Bariloche’s Best Hike: Cerro Tronador
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Bariloche is a small city in Argentina near the border of Chile in the region of Patagonia. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to enjoy the beautiful mountains, and of course, hike!
When we visited, we were lucky enough to experience a hike like no other, the hike to Refugio Otto Meiling at the base of Cerro Tronador (also known as Tronador Hill.) Sure, there are some great hikes around Bariloche, but in our eyes, nothing compared Cerro Traonador.
This was surprising as the Cerro Tronador hike seems to be much less popular than other hikes from Bariloche.
So, in this blog, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about Cerro Tronador including the hike to its base, staying in the Refugio, day trips, and more! This way, you’ll be able to have the same amazing experience that we did!
About Cerro Tronador
Cerro Tronador is the tallest mountain near Bariloche. It is so tall that it actually towers about 1000 meters higher than the others nearby. At 3,400 meters above sea level, it is a large and impressive mountain peak.
Cerro Trandor is located in Nahuel Huapi National Park. There are actually 8 glaciers on Cerro Tronador alone, two of which are quite famous and easily reached on a hike to its base ( Castaño Overa and Alcerce.)
Because of its size and number of glaciers, mountaineers love tackling the challenging Cerro Tronador. However, for most people, hiking to the base of the mountain (where a mountain hut is located) is as far as they’ll go.
How to Hike Cerro Tronador (Tronador Hill)
If you want to walk right in between two glaciers, see a glacier waterfall, Condors, and have 360-degree panoramic views of the Andes, then you will need to hike Tronador Hill (the base of Cerro Tronador.) This hike is amazing, and to me, well worth doing!
*Note: Only those with extreme mountaineering experience can summit Cero Tronador. The hike we are referring to in this blog is the hike up Tronador Hil to the base of Cerro Tronador.
Where does the Cerro Tronador hike start from?
The hike begins in Nahuel Huapi National Park from a place called Pampa Linda. Pampa Linda is located 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Bariloche and can be reached via car or shuttle bus. The shuttle bus takes 2 hours from Bariloche.
If you rent a car and drive yourself, be sure to check road opening times ahead of time and plan your visit around them.
If you want to take the shuttle, you can book it with the Refugio online in advance.
At Pampa Linda, there is a small hotel and restaurant as well as a ranger’s office where you will need to register your plans. If you want, you can actually book a night or two at Pampa Linda and base yourself there for a day hike up Tronador Hill.
How long and difficult is the Cerro Tronador hike?
From Pampa Linda to the base of Cerro Tronador is a 14 kilometer (8.7 miles) walk that ascends over 1,000 meters (3,200 feet.) It took us 4.5 hours on the way up at a fairly steady pace, and less than 3 hours on the way down.
The trail is particularly well maintained, but it is a challenging hike particularly on the way up.
The trail begins in a forest with lots of shade, but by the end you’ll be hiking on volcanic rock and completely exposed to the elements.
You’ll know you’ve made it to the end when you reach a small hut, or Refugio, called Refugio Otto Meiling. Here, you can choose to spend a night in the hut, camp, or turn around and make your way back down.
You hike back to Pampa Linda on the same trail as the way up.
How much does it cost to hike Cerro Tronador?
You must pay the national park entrance of 400 ARS. This is paid when you enter the national park before reaching Pampa Linda.
Other expenses are the shuttle, accommodation at Refugio Otto Meiling or Pampa Linda, gear rental, or food as needed.
Should you spend the night?
This is totally up to you but I recommend either spending a night at Refugio Otto Meiling or Pampa Linda, OR going on an organized tour. The reason is that the hike is rather long and difficult to complete in one day with enough time to catch the shuttle back to Bariloche (usually departs Pampa Linda at 5 pm.)
Personally, we stayed at the Refugio and loved having all of the extra time up on the mountain. So, that would have to be my personal recommendation.
However, the Refugio is very basic (more on that below) so if you want a proper hotel and comfort then the Hosteria Pampa Linda may be more suited for you. You must book Hosteria Pampa Linda in advance, but Refugio Otto Meiling cannot be booked in advance and must be paid for with cash on arrival.
If you are very short on time and only have one day to spare, you can book a tour complete with transport from Bariloche (more on that below!)
Refugio Otto Meiling
Refugio Otto Meiling is a very basic mountain hut located right at the base of Cerro Tronador. At the hut, there is a small kitchen, lots of tables, bathrooms with flushing toilets and running taps (no showers), and a large open upstairs with mattresses on the floor for sleeping.
It is luxurious, but it is a great way to spend a night at one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the world.
On the price list above, you can find the prices for spending a night in the hut as well as food and drinks. If you want to cook your own meal, you just need to pay the small fee to use the kitchen.
Drinking water is available for free.
Camping is also free and permitted around the Refugio only (you are not allowed to camp anywhere else along the trail.) Just be sure to bring a good tent if you plan on camping as the winds can be very strong up there! You can rent tents from various shops in Bariloche before you go as well as sleeping bags and cooking equipment.
You cannot book Refugio Otto Meiling in advance. They will always accommodate people who show up and have plenty of mattresses available. When we were there, it wasn’t even close to being full.
Hosteria Pampa Linda
Hosteria Pampa Linda is the hotel at the very beginning of the trail. It is a proper hotel with comfortable standard rooms available as well as a restaurant.
The reviews are very good for this hotel and most people who stay here enjoy it. It is also very affordable at about $100 USD per night for two people.
If you want to hike Cerro Tronador but spend a night somewhere nicer than the Refugio, Hosteria Pampa Linda is a good option. You can even book excursions like horseback riding up the trail from there too!
You should book this hotel online in advance as it is often booked up!
The Hanging Glacier
Along the trail, there is a side trip to a hanging glacier called Castaño Overa. This adds an extra 4 kilometers onto your trip but is well worth it if you ask me!
The glacier is literally hanging of the edge of a cliff and waterfalls pour from beneath it. It was a sight I’d never seen before and was amazing.
We visited the glacier on the wat back down from the Refugio on day 2. We did this because going down was much quicker than the way up (on day 1) and much easier. So, the added couple of kilometers was easily doable on day 2.
Cerro Tronador Excursions (Day-trips from Bariloche)
Unfortunately, if you want to hike all the way to Refugio Otto Meiling, there is no tour available (that I am aware of anyways.) The tours to Cerro Tronsodor from Bariloche do go to Pampa Linda where you get amazing views of Cerro Tronador.
The tours also include commentary and stops at several other gorgeous viewpoints including the Black Glacier.
Although not a hiking tour, this particular tour comes highly rated and offers the chance for some incredible views!
Wow, what a place to end our time in Patagonia! This truly was a Patagonia highlight for us and would recommend this to everyone heading to Bariloche.
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January 16, 2020