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ENG:El Morro

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Rutas Patrimoniales.jpg Original content from Heritage Routes of Ministery of Public Patrimony


Trekking de El Morro

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Summary (editar)
Activity Trekking
Location Chile (english), Copiapo
Scenery Mediana
Atractions Mar, Formación Geológica
Duration 1 día

Algo Exigente

Trail Siempre Claro
Signage Adecuado
Infraestructure Inexistente
Topology Ida y Retorno por la misma ruta
Distance (k) 0 (round trip)
Original creator Rutas Patrimoniales
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Year round. Best in winter (May - September), when it's not so hot. Chances of rain are nearly zero.


The Patrimonial Road Coastal Atacama

El Morro locates in the sector of Morro

Copiapó (343 m.a.s.l) at the south end of Bahía Inglesa, at 90 Km to the northeast from Copiapó, regional capital, and at 15 Km to the south of Caldera. The closest location is the beach and creek Bahía Inglesa, located at the other end of the bay. Accesses Morro Copiapó sector is accessed from Caldera or the Bahía Inglesa creek by the north, following road C 360 until Km 5 to take then road C 302 with direction to the south, parallel to the bay coasts. In the Km 7 of the road C 302, next to the beaches of the bay south end the asphalt is finished and a two-way gravel road begins in very good conditions. After passing this point you will have four access alternatives depending on the segment chosen to be run. To have access to segment 1 and 2, continue through the same main road until Km 15, where you will find a secondary road to the southwest. From the detour, you will have to run another 2,2 kilometers to reach a bifurcation. To begin with segment 1, take your left and move forward for some meters until arriving to SNUPIE 1, or turn to the right if you want to ride a bike and run segment 2. In this case, continue through the main road 1,4 Km in soft climb to reach SNUPIE 10, beginning of segment 2. To access segment 3, in the Km 10 of the road C 302, you will find a road that will directly lead you to the North for another 2 kilometers until the SNUPIE 16, the beginning of this segment. Remember that the last meters of this access are advisable to be run on foot if you do not have a four wheel drive vehicle. To access segment 4, in the Km 7 of the road C - 302, after passing the asphalt end, take a secondary road which you should follow for 2 Km and that matches with its end. From there you could visualize the SNUPIE 20, the beginning of the last segment. «Authorized by Resolution Nº 332 dated november 26, 2003 of the National Direction of Frontiers and Limits of the State. The edition or distribution of maps, geographic charts and other prints and documents thar are referred or related with the limits and frontiers of Chile, don not compromise, in anyway, the State of Chile, according to Article Nº 2, letter G of the DFL Nº 83 of 1979, dictaded by the Ministry of Foreign Relations».

