Patagonia is jam packed full of amazing hiking! Particularly, the Cerro Castillo day hike starting from the town of Villa Cerro Castillo is a great trail. The 3 pronged peaks of Cerro Castillo lends itself to comparison with its more well known 3 pronged counterpart. That would be Las Torres, which we were lucky enough to see on the W Trek. But with less people and hype, we hold this day hike in similarly high regard.
Cerro Castillo | Day Hike Itinerary
There is a decent amount of information online about the multi-day Cerro Castillo circuit. But in this hiking guide, we are here to shed some light on the lesser known day hike option which starts from the town of Villa Cerro Castillo. This will ensure that your trip here in Patagonia goes off without a hitch.
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 15km
- Time: 5-6 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,100m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Laguna Cerro Castillo Trailhead Parking
Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated this trail
The Day Hike
Start the day hike from Villa Cerro Castillo: The Cerro Castillo circuit is often completed as a 4 day hiking trip. However, we had limited time in Patagonia. So we opted for the day hike. This day hike involves walking from the town of Villa Cerro Castillo to the laguna and back, measuring around 15km. It takes 5-6 hours.
There is a steep elevation of 1.1km over 7.5km to reach the laguna. Because of the long steep ascent to reach the laguna, the hike is quite physically demanding and exhausting. But the terrain is not technical. So we have rated it as a moderately difficult trail. Using Maps.me, it was very easy to locate the ticket office to start the hike. Otherwise, see Google Maps below.
If you are interested in the 4 day Cerro Castillo Circuit, we recommend reading Stingy Nomad’s guide.
Cerro Castillo National Park Entrance Fees
The day hike is very expensive: There is varying consensus online as to where the Cerro Castillo day hike starts, and whether you have to pay or just jump the fence. As of February 2020, you must pay an entrance fee of $5,000CLP ($6USD) to landowners. This is because the beginning of the hike is on private farmland. You must also pay a separate $13,000CLP ($15USD) to the Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo. The prices are extortionate for a day hike and may well put people off. However we assure you that the hike is worth it!
In peak season, there are actually national park staff who will explain the trail to you before you set off. To be honest, having someone explain how to follow a trail was fairly unnecessary. It’s not rocket science! Nevertheless, the day hike itself is a very demanding uphill affair. There are phenomenal views back to Villa Cerro Castillo and the surrounding mountainous landscape on route to a stunning lagoon below the Castillo mountain.
Cerro Castillo Day Hike Recap
The Cerro Castillo day hike is a phenomenal hike, with breathtaking views and a solid workout. With the hike being accessible from town, it makes it easy to do. The Carretera Austral is full of amazing natural attractions and beautiful landscapes. Cerro Castillo is yet another example of this.
Getting to Villa Cerro Castillo
Bus: If you are planning on travelling Patagonia south to north, hopefully you have visited Río Tranquilo for the incredible Marble Caves. From here, simply organise a transfer at the main bus station. See Google Maps below to help you find the station. In Patagonian summer as of February 2020, buses depart 8am daily heading to Coyhaquie via Villa Cerro Castillo for $10,000CLP ($12USD).
Unfortunately, whether departing the bus earlier at Villa Cerro Castillo compared to the final destination of Coyhaique didn’t seem to change the price. But admittedly we should have questioned more before paying! The bus arrives into Villa Cerro Castillo around 10-11am.
If you are not departing from Río Tranquilo, buses frequently head north from Cochrane to Villa Cerro Castillo on route to Coyhaquie. They should be easily booked with a day’s notice in town. Otherwise, if your trip is north to south, a bus should be easily organised from Coyhaquie to Villa Cerro Castillo.
Hiring a car: This is of course another option. We found car hire would be too expensive and also difficult with crossing borders in Patagonia. Plus, much of the Carretera Austral is unpaved, leading to rough road conditions. So that’s why we decided buses were the way to go in Patagonia. But if you decide to hire a car, we recommend using RentalCars.com if booking in advance online. Otherwise, booking upon arrival at a local car hire agency may be more risky in terms of availability and reliability but may also be cheaper.
