I had a week-full of afternoons to explore, hike and relax. Bariloche offers a plethora of both short and long hiking options—a prime reason for making the area a home base for a bit. Working in a hostel gave me access to all the information I needed, but I used trekbariloche.com for the majority of my intel.
FULL DAY HIKES
Refugio Frey: This was an empowering trip for me. I had a Sunday off from volunteering and wanted to do the hike that everyone was talking about. I also wanted to camp for one night to ‘practice’ for my future outdoor adventures in Torres del Paine to show that I could 1) do it by myself and 2) actually carry some gear up a mountain. Both proved true capabilities and I am still beaming inside from accomplishing something that I previously doubted myself in doing.
I started by renting a tent and sleeping bag from Club Andino Bariloche for $350 ARS ($28 USD)—quite expensive in my opinion, but it was what it was. I caught the #55 bus behind the Club around 2:15 p.m. (it comes every hour-ish, so be prepared to wait for a bit) and started hiking at 2:45. The line ends in the parking lot of the ski base and the hike starts on the left-hand side at the giant sign that says Frey (tricky, I know). You start in a stout forested area, very sunny with little shade, lots of bushes and wooden bridge crossings over streams. After an hour and 30 I arrived at a crossroad where you can continue to Frey or head down to Lago Gutierrez. The sign said two hours to go and at this point, the trail turned right into a valley, Arroyo Van Titter. Looking down the valley, the spires of Cerro Catedral and the Frey are perfectly aligned between two ridges: goal in sight. After 40 minutes through the forest I reached Refugio Lynch: a non-servicing area but a good rest stop before the big haul to the top. One hour to go, according to the sign. A rough uphill battle it was, but at 6 p.m. I reached Refugio Frey and couldn’t have been happier. I chose a campsite, payed the $100ARS deposit inside the house and set up my tent sans problems, sans help. (Small victory for me!) I can’t describe the beauty of this place. The lake, the raw rock formations, the mentality of others there. It’s a huge area for rock climbing, supposedly the best in Argentina, and many were there for days at a time to climb. There are a few hiking routes you can take around the lake for better views, one even continues on to the next refugio if you’re up for a three-day circuit. On the way back to Bariloche the next day, I took the ‘longer’ Lago Gutierrez route for some new scenery and made it down with a breeze.
- Time: 4 hours up via Cerro Catedral parking lot, 3 hours down via Lago Gutierrez (not including bus)
- Difficulty Level: 3/5
- Pleasure Rating: 5/5
Cerro Lopez: One of the less popular options, but definitely worth a trek. I met an Australian at Hostel Pudu who asked if I wanted to join him on the hike. Why not. We started hiking at noon and made it to the refugio by three. The night before I read a few posts noting the route’s difficulty and was a bit nervous after just biking the Circuito Chico the day before (see below). We took the #10 bus and hopped off at Cerro Lopez. After walking along a stream (and taking the wrong path) we eventually found the red markers and started our ascent. It was hard to get a grip on the dusty terrain, but the trail leveled out after an hour and became more manageable. We filled up our bottles in the stream and continued up and up until reaching the pink house. Eating our sandwiches with a spectacular views of the lakes and surrounding mountains wasn’t so awful. Consulting the staff at the refugio, we figured out our options for going further. It was an hour to a lake and two hours to summit. Unfortunately, we had a limited time before the sunset and were running out of bus options to get back to Bariloche. So we opted for the lake. The next hour consisted of scrambling: borderline rock climbing without the gear. It was incredibly fun, but not something for the height-frightened. Eventually, we started our rapid descent to ensure we caught the last bus. On the way, we met an Irish woman who had continued solo without the rest of her hiking group. Hearing about her travels and stories was a great distraction from the dusty, fast paced hike down. P.S. Rushing is no fun. Leave early enough to summit!
- Time: 3 hours up (not including bus)
- Difficulty Level: 3.5/5 (4.5/5 if you continue past the refugio)
- Pleasure Rating: 5/5
HALF DAY HIKES
Cerro Camponario: A short, intense hike or a leisurely ride up the teleferico. I opted for the first, after jumping off the bus last minute hoping to join a pair of English-speaking girls I overheard on the bus. (Sometimes traveling alone can make you a creepy person… I was going to do the hike eventually, but didn’t mind a companion or two.) The ski-lift route was straight forward—head to the ticket booth. But the trail start wasn’t as clear, so I used that as my “pick-up line” with the two girls who were similarly unsure of where to go. Turns out they were childhood friends from Orlando, Florida and quit their responsibilities at home to travel for three months in Chile and Argentina. New, temporary friends: Check. The hike was a bit strenuous—straight uphill on dusty terrain for 30 minutes—but the views were well worth it. The maps at the top gave you reference points for the lakes, mountain ranges and islands.
- Time: 2 hours (not including bus)
- Difficulty Level: 3.5/5
- Pleasure Rating: 4/5
Lago Gutierrez: A nice hike for families. You take the #50 bus to the lake and are dropped off right on the beach. Head down the gravel road to the left, follow it along the lake for about 20 minutes before reaching the National Park sign. Keep going until you pass another beach and campsite to head to la Cascada de los Deundes. It was quite packed with families, which made it a little unenjoyable, but nature is still neat. You can backtrack to head to the mirador (scenic outlook) as well. It’s a short hike of 30 minutes, but a bit steep. I met three Argentinian girls on vacation who were having the time of their lives despite struggling. We shared some mate and had a great conversation with a view at the top before making our way back down.
- Time: 3 hours (not including bus)
- Difficulty Level: 2/5
- Pleasure Rating: 3/5
Llao Llao: There are two short hikes or one longer one available here. After catching the #20 bus, hop off at the bottom of the hill from the hotel (second to last stop), take a short walk up the road and stop at the green Jesus (trust me) to get your bearings. You can take a left into the forest for a leisurely stroll or continue up the road a bit before hitting the Cerro Llao Llao trail. Both could be done in one day, but I did each separately since I had the afternoons to spare. To the left of the green Jesus, you’ll encounter the Sendero de los Arrayanes through a forest of ‘orange trees’ and a number of beaches. It’s about an hour until you get to the main road, which you can continue down until reaching the Lago Escondido (the not-so-hidden Hidden Lake). It’s fairly straightforward, but I had help navigating from two Argentinians that I met along the way. The route was pleasant and I’m glad I had the company to spice up the walk.
- Time: 1.5 hours for Sendero de los Arrayanes, 1 hour for Lago Escondido (not including bus)
- Difficulty Level: 1/5
- Pleasure Rating: 2/5
(Cycling) Circuito Chico: This is a must-do for anyone coming to Bariloche. It’s a 25km ride through the main hotspots of the surrounding lakes and mountains—a great introduction to the area that I recommend doing the first day, as I did by accident. I met an Australian in Hostel Pudu my first night and at breakfast the next morning, he mentioned he was embarking on the bike ride later that day. Sign me up. We caught the #20 bus from the central stop downtown and got off at 18km (bus stops are marked by the km marker). Cross the street and you’re at the bike rental company. I’m sure there are others, but this was the most obvious and easiest to use. One rundown, $280ARS payment and helmet fitting later, we were on our mountain bikes riding along the paved road. The ride is full of ups and downs and at one point there was an embarrassing walk of shame up one hill. We took our time, taking pictures, stopping for lunch and even grabbed a beer at a local cerveceria along the way.
- Time: 4.5 hours (taking your time, not including bus)
- Difficulty Level: 4/5
- Pleasure Rating: 5/5