There are 4 alternative accesses to the route:
- From Chaitén in the north along route 7 (Southern Longitudinal Highway); the first 15 kilometers are asphalt, passing through the settlements of El Amarillo and Puerto Cárdenas, and then a good gravel road that is useable all year round.
- From Futaleufú taking CH 231 to Puerto Ramirez and then route CH 235 to Santa Lucía, connecting with route 7 to the north. 109 kilometers of gravel road in good condition, useable all year round, with chains during periods of winter snow.
- From Palena taking route CH 235 to Puerto Ramirez and then route CH 235 to Santa Lucía, connecting with route 7 to the north. 89 kilometers of gravel road in good condition, useable all year round, with chains during periods of winter snow.
- From La Junta taking route 7. 101 kilometers of gravel road in good condition, useable all year round, with chains during periods of winter snow.
The Ventisquero River heritage route is right along the southern highway, 59 kilometers southeast of Chaitén. It is a 6 km long trail there and back
through temperate rainforests, one of the most attractive landscapes in Chilean Patagonia. Its biodiversity and endemism,with ecosystems in hidden valleys, are huge attractions for nature lovers, as are also the beautiful views of the hanging glaciers that one can enjoy while walking the route.
Together with observation of
various species of flora, you will be able
to get to know more about our bird fauna,
our rivers and mountains.
It takes two hours to walk the route
there and back, but we recommend
spending longer so as to be able to enjoy
the beautiful sites where you will be able
to take photographs, enjoy the views of
ice or calmly go in search of the
HuetHuet or Chucao.
The route is divided into two
sections. The first is 1.3 kilometers long
and concentrates mainly on identifying
species such as Coigüe, Luma,
Cinnamon tree, among others, and also
on enjoying the first views of the
Ventisquero River glacier.
Section two is slightly longer at 1.6
kilometers. It offers the possibility of
observing the rich undergrowth
dominated by different kinds of fern and
moss, as well as also more frequent
observation of the typical birds that
inhabit these humid forests. At the
end, you will be able to enjoy an
extraordinary view of the
Ventisquero River glacier.
We invite those of you who think of Patagonia as a destination for exploring rather more than just traditional roads to walk this interesting route, which is suitable for all ages and where you will be able to combine family recreation with adventurous passage through the forests and their surroundings.
El fogón - Llano de las Nalcas
The route starts in the parking
lot, SNUPIE 1, on the northern bank
of the Ventisquero River, less than
100 m. from the turnoff to the west
of the Southern Highway. Make sure
that you have enough time for the
full route and for a well-deserved
picnic or camp, if you get enthused.
From SNUPIE 1, you can see
SNUPIE 2 only a few meters from
the edge of a raised area indicating
access to the trail that penetrates into
the river valley. There are another two
tables there, where you can take a
comfortable rest before continuing your
You will notice from SNUPIE 2
that the trail is well-marked, and it
continues to be so during the whole
route. When you reach SNUPIE 3, you
will see a typical adult cinnamon tree;
take the right-hand trail to keep on the
You will find the typical formation
of a temperate forest, characterized by
dominating species such as Coigües
(Nothofagus Betuloides and Nothofagus
Dombeyi) and Cinnamon Trees (Drimys
Winteri), standing in the most protected,
wettest parts of the valleys.
The Cinnamon tree has a straight,
cylindrical trunk, it climbs 30 meters
high and is 1 meter in diameter. Its
perennial leaves are light green and its
wood is used in construction, for making
furniture and for manufacturing musical
Leaving SNUPIE 3 behind, you
will see large communities of Quila in
the forests lower canopy; when dry,
these help to spread forest fires, so we
recommend taking maximum
Continue along the well-marked
trail to SNUPIE 4, where the quila
grows to a great height. A few meters
further on the fast-flowing, milky waters
of the Ventisquero River will guide your
steps. The high clay content of its waters
produced by the mechanical action of
ice on rock gives it its typical grey-white
color, which stands in contrast to the
crystal clear waters of the streams that
you will soon cross. Prefer the latter
From SNUPIE 4, take the trail
along the banks of the Ventisquero River
to the first viewpoint of the Ventisquero
River glacier, which is also SNUPIE 5.
