Blog WHS Visits

WHS #894: Los Alerces National Park

It’s hard to get all that you want from Patagonia. There was too much demand for bus tickets so I couldn’t go all the way from North to South by public transport. There also was too little demand for a ‘Safari Lacustre’ so I could not get on a boat tour inside the Los Alerces National Park to see the Alerces in a forest setting (they seem to run only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday but the schedule is highly variable). And then on January 25, a devastating bushfire broke out affecting 6,924 of the 188,379 ha of the park. Only a few days before my visit in late February, it was all under control. I did not see any smoke, firemen or scorched ground – the fires were much further north than the area usually accessed by tourists,

I brought a rental car from Bariloche airport to cover Los Alerces, which at least provided me with additional flexibility. Arriving from Esquel at the central park gate around 9am, I stopped to pay my entrance fee, but I did not need to pay anything. Maybe they temporarily suspended it because of the fires?

Driving in this area takes longer than you think. You may not drive faster than 40km/h and the final 20 of the 32 km from Villa Lahautan to Lago Verde, where the main activities are, is unpaved. So by car, I was maybe only half an hour faster than the 2.5 hours given as an indication for the bus ride by previous reviewers. The unpaved road is wide and fairly level, so it’s perfectly doable with a standard car. Another aspect of note for self-drivers: there is a parking fee collected at both the Pasarela (1,000 Arg pesos per hour, about 1 USD) and Rio Arrayanes (4,000 pesos, waived if you spend more than 10,000 pesos at the attached restaurant).

I was in the park between 9 am and 4 pm and covered the following areas. All these short hikes that I mentioned are well-signposted and easy to do:

  • Villa Futulaufquen: had a look at the Visitor Center there, but it was closed. Walked the rock art trail nearby. The rock paintings are barely distinguishable abstract figures. I did however enjoy the Mirador which lies just above and provides views over Lago Futulaufquen. Not for the last time the area made me think of the Canadian Rockies.
  • Mirador Lago Verde: Drove up to the start of the trail to the Mirador Lago Verde, which offered fine views of that lake.
  • Pasarela: Drove back down for a few km to the Pasarela Rio Arrayanes, a footbridge (photo 1) with good river views. Did the walk to the Alerce Solitario from here (photo 2). Not a photogenic tree! Ate the lunch I brought with me at the dock of Puerto Chucao. Some 200m further along the trail, there’s a very fine viewpoint from a beach across Lake Menendez to the Torrecillas Glacier (see large site photo and photo 3 below).
  • Rio Arrayanes: Drove another km down and parked close to the river at a large lot. Here is the start of the trail to Viejo Lahuan. It’s a cool forest trail to end up at yet another uncooperative Alerce tree (they grow towards the riverside and 'turn their back' to the forest side where the trail is). On the way back I met an elder Argentinian couple waiting for me – they did not dare to continue on the trail as it was blocked by a whole family of cows including two babies and what the Argentinians thought was one bull (I was less sure of that). In the end, making loud noises drove them away.

After that last experience, I was sure: there can’t be that many cows in a core zone of a natural WHS! I had a good look at the official map again and it turns out that only the areas on the ‘other’ side of the Arrayanes river are included. IUCN triumphantly concluded that “the entire legally declared National Park is uninhabited and roadless” (so there’s a No Road Access connection). On the ground, the park does not visually distinguish between the two areas (also not on the provided tourist map) and the park entrance gate has a large UNESCO logo but isn’t even in the buffer zone. Essentially you need to cross the ‘Pasarela’ on foot to enter the core zone (the trail to the Alerce Solitario is the easiest choice).

Els - 3 March 2024

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Jay T 3 March 2024

Well if it reminds you of the Canadian Rockies, then I must go there some day!