Colombia’s Lost City trek

Geoff Bedeck:

Swarms of aqua-blue butterflies, foaming waterfalls, hidden swimming lagoons, lime-green parakeets and chirping songbirds high up in the trees – this was what I’d come to find in the verdant Colombian jungle, along the winding trail to the Lost City.


One of our best hikes in South America.

Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Story goes that ranchers in 1881 got lost in the deserts. Had no water. With their horses failing they spotted the limestone walls of one more canyon. This would be their last chance.

My guidebook author called this one of my favourite spots in all of New Mexico.

It has plenty of water year round. A rarity in this part of the world.

I started late in the afternoon as it was only 2.7 miles to the recommended campsites.

Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico

The light gorgeous.

Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico

Here’s that water that saved the ranchers.

Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico

Obviously this canyon floods at times.

Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico I checked out the campsites. Too exposed. It was very, very windy.

Instead I hunkered down in this more sheltered spot.

Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico

Having forgotten my bear bag rope, I instead tossed my food bag up into a tree attached to a loose branch. Ingenious improvisation I thought … at the time.

The wind blew it down during the night. Happily my food stayed undisturbed lying on the ground.

Next morning I had the option to try to loop to famed Sitting Bull Falls.

But to save time I opted to backtrack from here, visiting  the falls via the front door.

Sitting Bull Falls, New Mexico

As you probably would guess, the Sioux medicine man Sitting Bull never visited New Mexico.

This is a great hike. Highly recommended. We’ve added it to our list of best hikes in North America.


Grand Canyon – Thunder River/Deer Creek Loop

Thunder River/Deer Creek Loop is one of the best hikes in North America.

Epic. 🙂

Click PLAY or watch a guided trip on YouTube. (8min)

Read the trip report.

This 21.5-mile clockwise loop in Grand Canyon National Park strings together faint trails and an Eden of waterfalls and swimming holes.



The biggest problem with this adventure isn’t the navigation, it’s getting one of the few permits available. 😦

Wallace Falls Trail – Gold Bar, WA

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

5.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1300 ft.
Highest Point: 1500 ft.

I camped at Flowing Lake Park. Tried to get an early start. But the trail was busy, busy, busy even on a Friday in April.

Wallace Falls map

Washington Trails Association has the best write-up:

Despite the foot traffic Wallace Falls sees as one of Washington’s most popular attractions, those who get out early on the trailhead will be rewarded with a serene tranquility that few other hikes in the area can offer. And unlike many trails, which sacrifice peripheral scenery on the journey for the prospect of a grand summit view, the Woody Trail is consistently gorgeous as you wind your way along the Wallace River and approach the nine dazzling falls. …

Wallace Falls



Trip Advisor

hiking Cochamó valley, Chile – NOT recommended

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles 

Not being a rock climber, I’d never heard of Cochamó before this trip. But the photos were intriguing.


… The valley has a striking similarity to Yosemite Valley, due to its granite domes and old-growth forests. Like Yosemite, rock climbers from around the world come to climb the valley’s several 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) granite walls. However, it is also an unexplored paradise for serious and hikers – with trails ranging from easy to challenging, a myriad of rare bird and plant life, and a stunning landscape. …

The trail’s most famous users were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who, while hiding out for a couple of years at their ranch in Argentina, actually drove their own cattle down to sell in Cochamó. …

Almost the entire valley is privately owned …

International tourism was pioneered by German adventurer and maverick, Clark Stede, who brought the trail to the attention of mainly European visitors, and established two lodges – one at the mouth of the River Cochamó, and an “outback” lodge in the upper La Junta Valley (the ‘Yosemite’ of Chile). These evolved into Campo Aventura. (currently closed) This was in the early 1990s …

Getting to the Cochamó valley was more complicated that expected. The bus we awaited in Puerto Varas did not bother stopping as it was already full.

Myself and 2 other Canadians from Alberta decided to take a 30 min bus to Puerto Montt – the start – in order to get seats on the next bus to Cochamó.

In fact, many buses that Saturday were leaving Puerto Montt full. Cochamó is very popular with Chileans during the summer.

The bus drops you at Cochamó town or the turnoff to the trailhead, just past the town.


From there I paid an additional couple of dollars for a shuttle to the trailhead itself.

You are required to register but there’s no cost for the hike.


You head into the trees. For 13kms.




13kms of muddy, horse churned muck.

Luckily, it had been sunny for weeks prior to my visit. I could almost get through without getting my feet wet.

About the only highlight was catching glimpses of the crystal clear, pretty river.


I ran out of daylight putting up my tent near the trail about 10pm.

Very early next morning I hiked on another hour or so to La Junta.


Of several campgrounds available, I was most impressed with Camping Trawen.




But a petty tyrant lady terrorizing campers there motivated me to cross the river by cable car to stay at the next campground.



For hikers it’s recommended to camp in the valley. Day hike up, up, up on 3 different trails:

• Trinidad (13km return)
• Amphitheatre (8km return)
• Arco Iris (13km return)

I planned to do Trinidad & Amphitheatre day 1. Arco Iris day 2. Then hike out in time for the bus.

