World → South America → Patagonian Andes → Chile → Cerro Castillo
One of the best hikes in the world
Around Cerro Castillo
- Castle Hill
- Castle Mountain
- Cerro Castillo Circuit
- Cerro Castillo 2675m (8776ft) the highest peak in the central Patagonian Andes
- normal trekking route is 62km (38.5mi) plus sidetrips
- recommended 4 days, 3 nights
- nearest city is Coihaique, Chile
- picturesque highway — the Careterra Austral — brings you to the trailhead
- Cerro Castillo National Reserve was upgraded to a National Park in Oct 2017. It’s one of a chain of 17 now designated as Chile’s Route of Parks, or Ruta de los Parques.
Why We Like This Hike
- stunning glacier, lakes & jagged basalt mountains
- remote, uncrowded
- low risk of altitude sickness
- fantastic views from Laguna Cerro Castillo
- good fishing nearby
- does not get the massive precipitation of the coastal peaks
- slight chance to see the rare hemul deer, symbol of Chile (we did)
- the days are long in Patagonia during their summer — it is light until at least 10PM
- no special trekking permit is required
- no fees for the rough campsites
- bag Paine & Fitz Roy treks on the same trip
- Castillo means castle in Spanish
- speak conversational Spanish if you want to do the trek on your own
- this hike is in the middle of nowhere
- there are no easy ways to get to this hike. Public transport is limited.
- both Paine & Fitz Roy are far better developed hikes with easier access
- If the weather turns bad, as it likely will, it may be epic
- plan for terrible weather — rain, sleet, snow highly likely
- Dec to March are the best months
- Castillo is more famous with mountaineers than hikers
- these central Patagonian Andes have terrific potential for hiking, yet the infrastructure is not much developed
- tent only, no hut (refugio) yet built
- no toilets
- a 4-season tent with good tie-downs would be ideal
- it can get cold. Be well prepared.
- Entry to new National Park $8 / person (2019)
- Chile is the most expensive country to travel in South America. Budget a minimum of US$40 a day. Days on the trek will save you money.
- rent-a-car is the easiest way to get to the trailhead
Three trailhead start options based on highway signposts:
- at 64km – Laguna Chiguay campground & Conaf Guarderia Chiguay which will give you last minute advice on the trek.
- at 75km – a bend in the highway called Las Horquetas Grandes, if you wish to start the long hiking route immediately.
- at 98km – the town of Villa Cerro Castillo, from where you can do short hikes directly to the mountain.
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes is the essential guidebook
- we recommend the full route starting either at trailheads #1 or #2 above — though the short hikes out of Villa Cerro Castillo are excellent too for those rushed for time
- we stayed overnight in Villa Cerro Castillo which offers several pleasant options
- some boulder scrambling, route finding & creek fording
- rated medium-difficult. If you reverse the recommended route, it is more challenging.
- sidetrip to Laguna Duff well worth the effort
- parts of the main trail pass through private property
wikiexplora recommends this itinerary:
- Day The Big Horquetas (Laguna Chiguay) – Camping Rio Turbio
- Day Camping Rio Turbio – Laguna Cerro Castillo
- Day Laguna Cerro Castillo – Camping New Zealand
- Day Camp New Zealand – Villa Cerro Castillo
Summitpost has two more possible itineraries.
infinito-sur seems to offer some guided trips.
Cerro Castillo is in Patagonia about 46 degrees south. About 75km from Cerro Castillo.
- fly or ferry to Coihaique, Chile
- we stayed overnight in Coyhaique (which suffers a disagreeable reputation in guidebooks) & quite enjoyed the town. No problems.
- a private vehicle would be ideal, otherwise you’ll likely end up renting a vehicle
- public buses are infrequent and unreliable
- you can try hitchhiking — but there is very little traffic
South American Explorers is your first and best source of information on arrival in South America. The organization seems to be closed.
- CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal) is responsible for Parks in Chile. Try the CONAF office in Coyhaique when you get there.
- CONAF Guarderia Chiguay at one of the trailheads could give you last minute advice
- we asked around in the town of Villa Cerro Castillo. Folks there were quite helpful, keen on increasing tourism.
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes 2009 (no longer in print)
- Trekking por Chile 40 Rutas 2015 (Spanish) … widely available in Chile bookstores
Best Travel Guidebooks
- Enduring Patagonia – Gregory Crouch
Crouch is ideal reading when tentbound due to weather. 🙂
- In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
- Baja to Patagonia – Larry Rice
- Nowhere Is a Place: Travels in Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux, Jeff Gnass
- Patagonia: Wild Land At The End Of The Earth – Tim Hauf, Conger, Jr. Beasley, Gregory Crouch
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes 2003
- IGM Chile 1:50,000: Lago Elizalde (Section I, No 132), Balmaceda (Section I, No 133), Villa Cero Castillo (Section J, No 10)
Best Web Pages
- Adventure Alan – Cerro Castillo Trek Guide
- bookmundi – Cerro Castillo Trek
- wikiexplora – Circuito Cerro Castillo
- patagonian dreams – Posts tagged “cerro castillo”
- wikipedia – Cerro Castillo
- Cerro Castillo National Reserve
- future Patagonian National Park
Best Trip Reports
- Stingy Nomads 2016
- Adventure Alan – Cerro Castillo Trek Guide
- trail running – Cerro Castillo Circuit: An Unknown Patagonian Paradise 2015
- Steve Behaeghel photos (huemel)
- Trekking in Around Cerro Castillo, Chile
- Emilie Dannenberg hitched to the trailhead
Click PLAY or watch a short Ecotravel Patagonia autumn trip highlights vid on YouTube.