Ansorena 425 local 4 · Pucón · Chile · · · Phone/Fax (56) 452444040 · Mobile phone (56) 9-93536886
Home > Excursions > Hikes > Villarrica Traverse, First Part: "Challupén - Chinay" Trail
Villarrica National Park:
  Mirador Los Cráteres
  Los Nevados
  Valle Turbio
  Quetrupillán Ascent
  Villarrica Traverse:
  First Part:
Ski Center - Chinay
("Challupén - Chinay")
  Central Part:
Chinay - Puesco ("Los Venados" and "Las Avutardas")
Huerquehue National Park:
  Los Lagos Trail
  Quinchol and San Sebastián
Villarrica National Reserve:
  Laguna Huesquefilo
Other areas:
  Santuario El Cañi


Villarrica-Traverse, First Part: Ski Center to Chinay
“Challupén - Chinay” Trail – Villarrica National Park
It is the first part of the famous trekking known as the “Villarrica Traverse”, which goes through all the name’s sakes National Park, from the Villarrica volcano until Puesco, almost at the border with Argentina. This part goes around the active volcano through its west and south sides, and offers spectacular views to its glaciers and lakes to its feet. Most of the time the hike goes over the limit of the forest, the path crosses ancient areas of volcanic slides, but there are also lush lenga and araucaria forests.
General Information:

Distance and duration:
From the Ski Center until the end of the path in the public road Coñaripe – Palguín there are 29 kms with 905 m total ascent. With light luggage it is possible to do it in one day (9 to 11 hour-hike) if you have organized the transport to take you back. More common is to do it in two days camping half way, or taking it as the first part of the Villarrica Traverse, which takes between five to six days. With the proper luggage you must calculate with two days of 5 to 7 hours walks.

Trail head at Ski Center: 1.400 m
Highest point (after Zanjón Molco): 1.570 m
Zanjón Pino Huacho: 1.205 m
Pass between Zanjón Coñaripe and Estero Tralco: 1.520 m
Lowest point (crossing Río Pichillancahue): 1.125 m
Trail end: 1.155 m

Physical demand:
Moderate, if you want to do it as a two-day-hike.
High, if you do it in one day, or if you have to carry the equipment for the "Villarrica Traverse", that lasts 5 to 6 days.

Easy. The path is well marked with iron stakes numbered from 1 to 84, painted in yellow. There are some stakes missing in exposed areas, and in the volcanic dump on the south it is impossible to read the numbers due to the erosion. There are also many wooden signs, but the shown kilometers aren’t correct. In barren areas the route is marked with files or piles of rocks (cairns).

Best time to do it:
January to April. The national park authorities Conaf don't allow to do this hike with snow and close the trail in the end of may until mid-November. After a rough winter, it may be re-opened only in December.

It is essential to wear good trekking shoes; walking canes are a great support to cross the dump area and the descents. Since 75% of the trail is over the limit of the forest, it is very important to have good sun protection (hat and sun block). It is also very important to carry a good amount of water.

Entrance fee:
CONAF charges $ 8.000 for the use of the trails and campsites.

How to get there:
The starting point is the Ski Center. From Pucón take the road towards Villarrica until a good marked crossing on km 1. The road to the volcano is paved for the first eight kilometers untill the entrance to the National Park with the CONAF’s control on km 9. Here starts a rough gravel road. Soon afterwards you must turn right and the road begins to ascent in wide, zigzag curves. At km 15 you will reach the first ski lift called “Juncalillo”, and finally, leaving the forest behind, the road ends at the Ski Center’s parking lot (km 17).
From Pucón it is an about 30 minute-ride, with no public transportation, but it is possible to hitchhike.
Route description:

The trail Challupén – Chinay starts in the last curve 200 meters before the Ski Center. There is a big informative sign with a map. Here we are above the limit of the forest, and the landscape is very sterile, but there are still some spectacular views towards the smoking volcano. After 10 minutes we cross a wide ravine, “Zanjón Correntoso”. The cracked lava, almost black, belong to the last eruption of the Villarrica in 1984. Twenty minutes later we get to the “Zanjón Molco”, a ravine which goes all the way down to the lake, half road between Pucón and Villarrica. Then the path begins to slowly climb until getting to the mark of the 1.550 m.a.s.l, which we will keep during the next half hour. This area of lava, barren dumps is the highest of the trail.

