A must on the Carretera Austral is the Ventisquero Colgante (Hanging Snowdrift) located in Queulat National Park. The ice tongue falling into the void attracts tourists from all over the world. The park offers a range of trails for the entire family, so there is no excuse not to go deep into the Patagonian evergreen forest and enjoy a unique corner of Chile.
Leave Puyuhuapi heading south along the Carretera Austral on the edge of the Ventisquero Fjord. At kilometer 16, the road separates from the sea, crosses the bridge over the Témpanos River and in 22 kilometers (from Puyuhuapi) reaches the detour on the left marked as Queulat National Park, Ventisquero Colgante sector. The road goes in a regular state for 1 kilometer until the CONAF access control.
Take Route 7 north through Villa Mañihuales and Villa Amengual. After passing the detour to Puerto Cisnes, the road continues on a gravel road, crosses the Queulat Slope and reaches the sea again at Seno Queulat. After 210 kilometers from Coyhaique, a detour is reached on the right, signposted as Queulat National Park, in the Ventisquero Colgante sector. The road goes in a regular state for 1 kilometer until the CONAF access control.
By public transport and hitchhiking
It is possible to get to the park by public transportation by taking any bus along the Coyhaique-Puyuhuapi, Pto Cisnes-Puyuhuapi section or vice versa. The companies that make these daily trips are:
- Transport Terra Austral ($8.000, departure 15:00 Hrs Coyhaique, departure 6 am Puyuhuapi)
- Buses Aguilas Patagónicas ($8.000, departure 15:00 Hrs Coyhaique)
- Becker Eirl Buses ($ 9.000, Departures Tuesday and Saturday at 07:00 AM from Coyhaique)
Section of the Ventisquero Colgante trail on the side moraine of Laguna Tempanos.
On the Panoramic Viewpoint trail you walk through a beautiful forest.
There are numerous trails to walk in this sector of the park, however the most popular is the Ventisquero Colgante trail that leads to a viewpoint of the glacier. However, each of the trails has its own special charm and is worth walking.
Hanging Snowdrift Trail
The trail starts next to the parking lot next to the CONAF interpretative center (km 0; 100 masl). A large sign with a map presents other trails as well. Take the trail that descends slightly to the Témpanos River and crosses it on a large wooden footbridge. (km 0,1, Take care not to overload, 4 people maximum). The milky color of the river water is a sign of the high content of glacial sediments. Once on the north bank of the river a fork leads to the right hand iceberg lagoon, it is recommended to include this walk at the end.
Taking the left hand side, the trail crosses a sector of poor soil and scarce vegetation where species such as Notros, Chilcos and small Coigues stand out. At kilometer 0.5, a change in the vegetation can be seen, with large, old trees. This is the beginning of a long and sustained climb.
At kilometer 1.1, there is a viewpoint located 230 meters above sea level with two banks and a beautiful view of the Puyuhuapi Channel and Magdalena Island. A few meters above, the great slope ends, the gradient decreases and the tour starts on the back of an old moraine on the side of Lake Tempanos. This ridge is followed into the forest for a long time, crossing next to beautiful mañíos, coigues and tepas.
Finally, at kilometer 3.1, the end of the trail is reached. In this place, located at 370 meters above sea level, there is a beautiful view of the hanging glacier. A small shed allows protection in case of rain.
It is recommended to take a long break and wait, if you are lucky, for an ice break. The free fall of large blocks of ice causes a roar that can be heard even from the entrance to the park.
When descending, it is recommended to take the detour to the Tempanos Lagoon. Although the glacier can be seen from a greater distance, the view is well worth the additional minutes of walking.
The Hanging Snowdrift trail requires 2.5 to 3 hours of time to be covered entirely without hurry. (round trip)
The trail to the Tempanos Lagoon is an excellent alternative for those who do not want to hike the more extensive Ventisquero Colgante trail. The view of the glacier is almost as incredible and allows you to take the boat tour to get closer to the glacier. It has a length of 600m and does not require more than 1 hour to be covered.
This short interpretative trail runs through the forest and the remains of ancient alluviums that left huge blocks of rock in the middle of the forest. It is well worth walking it and observing a landscape different from the classic postcard of the Hanging Snowdrift. It is 350m long and takes no more than half an hour.
This trail reaches a viewpoint somewhat less spectacular than the Tempanos Lagoon, but it is well worth it if you have the time to include it.
The Río Guillermo trail is less well marked than the other trails in the park and authorization is requested from CONAF. It allows access to the Guillermo River, a tributary of the Témpano River that drains numerous glaciers hidden in valleys inside the park.
If you do only the Hanging Snowdrift trail it will only take about 3 hours, however it is recommended to include all the trails in the park for what could well be a whole day.