Accommodation in Villa Cerro Castillo
Accommodation options are limited: Due to the size of Villa Cerro Castillo in Patagonia, there aren’t many options for accommodation. We had no success with Booking.com or Airbnb. But we can recommend Senderos Patagonia as a solid budget option. We Facebook messaged in advance to book. Hostel dorm rooms ($10,000CLP/$12USD) and camping ($5,000CLP/$6USD) have mixed reviews. However we stayed in the only private room there for $28,000CLP ($32USD) for 1 night. The room proved more than adequate. Don’t expect much in terms of Wifi though. That’s fairly standard in this part of the world.
There is a large common area with a decent kitchen. It was Beck’s turn to cook tonight as I struggled with the Wifi! The host of the accommodation is an American woman who is very lovely, accommodating and flexible. We changed our plans from 2 nights to 1 night. She was fine with this as long as we paid cash. She does accept some sort of online payment too but we didn’t explore that option.
Getting out of Villa Cerro Castillo
Bus: We headed north to Coyhaquie. You can wait for a bus coming through from Cochrane around late morning. Find Google Maps below for where to wait for this bus. Alternatively, we chose to crack on. Senderos Patagonia organised a minivan to Coyhaique for $6,000CLP/person ($7USD) departing 7:30am. It arrived 1.5 hours later.
Cerro Castillo Trip Duration
Spend one night in Villa Cerro Castillo: If you are able to get into town before midday, as we did with the bus from Río Tranquilo, we comfortably fitted in the day hike beginning late morning. Funnily enough, in just a single day, we managed to see a bunch of people we had already met at Chile Chico. This was when we were stuck trying to find a way to the Marble Caves.
SIDE NOTE: It’s always interesting to see whether people that you briefly meet when travelling will recognise you in the future. Most of the travellers we saw more than once in Patagonia were very friendly. As a result, conversations were often sparked with random travellers we had seen before but barely knew. It’s a beautiful part of travel. The friendly camaraderie between travellers doing a similar trip.
There are only a few tiny supermarkets here. It was quite humorous to see that most of the so called supermarkets were literally just makeshift stores made out of the front room of people’s homes. Each housing a small range of products inside. We almost felt intrusive when having to buy groceries. Should of we knocked or pressed the door bell before entering? Nevertheless, Minimarket Entre Vientos had what we needed and accepts debit/credit cards.
- Bus to Villa Cerro Castillo: $10,000CLP/person ($12USD).
- Accommodation: $28,000CLP ($32USD) for 2 people.
- Hiking entrance fees: $18,000CLP/person ($21USD).
- Bus to Coyhaquie: $6,000CLP/person (7USD).
- Supplies: $8,000CLP/person ($10USD).
= $51,000CLP/person ($66USD) over 2 days / 1 night.
We value getting most bang for buck. We hope this guide and our other guides help you to get the best value for money when booking your hiking trips online.
Hiking Gear for Cerro Castillo
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – with a steep elevation, you’ll want boots with decent traction.
- The North Face TKA Glacier snap fleece jacket – we found the peak of this hike absolutely freezing!
- The North Face Venture 2 waterproof/windproof jacket – important to have at the top of the hike around Laguna Castillo.
- Columbia water repellent convertible hiking trousers – just in case the weather turns bad.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – a great backpack we use for day hikes.
To be fully prepared, consider downloading a GPS guided map before you set out. We recommend Wikiloc or AllTrails. For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during the hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Research alternative entrances for this day hike: You could go one step further than us, and look into alternative routes to the Mirador Laguna that perhaps don’t require paying an entrance fee. However, for convenience and upholding morals, pay up!
- Pack plenty of water: You will need at least 2L of water for the day hike. Check out our Top 66 Items You Must Travel With for more great tips on hiking gear.
- Pack warm clothes: Even in Patagonia summer, it is freezing at the peak of this hike. Pack gloves and a beanie to wear at the top at Laguna Cerro Castillo. That’s of course alongside your warm layers listed above. The town itself is not cold, so you might even start with a summer gaiter and switch to a winter gaiter on route.
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