Often referred to as the Andean Shire due to its similarity in appearance to the Lord of the Rings setting, the area around the beautiful Rio Azul has plenty of short hikes. You can explore these over the course of a few hours, or challenge yourself to a longer hike that will complete the entire circuit around the river, which takes about three days in total. There are plenty of lodges and campsites around the Rio Azul that you can stay in.
This lesser known spot is great for people who are looking for a bit more isolation from their hike. This enchanting place, as the name would suggest, charms the hikers who make their way over grasslands, across rivers and streams and through a forest until they reach the lodge, which is located beside the Rio Blanco. Be careful crossing the wooden hanging bridge that you will encounter about an hour into your trek!
Another popular destination for hikers in El Bolsón is Cerro Piltriquitrón, which is known for its panoramic vistas, lush forests and the healing energy that many people experience when they are in the mountain’s clutches. Its name means “hanging from the clouds” in the language of the Mapuche indians, and from here you can see the imposing peaks of the Andes as a backdrop against the Azul valley.
Probably one of the most talked about hikes in El Bolsón is the trek to El Cajon Azul. This spot is known for the crystal emerald waters of the swimming hole that greets you on arrival. If you set off early, you can make it to the Cajon Azul and back in a day, but if you want to take your time, it’s best to plan to stay overnight at the lodge. Get a bus or taxi from El Bolsón to the starting point at Wharton, and if it’s getting late by the time you’re descending, you can order a taxi from the cafe at the start of the trail.
An easy walk for beginners, families and those who are not in the mood for a long and challenging hike, the lookout point at Cerro Amigo affords visitors great views out over the town of El Bolsón. It is a popular spot for day time picnics, with many staying to watch the sunset from this great vantage point. It can easily be reached from the town itself, but you can also drive directly to it from Route 40.
What hiker doesn’t love a good waterfall? Well, in El Bolsón, hikers can find paradise on the cascade route, where, hiking through the woods around the town, you will come across numerous amazing and distinctive waterfalls that bound down along the Arroyo del Medio. Hike through dense and humid vegetation that could trick you into thinking you’re in a jungle to get to Cascada del Mallín, and veer off from the course of the stream to find Cascada Escondida, the most visited waterfall in the area. The base of the waterfall greets you after you cross a footbridge, but you’ll hear the crashing water before you see it and know you are in the right place.
Walk along the diverse terrain that borders the Chico river, and watch your step as you follow the river’s path from the banks above the deep ravine. El Saltillo is one of the many waterfalls that you will encounter as you walk this path, and is certainly the most impressive of them all. In autumn, the changing colours of the forest present an almost dreamlike scene, so go in April for some of the prettiest landscapes in Patagonia.