Route description

“Chorrillos Water”. Snupies 1 - 9

This segment starts in SNUPIE 1, a sector that is fit to park vehicles, and start walking by the coast, south Chorrillos gap. From SNUPIE 1, you have to follow by the only vehicle road available, that will take you south until arriving to the interesting mirador of “Tres Olas” beach, corresponding to SNUPIE 2. A well marked track starts here. Typical coast fauna of the center north of Chile may be observed: Dominican seagull (Larus dominicanus), the biggest that visits Chilean coasts. It is white, with black wings and back, totally white tail, yellow beak, and a red spot near the jaw, that makes it easy to recognize it. Garuma seagull (Larus Modestus) is the only that nests in the middle of the desert. It is dark gray, white head in the summer and pale brown head in winter, black foot and beak. Zarapito (Numenius phaeopus) may be observed in this point and to the south, along Chorrillos Water Supply sector. It is easily recognizable for its curve beak, chestnut colored plumage in its upper part and white in the abdomen. This specie comes from the north hemisphere and is an outstanding migratory specie during the South-A merican spring. There is little and inter-tidal flora, connected to rocks intermittently bathed by the waves during high tides. From SNUPIE 2, heading south, you will arrive to the first crossing, where SNUPIE 3 is located. Organism communities pertaining to the inter- tidal zone, that is, between high and low tide, may be observed, such as, shells (Litorita peruviana) and limpets (Colisella spp.). The most characteristic associated flora is Black Seaweed (Lessonia trabeculata), which is essential for marine life for being food and an excellent humidity keeper. The main problem faced in this sector is collection and extraction of the seaweed, that endangers development of its related fauna and prevents natural conformation of the food chain. Continue from SNUPIE 3, bordering the coast and pass, few meters away, by a new small cape with natural little rock stairs. Do not do it in times of tide swelling because you will not be able to cross when you come back. Head south bordering the coast until getting to a second rock crossing. There you will be in front of SNUPIE 4, where you will observe the inter- tidal platform and the rocky wall that surrounds it, made up by metamorphic rocks from the Triassic, which main characteristic is that they are very hard intrusive and black colored rocks. Be careful when you cross the small cape from SNUPIE 4, because there is the possibility of facing a sudden wave and high water. In addition to the possibility of observing Isla Grande to the south west from SNUPIE 4, this is a marine bird nesting sector, mostly seagulls. Red head turkey buzzard also lives here, which hunting place are the areas where wolves abound in Isla Grande. Continue the road from SNUPIE 4 and through the rocky base, next to the highest tide line, until getting to Chorrillos Water Supply. It corresponds to SNUPIE 5, that may be distinguished by its vegetation and beautiful panoramic views of fine sand beaches. In SNUPIE 5, located at the bottom of the coast outcrop, a higher rock exposure may be identified. This water supply, in addition to be an important natural site, is one of the last existing in Atacama region. Very low salinity water spring accounts for the existence of ground water that comes from the cordillera and drains up to the surface between metamorphic rock and the sedimentary formation. This provides to the sector a unique physiognomy and ecosystem. It is possible to find significant azonal vegetation, hydrophyte or adapted species, such as, patches of cattails and rushes (Dystichlis spicata, Juncus balticus). From SNUPIE 5, follow the track to the beach. From this point, you can see the next point heading south and that corresponds to SNUPIE 6. It is located there in a small terrace at altitude, at the beginning of Chorrillos beach gap. SNUPIE 6 is surrounded by water supply vegetation. You will see the beach in all its extent and you will have the first impressions of “Bahía Inglesa” (English Bay) geologic formation and fluvial deposits of the nearest gap. Real contrasts of the Atacamenian coastal landscape. For the following SNUPIE, continue walking down to the beach. Then, you may watch proper fauna of sand beaches: crustaceae, such as, “phantom crab” that form small sand balls and dig little caves in the beach to protect themselves from their predators. When you get to the end of the beach, in its south-east end, you will start climbing to cross a number of blocks, presenting remains of abrasion terrace and that are in front of the sea, with a continental platform. SNUPIE 7 is located at the highest point of this crossing, always by the track and few meters away from the beach. From here, it is possible to observe iguanid reptiles, such as, Chango alligator (Microlophus atacamensis), which is over 20 centimeter long, with gray skin and black strips. Blocks in the inter-tidal zone are left behind and you arrive, through the only well marked existing track, to the south west. Your reference should be a small cape on a sedimentary formation, to which you will have to approach to find a majestic natural mirador: SNUPIE 8. From this mirador, you will see a significant contrast between the inter- tidal platform, represented by metamorphic origin blocks, and the continental sedimentary strata wall, formed during Pleistocene. Isla Grande can also be seen, as well as avifauna that moves from the coast to the island. We have Yeco (Phalacrocórax olivaceus), which is black and has a typical method to catch fish, plunging into water. You will also find Black Pilpilén (Haematopus ater), with a black plumage, intense red beak and gray foot, that always travels in couple. Gradually climbing by the marked track and taking your left when you encounter a bifurcation, you will have to arrive to the next small cape where SNUPIE 9 is located in the highest part. SNUPIE 9 is a spectacular natural mirador to enjoy a panoramic view of the first segment: the gap, the beach and Chorrillos Water Supply, Isla Grande, the “Bahía Inglesa” formation, rocks of the inter- tidal platform, littoral birds, and Tinajas and Totoral hill plains. When you come back, pay attention not to get away from the track between SNUPIES 9 and 7, for being exposed to falls and, you must not forget to pass between SNUPIES 5 and 3 in high tide hours.

