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The Carretera Austral - Cochamó
There is a huge amount to do in Cochamó's surrounding region, with excellent trekking, riding and climbing.
One of the lesser-known entry points to the Carretera Austral, Cochamó is a delightful village perched on the edge of the Reloncaví Sound. Trekking options abound to the extent that it is colloquially referred to as the ‘Yosemite of South America’. Longer treks extend across the border to the Argentine towns of El Bolson and Bariloche.
Founded in 1979, Cochamó (population approximately 4,500) has a pleasant central square and church, and great views when the sun shines. However, shopping options are limited, and there is neither a petrol station nor ATM in the town, so come prepared and fill up at Ensenada or Hornopirén. While there’s not a great deal to keep visitors occupied within the town itself, the surrounding region, and in particular the interior mountainous section towards the Argentine border, has been christened ‘the Yosemite of Chile’ by climbers and hikers alike. The Valle Río Cochamó is accessed 5km south of town on a northeastern detour. It may not compete with the parks of Torres del Paine and Cerro Castillo further south, but the region is certainly worth a visit.
Cochamó may appear a sleepy town, but there is a huge amount to do in the surrounding region, with excellent trekking, riding and climbing (see www.cochamo.com/climbing for more detailed information). There are also kayaking options, but given the abundance of alternatives further south it is perhaps not something to prioritise here. There are currently around 160 marked climbing routes, although this is growing, with 100 big-wall routes, including a 1,200m route (Tigres del Norte, 5.12d). Pitches range from 5.6 to 5.13. For kayaking, speak to Christian Cea at Patagonia Nativa, who speaks English, offers tours, and knows all the guides in the region. The trekking options are extensive, and of particular interest to those travelling the length of the Carretera Austral is the option to hike directly to or from Argentina.
Trekking in Valle Río Cochamó
For those wishing to combine a journey along the Carretera Austral with some trekking, the trek between Cochamó and Argentina is one of the best options in the region, which connects with an array of trails extending as far south as Hornopirén. Leave Cochamó on the main road south, and turn left at the bridge heading east. The gravel trail continues for about 8km, accessible by road but, at the park ranger station, the road ends, and from this point it is accessible by horse or on foot only. The main destination is La Junta, 13km from the park ranger station, where basic accommodation and food are available. From La Junta a number of short hikes are available, but you can also continue onwards to the Argentine border at Paso Río Manso. Campsites are available along the route and a number of detours are possible to Lago Vidal Gormaz, lagunas Brava and Obscura, and to Valle El León. Alternatively one can head south from Paso Río Manso to Torrentoso (9km, camping and food available) and a further 24km to the trails originating in Puelo (page 87), ultimately crossing the border to Argentina further south at Paso Río Puelo and onto El Bolsón (Argentina). Although there is limited formal accommodation in this region, it is highly advisable to carry a tent.