It is a good place to rest up with a view
of the Ventisquero River and the glacier
that feeds it. You will be able to hear
the spectacular sound of the bird fauna
in these forests the huet-huet
(Pteroptochos Tarnii), Chucao and
Churrín del Sur (Scytalopus
To continue, follow the main trail
from SNUPIE 5 as it leaves the banks
of the Ventisquero River and
penetrates into an interesting forest
that leads to SNUPIE 6. Take
advantage of the surroundings to
clearly distinguish between Coigües
and their neighbor, the Cinnamon
From SNUPIE 6, continue
through the forest on firm ground,
which can be flooded in parts when
it rains, but is always passable. You
will come upon the banks of the river
and a second viewpoint for the glacier
- SNUPIE 7. This is the place with the
most beautiful views of the cascading
mantle of ice. This viewpoint provides
better views than the first one. Note
the large number of tree trunks that
the water has dragged downstream.
This is a clear indication that the river
is subject to sudden floods, which,
together with the persistent rain and
snowmelts affecting the area, and
other aspects, such as the steeply
sloping main drainage basin, have
visibly marked the valley.
Continue up the valley from
SNUPIE 7, entering a sector of thick
quila along the main trail. The Quila
is an invading species and very often
prevents proper development of the
undergrowth and some species of trees.
This can be seen in SNUPIE 8, where
a Luma (Amomyrtus Luma) is
threatened by the thick quila growth.
The Luma has elliptical leaves like
the myrtle, but they are longer and
more aromatic. It grows to a height
of 20 meters.
From SNUPIE 8, enter the
Cinnamon, Coigüe and Luma forest
again. Continue to SNUPIE 9, where
the forest now includes the Tepa
(Laurelia Philippiana), one of the
most typical species of temperate
rainforests, mainly associated, as is
the cinnamon tree, with very damp
areas and deeper soils.
As you leave SNUPIE 9, you will
come upon a stream that you have to
skirt to once again enter the Tepa
forest. You will reach a bridge under
a gloomy forest - SNUPIE 10. Be
careful of the bridges slippery surface
when you cross.
Light penetrates to the floor of
the forest notoriously less at SNUPIE
10 and this, together with the dampness,
allows countless species of flora adapted
to these conditions to grow; these include
fungi, moss, lichen and ferns.
Continue along the trail for a few
meters until you come to the marks of a
fallen tree trunk. Youre on the right
road. Pass through a tunnel of quila,
skirt a small stream to a unique
community of Gunneras (Gunnera
When you reach SNUPIE 11, take
care not to continue along the trail; at
this point, turn left, cross over the stream
immediately and continue along a new
trail that crosses open land without any
There you will be able to note other
species, such as the Chilco, with its
characteristic, beautiful, red flowers,
and the typical Gunneras of wet southern
lands, where they form vast marshes in
open areas. Their stalks are used in
salads, their leaves to cover the
traditional curantos (a mainly shellfish
dish cooked in a hole in the ground) and
their roots for tanning.
After crossing the above stream,
you will come to a crossroads; take
the right-hand trail and you will soon
see SNUPIE 12.
SNUPIE 12 is in a sector
dominated by secondary Coigüe
growth and a thick covering of
cryptogam species that cover the soil,
representing the genesis and evolution
of natural ecosystems. If you look
closely at this point, you will be able
to understand how the forest is formed.
First, the soil is colonized by primary
species, such as mosses, which retain
the soil and prevent erosion and are
also excellent food for birds. Then
come the secondary growth and finally,
after hundreds or thousands of years,
the formation of an adult forest.
As you leave SNUPIE 12 follow
the trail along the valley, parallel to
the main river, through a flat sector
without any forests. As you continue,
you will enter an interesting
community of Chilcos and Gunneras.
Cross a small, sporadic river bed at
the foot of the slope. You will see
SNUPIE 13, the end of the open area
and of section 1, just a few meters
Llano de las Nalcas - Mirador Alto
At the start of the second section,
the Quilas give way to a wide variety
of ferns that enrich the lower canopy
and allow one to admire the colors,
shapes and textures of these forests.
From SNUPIE 13, start up a slight
climb along the only trail that there is
to a forest of mainly adult tepa. A few
meters from the SNUPIE you will climb
up a small rock step along a sporadic
watercourse. Follow that watercourse.
Abundant tepas do not grow here
by chance, since the land is often flooded,
which is a common condition for these
As you follow the stony trail you
will come upon SNUPIE 14 just as you
start to hear the Ventisquero River
roaring a little louder. You will gradually
be able to observe a greater number
of ferns and mosses, as the biodiversity
of the species begins to show itself in
all of its splendor.