  • Distance and expected time: 1,67 kms, 0h. 35m

““Coasts of the south Morro””. Snupies 10 - 15

The segment called “South Morro Coasts” is adequate for those who want to travel the area riding a bike. It recovers old vehicle roads that were used for years by those who extracted seaweed from knoll coasts, the so- called “huireros” (seaweed collectors). This segment begins in a splendid natural mirador, corresponding to SNUPIE 10, from which you can have a general view of the south sector of the Knoll, including Chorrillos beach and Isla Grande to the south. It is a special place to park vehicles and take the tour in bicycle. Do not try to continue in vehicle, because in addition of not being in good conditions, this would alter displacement habits of species, such as, the Guanaco (Lama guanicoe). In SNUPIE 10, you will find some Cactaceae, specially Copao (Eylychnia saint piana) and you will distinguish notable differences in geomorphology of the area, mostly altitude differences between plains of Tinajas sector and El Morro (the Knoll), determined by the presence of a significant tectonic fault connected to Chorrillos gap, accompanied to gradual rising processes, that is, at higher rocky substrate elevation speeds in El Morro sector, compared to its surroundings, which give rise to the same. From SNUPIE 10, go forward following the most marked road. Take south end of the Knoll as reference. Even though the road is sinuous in its first part, it becomes softer 300 meters later and open until the first bifurcation, allowing to access SNUPIE 11 from the east. For further reference, remember that from the same bifurcation, 1.8 Km from the start of this segment, downwards road may be seen clearly, as well as access to SNUPIE 11 and the rocky promontory of the coast rocky sector. In SNUPIE 11 you can see a beautiful portal, south of the Knoll, placed in a rock and cliff system. These rocks, in addition to their beauty, are the place where many birds nest. We recommend you to admire the environment from the point where the SNUPIE is located and recover strength to begin walking bound to a bigger and more beautiful portal. From SNUPIE 11, walk back by the same road, and take again the way that will drive you north. No more than 500 meters away, there is a new bifurcation that arrives to the rocky promontory where SNUPIE 12 is located. From the bifurcation, there is a constant 1 km way down by an old rocky road, with steep descents in very bad conditions. Be very careful if you are riding down in a bicycle. Arrival to SNUPIE 12, clearly notorious and located between the road and the cliff, in front of North portal of the Knoll, is part of the cliffs, a sector shaped by abrasion and erosion of constant breaking waves, very attractive, to quietly enjoy the landscape. Coast rocks falling down to the sea dominate this SNUPIE, as well as accumulation of guano, clearly evidencing the presence of marine birds and nesting zones. Cormorants, such as. the Lile (Phalacrocórax gaimardii), over 60 cm long, gray colored, lighter gray in the neck and a side white spot that distinguishes it from the other cormorants. Flora, in protected rocky sectors where humidity is better caught, mostly consists of a variety of Suspiros (Nolana sedifolia). Leaving the portal behind, walk east and come back by the same road, until getting to the bifurcation through which you acceded to SNUPIE 12. There, turn to the left, heading north about 300 metros of soft and smooth road, perfect for riding a bicycle. When you arrive to a third bifurcation, you will be getting closer to SNUPIE 13. The take the road of the right side, continuing by the north-west alternative road and border a deep gap until getting to an important site of occupation and burying of Chango people. This site is strategically located. Ancient Chango hunters and collectors took advantage of the goodness provided by the bay, and lived on limpets, abalone, large oysters, “picorocos”, or sea urchins. Aware of complexity of guanaco hunting (Lama guanicoe), the gap located immediately north could have been a very adequate place to ambush them naturally, benefiting thus from their meat and leather. In such place, as in many others, there are illegal excavations aimed at extracting lithic tools which are sold by dealers. We recommend you to visit the site without picking up objects or digging, respecting thus the archeological heritage. Some Cactaceae (of the Neoporterias specie) may be found around SNUPIE 12, such as, the so called chilenitos [little Chileans] (Neoporteria chilensis), a specie that is currently endangered. Walk back from SNUPIE 13 by the same road, climbing approximately 1 km east until getting to a bifurcation that will connect you to the main road. Follow the left side road and head north by slightly more than 3 Km by a soft descent road, well marked, and with wide panoramic views. You have to arrive to the intersection with the road that takes you to SNUPIES 14 and 15. You will find typical vegetation of the foggy coast desert: a big number of Cactaceae, succulents, and sparse thickets. We can mention Hairy Quisco (Neoporteria villosa), Pink Cactus (Neoporteria subgibosa), Saint-pie’s Copao (Eulychnia saint- pieana), Acid Copao (Eulychnia ácida), Hard Cactus (Copiapoa echinoides), Gray Hedgehog Cactus (Copiapoa cinerascens), Suspiros (Nolana sedifolia.) and Cacho de Cabra (Skythantus acutus). Take a look at Bolones Beach in the next intersection of roads, corresponding to SNUPIE 14, located one and a half km to the west. There is there a small bay with a beach of granitic rocks which exceed, in average, 20 cm of diameter. This is a protected sea sector that was possibly visited, hundreds of years ago, by ancient hunters and collectors that wandered in their sea wolf leather barges, leaving their stone constructions as an evidence that survives until today. In the cliffs, north Bolones Beach, it is possible to see the Dominican Seagull (Larus dominicanus) and Gaviotín Monja (Larosterna inca), that may be distinguished by its characteristic blue grayish color, with red beak and foot. If you decide to go back in bicycle, take the same access road to this beach and continue the tour heading east, crossing between north Knoll and south Knoll by the only existing cannon that connects the coast sector to the upper basin of Chorrillos gap. After crossing the corridor between both knolls, there will just be 4 Km of descent to get to the end of the segment, precisely in the intersection with the access road, both to segment 1 and to the beginning of segment 2. Always follow the main road, approaching east hillsides of Chorrillos gap, to finally get to SNUPIE 15. In SNUPIE 15, we can mention gray colored hilly grounds, made up by metamorphic rocks that have been transformed into riprap by chemical decomposition of the rock. There is also a spectacular panoramic view of Chorrillos gap. This is the end of the segment.

