The body of water on which Puerto Montt sits leads out to the frigid Pacific Ocean and splits the country of Chile in two: between the Chiloe Island Archipelago and the mountainous mainland. Stray from the crowds heading towards the Chiloe Islands and go inland from Puerto Montt into the Cochamo and Rio Puelo Valleys to find some of the most discreet, beautiful trails in all of Patagonia.
One of the most popular hikes in the area from Cochamo is the hike up to the corazon (heart) of the valley, La Junta. Following the Cochamo River, you can do a long day trek (about 8 to 12 hours round trip), but La Junta has many campgrounds for you to stay the night or use as your base since many treks branch off from here.
If you want to do one hike but make it last, and are experienced enough to be off the grid for however long 100km (62 miles) takes you to cover, then you can head from Cochamo over the Lion Pass into Argentina. Most people cover roughly 20km (12.4 miles) a day and make the trek in 5 days, but if you pack light and move quick, you could do it in less. Or, pack heavier, take your time, and add a couple extra days and you will be immersed in incredible scenery for your entire stay.
Cruise along the well marked Nature Trail that begins on the south east bank of the Cochamo River that will lead you past a couple of beautiful waterfalls to cool off in their mist and snap a few great photos. You will have to make your way through the property of Campo Aventura Mountainside Lodge but trespassing isn’t a problem as it is part of the trail!
If you are up for it, the Rainbow Arc trail is a demanding – yet enjoyable – hike, but at points requires the use of ropes, so don’t try to be a hero! But the view from the top is a terrific reward if you are tough enough to make it to the top.
The Gaucho Trail
Not a fan of retracing your steps? Not a problem! The Gaucho Trail allows you to see something new the whole way ’round as it’s a loop trail originally travelled by many cowboys (or gauchos) in the past, which you can also take via horseback if you choose.
At the top of this roughly 15km (9.3 miles) hike is the arch that gives El Arco its name, which is also home to a lone tree growing atop it. It also features the runoff of a waterfall flowing through it, offering a great reward after a sweaty or wet hike, depending on the season.
The Tagua Tagua park is a great place to get out into some well kept trails and gorgeous scenery and boasts roughly 20km (12.4 miles) of winding trails to select from depending on your energy levels that day. The Mañío Bridge hike is perfect as a warm up to a big hike the next day, or a cool down from a big hike the day before as it is a relaxing but beautiful 3.5 km (2.1 miles) trail.
Quetrus Refuge Hike
Another trail in the Tagua Tagua Park and Rio Puelo valley is the Quetrus Refuge Hike which is a little more challenging but not too strenuous for the seasoned hiker. A 10km (6.2 miles) trail with minimal elevation change is great for hiking in groups or with another person that won’t leave you too out of breath to continue a conversation but will still lead you deep into the natural beauty and have you surrounded by a gorgeous forest. There is also an 8 person capacity cabin to rent if you plan to stay the night.