In the precordillera southeast of Talca , Altos del Lircay is another of Chile’s hidden secrets, a forested wilderness of 12,163 hectares with multiple options for backcountry hiking and camping in canyons, valleys, and summits that range 600–2,448 meters above sea level. Part of the Sendero de Chile passes through here, but it’s not the only hike of interest. The reserve has warm, dry summers, but substantial snowfall can accumulate in winter.
Lircay’s aboriginal population ground their grains at the Piedras Tacitas, a series of creekside mortars reached by a short signed trail from Conaf’s Centro de Información Ambiental. On the north side of the former logging road that leads east from the park entrance, the Mirador del Indio offers views of the Lircay valley; it’s possible to hike across the Lircay drainage to the Río Claro and Reserva Nacional Radal Siete Tazas; with improved signage along the Sendero de Chile, route-finding is less difficult than it used to be.
Two kilometers east of Mirador del Indio, a signed trail climbs north and then east to El Enladrillado, a sprawling tableland where weathering has uncovered columns of hexagonal basalt formed millions of years ago beneath the earth’s surface. This tiring hike, which Conaf suggests should take two days, is possible in a day, but carry adequate water and high-energy snacks. Views of the Río Claro valley, 3,830-meter Volcán Descabezado Grande, and the Andean ridge along the Argentine border are among the country’s best.
More ambitious hikers can consider a five-day trek on the Sendero Valle del Venado to the summit of Descabezado Grande and back; the less ambitious can do a day hike to Mirador Venado, which gives fine views from a platform at the junction with the Sendero de Chile.
For details on current conditions and further suggestions, contact Casa Chueca  in Talca; they also have excellent trail maps at a scale of 1:50,000.
Conaf has a multisite campground near the entrance to the reserve, charging US$15 for up to six persons, but there are also several private campgrounds along the dusty road just before the entrance. A few small shops are nearby, but supplies are cheaper and more abundant in Talca.
At the park entrance, Conaf collects an admission charge of US$3 for adults, US$1 for children. Its Centro de Información Ambiental contains exhibits on natural and cultural history.
Reasonably priced rental horses are available just outside the park entrance.
Altos del Lircay is 66 kilometers southeast of Talca  via paved Ruta 115 and a 26-kilometer unpaved side road that billows with dust in the dry summer and splatters mud in winter, when the last few kilometers can be difficult. From Talca’s Terminal Rodoviario, Buses Vilches (tel. 071/234366) goes to the Administración (park office) at 7:15 a.m. and at 1 and 4:50 p.m., returning at 7:15 and 9:15 a.m., and 6:15 p.m. There are usually additional buses in summer; the fare is US$2. The last bus of the day from Talca  returns the next morning.