ENG:Laguna del Maule
Since the opening of the road (which usually happens in December or early January) until late April.
The Patrimonial Route Laguna del Maule is located in the Andes mountain range at 150 km east of the city of Talca and 22 km from the frontier with Argentina, in the CH- 115 route, via the Pehuenche Crossing. This route constitutes one portion of the national trail of the Sendero de Chile.
You can access the Patrimonial Route of Laguna del Maule from de city of Talca (in mapudungun language, Talca means thunder), region capitol city, through the international route CH-115, going east (towards the Andes). In the route, you will cross different towns, like San Clemente in the 19 km; the Vilches Crossing in the 32 km.; and the town of Amerillo 70 Km, where the asphalt road ends. In the 99 km. you will find places like La Suiza, Las Garzas y Curillinque (mapudungun word for black frogs). In Curillingue, a bridge crosses the Maule river, and a detour leads to La Mina, 113 Km. Till this location the road is made of gravel and it is in good conditions. From this point on the road becomes narrower, more steep and it becomes a gravel road (between April to December it will be closed, due to rain and snow. We recommend you to drive carefully). At the 148 km is the last police (Carabineros) obligatory point of control on this international route. Two kilometres ahead is the access to the Laguna del Maule, where you can park your vehicle and start to walk on your own pace, the Patrimonial Routes that the Sendero de Chile has prepared for you in this wonderful and special landscapes of the high Andes.
Domo del Maule. Landmarks 1 - 8
To begin the Patrimonial Route, once you are located in the Guidepost Nº1, south side of the CH-115 highway, 2 km. to the East from the police control booth and just a few metres of the Dirección de Obras Hidráulicas (DOH) you will see to your right a earthen mound and the start of a wide path for vehicles. Beside this point, there is a welcome sign,which gives you general information of the track and some recommendations for a pleasant visit. If you arrived to this point by car, we recommend you to park your vehicle at Guidepost Nº 2. At 370 metres South from the Guidepost Nº 1, is the Guidepost Nº 2, which is a camping zone. Just beside the Guidepost Nº 2 is a pine plantation, which can be visited by foot or vehicle. This place is suitable as a parking place for the vehicles, since the trail becomes exclusively for walking. We recommend you to check your equipment and to make sure to carry water for the walk. From this point, you can see the lake from the North-western side. At 128 metres from the last point, there is an interpretation sign for the Guidepost Nº 3, with information of the location and orientation of the route and about what you will see on this trail. At this point, there is a wide view of the lake and you can see the contrast of the blue waters of the lake and the rocky walls, which fall abruptly into the water. Between the Guidepost Nº 3 and 4, the trail crosses a rocky area, which is not difficult to pass through, thanks to the slope and its volcanic origin. This area is a Riolitic lava flow (we recommend you to read the Glossary at the end of this guide). A riolitic lava belong to a type of lava called acid lava, because of its high contain of silica. This is a lava flow that got in contact with the air, cooled down rapidly, and then moved slowly in viscous lava flows, not far from the crater. Inside this type of lava flows, it can be found high proportion of vitreous structures, like the obsidian Obsidian: a mineral like common glass, used by our ancesters to build tools like knives, scrapers and arrowheads among others.. At the end of the rocky area, there is a little beach of approximately 700 metres long. This is an excellent place to watch birds, like Black- necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus). We recommend you to be careful and not go too close of the birds and distort their natural habitat. Here you can take pictures and have a snack, walk through the shore until you reach the Guidepost Nº 5, which marks the end of the beach and the start of a new area. Between Guidepost Nº 5 and Guidepost Nº 6, you will have the chance to see a new riolitic lava flow of approximately 600 metres long, which, and, for your surprise, ends in a outcrop of underground water, which constitutes a source for the Laguna del Maule. This kind of water may be suitable for human consumption, but as it comes from an aquifer, it may has a high content of salts and it may not be good for you stomach. We recommend you not to drink it. If you pay attention to the landscape, you will see that it has changed till this point: from rocky formations of lava flow, now there are lichens and mosses, associated to the grass family or bentgrass, giving life to a rocky slope, that attracts little insects and other animals you can watch. Leaving the Guidepost Nº 6, the trail takes the southeast direction and goes into an abrupt Andean mountainsides (to the right of the hiker) and the Laguna del Maule (to the left), with a wide view of the lake. All this changes from the Guidepost Nº 7, located at 812 metres from Guidepost Nº 6. The Guidepost Nº 7 is located in a soft- hills landscape of brown color, due to the presence of the coiron (Stipa pogonathera), a typical formation of the high Andean steppe, very common in the high mountains and with a wide presence in the Laguna del Maule. The high Andean steppe has three typical biological features: pulvinate plants, coirons or family grass or bentgrass and low shrubs with reduced foliage or tola. The most representative species are Pichi-romero(Fabiana imbricada), Pingo pingo(Ephedra andina) and the ones of the Adesmia and Berberis species; an example of the last ones are the woody and spiny species. This point marks the climb to a viewpoint in the Guidepost Nº 8. After walking the 190 metres from the Guidepost Nº 7 till Guidepost Nº 8, you will get to a viewpoint, which has a wonderful view of the Laguna del Maule and the topography of the landscapes that surrounds it to the western (there is an interpretative sign placed at this point). You can take pictures like the ones of the sign, and explain the features of the landscape to other people. Thus, at this place, you can have another view of the Domo del Maule, rest, eat something, drink water and recover the energy to keep walking. IMPORTANT: please, remember to keep all the garbage you have in a plastic bag, so you can throw it away when you go back home. Do not forget that the rule is Leave No Trace. Enjoy nature without making any harm to it.