  • Distance and expected time: 20,10 kms, 3h. 50m

““Thick low-lying fog of the North Morro”. Snupies 16 - 19

Segment 3 allows to know the north Knoll area, its particular habitat determined by camanchaca (thick low- lying fog), where unique flower species are found, as well as Guanaco (Lama guanicoe), and wide panoramic views of the desert that dominate high plateaus. It is a short walk that starts in SNUPIE 16, where the vehicle road ends and a track begins that climbs north Knoll. If you do not have a four- wheel drive vehicle, we recommend you to leave it 300 meters before, at the bottom of the steep rise. The are where SNUPIE 16 is located, called saddle, small door, or water division, has vegetation proper to fog coast desert: beautiful Cactaceae, related to small thickets, Pink Cactus (Neoporteria subgibosa), covered by reddish and yellow greenish lichens and mosses. You may also observe land birds, such as, the small Chercán (Trogtlodytes aedon), chestnut-colored, of thin and curve beak, which is characterized by its very fast and nervous movements, or Chincol (Zonotrichia capensis), that is characterized by its crest and black strips in the head, and darker chestnut color. From SNUPIE 16, you have to face the hillside directly, taking the only clear track available. You will start climbing a zigzag rise, experiencing the actual ascension to the Knoll. Few minutes later, following the track to the west, you will encounter SNUPIE 17 with a wide panoramic view of Bahía Inglesa and Caleta Calderilla. In this rocky soil sector, favoring sparse wild life, you will find Copaos (Eulychnia saint-pieana), Gray Hedgehog Cactus (Copiapoa cinerascens), Pink Cactus (Neoporteria subgibosa) and Sledgehammer Cactus (Neoporteria clavata), among others. From SNUPIE 17, leave the track and take general direction 280º by a slight rise without track, passing by the east sector of communications antennas, from where you can see the same SNUPIE 17. A few meters farther, you will find a small ravine protected from west winds. There you have SNUPIE 18, where a series of stone circles are concentrated, called “Dry Stone Walls of the Summit”. These stone walls are a clear evidence of ancestral occupation of the Knoll sector, a strategic place for its wide vision. It was probably used for defense of communities, or maybe as a veneration and ritualism site. We recommend you to generate lower possible impact when visiting it. Thickets become increasingly representative units as we go up, Cacho de Cabra (Skythantus acutus) and Cachiyuyo (Atriplex atacamensis) are the most typical of the area. Leaving SNUPIE 18 behind, you will see that an important shell deposit is located south-west, that may be distinguished by the pale color of its calcareous ground. SNUPIE 19 is located in the middle of two large concentric circles. We recommend to head north-west to approach SNUPIE 19, avoiding the south-east gap. There is not a main track here: they are small paths created by Guanacos (Lama guanicoe) that wander in high sectors altos of the Knoll. Please do not get lost, take the shell deposit as your reference and time to distinguish the above cited stone circles. SNUPIE 19 shows geomorphic history of the sector. The presence of remains of mollusks and fossils of different species, evidences that hundreds of years ago, this place was located in the bottom of the sea and that it is now located over 250 masl due to plate tectonics and rising forces. In the way from SNUPIE 18 to SNUPIE 19, you will see Guanaco footsteps. We suggest you not emit disturbing noises, and travel in small groups in order to maximize possibilities to see them. Their population is thought to have been affected when the shell deposit was used, some years ago, as a practice firing range by strike aircraft, in view that it was not inhabited by people and due to its easy recognition from the air. This explains why stone circles and metallic remains are spread. If you are lucky enough to see Guanacos, do not try to approach, just find your best position to take pictures of them.

