San Carlos de Bariloche: Portal to Patagonia

On the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi, surrounded by northern Patagonian mountains, is the popular year-round destination of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.  dsc_0525The downtown is touristy and trendy defined with Swiss-like architecture, artisanal beer, and a profusion of chocolate shops. The big draw for us was the stunning setting and proximity to hiking trails, quiet beaches, and calm lakes easily reached from the city centre. To get around, you will need to buy a SUBE bus card from one of the downtown vendors. Hold on to your card, as it can be used in Buenos Aires as well.

Our first outing was to the Nahuel Huapi Municipal Park near the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort. Even the bus ride to the park from Bariloche was scenic.

We don’t often golf, but we have many friends who do. You know who you are, and this photo is for you. We’re convinced you would enjoy the spectacular setting of this course at the resort.p1030961As lovely as it was, we didn’t play and did a leisurely walk instead through a forest of native trees, stopping at the many coves around Lake Moreno. dsc_0397

Over the next few days, we hiked two favourite trails in the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. There are various more to enjoy. We found the guide trekbariloche useful, providing descriptive information for 1/2 day to multi-day treks in the region. The trails are straightforward and easy to follow.

Refugio Lopez

Distance: 12 km return to Refugio — 19 km return to Pico Turistico
Ascent: To Refugio, 770 m (2526 ft)  —  To Pico Turistico, 1200 m (3609 ft)

The trail begins in a dense forest at a steady and steep incline. An hour later, coming out of the woods dsc_0440we had panoramic views of Lake Nahuel Huapi.p1030999From the Refugio, the temptation to continue higher was enticing and we’re glad we made the decision to climb. If you enjoy a continuous uphill playground of hand over foot scramble, then this is it. The ascent to the summit is steep, proceed with caution, be attentive and you’ll reach the next level of the challenging terrain.p1050004Nearing the summit we encountered some snow ridges before crossing the final area of loose scree to the alto mas, or highest point of Pico Turistico.dsc_0465The rewarding views of the Argentinian Andes, Patagonia Lake District, and Mount Tronador.p1050005dsc_0476

Refugio Frey

Distance: 24 km return
Ascent: to Refugio, 750 m (2460 ft)

From the parking lot at the Cerro Catedral, a popular ski resort in the winter, the trailhead starts just beyond the wooden ‘Frey’ sign. The ascent is at a gradual pace on a gentle slope that wraps around the northeastern side of Cerro Catedral, crossing several wooden and metal footbridges, and offering views of Lago Gutiérrez along the way.

dsc_0544dsc_0555As we rounded the mountain, we had our first view of distant jagged peaks.dsc_0556The trail continues through a shaded forest ravine, and halfway up the hike is this altar in the woods. This marks the start of the steeper section of the trail, up rock steps and small boulders. p1050046Nearing the Refugio, and after crossing a stream, dsc_0576we had the Frey mountain hut in view anddsc_0573 granite spires where rock climbers (black specks on the top right) test their mountaineering skills. dsc_0566From the refuge, Ginette sat along the edges of Laguna Toncek, enjoying the tranquillity while Gordon continued a little higher to capture different views. dsc_0585dsc_0592It is possible to continue from Refugio Frey as it is a stopping point along a loop to Cerro Catedral, but we elected to return on the same path.p1050060Anyone who is travelling to the Argentine Andean mountains, for stunning sceneries and all levels of outdoor activities, we recommend San Carlos de Bariloche — the portal to Patagonia.

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8 thoughts on “San Carlos de Bariloche: Portal to Patagonia

  1. Pingback: Buenos Aires: Our Last Tango in the Paris of the South | White Postcards

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