- Distance and time expected: 3,167 km, 1h
Estepa Alto Andina. Landmarks 9 - 14
After watching the Andean lacustrine area at the viewpoint of Landmark Nº 8, the circuit invites the hiker to move away from the lake and go through a background of valleys, surrounding and crossing the Los Mellicos stream at the Guidepost Nº 9. This part of the route in an ideal place to know the fisonomy and distribution of high Andean vegetation. Due to the presence of humidity, we find in the lower and wet areas cushion plant vegetation; for example, the coiron de las vegas and the junquillo (Patosia clandestina - juncos balticus) both have a predominant presence here; one of the two forms of the high Andean steppe, which appears in places with water presence in company of the Heleocharis albibrac teata, Calamagrosis fulva, cortadera, ratonera (Hordeum comosum), paquial (Oxichloe andina) and the garbanzo silvestre (Astragalus bustillosii), among other species. There is only 1 Km between Guidepost Nº 9 and 10: a plain that comes to a canyon bottom. We recommend you to stop before you cross the stream and watch the vegetation developed at the shores, where you will find short shrubs not seen till this point of the route, which develop thanks to the presence of humidity and water. The shrubs are woody plants with ramified trunks from the base, with a variable height depending on the species, climate and local humidity. These plants, called also tola, are very fragile to the action of people or animals, because of the fragility of the species that build them and the great effort they make, growing on thin soils with low organic content and poor drain conditions. Because of this, we recommend you neither to step on them, nor to rip them out or use them as combustible. This part of the route is suitable to provide you with water for the rest of the trek (it is suitable for human purposes). Be precautious when crossing the stream to avoid accidents. After a 1 hour and half long trek and leaving behind the Landmark Nº 10, the route takes again the slopes and keeps going Southeast, again taking the view from the shores of the Laguna del Maule. After additional 1, 5 km walk, you will find Guidepost Nª 11 and 12, which are associated to a new fluvial beach. This first Landmark (Nº 11) allows to access the beach on a 300 meters trek, where you must cross a little hill till you reach the lakes shore, where is the Guidepost Nº 12. We invite you to make a pause on this beach and watch the aquatic fauna, take pictures, and walk along the shore or just rest if you need to recover after a two hours trek. Even though the track is marked and there are natural signs to guide your way, it is important not to leave the trail and follow the indication signs of the guide, to avoid problems. After resting at the beach, you have to take the trail in the Landmark Nº 12 again; the route continues towards the Southwest. Once you have covered the 397 meters approximately in this direction, you will reach the Guidepost Nº 13 at the highest part of the trail. If you have never been on a mountain, Congratulations!, now You are at 2.264 meters above sea level, a place we called Mirador de Geoformas. At this place and with the help of the signs we have implemented, you will be able to watch the formations as a result of the volcanic action, especially of the lava flows with obsidian deposits and cones like the Cráter Negro (Black crater). The obsidian is a black vitreous volcanic stone, easy to identify. In this part of the track the obsidian is found in irregular deposits at the right side of the route. The Cráter Negro (Black crater), where these stones came from, is a cone located on the Southwestern side of the lake (between Los Mellicos stream and Las Nieblas) produced material with low content of silica. Due to their less viscosity and great flow rate, this type of lava flows reaches biggest areas at a bigger distance of the crater, building thick volcanic material layers of a lighter color than the riolitic flows. This landmark also offers the possibility for distinguishing the most recent formations created from the periglaciar process on the Andean slopes. Other conditions that affect the landscape are the periglacier processes (around the glacial, literally), which being associated to freeze-thaw cycles and extreme temperature changes, help the rock fragmentation by thermoclasty (due to temperature changes) and gelifraction (by means of water freezing between the rocks cracks), producing a great amount of soil materials, which are dragged down from the upper areas of the slopes. All this, deters the stabilization of the slopes, the formation of soil, the colonization of plants, producing a peculiar soft-slopes landscape, which contrasts with the volcanic forms of irregular, cracked surface and angled blocks.
