Nature and hiking trails to appreciate the best Andean landscapes. All this and much more in the Conguillío National Park.
The Conguillio National Park was declared ‘protected area' in 1950, and it is located 148 kilometers to the northeast of Temuco City, IX Region. You can get to the place through two roads: Victoria – Curacautin – Conguillio (if coming from the North along the highway 5 Sur); or Temuco – Cunco – Melipeuco (if coming from the South). The roads from the cities of Curacautin and Cunco leading to the park are unpaved and in good conditions.
The task of a giant
Llaima volcano in the background
Located before the Andean cordillera of the South, there are two remarkable summits: Llaima Volcano (3,125 meters above sea level), and the mountainous ridge Sierra Nevada (2,554 meters above sea level).The continuous activity of the volcano, which has two craters, has influenced for millions of years the park morphology, giving birth, in some cases, to lakes, lagoons, rivers and large slag heaps, affecting also the native flora and fauna.
Having a recent origin, dating back between 100 and 600 years, the water bodies existing in the park have their origin in the never-ending activity of the volcano. Lava blobs impeded the free stream of the rivers, forming thus the present lake system: Conguillio Lake and the lagoons Captren, Verde (green) and Arcoiris (rainbow). The reminiscences of this violent formation are the submerged tree trunks, which can be specially seen in the lagoons Captren and Arcoiris.
Young araucaria woods
In this park, where the araucaria is omnipresent, there is a wide variety of animals.Among the predatory mammals, the pumas and foxes (chilla and culpeo) are the largest; then, we find the quique (a kind of weasel), and the güiña (a wild cat).Among the birds, there is a wide variety of ducks, condor, traros, eagles and ringdoves.
About vegetation, the most remarkable aspect is offered by the araucaria woods (Araucaria Araucana). There are some areas in the park, of difficult access, where there are native woods of this species, being up to 1,200 years old. We must remember that one of these trees is considered mature when it is 200 years old, and gets its characteristic ‘umbrella’ aspect when it is 500 years old. It is, apart from the alerce (Fitzroya Cupressoides), the second most longevous tree of Chile.The araucaria nut (Piñon), its seed, makes the base of the food of the Pehuenche people (pehuen = araucaria or its seed, and che = people), which used to live only in the areas where these trees grew.
If the woods of these impressive trees are really appealing, there are in the park some other very interesting species. coigüe, roble and rauli are present all over the park; some others, such as lengas, ñirres, hazel trees, maitenes, cordilleran cypresses and lleuques, are located in the Conguillio and Truful – Truful area.
You must have plenty of time to visit this park, because there is a lot to know, learn and hike; nevertheless, if time is scarce, maybe the alternatives we recommend fit your expectations. As the park has a network of well-signaled paths, it is simple and safe to visit the most interesting and beautiful places.
If you enter the park through the Captren lagoon sector (the road from Curacautin), there is a trail surrounding the whole lagoon, and whose extension covers about 2 kilometers. It is a light walk, apt for everybody.You can fly fish in the lagoon, but it is forbidden to swim or boat, because it is a bird sanctuary, and this type of intervention may become harmful for the species nesting in it.
Along the main road, 5 kilometers ahead, we get to the sector of Lake Conguillio, where we find the CONAF park administration and the Visitor Center. In this sector, it is recommended to follow the self guided trail ‘Las Araucarias’, starting almost right from the Visitor Center of the park, it crosses an araucaria forest and has informative photometal panels.
From the first watchtower of Sierra Nevada
There is also another trail called ‘Los Carpinteros’ (The Woodpeckers), 5 kilometers long, going through araucaria, coigue and lenga woods, leading to the Captren Lagoon. In this trip, you will be able to meet the ‘Mother Araucaria’, an individual of that species whose trunk has a diameter of 2 meters.
On the other hand, most of the facilities are located in this area: campground, lodges, restrooms, picnic zones and food store. Any water sport can be carried out in the lake like swimming, fishing and rowing, but motor boats are not permitted.
Another place worth the visit, at least part of it, is the Sierra Nevada. CONAF has opened a trail going up one of its slopes, which allows to behold the Llaima volcano, the lake Conguillio and the mountainous ridge surrounding the lake from any of its five sightseeing points. It is a long walk (from 5 to 6 hours), and it may be tiring, but any effort is widely rewarded by the landscape from these heights, the flight of a condor, or the sight of the Blanco River.
Along the main road, you will get to the Arcoiris lagoon. It is located next to the road, and from the watch point installed next to it, you can observe the whole extension of the lagoon.It is tiny, and its lure consists in the emerald color of the water, so clear that you get the impression to be looking through a prism. About 15 meters away from the lagoon, along a signaled trail, we find the ‘colonist’s house'.
In the Arcoiris lagoon, the transition between vegetation and volcanic debris is abrupt. The road continues the trip through the called ‘Valle de la Luna’ (Moon Valley), that, as its homonymous in the North, is desolate and dry, but not as spectacular. Far away, on one side, we can see the hills surrounding the valley, covered with vegetation, and on the other side, the dominant presence of the Llaima volcano, that in this place looks very close.
Then the lagoon Verde (green) appears, or you must go to it. This lagoon is much bigger (175 hectares of surface). The color of its waters is obviously green, and it goes underground through the river Truful – Truful. This river, near the entrance/exit of the park, in the sector bearing the same name, originates a magnificent waterfall, called ‘Saltos de Truful – Truful, which in Araucan language means ‘from leap to leap’.
The best time to visit this park is between spring and summer, when the weather is mild and the roads are in excellent conditions. During winter, the ski center ‘Las Araucarias’ becomes very relevant. Located on the west side of the Llaima volcano (opposite the Conguillio lake), it has two ski lifts, a cafeteria, ski lessons, equipment renting and lodge.
Heap of slag
In the Conguillio National Park, CONAF has been able to mix businessmen’s interests with its efforts to preserve and protect the area, turning Conguillio into a model park.
Here, the visitor will be able not only to know and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, but also learn something else about the biological richness of the park through the education and environmental interpretation programs that CONAF offers for free.