Paddle Patagonia

Patagonia Hiking: Refugio Circuit


Trip description




Price: U$D 2,100.00.

Patagonia Refugio Circuit Hiking Tour.

This hiking tour of backcountry Patagonia is a unique exploration of El Bolsón’s mountain hut trekking circuit.  We combine several days of intermediate guided hiking on little known trails with some horseback riding and a thrilling day of whitewater rafting on the crystal clear waters of the Manso River.

Most of the mountain hut "refugios" on this hiking trail circuit were built well over 30 years ago when a few land owners decided to build their family homes here in the foothills of the Andes.  The houses have remained as well as some of the original families.  Today these huts host weary hikers looking for a place to stop for the night and share a hot meal.  Tent camping is the most common but some refugios have indoor sleeping options and even hot showers!

On this hiking tour, our guides will take you to 3 of the less visited refugios found on the trails of this region in Patagonia.  After our first day of hiking we will give you the option to hike or horseback ride as we move even further into the backcountry, eventually arriving at Lake Esperanza a turquoise gem hidden in the Andes mountains.

Day 1: Pick up in San Carlos de Bariloche (BRC)

Your hiking tour begins with a pick up in San Carlos de Bariloche, your first stop in Patagonia. We will pick you up in the afternoon at the Bariloche airport (BRC) or your hotel.

From here, we drive 120km south to the town of El Bolsón, our starting point for the week of hiking ahead. Overnight in a local hosteria. (D)

Day 2: Encanto Blanco

This morning we load our day packs and begin our first hike that explores the valley of the Blanco River.  We start out on a logging trail before merging with a forested horse trail that follows the path the river has cut through the forest. Our final destination is the quaint Encanto Blanco Refugio where we will set up camp and spend the night. (BLD)

Distance: 11km 

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Highest point: 850m

Approximate Elevation gain: 530m

Day 3: Valley Hike to the Casa de Campo

Today will be epic as we ascend the Blanco River valley reaching 1100m and then descend down through the Horqueta River valley.  We travel through an untouched forest brimming with native Alerce and Cohuie trees.  Our day ends with a final crossing of the Azul River and the arrival at our refuge for the night; the Casa de Campo.  Our hosts tonight will treat us to well deserved hot showers, comfy beds and a gourmet mountain-style meal. (BLD)

Distance: 13km

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Highest point: 1150m

Approximate Elevation gain: 500m

Days 4 &5: Horseback Ride to Lake Esperanza

Today will feel really remote as we depart the Casa by horseback heading in the direction of a hidden lake deep in the backcountry.  Today’s trail ascends along the Azul River valley, crossing the river several times.  With almost no visitors to this hidden lake, the waters of Lake Esperanza and the surrounding forest are pristine.  Tonight's camp is located mere meters from an unprotected mountain border crossing to Chile where in the not so distant past they would smuggle contraband cattle into Argentina! After dinner tonight we can relax by the campfire under a clear Patagonian sky.  The next morning we will return to the Casa de Campo to rest up for our biggest day yet.  Horseback Riding on these days is optional, you may prefer to hike or you may choose to hike one way and horseback ride the other. (BLD)

Distance: 11km each way

Hiking time: 5 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Highest point: 1350m

Approximate Elevation gain: 865m

Day 6: Dedo Gordo

Today will be a challenging trek, but yields the greatest results!  After a good rest at the Casa de Campo we will begin our journey towards the Dedo Gordo (the big toe) of the Andes.  This trail of exposed mountain pass is a steep incline that winds past large boulders, rocks and cliffs.  The tiny Dedo Gordo refugio is our final goal hidden inside a forest of Lenga trees also endemic to the southern Andes region.  After setting up camp, we can follow a short trail from the refugio to visit a viewpoint with an impressive panoramic view of the valley. (BLD)

Distance: 10km 

Hiking time: 5-6 hours

Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult

Highest point: 1450m

Approximate Elevation gain: 1100m

Day 7: Return from Dedo Gordo

What goes up, must come down! Today we begin our descent back to civilization. Our trail will take us back down the valley and through the forests that we have become so familiar with. We will aim to arrive in time for lunch at a local settler’s homestead before continuing our trek straight to the doors of our accommodation for the night.  Here on our last night in the mountains we will celebrate with a traditional Argentine asado (barbecue) and a well deserved sleep at a family-run hosteria. (BLD)

Distance: 10km 

Hiking time: 3-4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Highest point: 1450m

Approximate Elevation gain: 250m

Day 8: Manso River Valley & Whitewater Rafting

This morning we will drive north to the Manso River Valley.  After departing the main mountain highway we head down a gravel road and begin to follow the path of the turquoise waters of the Manso River.  Here you’ll have the option for a short hike in the valley or you may choose to relax on the beach at the rivers edge before our high-adrenaline rafting trip begins.  After lunch we will gear up for a whitewater rafting trip that takes us through fun crashing waves in class II-IV rapids.  The river trips end right on the Chilean border where you can stand with one foot inside each country!  No experience is necessary to take part in rafting.  After our rafting trip and some refreshments we will continue our drive to our Bariloche hotel. This evening we will dine out at one of Bariloche’s amazing restaurants. (BL)

Day 9: Departure Bariloche

If you are flying out this morning, a shuttle can be arranged from the hotel to the airport. Otherwise you may choose to extend your stay and explore Bariloche and surroundings.