- Distance and time expected: 3,9 km, 1h
Las Nieblas . Landmarks 15 - 21
Just leaving the Geology Formations Viewpoint, the route gets into a soft, fine-particles material, corresponding to volcanic ash and lapillis . The volcanic ash or cinerita (ash flow) is the finest material generated by an eruption, and the lapillis are the clasts or little parts of volcanic material, originated from the explosive exit of fragments from a volcano, where they lose the gases and fall rapidly at very high temperatures, solidifying and sticking between them. Surrounding the plateau, the way to the Guidepost Nº 14 presents a slope change, that allows to descend approximately 80 meters on a 1, 5 km. long way. This part of the route makes it more difficult to walk: we recommend you to make it slowly to avoid accidents during the way out, and the way back, when you will have to go up slowly to avoid an unnecessary physical effort and extreme tiredness. Remember: if you stay for the night near the lake, you will have to carry more than 12 Kg. equipment and food.
After 2 hours and 30 minutes you will reach the Landmark Nº 14, which is a small lagoon over an esplanade. This lagoon shows the hydrologic cycle of the High Tundra climate typical for the high Andean mountains. This lagoon stays frozen most part of the year, increases its surface and volume during the thaw period (since September on), decreasing its surface and volume by infiltration to the lower layers of earth and evaporation into the atmosphere, as a result of an increase in temperature and low atmospheric humidity during summer. The Landmark Nº 15 is also connected to this lagoon, located on the high level zone of the lagoon, where the trail turns diffuse, because of the feature of the lagoon. Leaving the small lagoon, between Guidepost Nª 16 and 17, the route goes through a soft-hills area, low slope grounds and fine material of volcanic ash and lapillis. On this 400 meters track approximately, you will not be able to see the Laguna del Maule and the trail still goes diffuse, this means you have to be aware of the demarcation of the trail to keep yourself on it. So, the Landmarks No 16 and 17 are points where the signs are mostly indicators of the trail and not to get lost. After almost a three hours walk, the visitor will get to Guidepost Nº 18: Las Nieblas stream, which you have to crossover to reach Guidepost Nº 19. We recommend you to do the crossing where the signs are posted and the conditions are the best at a lower risk. In this area, between Guidepost No 18 and 19, is ideal for you to recognize and appreciate the connection between two vegetal communities of the high Andean steppe. On low, flooded areas there are species corresponding to the Coiron Junquillo (Patosia clandestina - juncos balticus) association, easy to recognize for its herbaceous, green type. On the other hand, on the dry areas, vegetation of the grass family or gramineae presents a low area- covering and the Coiron (Stipa pogonathera) becomes more flat, yellow and a hard texture plant. These features make this specie (Coiron or Andean grass) a high resistance species to the rough weather conditions, and it preserves intact under the snow during winter. These plants associations were in the past a valuable resource to support the survival of native mammals, like the Huanaco or Guanaco (Lama guanicoe). Nowadays these plants carry out a similar function, for they are the support for the domestic cattle (sheep and bovine) of the peasants that inhabit the lower areas of the San Clemente commune; so, do not be afraid if you find cattle on your way. Be careful: do not bother the animals nor cause them to run, for this mean many hours of hard work for their owners. Respect is always welcome. Leaving behind the Las Nieblas stream, crossing and maintaining the same general Southwest direction, walk a little more of 220 metres, surrounding the Las Nieblas stream till an esplanade, where You will find the Guidepost Nº 20, a place suitable for resting and recovering Your water reserves. The last part of the route covers the area called Baños del Maule, associated to Las Nieblas stream. You have to continue walking, following the course of water, which finally ends in a beautiful waterfall. This is where Guidepost Nº 21 is located: Congratulations! You have ended the route. In this area, You will find a new interpretative sign and will have a wide sight of the lake from its Southwestern shore. This is an excellent place for watching and interpreting the shapes of the landscape, taking pictures and having a great lunch, after walking 3 and a half hours. This place has the particularity to limit with the Colada Las Nieblas, an unique route formation, since it has 6.000 meters long, 300 meters high and it is formed by lava blocks and poorly consolidated volcanic material, arranged on an abrupt slope that falls directly into the water. The lava blocks are lava flows of black, damaged, angled rock blocks, formed by the explosion of lava and gas. Once it cooled down rapidly, the hot lava that lies beneath the surface drags along to the hard surface, giving as a result irregular blocks on the broken surface. The route by the shore of the lake beyond the Guidepost Nº 21 is not included in the Patrimonial Route Laguna del Maule, and it is not recommended for being an unsecured ground, dominated by the lava flows.
- Distance and time expected: 3,5 km, 1h 30m
- This trekking is described in full detail in the following topoguide of the Ministery of Public Patrimony. The printed guide can be obtained for free in the Ministery:56-2-3512100 -> 2325. It is hihgly recommended to take it to the walk, as it enriches the experience with descrptions of flora, fauna, geography and geology.