The hike to the summit of Volcán Villarrica is undoubtedly the area around Pucón’s most popular trek, offering unforgettable panoramas of the Araucanía and Los Ríos Regions. But if you’re looking for an equally breathtaking vista without the complex gear and organized tour that Volcán Villarrica requires, try the a hike to the lesser-known El Mirador viewpoint in Santuario El Cañi.
Santuario El Cañi is a 1,500 acre private nature reserve located 13 miles (20 km) east of Pucón. In 1990, this land was purchased by a group of outdoor-loving friends who wanted to legally preserve the area from logging while promoting ecotourism and outdoor education. Since then, the reserve has transformed into a unique park with excellent camping facilities, beautiful wildlife, and knowledgeable local guides.
It takes three to four hours of strenuous uphill hiking to reach El Cañi’s El Mirador viewpoint, but the effort is worth it. From the top, the vista offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the region’s many lakes and four volcanoes (Volcán Llaima, Volcán Villarrica, Volcán Quetrupillan and Volcán Lanin). El Mirador is the perfect place to relax with a packed lunch and take in Chile’s pristine beauty.
On the hike up to El Mirador, you’ll pass plenty of unique wildlife. Especially noteworthy are the Araucaria trees, an endangered species capable of living an impressive 2,000 years. The Araucaria tree is so well-respected, Chile’s Araucanía Region is named after it.
Santuario El Cañi also offers two great camping opportunities: Refugio Aserradero and the Laguna Negra campsite. Refugio Aserradero is an enormous rustic cabin located about 2 hours into the hike to El Mirador with raised sleeping bag space for 30 people, a central open fireplace, and a wood-burning cooking stove. The small Laguna Negra campsite is farther up the trail alongside a peaceful lagoon. Both cost USD$12.75 (CLP$6,000) for the night, and offer the opportunity to enjoy the incredible El Mirador viewpoint at sunrise.
Visiting El Cañi
Day entrance to El Cañi costs USD$6.00 (CLP$3,000) and can be paid at the Base Hut at the park’s entrance. Rangers at the Base Hut will also provide trail maps and answer any questions.
By car from Pucón, take the road towards Lago Caburgua until km 14. Then take the paved road with the sign «Termas Huife» until the El Cañi Base Hut.
Public microbuses bound for Huife also stop at El Cañi and cost 600 pesos. The Huife bus departs about every half hour from Pucón’s Pullman Bus Terminal and takes about 30 minutes to reach the reserve.
For more information, visit or call the ¡école! Hosteria and Restaurant in downtown Pucón. Proceeds from ¡école! fund the El Cañi project, and their helpful front desk staff can assist you with planning your trip to the reserve. You can also visit the reserve’s website.