of hikers.
At Aguas Calientes, Conaf’s Centro de Información Ambiental (tel. 064/1974572, www.parquepuyehue.cl) is open 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–6 p.m. daily except in summer, when it’s open until 7 p.m. In summer, there are daily slide talks in late afternoon; permanent exhibits focus on natural history (flora and fauna) and topics such as vulcanism. Conaf also maintains an information center at Antillanca, generally open in ski season only.
Paved all the way to the Argentine border, Ruta 215 passes directly through the park. From Osorno’s Mercado Municipal (Errázuriz 1300), Buses Expreso Lago Puyehue (tel. 064/243919) and Buses Barría (tel. 064/230628) serve Termas de Puyehue and Aguas Calientes with buses and taxi colectivos, with additional service to Anticura and the Chilean border post at Pajaritos.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition