Bariloche’s Best Hike: The Cerro Tronador
Bariloche is a small city in Argentina near the border of Chile. The streets are lined with restaurants, bars, chocolate shops and some of the best bakeries you can find. It is surrounded by amazing mountains and lakes that make for some beautiful views. Bariloche is known for its amazing hikes, ski resorts (in winter), buzzing night life, and a wide range of extreme sports. It really is a place where anyone from anywhere can find something fun and exciting to do. Anyone could easily spend over a week in this beautiful place – although time restrictions for us meant we only spent 4 nights.
We arrived from Futaleufu and were dropped at the bus terminal which is located about 3kms from the city centre. We stayed at a hostel called Hostel Inn Bariloche which is located only a few hundred metres from the main square. The night we arrived we were very tired from the long bus ride and passed out straight away, but the next day we were up and ready to plan the next few days. After reading a blog online, I had set my eyes on trekking up to Cerro Tronador (36km round trip) and spending a night at the base camp. Here you can sleep between 2 glaciers with the most amazing views of the Andes. This trek is not as popular as there are many other treks in Bariloche that are easier to access and can be done within one day. That being said, I assure you is that this is the most amazing hike and is worth the extra $$ and planning time.
The trek starts about 90km from Bariloche (an area called Pampa Linda) and there are no local buses that go there, you must take a small shuttle bus(700AR) that can be booked at most tour companies. The shuttle takes 2 hours and drops you right at the starting point of the trek. To stay on the mountain you can either camp for free or stay in the Refugio which costs about 550AR per person with the use of the kitchen. No bookings are required for this Refugio. We wanted to camp but where unable to rent a tent that was suitable for the weather conditions at the base camp of the mountain which at times are quite extreme and unpredictable. Thats not to say you couldn’t do it, we just didn’t want to ruin a rental tent and opted to stay in the Refugio as the safer bet. It is recommended to take a sleeping bag to the Refugio so we rented one from a store called Patagonia Anglers before we left Bariloche for 80AR per night. This outdoor shop is one of the only places in town that rents camping and hiking gear and they were even nice enough to let us take the gear the night before we left and only charge us for the night we used them.
The next day we left for Pampa Linda which is the starting point for the trek, the bus ride had some of the most amazing views we have seen in Patagonia. The entrance to the park is 150AR and is paid during this journey. When you arrive it is important to register your plans at the rangers office, this is free and is for your safety! it can also be completed online or at the park rangers information office in town.
The first part of the trek is flat as you walk into the valley along the river, but this will be the only flat part of your trek as the next part is all uphill climbing up the valley through some really beautiful forest. Although it was uphill the shade from the trees and the fresh water streams made this hike very pleasant and it wasn’t long until we where hiking through snow to get to the Refugio.
The hike took about 4.5 hours at a steady pace and after arriving you quickly forget about your sore legs and heavy backpack as the views are amazing and are the best we had seen in Patagonia. We spent the whole afternoon exploring and enjoying the scenery taking some amazing photos of the sunset and surrounding mountains. That night we had amazing weather but it still got really cold and we were glad to be sleeping in the Refugio and not camping. The Refugio is very baisc and don’t expect any privacy as everybody sleeps in one room with mattresses on the floor.
The next day we began our hike back at about 9:30am as we wanted to hike to the lookout below the glacier which adds about 4km to the trek and is worth the extra effort. From this lookout you get to relax in the valley and look up at this huge glacier slowly melting in the summer heat and is a great place to have lunch if you can brave the horse flies! After lunch we continued on to catch the bus, the bus only leaves after 4:30pm so we had plenty of time to relax on the hike, we actually spent about an hour laying on a fallen tree and watching natures eco systems at work.
Wow, what a place to end our time in Patagonia! This truly was the highlight for us and would recommend this to everyone heading to Bariloche. With our limited time this was the only hike we where able to do but we are so glad we spent our short time here enjoying a bucket list experience.