The day hike to Laguna Cerro Castillo, starting in the town of Villa Cerro Castillo in the Chile part of Patagonia, involves fantastic trekking. The Laguna Cerro Castillo trail is definitely one of the best day hikes in Patagonia. Taking place in the Cerro Castillo National Park AKA Cerro Castillo National Reserve, the trekking adventure to the lagoon involves a physically demanding ascent. But, the views from atop Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo make the effort absolutely worth it.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about this day hike. After describing the hike itself, we’ll look at all of the other essential logistics. This will include information about Cerro Castillo National Park entrance costs as well as details about how to get there and where to stay in the town of Villa Cerro Castillo.
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Laguna Cerro Castillo Day Hike, Patagonia, Chile
Patagonia in South America is jam-packed full of amazing hiking! In particular, the Laguna Cerro Castillo day hike is a great trail, which leads you to the base of the majestic Cerro Castillo. The three-pronged peaks of this mountain lend themselves to comparison with its more well-known three-pronged counterpart. That would be Las Torres, which we were lucky enough to see in Torres del Paine during the W Trek. But with fewer people and hype, we hold the Laguna Cerro Castillo day hike, in Chile, in similarly high regard. Indeed, trekking to the lagoon involves doing one of the best Patagonia national parks day hikes.
There is a decent amount of information online about the multi-day Cerro Castillo circuit. This multi-day hike is often completed as a four day trekking trip. Personally, we had limited time in Patagonia. So, we opted for the day hike to Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo. This day hike involves walking from the town of Villa Cerro Castillo to the lagoon and back, measuring around 15km, which takes approx. 5–6 hours.
Certainly, there isn’t as much information about the day hike option to the lagoon. In this trekking guide, we’re going to shed some light on the lesser-known one day trek option which starts from the town of Villa Cerro Castillo. The trail then leads you to the outstanding Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo. This guide will provide all the necessary details for your this day hike and the trip to Villa Cerro Castillo in Chile.
Laguna Cerro Castillo Day Hike Stats and Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 15km
- Time: 5–6 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,100m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Laguna Cerro Castillo Trailhead (Private Entrance)
- Map: Wikiloc
Travel Made Me Do It has personally rated the difficulty of this trail
Laguna Cerro Castillo Trailhead Options
There are two trailheads for the day hike to Laguna Cerro Castillo. Basically, there’s a private entrance and an official national park entrance. Long story short, there’s been land disputes between private landowners and the national park. Thankfully, the feud seems to have settled, which means it’s possible to use either trailhead, both incurring the same entrance fee. So, which trailhead should you start at?
Well, most tourists will use the private entrance simply because that’s closest to the town of Villa Cerro Castillo. You’ll simply walk from the town, along Carretera Austral (Route 7), then join the unpaved X-720 Road (Arroyo El Bosque). After 150 metres or so, you’ll reach the private entrance ticket office. Starting the day hike to the lagoon from this trailhead is certainly the most convenient option if you’re walking to the trailhead from town. Personally, that’s what Beck and I did.
If you have a car or are happy to walk another 3–4 kilometres, following west along X-720 Road, you can access the national park entrance (see map below). Keep in mind, that the final 1km of the road leading to this trailhead is 4WD-accessible only. So, if you have a 2WD, you’ll have to walk 1km to reach this alternate trailhead.
As mentioned, the entrance fee is the same at either trailhead. So, there’s no added advantage to walking to this trailhead, if you’re walking there from Villa Cerro Castillo, Chile. So, how much is the entrance fee?
Cerro Castillo National Park (Parque Nacional Cerro Castillo) Entrance Fees
The day hike is very expensive! As of 2023, it costs $20,000CLP ($25USD) for foreign nationals and $16,000CLP ($20USD) for Chilean nationals. When Beck and I visited in 2020, we paid $18,000CLP ($23USD) in total. Because we did the hike from the private entrance, we paid an entrance fee of $5,000CLP ($6USD) to landowners and $13,000CLP ($15USD) to the national park. We assume, that a similar arrangement is now in place at the private entrance; the difference being you’ll likely pay $20,000CLP ($25USD) in total. Keep in mind, you’ll also pay $20,000CLP ($25USD) at the official entrance.
Indeed, the prices are extortionate for a day hike and may well put people off. But, we can assure you that the hike is worth it!
In peak season (December to February), there is actually volunteer staff at the private entrance who’ll explain the trail to you before you set off. To be honest, having someone explain how to follow a trail was fairly unnecessary. After all, it’s not rocket science!
Laguna Cerro Castillo Trail Description
Below, we’ll briefly talk about the incredible day hike to Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo in Chile.
Trekking to Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo
This day hike involves very demanding uphill walking. Whether you start from the private or national park entrance, you’ll need to tackle a considerable amount of elevation gain. Because of the long and steep ascent to reach the lagoon, the hike is quite physically demanding and exhausting. But, the terrain isn’t technical. So. we have rated it as a moderately difficult trail.
