National Park Queulat covers an area of more than 150,000 hectares that reaches from Rio Cisnes (Swan River) to Río Risopatrón in the Aysén region. The Carreterra Austral in Chile runs through it for 85 kilometers among channels, Patagonia fjord routes, forests, falls, lagunas, rivers, hills, eternal snow and glacial formations. Queulat Park houses glaciers along 260 km of Its perimeter. But by far the most famous attraction at the park is the Ventisquiero Colgante or, Hanging Glacier, a 1.4 km long glacier spanning two mountains.
The Glacier is so impressive that it can be seen directly from the Austral Highway. From Coyhaique it’s 134 km of pavement down Route 7 and 40 km more of gravel road towards Puyuhuapi. On a twisty and turny descent, the glacier appears above the evergreen forest.
The first park entrance is located in the Portezuelo area where you can hike the Enchanted Forest trail in approximately two hours (medium difficulty). Admission is free here, but to see the glacier up close, head to the second entrance where the cost is 3,000 clp for Chilean nationals and 5,000 clp for foreign nationals, discounts are given for seniors and children.
From the parking area you can choose among different trails. So that no one has to miss admiring this natural wonder, there is even one trail for people with disabilities with a panoramic view of the glacier.
For the other trails, one has to cross a suspension bridge over Río Ventisquiero. From there you can get a full view of the glacier. You can be satisfied with the scenery you find there: forest, mountains, fast-flowing river and the hanging glacier just beyond, but just knowing you can get closer is quite the temptation.
For the less experienced in trekking, only 600 meters along is the Laguna Témpanos (Iceberg Lagoon), so called because in winter, there are pieces of ice- we visited in late November so we cannot attest. Just across are the glacier and the waterfall that feeds the lagoon which further on joins the river.
To take the Mirador Trail, you need to return the 600 meters and take the left hand route before reaching the bridge, a roughly three km hike starts there. Round trip it’s about a three hours at an easy pace. Even though it is medium difficulty the whole family can do it, you just have to take time to rest on the steeper rises.
After the steepest stretch there are benches to rest and appreciate Puyuhuapi Fjord. From there, the path is easier. In winter it can be more difficult to traverse due to the snow. In fact, in November there are still snow-covered areas that create little waterfalls over the stones making for a very slippery trail; it’s nothing to worry about, just pick a fun line.
After walking 3,300 meters through a dense forest we arrive at the view of the Ventisquero River and laguna which we had longed to see. You just want to stand next to the rail and observe the ice formations, the crystal blue color and the waterfalls that seem to descend in slow motion.
Upon returning, you can choose the 350 m interpretive trail El Aluvión, it’s recommended as regenerative activity after the decline.
In the parking area, there is an Information Centre with an exhibition of photographs and data about the glaciers. Among some interesting things to learn is the fact that when the Glacier was discovered in 1875, it reached almost to the sea and is today further than 7,800 meters away. Consider that.
Authors: Camila Fusterand Mariano Bourguet de Trayectorias en Viaje.