Continue in the same direction
from SNUPIE 14 and then take a left,
dropping slightly to a stream of clear
water that runs through open land. As
you cross over a small bridge, you will
see SNUPIE 15, an ideal site for
recovering your strength and
replenishing your supply of water.
Shortly after leaving this SNUPIE,
you will once again enter an adult
forest of cinnamon trees (Drimys
Winteri), with some less abundant
species of Tepa and Coigüe.
The ground is muddier as you
continue on to SNUPIE 16, the start
of a string or emplacement of tree
trunks lined up horizontally one
against the other, which makes walking
over these poorly drained lands easier.
At SNUPIE 16 you will hear the
Ventisquero River roaring close by, but
you will not be able to see it. Its roaring
betrays the true force with which it
flows and evokes a mind-picture of the
difficulties faced by early explorers in
crossing these rivers.
On passing SNUPIE 16, enter a
small stand of tepas and lumas and
then walk towards a set of quilas. The
trail branches there, so take the left-
hand fork to get to the banks of the
river only a few meters away, or the
right-hand fork to immediately reach
SNUPIE 17, which will indicate the
way through the quilas to continue on
along the main trail.
From SNUPIE 17 climb slightly
on firm ground to a forest of young
cinnamon trees, parallel to the
Ventisquero River. Continue along the
edge of the escarpment until you reach
SNUPIE 18, surrounded by beautiful
Mañios (Podocarpus Nubigenus). This
species with sharp, light green, linear
leaves, smooth bark and fruit that
matures in January, grows in extremely
wet forests from Cautín to Taitao.
From SNUPIE 18, skirt the
escarpment of the main river,
surrounded by thick undergrowth,
mainly of Chilcos, and a wide variety
of ferns. Note that the quila has
When you reach SNUPIE 19, you
will have a view of the Ventisquero
River running past the mañío forest.
Follow the main trail, leave the Mañíos
and SNUPIE 19 behind and enjoy the
Cinnamon trees and Tepas, among
other species. You will reach a bridge
to cross over a small stream and then
SNUPIE 20, the third point with access
SNUPIE 20 is an excellent place
to rest before setting off on the last
part of the route, and to get down to
the banks of the Ventisquero River.
Take care on the edge of the river,
because the rocks can be slippery. The
differences between the streams water,
which is mainly from rainfall, and the
water in the Ventisquero River are
mainly due to glacial fusion.
SNUPIE 20 marks the start of a
semi-open sector between the forest
and the river, with abundant Chilco
and ferns around the trail. You will
reach the third glacier viewpoint -
SNUPIE 21 -, from where you have to
move into the forest if you want to
contemplate the wide range of natural
species that make up the undergrowth.
A few meters past SNUPIE 21,
the route climbs down a slope, 10
meters down from the main river. The
trail becomes rocky with a lot of moss;
try to go slowly at an even pace.
Starting from SNUPIE 21, you
enter one of the most unique, endemic
forest types in the world. Do not
remove specimens; let us preserve our
Continue along the trail to
SNUPIE 22. This is a wooded area
with many adult Coigües, as well as
some cinnamon trees and ferns.
From SNUPIE 22 there is a slight
down slope to a crystal clear stream.
SNUPIE 23 is 15 meters on the other
side of the stream, where there is a
fork in the trail. Take the right-hand
fork, continue up a short incline and
climb the slope to an ancient Coigüe,
from where you have to climb down
towards an interesting community
of Gunneras. These lands are
flooded sporadically. If rain is falling
persistently, evaluate the
convenience of continuing, since the
amount of water flowing can vary
drastically in only a few minutes.
On passing the gunneras, the
route continues through a veritable
tunnel of Chilcos. Once you have
made it through, the route skirts the
river on firm, flat ground with
interesting views of the glacier. You
will be able to see SNUPIE 24 on
the slope, indicating the route, a few
meters further on, to take you to the
high viewpoint of the Ventisquero
River glacier, which is SNUPIE 25
and the end of the heritage route.
SNUPIE 25 provides a view of
the entire cascading glacier as it
flows down from the high basin. The
presence of young coigües on land
left by the ice-mass confirms that
these bodies have been retreating
over the past centuries. SNUPIE 25
is sited amidst ancient frontal
moraines, now covered by thick
We recommend planning the
descent to SNUPIE 1 in daylight.
For the return, consider the same
time taken going up. We do not
recommend advancing more than 1
kilometer up the valley, since blocks
of ice may tumble down. Dont
expose yourself unnecessarily.
- 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.
2 hours to go and 30 minutes to return.