As mentioned, Beck and I started trekking from the private entrance. From what we’ve heard, you’ll enjoy a similar trekking experience, whether you begin from the private or national park entrance.
After leaving the private entrance, you’ll walk through farmland and a quaint forested area. You’ll also pass a series of small streams. Before long, you’ll be huffing and puffing as you wind your way around undulating terrain.
There’ll come a point where the steepness really increases as you reach dustier and drier trail terrain. During this ascent, you’ll enjoy phenomenal views back to Villa Cerro Castillo and Rio Ibanez meandering through the valley. Indeed, the surrounding mountainous landscape en route to the lagoon is mesmerising.
Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo
Eventually, you’ll reach Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo, where you’ll first see the amazing lake, perched below the mountain. You’ll be surrounded by a rocky landscape, where it’s possible to climb boulders to enjoy different viewpoints of the lake.
After enjoying the magnificent viewpoint, you can retrace your steps back to Villa Cerro Castillo; otherwise, it’s possible to continue trekking. Following a trail, in a westerly direction, you’ll continue to gain more elevation. This reveals more superb views of the lake and also the surrounding national park.
Personally, Beck and I were happy with the views from the main viewpoint. So, we headed back to town after reaching the Mirador. Using the descent of the trail, Beck and I motored down the trail, speed hiking back to Villa Cerro Castillo.
WHAT’S SPEED HIKING? As a recreational activity, speed hiking can be completed for an entire trail or just in sections. During this hike, we used the momentum to help us speed hike the return part of the trail. Find out more about speed hiking here.
Laguna Cerro Castillo Day Hike Recap
This day hike to Laguna Cerro Castillo in Chile is a phenomenal hike. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views and a solid workout. After all, there is a steep elevation of 1.1km over 7.5km to reach the lagoon! With the hike being easily accessible from town, it makes it super convenient to do this day hike during your Patagonia trip.
Other Trekking in Villa Cerro Castillo
Other than the day hike discussed in this guide, there are other trekking opportunities in Villa Cerro Castillo in Chile. Below, we’ll discuss two other possible trekking options.
Cerro Castillo Circuit (Circuito Las Horquetas)
The Cerro Castillo Circuit is an aprrox. 55km multi-day trek. Certainly, in comparison with the W Trek, this multi-day hike is barely known. But, that’s the beauty of it. This multi-day hike is far less busy. So, if you like a quiet trail, then consider this multi-day trekking option. Most people complete the trail over four days, staying at Campamento Río Turbio, Campamento El Bosque and Campamento Neozelandes along the way. For more information about the trekking involved with this hike, check out this Cerro Castillo Circuit Map.
In terms of other day hikes, the other possible option is trekking to Laguna Duff. But, from Villa Cerro Castillo, you’re looking at a monster approx. 32km out and back trekking extravaganza. Personally, Beck and I didn’t do the Laguna Duff day hike. To be honest, not many people do this day hike because of the whopping distance and effort. In fact, most people will visit Laguna Duff as part of the Cerro Castillo Circuit multi-day hike. Usually, on Day 3, hikers will visit Laguna Duff before settling at Campamento Neozelandes for the third night of the multi-day hike.
For more information about the day hike option, check out this Laguna Duff trail map.
How to Get to Villa Cerro Castillo
The two most common ways to get to Villa Cerro Castillo (Cerro Castillo town) are by bus or car. We’ll look at these two options in more detail below.
FYI – Cerro Castillo Airport is not a passenger airport. But, if you’re thinking of flying to Villa Cerro Castillo, there closest airport is Balmaceda Airport in Coyhaique, which is about an hour’s drive away.
Public Transport: Getting to Villa Cerro Castillo From Rio Tranquilo or Cochrane
If you’re planning on travelling Patagonia from south to north, hopefully, you have visited Rio Tranquilo to visit the incredible Marble Caves. From there, simply organise a transfer to Villa Cerro Castillo at the main bus station. In Patagonian summer (as of February 2020), buses usually depart daily, in the morning, around 8am heading to Coyhaique via Villa Cerro Castillo for approx. $10,000CLP ($12USD).
Unfortunately, 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 from Rio Tranquilo to Villa Cerro Castillo takes around 2–3 hours.
If you’re not departing from Rio Tranquilo, buses frequently head north from Cochrane to Villa Cerro Castillo en route to Coyhaique. This bus should be easily booked with a day’s notice in Cochrane. Often, buses leave early in the morning (around 7 or 8am), from Cochrane to Coyhaique (via Villa Cerro Castillo) and can take around 5–7 hours.