  • Distance and expected time: 1,10 kms, 0h. 30m

““Changos Track”. Snupies 20 - 27

This alternative is ideal for a quiet walk by coast terraces of the north sector of the Knoll and pass between the cliffs and inclined hillsides, allowing to reconstruct ancient paths traveled by Changos. The segment begins in SNUPIE 20, end of the road and start of the walk. From here, you will see a beautiful white sand beach, formed by small shells and surrounded, in the highest part, by funny sedimentary rock structures: they are “sculptures” created by aeolic action, permanent wear caused by the wind through the time. From SNUPIE 20, climb by a marked track and enter the nearest gap. Have a large rock with letters as your reference. Less than 200 meters away, you will face a bifurcation. Take the road of the right side and go up by the main track until reaching SNUPIE 21, that indicates the start of the walk by coast terraces. SNUPIE 21 is a natural mirador that comprises a large portion of Bahía Inglesa, Calderilla and Caldera. Follow the main track. Do not forget that rocky coasts have significant cliffs. We recommend you not to try any other alternative. The track is well marked by plain terrain, without difficulties, fit for all kinds of people, and with great panoramic views. Any attempt to swim in the sea may be dangerous. After no more than twenty minutes, you will find SNUPIE 22 at the right side of the track, just in the high part of a small climb. “El Morro Stream" locates there. The vegetation has a gradual increase and it is possible to recognize some Succulents, a plant adapted to dessert conditions which keep important water reserves in their tissues, enabling food and hydration of other living creatures in the trophic chain, such as rodents, canidae and guanacos. The Cacto Rosado (Neoporteria subgibosa) and Copaos (Eulychnia saint-pieana) are observed, both species covered with lichens, making humidity capture more effective. From the SNUPIE 22 follow the track, you will have the opportunity to admire the amplitude and contrasts of the landscape surrounding Bahía Inglesa. At a few meters, you will reach SNUPIE 23, corresponding to an interesting cave protected with huge stone blocks. It is a place of ancestral occupation with a beautiful panoramic view of the bay, a shelter and place for stripping off mollusks, evident for the appearance of valves, mainly cupped oysters, limpets and abalones. From SNUPIE 23, continue the direction 150 meters to the unique existing bifurcation. Take your left following the main track and maintaining the conditions of firm, flat or slightly sloped lands, without difficulties. You will reach SNUPIE 24, next to a typical stone or dry-stone wall circle, surrounded by an old large area of shells. A clear signal there were hunters and harvesters in the past. The flora is sparse and composed by almost only Cactaceae covered with lichens and moss. When leaving SNUPIE 23 continue through the main track 200 meters, then, gradually derive to the South-west. The vegetation is increasing until reaching the panoramic rock of the Pacific, corresponding to SNUPIE 25. At the west of SNUPIE 25, you could appreciate a rocky promontory that, upon climbing will result in wonderful panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean in 180º. A unique opportunity to experience the majesty of the ocean. If the thick low-lying fog obstructs the view, you could appreciate the rich and abundant vegetation of this dessert sector. Coastal fogs are most efficiently trapped in this zone, both for the higher relative altitude and for they are the western hillsides of the Morro, constantly draped with winds full of humidity. It is possible to recognize Succulents, represented by Morning- glories (from the Nolana gender), attractive and colorful flowers and thicket associations, mainly Cachiyuyo (Atriplex atacamensis) and Churco (Oxalis gigantea). After leaving the SNUPIE 25, continue through the track, lands become more rocky but comfortable and easy to run. Do not move far from the inclined hillsides of the Morro. If for any circumstance you lose the track, we recommend moving backwards and undertaking the direction again. When arriving to the SNUPIE 26, you will find numerous dry-stone walls and large sell areas delimiting an ancestral settlement area. Live evidences of a glorious past and in full harmony with the environment of the populations running free through the Atacameña coasts. Beginning the last part of the segment, consider that 250 meter ahead, you should cross one of the main gaps of the Morro. There is a marked track without any difficulty. When you arrive to the SNUPIE 27, an old occupation dry-stone wall, we recommend to look for innumerable alternatives of natural miradors for a deserved rest and to enjoy from the beauty of the coast cliffs with their abundant species of bird of prey, seagulls and albatross. In the surroundings of the SNUPIE 27 you will notice varied forms of granite rocks, as a result of the aeolian humidity and erosion. The presence of Copaos (Eulychnia saint-pieana) and Cacto Rosado (Neoporteria subgibosa), Chilla fox (Pseudalopex griseus), Culpeo fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus) and a wide range of invertebrates configure a segment good end. We recommend to not trying to go down by the gap located more to the south since the track is lost and the risk increases.

  • Distance and expected time: 4,43 kms, 1h. 35m


  • 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.

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