Finally we get into an area with a characteristic high land grass and the trail descents towards a small lenga forest, which we reach 30 minutes later. Due to the high land climate and the rocky soil, the lenga grows small. Soon afterward the trail gets down to a deeper ravine, “Zanjón Voipir”. Normally it brings melted water, which comes from an impressive hanging glacier, but for the amount of ashes it has, the water is muddy and not good for drinking.
Leaving the Zanjón Voipir behind, the trail enters again the forest, which turns thicker the more we go into it. The first araucarias appear, still small, and later they give place to huge and ancient specimens. After the rocky first part of the road, it is nice to walk again over soil and hear the sounds of the forest.
Shortly afterwards there is a fork with a wooden sign that announces “A Villarrica”. The trail Challupén continues to the left and soon descents to another big ravine, the “Zanjón Pino Huacho”. An arrow indicates “Agua 30 mts” to the right, where in the rocky wall of the canyon appears a water spring. It is the only possibility to find safe water in the first leg of the trail. There is enough room to pitch a tent if needed be.
The path continues steep uphill to get out of the ravine and enters the forest again. You can see several alternative paths in this area, but they are less marked than the main one. The people of nearby towns come here in the fall to collect piñones, the fruit of the araucaria tree. About 30 minutes after leaving Pino Huacho behind we arrive to another fork with a sign to Lican Ray. Immediately after that we arrive to Zanjón Challupén, wider than the previous ones. The eruption of 1971 came through it with a slide of mud, stones and melted snow that went all the way down to the lake Calafquén.
The trail gets down to the bottom of the ravine and crosses it in diagonal uphill. The way out is not easy to find, you must continue through the dry river bed for another 500 meters until you see on the south side some darker lava rocks where the next stake (Nº 38) is. The path continues for another 400 meters towards the volcano and then turns 180 grades and keeps on climbing the wall to get into the forest again. Shortly ahead there are the “Laguitos de Challupén”, two small ponds of 10 to 15 meters diameter. It is stuck water without a clear inlet, not recommended for drinking. It is a good place for a picnic and in case of an emergency it is also possible to pitch a tent.
The path continues slowly uphill through a lush forest to cross 30 minutes later a small valley with a brook. On its south shore there are plain places to pitch tents, although there is no shadow. If there is water running in the brook, this is the best option for a camp site, if not, you have to continue for 15 minutes. From the Ski Center there are in all about 4 to 6 hours walk.

