EXCURSION TO THE LAKES
Among hills and volcanoes in the pre cordillera in the region of Araucania, the Huerquehue national park is highlighted for the beauty of its forest and lagoons and for being one of the best destinations for excursionist.
With only 12.500 hectares surface area, located in the Andean pre cordillera 33 kilometers east of Pucon, between 720 and 2000 meter above sea level. Herquehue possesses a mountainous relief, of abrupt hills, strong gorges and an innumerous amount of springs, streams, lagoons and lakes, being the last perhaps it best attraction.
Just until a few years back, accessing the park was very difficult: a sinuous trail that climbed the hillside, with closed curves and gravel roads that only permitted the transit of 4x4 vehicles. Now the access is improved remarkably and with a periodic maintenance, permits the access to be transitable throughout the year and for whatever type of vehicle. To get to the reserve, you have to take the route to Pucon and Caburgua, after 15 kilometers, take the turn off to Paillacio that takes you to the park (19 km of gravel road).
The entrance into the park surrounds a part of Tinquilco Lake, in a long and narrow form, its creek on the west is flanked by steep slopes and covered with native forest.
In the entrance to the park, you will find the parks guard office of Conaf (National Forestry Corporation), opposite is the camping zone beside the lake. Here the sites are unlimited, they have natural shade and count with a bench, bonfire, garbage bins, bathroom and parking. Additionally a picnic zone also exists to have picnics on the shores of the lake. The administration of the area is situated 300 meters from the entrance with a small environmental information center.
On excursions through the lakes
A large part of the parks attractions are found above a thousand meters and the only form of getting to them is on a long hike. As you can appreciate it in the map of the park. Excursion footpaths exist: Pampas de Quinchol, Ñirrico and Tres Lagos.
The first, is Pampas de Quinchol, it begins in the visitors center and finishes in las pampas of the Quinchol Hill. This attractiveness radiates in which permits you to observe from these heights the Caburgua and Tinquilco Lakes, as well a appreciating the native flora. It is a footpath that has a strong slope and has a longitude of 4 kilometers. Ascending it all.
The Ñirrico footpath auto-guided that starts from the administration, it counts with nine stations where the flora and fauna that inhabits the park, are described. It has an extension of 700 meters.
The footpath of Tres Lagos is the longest and most popular. It has an extension of 8 kilometers starting from the control stand booth and is ideal for a whole days excursion. To arrive to the control stand booth you have to cross a sector that pertains to private property with people that live there year around and during the summer season they offer camping services. They don't count with adequate services therefore we recommend that you do not stay in them.
Soon after having entered once again on to the grounds of the park, the footpath takes you to the Conaf control booth. From that point on, the footbath starts to raise on the slope of the hill, through forest composed of Antarctic beech, colihue, coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi) Also known as a Southern Beech and mañío de hoja corta, among other species. There are two lookouts - the first is at 953 meters and the second is at 1.094 meters - from here it is possible to appreciate the exuberance of the native forest, observe the Tinquilco further below and from far away at the bottom the imposing Villarrica volcano.
The footpath crosses two waterfalls: the Nido de Aguila (eagles nest) and the Trufulco. The paths that take you to the waterfalls are well marked out and the authorized lookouts permit observation of almost where the water starts to fall from the wall of solid rock.
One at the top of the hill, more that 1.320 meters above sea level, the footpath arrives to the extreme part of the small lake, in its opposite shore out-jutting rocks crowned by araucarias rise above. At these heights this millenary tree make its appearance.
The footpath continues surrounding the lake and crossing streams or rivulets until arriving to the bifurcation that takes you to the Toro and Verde lakes. To get to the Verde lagoon you have to continue straight ahead and to get to Toro you have to divert towards the left.
Both lagoons are surrounded by araucaria forest, and possess tranquil and crystalline waters and in the case of the Verde lagoon, some small beaches with sand to take a swim.
If you have luck and patience, it is probable that you see one of the species that inhabit this park, among those that are highlighted are the culpeo fox (Dusicyon culpaeus), the condor, the tagua (ret gartered coot), the pato real (Chiloe wigeon) and the chucao.
Not to forget...
The Huerquehue National Park was created 35 years ago with the purpose to protect an area with grand scenic beauty, although it is certain the most known sectors of Huerquehue are in the Tinquilco lake and the Quinchol hills, in more difficult to access areas you will find the lagoons of equal or even more beauty that are mentioned: Huerquehue, Los Patos, Seca Abutarda, Pehuén and Los Cóndores.
When you visit the park don't forget that your are in a protected area, where hunting, extracting, cutting or uprooting wild flora is strictly prohibited and fishing is only permitted with adequate permits. Camping is only permitted in established areas, through away rubbish in waste cans and do not walk outside the footpaths, this way you can enjoy your visit to the park and contribute in maintaining a fragile ecosystem.
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Text G. Salinas