Parque Nacional Los Alerces

One of the most magnificent and untouched expanses of the whole Andes region, this national park was established to protect the and stately alerce trees (Fitzroya cupressoides). The alerce is among the longest living tree species in the world, and there are some specimens in the park over 2000 years old. They grow deep in the valdivian rainforest which carpets these mountains a rich velvety green, beside vivid blue Lago Futalaufquen and emerald Lago Verde. There are several good hikes, rafting and fishing in the park, and idyllic lakeside campsites and hosterías, making this a great place to spend a few days.

The park, 60 km west of Esquel, is enormous, over 200,000 ha, and it remains the most virgin park in the whole lake district, since much of it is only accessible on foot. There are four large lakes: navy blue Lago Futalaufquen, with fine fishing; LagoMenéndez, which can be crossed by boat to visit the ancient alerce trees; the exquisite green Lago Verde; and the almost inaccessible Lago Amutui Quimei. In order to protect this fragile environment, access by car is possible only to the eastern side of the park, via ripioRoute 71 which runs between Cholila and Trevelin alongside the eastern side of Lagos Futalaufquen, Verde and Rivadavia, with many good camping spots and small hosteríason their shores. The western side of the park, where rainfall is highest, has areas of valdivian forest, and can only be accessed by boat or by hiking to Lago Krügger. Lago Futalaufquen has some of the best fishing in this part of Argentina (the season runs from end November to mid-April), and local guides offer fishing trips, and boat transport. Ask in the Intendencia, or Hostería Cume Hue.

Walks For all walks, get the Sendas y Bosques(walks and forests) map and book for El Bolsón, Lago Puelo and Los Alerces. Maps are 1:200,000, laminated and easy to read, and the book is full of great walks, with English summaries and detailed directions in Spanish.

Cave paintings

There are pinturas rupestresto be found just 40 minutes' stroll from the park Intendencia (Km 1). Waterfall and a mirador with panoramic views over Lago Futulaufquen.

Lago Verde

The most beautiful walk in the whole park, and unmissable, no matter how little time you have, is across the suspension bridge over Río Arrayanes (Km 34.3) to heavenly Lago Verde. A self-guided trail leads around a peninsula and to Lago Menéndez, to the pier where boat trips begin, Puerto Chucao. Go in the early evening to see all kinds of bird life from the beach by Lago Verde, swifts and swallows darting all around you. Signposted off Route 71, Pasarella (walkway) Lago Verde. While you're in the area, take a quick 20-minute stroll up to Mirador Lago Verdewhere you'll be rewarded with gorgeous views up and down the whole valley and can appreciate the string of lakes, running from Lago Futulaufquen in the south, Lago Verde, and Lago Rivadavia in the north.

Cerro Dedal

For a great day hike, there is a longer trek up Cerro Dedal (1916 m), a circular walk, at least eight hours return, with a steep climb from the Intendencia, and wonderful views over the lake and mountains further west. Register with guardaparquesand get detailed instructions.

Lago Krügger

There is also a long but rewarding two- to three-day (12- to 14-hour) hike though coihueforest to the southernmost tip of Lago Krügger, where there is a refugio (open only in January and February), and campsite, as well as a guardaparque'soffice. Here you can take a boat back to Puerto Limonao, but check when the boat is running before you set off, and always register with the park's Intendencia. From Lago Krügger, you could walk south along the course of Río Frey, though there is no refugiohere. For information on the boat service, and the refugio contact Hostería Lago Krügger, a little rustic fishing lodge.

Cascada Arroyo

A satisfying and easy four-hour walk to see waterfalls, and passing various miradors.

Boat trips

All boat trips run frequently in high season (1 December to 31 March), and all can be booked through Safari Lacustre, and Patagonia Verde
Border with Chile

There are two border crossings just south of Esquel, the spectacularly beautiful Paso Futaleufú and Paso Palena. On the Chilean side roads from these crossings both link up to the route to Chaitén.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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