Public Transport: Getting to Villa Cerro Castillo From Coyhaique
Otherwise, if you’re travelling from north to south through Patagonia, you’ll need to get to Coyhaique. From there, a bus should be easily organised to Villa Cerro Castillo. Buses run from Coyhaique to Cochrane via Villa Cerro Castillo. You should find early morning departures (approx. 8:30am and 9:30am) from the main bus station in Coyhaique. The bus from Coyhaique to Villa Cerro Castillo takes around 1.5 hours and costs around $6,000CLP per person ($7USD).
Hiring a car is another option. Certainly, a Patagonia road trip is what dreams are made of! Villa Cerro Castillo is a town located on the famous Carretera Austral (Route 7). The Carretera Austral passes many areas full of amazing natural attractions and beautiful landscapes.
Personally, we found car hire would be too expensive and also difficult with crossing borders in Patagonia. Additionally, 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 riskier in terms of availability and reliability; but, may also be cheaper.
Public Transport: Departing Villa Cerro Castillo
Personally, we headed north to Coyhaquie from Villa Cerro Castillo. You can wait for a bus coming through from Cochrane around late morning. There isn’t an official bus station in Villa Cerro Castillo; but, you’d wait here for the bus. If you’re continuing south to Rio Tranquilo, two or three minibusses usually stop in Villa Cerro Castillo between 11am and 12pm. For more information about the latest timetables and departure times of buses, head to the small information centre in Villa Cerro Castillo.
Personally, our accommodation – Senderos Patagonia organised a minivan to Coyhaique for $6,000CLP per person ($7USD) departing 7:30am. It arrived 1.5 hours later.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Villa Cerro Castillo, Aysen
Accommodation options are limited. Due to the small size of Villa Cerro Castillo in Chile Patagonia, there aren’t many options for accommodation. Personally, 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. Admittedly, we stayed in the only private room there for $28,000CLP ($32USD) for one 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.
At Senderos Patagonia, there’s a large common area with a decent kitchen. It was Beck’s turn to cook 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 two nights to one 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.
If you’re keen to book something in advance, we recommend the following options.
- Budget – Hostel BaseCamp Cerro Castillo: unless you’re camping (Camping Castillo), Hostel BaseCamp is the other best budget option besides Senderos Patagonia. Hostel BaseCamp is a new hostel, which is beginning to emerge as a favourite among budget backpackers. Certainly, it’s well-placed for trekking to Laguna Cerro Castillo.
- Mid-range – B&B and Cabañas Cerro Castillo: this is one of the most popular accommodation options. B&B and Cabañas Cerro Castillo is easily the best mid-range option, providing a splendid breakfast and phenomenal views of the surrounding landscape.
- Luxury – Casa Cerro Castillo: definitely, the most luxurious option is Casa Cerro Castillo. If you’re after a gorgeous cabin in rural Chilean Patagonia, this is the one!
Patagonia Itinerary Suggestion
Spend one night in Villa Cerro Castillo. If you’re able to get into town before midday, as we did with the bus from Rio 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.
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!
What to Pack and Wear
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Make sure to also pack plenty of water for your trekking adventure to Laguna Cerro Castillo. You’ll need at least 2L of water for this day hike. Check out our Top 66 Items You Must Travel With for more great tips on hiking gear.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Beck and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is awesome value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel any time you want for the next month.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more. Specifically, Nomad Insurance includes medical cover as well as standard cover for travel-related mishaps.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future.
Below, you’ll find the most commonly asked questions about the Laguna Cerro Castillo day hike in Chile.
Where Does the Laguna Cerro Castillo Hike Start?
There are actually two trailheads for this day hike. Read Trailhead Options for more information.
Why Visit Laguna Cerro Castillo?
The walk is amazing; but, lesser known than many other day hikes in Patagonia. The viewpoint of the lake is simply superb.
Is Laguna Cerro Castillo Worth Visiting?
Given the beauty of the hike, we think it’s worth visiting. But, if you’re a budget traveller, you may find it hard to justify the extortionate price.
When Is the Best Time to Go to Laguna Cerro Castillo?
Generally speaking, the high season (January and February) brings with it the best weather in Patagonia. So, January and February are often considered the best times to visit Patagonia. But, of course, the weather in Patagonia is unpredictable. Always be prepared for four seasons in a day!
Check the Cerro Castillo weather here.
- Trail navigation: 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.
- Pack warm clothes: even in Patagonia summer, it’s very cold at the peak of this hike. Pack gloves and a beanie to wear at the Mirador. That’s of course alongside your warm layers. The town itself isn’t that cold in summer, so you may need to start layering up the higher you climb.
- There are only a few tiny supermarkets in Villa Cerro Castillo. It was quite humorous to see that most of the so-called supermarkets were literally just makeshift stores crafted out of the front room of people’s homes. Each houses a small range of products inside. We almost felt intrusive when having to buy groceries! Should we knock or press the doorbell before entering? Anyway, Minimarket Entre Vientos had what we needed and accepts debit/credit cards.
For more great hiking guides and all of the latest, read our other Patagonia guides.