We awoke to a grey and drizzly morning, but with hope that the rain would be relatively minimal, headed north on the 2+ hour drive to Puyehue National Park.
Our GPS was set to avoid toll roads as it wasn’t obvious if there was an attendant at every exit. Consequently, we ended up on a gravel service road for 7 miles paralleling Hwy 5 to save $0.75. #thanksgoogle
Sweeping panoramic views were nonexistent due to the weather but the route we took was still pleasant, through forests with tall trees and small towns. The entrance for the park was clearly marked off Rte 215 and the unmanned gate had a sign (in Spanish) mentioning a 1K CLP usage fee per person. I grabbed a 5K note and we walked a few minutes to the first trailhead.
Before we could start the hike, a guy came running out of the office (still chewing his lunch) to collect the fee. He spoke no English but we knew what we had to pay so I offered him my 5K note. He shook his head and claimed no way to make change so I had to return to the car where, thankfully, I had two 1K notes. PSA: Make sure you have small bills handy – this would come up again!
Several miles of trails took us through lovely woods with flower vines hanging from the treetops and tons of ferns, scenes reminiscent of our hikes in New Zealand.
Salto de La Princesa (below) was our favorite waterfall and this is also where we sat and had lunch.
Several other cascades were in full flow given the recent rains too.
We crossed the main road on foot to hike to two more falls, Salto Rio Anticura and Salto del Pudu. The first falls was easily accessible via a short staircase right by a camping site. However, the El Puma overlook trail nearby was closed do to trail damage when we were there.
We had one more waterfall marked on our map, Salto Los Novios, so we continued up the road a bit, getting so close to the Argentina border than we passed a “Welcome to Chile” sign on our way back!
See below for an interactive map of our hikes in Puyehue National Park.
The clouds cleared out on our drive back south so we enjoyed blue skies on our way to the last stop of the day, Las Cascadas.
We followed a very narrow unpaved road 2km from town to the marked lot for the falls. There was a guy at the ticket office collecting the 1,000 CLP entry fee, but it was free to park. Thankfully, he had change for a 5K note! We needed to enter our information in the visitor book, including our passport numbers. My advice is to take a photo of your passport number and save it to your phone. I needed this information handy multiple times.
The 2.5km RT path follows the riverbed, crossing twice on two wooden bridges, with several faint/ephemeral waterfalls along the canyon walls.
The main waterfall was big and powerful. There is a steep path to the base of the falls but the better photos are from the viewpoint at the end of the official trail.
Las Cascadas is open from 9am to 6:30pm daily and by the time we left at 6:20pm there were cones up preventing people from accessing the parking lot.
By this point we were tired, and thankfully had much better luck with traffic driving back into town on a Monday evening!