Parque Nacional Patagonia

Following the merger of this park with Tamango and Jeinimeni national reserves, this has become one of South America’s leading parks, with abundant wildlife, countless lakes, excellent short and multi-day hikes and stunning scenery.

The stunning scenery of Parque Patagonia © Hugh Sinclair

This national reserve is up there with the finest parks in the region, with a stunning trek all the way to the Roballos border crossing with Argentina, the headquarters of Parque Patagonia or to Cochrane. Established in 1967, the Jeinimeni sector (originally a national reserve rather than a national park) extends for 161,100ha and was merged into Parque Patagonia on 11 December 2018. Flora and fauna abound – a variety of woodpecker species, condors, black-chested buzzard-eagles,
huemul and guanacos. Only the very fortunate will spot the elusive puma.

There is no shortage of wildlife to be found in the national reserve © ecerovi2016, Shutterstock

Getting there

Access to the park is from the main road connecting Chile Chico to the Argentine border. The road is rough gravel with some minor river crossings. Garnik Bike are currently the only operators with transport to the park, although more will likely emerge when tourism rebounds. Taxis are expensive and, as this road is rarely transited, hitchhiking is difficult. Those staying the night in Chile Chico might be able to plead with a hotel owner for a lift. The main road continues 20km past the trailhead for the Sendero Piedra Clavada to the main park entrance, where the entry fee is paid.

Where to stay

The only formal campsite in the park is less than 1km from the main park entrance, at the northern edge of Lago Jeinimeni. Facilities include a table and benches with a roof, fire pit, wood and bathrooms. The crystal-clear, lake-fed stream by the campground is full of trout. The ranger lives in the park, but if he’s not around it is possible to park outside the office, pitch your tent in the clearly marked camping sites and pay later or the next day.

What to see and do

The maps provided by CONAF have all trails marked. All trailheads and detours are well signed and adequately maintained. From the campsite, the Sendero Mirador trek (1.6km round trip; 15–30mins; easy) heads west on a well-maintained trail through the lenga forest to a viewpoint above the lake. Here, trekkers are rewarded with a southerly panoramic view of the beautiful, dark blue Lago Jeinimeni set against the rugged, multi-coloured mountain range (the rocks are made up of different minerals).

There are two other hikes along this stretch, the first of which leads to another viewpoint on the south side of the lake (1.8km round trip; 15–30mins; easy), showing a similar perspective to the first viewing platform but this time with a northerly view of the lake. The second goes to Lago Verde (5.2km round trip; 1hr; easy) – not to be confused with the Lago Verde just west of Chile Chico, or the Lago Verde near La Junta. It passes Laguna Esmeralda after 400m and crosses the Río Desagui, before continuing for a further 2.2km to the south-eastern extreme of Lago Verde. The views over the lake are superb – this is an excellent place to pause and appreciate Mother Nature at her best, or do a spot of trout fishing.