June to August
Winter hikes and treks in Chile’s great outdoors
Chile’s natural beauty and range of activities is world renowned - and with smaller crowds and stunning winter landscapes, there’s no reason to pack away your hiking boots in May.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
The snow-capped peaks form a beautiful backdrop to a winter hike in the Cajón del Maipo. (Photo by ksbuehler/Flickr)
The sun-deprived Brits are so enamored of Chile’s wide range of landscapes, national parks and South American sunshine that they are gearing up for the Chilean outdoors - even as winter and the rainy season descends on the Andean nation.
So have our friends from the Northern Hemisphere gotten their seasons mixed up. . . or are they on to something?
As it turns out, winter in Chile offers plenty of unmatched hiking opportunities; with a little more preparation and determination you can have some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth all to yourself.
Patagonia in the Low Season
Take Torres del Paine for example: a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, the jagged, granite peaks of Torres del Paine draw thousands of intrepid hikers every year. But come May, Patagonia’s reputation for wet and wild winters means that the handful of hardy hikers on the famous W-trail generally don’t run into another living soul, except for the guanacos, foxes, condors and pumas that call this place home.
If you still need convincing of Torres del Paine’s winter potential, be sure to check out this spectacular photo essay from the Patagonian Dreams blog.
Quick Escape from the City
For the somewhat less-intrepid traveler to Chile, an alternative to taking on a Patagonian winter is to take a day hike from Santiago in the peaks that overlook the cosmopolitan capital.
The benefit of tackling the Sierra de Ramón mountain range that looms over Santiago is that you can plan a day hike and leave behind all that bulky winter camping equipment - though you should definitely be prepared for snow and cold weather.
Glaciers and Lakes in the High Andes
Then there is Cajón del Maipo, the Andean valley and natural playground just behind the capital, only 57 miles (92 km) from downtown Santiago.
Offering the chance to experience the glaciers and lakes of the Andean high country in just a day, Monumento Natural El Morado is one of the best of the Cajón’s hikes. And whereas the exposed trail makes this a grueling outing for summer temperatures, the snow-capped mountains and cool winter breezes make it an agreeable excursion in winter.
A True Winter Sport
And, of course, to truly embrace the outdoors in Chile during winter, there’s always skiing. . .