Chile’s is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination, with the fjords and temperate rainforests of Patagonia in the south and dramatic martian-like landscapes of the Atacama in the north.
But though most travelers enter the country by the capital, Santiago, few take advantage of the hiking and wildlife spotting options that are right on the city’s doorstep.
The Sierra de Ramón mountain range, the foothills of the Andes that form Santiago’s western boundary offer some of the most easily accessible hikes, with public transport that takes you to the start of some of the trails.
On a clear day, the view from its peaks offer not only an all encompassing panorama of the sprawling metropolis below, but a chance to gaze upon the majestic Andean peaks toward the west and – if you’re really lucky – a glimpse of the Pacific ocean far out to the west. That’s to say, the entire width of Chile!
Not only that, but you are almost guaranteed a close encounter with the Andean condor, which calls this range home. The Andean condor is largest flying land bird on Earth.
For many animal lovers, the most memorable wildlife experience that they will have in Chile is not the vicuña, high in the altiplano, or the guanaco in the pampas, but the condor, gliding past at an impossibly slow speed and without so much as a flutter of its wings with a grace that defies both gravity and its 30 pounds (13.5 kg) weight.
At 8,372 feet above sea level (2,552 m) Cerro La Cruz is the second highest peak of Sierra de Ramón range that can be reached and descended in a day, behind Cerro Provincia, 9,022 feet (2,750 m).
But although La Cruz is a lower peak and even more accessible than Provincia, it is perhaps the more steep and the going can be tough, though it does not require technical climbing ability.
As all peaks of the Sierra de Ramón, spring is the best time of year to ascend Cerro La Cruz, as clear skies, warmer weather and a little snow on top makes for perfect conditions. However the mountain can be climbed at all times of the year, including winter.
A hiker of average fitness is expected to make the ascent to the summit in five to six hours and should require three to four hours for the descent, meaning an early start is essential to make this a day trip.
Hikers should go be well prepared for the conditions. Cerro Provincia is an arid landscape and it is essential that you carry enough water to make it up the steep slopes.
Summer climbers should expect hot temperatures, but for all seasons a jacket, sunscreen and a hat are essentials on this trip, as there is no shade or water on the mountain.
Sturdy boots are also a must on the rocky trails, and thermals and a warm hat are advised in winter, so that you can enjoy the view from the top without chattering teeth.
The trailhead is found in Parque Mahuida in the commune of La Reina, at Avenida Larraín, 11095. Entrance to the park is US$.0.60 (CLP300) if you arrive by foot or US$5 (CLP2500) per car.
The park is open Tuesday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. and Friday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. (closed Monday), though if you write to this address in advance you can arrange an early start to your hike.
The park is serviced by the D02 and D10 buses, both of which run frequent services.