Views from La Junta were enticing. It did not look all that far to the walls.


I started up quickly passing the famous water slide.


I was the first person to start up Trinidad that day. It took a couple of hours of scrambling (hands & feet) to get to granite. In the trees without all that many views.


A couple of young guys caught me and we traversed together for another hour.


Route finding is tricky. These are not park trails but rather bushwhacking routes – the fastest ways climbers have found to get to the lines they want.

When I got to this vista I sat down to enjoy lunch.


A condor was checking us out.


The boys sat too. They couldn’t find the route to the end-of-the-line laguna.


It was us and the lizards.


I turned back, still wanting to get to Amphitheatre in the afternoon.



Back into the trees.


It seems Amphitheatre is far less popular. I saw very few people on this “trail”. There was some rope assistance for scrambling over this rock. It would be very, very slippery when wet.


Orchids, I assume.


Amphitheatre is impressive. 🙂




This was about 4:30pm, however. I didn’t stay long.

Sadly I left my camera at Amphitheatre. It was embarrassing to tell other hikers descending why I was going back up. Two hours back up. 😦

… It wasn’t there. Merde.

Happily, this guy had found my camera somewhere on the trail. Then hung it on a branch across the trail so I couldn’t miss it on my second descent. 🙂


That was about 7pm.

I hustled down as quickly as possible but it was still near dark before I reached my tent. I was exhausted from 15 hours or more on my feet. And fed up with narrow, dangerous scrambles.

Next morning was cloudy.



But I’d already decided to skip Arco Iris. That’s a shame.

Summit Post:

Arco Iris is probably the best “hike” in the valley. A relentless, steep hike involving fixed hand lines and good exposure takes you to treeline and a spectacular view point on the north side of the valley. From here, you can continue to scramble up to the summit and be rewarded with some of the best views you will probably ever see. Although this is certainly a serious scramble, trekkers comfortable with exposure and handlines should be able to make it. If big drop-offs scare you or you haven’t done any very steep trails requiring use of your hands extensively, then consider passing on this route.

Arco Iris

I walked out. Very tired.

If this all appeals to you, go for it. But I’m not recommending this destination for hikers. 95% of the time you are tree locked. The 26kms return in muddy ruts is not worth the time when there are so many better hikes in Chile nearby.

Hopefully it will be made a National Park one day. Trails, access and navigation improved.

day 0 – not climbing Mt Decapitated, Chile

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info Condor Circuit  

Descabezado Grande (also Cerro Azul or Quizapu) is a stratovolcano located in …  central Chile. It is capped by a 1.4-kilometre-wide  ice-filled caldera and named for its flat-topped form, asdescabezado means “headless” in Spanish. A smaller crater about 500 metres (1,600 ft) wide is found in the northeast part of the caldera, and it has active fumaroles. …


I was excited to hike section 1 of the new Greater Patagonian Trail.

That’s 103km if I had done the whole thing. Plus the optional full day climb of .Descabezado. The trek is challenging enough without that scramble.

If that serious off trail adventure was impossible, Rangers recommended the somewhat easier Circuito de los Condores. (Condor Circuit)


But due to a series of problems I ended up doing something easier. An out and back from Parque Inglés.

What problems?

GPS did not work as I needed it to. Topo maps were sold out at the Ranger station in Parque Inglés. Scorching sun burned my weak Canadian flesh. My good camera broke. 😦

But I had a fantastic hike anyway. 🙂

Descabezado and its nearby brothers have devastated the Andes here. The last major eruption was 1932 – Quizapu, 6km south of the main crater. It’s stark and beautiful.

___ day 0 – Santiago to Parque Inglés

Though it’s only about 250km south of Santiago, it took me all day to get there via public transportation.

Hostel > Santiago bus station (University of Santiago metro station) > bus to Molina > bus to Radal Siete Tazas National Park.


Happily in high season (Jan/Feb) buses go all the way to the CONAF Ranger Station. (The rest of the year they stop in Radal, 10km short.) It’s a bad, bumpy road up into the mountains.

On the bus I’d met Pedro and Victor, Brazilian music students who were on the road on a break from school. In fact, they carried a copy of On the Road by Jack Kerouac.


We’d all seen Sam Davies’ gringo’s essential guide to Radal Siete Tazas in which he recommends a campsite called Valle las Catas:

… slightly more expensive than the other options but includes free entry to the park and some hidden ‘pozas’ (water pools) that people don’t usually get to see. It’s also much quieter …

It cost us 7000 Chilean pesos each rather than the 3-4000 asked at the cheapest campgrounds, but we agreed Valle las Catas was worth it. 🙂


This was the first time they’d sleep in their new tent.

I’d slept hundreds of times in my own.


Their first meal on their new camp stove.


The campsite has a cute restaurant and shop. I ate pizza there.

We finished up the evening drinking my red wine, hanging out at the big campfire with anyone else who wished to socialize. The only language Spanish.


day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info Condor Circuit