The trail continues for another 15 minutes through the forest until arriving to the Estero Ñilfe, pointed out with a wooden sign. Now the view to the south is clear and it is possible to see the double volcano Choshuenco/Mocho. Some trekking guides recommend this place to pitch a tent, but it seems that there is only water in the afternoon, when the snow melts. After the Estero Ñilfe begins the “Valle del Fuego” (Valley of the Fire), a wide area of recent volcanic activity. Impressive are the fields of “corded lava” which acquired this strange look due to the flatness of the terrain and the density of the magma when it cooled out. The creases look like roots or twisted strings. In the volcanic dumps it is not easy to recognize the path, in certain areas you must be aware of rocks that are put one on top of another, that are considered marks that show the route.
The trail continues softly uphill until reaching 45 to 60 minutes after the Estero Ñilfe a pass between a secondary crater of the Villarrica and smaller hills to the south. From here there is a first view towards the Lanín volcano, which is in the border with Argentina, and with its 3.747 meters high, is the highest of the region. Now comes a long way downhill along the dry river bed of several outlets that come together and form the wide and deep “Zanjón de Coñaripe”. Through this river bed came during the eruption of 1964 the violent slide that destroyed part of the town of Coñaripe and killed 20 people.
The path gets to the west shore of the zanjón just where a small ravine appears. You must follow it uphill. Here it is hard to see the path, but after about 300 meters, the trail continues to the right and goes towards another pass formed by a volcanic cone opened to one side and the slopes of the Villarrica itself, that you will reach after 40 to 50 minutes uphill. The path is marked with a double row of rocks on each side.
Continuing over the limit of the forest, the path gets downhill crossing three small ravine. Through the third one runs the Tralco creek, and it is the first opportunity to get water after 2½ hours. 15 minutes later we get to the volcanic dump of Catricheo, an impressive field with fragmented and porous lava. Again you must be aware of the rocks on top of each other that show the route. 25 minutes later we arrive to an isolated rock which is not volcanic and that is known as the “Piedra de la Junta” (“Meeting Rock”).
The path continues through a wide plain land, partially covered with high grass, which falls slightly to the southeast, towards the valley of the Llancahue River. On its borders you see wide araucaria forests. After half an hour smoothly downhill you will find the river Aihue, which runs in a wide valley with more water than the previous ones. It is not a sheltered area, but it will be OK if you are running late and must pitch a tent.
While we continue to the east we get closer to the limit of the forest. Finally the path gets to a group of isolated araucarias. This area is known as Champulli. You must ignore possible paths that get downhill, which are commonly used by piñones collectors. The right trail now marked with more frequent stakes turns to the northeast, gets uphill again and keeps above the tree line. It goes around the side of the mountain and crosses, keeping the height, several dry ravines that fall abruptly into the valley. After walking for 30 to 40 minutes from Champulli we arrive to a small hill where the path finally enters a lenga forest. Then it comes a long and steep part downhill that lasts over half an hour, until reaching the river Pichillancahue, at the bottom of a small valley.
There is a new foot bridge to cross it. Its waters come from the name’s sake glacier, and that is why it has more water on warm afternoons. Due to the volcanic ashes, it is usually not clear, but most of the big particles precipitate to the bottom if you just leave a bottle to rest for a little while.
On its east shore there are good places to camp bellow ancient trees. It is a good option for those who want to continue with the Villarrica Traverse. There are about 4½ to 6 hours walk from the suggested campsite before the Ñilfe creek; to get to the official CONAF’s campsite in Chinay there are still 1 to 1½ hours left.
From the Pichillancahue the path continues for some minutes down river, and then turns and starts a short ascent in order to get out of the valley. 15 minutes later it comes together with the public road that goes from Coñaripe to Palguín, across the National Park. It is in pretty bad shape, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a must.
Continuing downhill, you will get after 2 kms to the limit of the park, in 6 kms to the Hot Springs El Rincón and in 24 kms to the town of Coñaripe. There is no regular public transportation. The road uphill reaches in 2 kms (30 - 45 minutes) the start of the trail Pichillancahue and Los Nevados, and soon after the pass from where the road downhill to Chinay starts. There are another 2½ kms to get to the campsite of CONAF and 4 kms to reach the rangers’ office.


Support for this hike:

If you don't have your own transport, we can organize the transfer for you (please ask at least with one day in advance). These are the different options, all rates for the ride with up to 4 people:

Transfer to the trailhead
Ch$ 35.000
Pick up at Chinay:
Ch$ 50.000
Pick up at Camino Internacional / Puesco:
Ch$ 55.000

For larger groups over 4 people, please ask for rates.
Note: The rates do not include possible entrance fees.

GPS Rental:
We can also rent you a GPS device with the uploaded track and waypoints you will need.
For detailled information>


Click here to see enlarged images

Area Map

View to Villarrica volcano with the Challupén glacier on the southwestern slope

Water fountain in Zanjón Pino Huacho

Araucaria forest on the edge of a ravine

One of the "Laguitos de Challupén" ponds

Marked trail through the high land grass

"Corded lava" in the "Valle del Fuego"

Walking towards Lanín volcano and a secondary crater

In the Champulli area with views to Quetrupillán and Lanín

For more information, please contact us at:

TravelAid · Ansorena 425 local 4 · Pucón · Chile · ·
Phone/Fax (56) 452444040 · Mobile phone (56) 9-93536886 · ·