Cerro Castillo Circuit – a 2022 trekking guide

Cerro Castillo Circuit is a 50 km trek through Cerro Castillo National Park, one of the best Patagonia National Parks for hiking. The scenery on the trek is stunning; indigenous forest, hanging glaciers, mountain rivers, snow peaks, turquoise blue lakes, bizarrely shaped mountains – untouched nature combined with unpredictable Patagonian weather.

There are different routes in Cerro Castillo you can explore in one to four days. Compared to some other long-distance treks in Patagonia e.g. treks in El Chalten or backpacking in the famous Torres del Paine, Cerro Castillo is an off-the-beaten-path trek but it is not as wild as the O’Higgins Glacier hike.

A turquoise-blue Cerro Castillo Lake and the glacier, are the highlights of the trek

Cerro Castillo trek overview

  • Total distance – 51 km/31,6 miles
  • Days required – 3 to 4, we’d recommend 4 in order to have more time to enjoy the scenery but if you’re short on time you can definitely push it to 3 days.
  • Starting point – Valle de la Lima, Ruta 7.
  • Finishing point – Cerro Castillo village.
  • Average altitude – 1000m.
  • Highest points – Cerro Castillo pass – 1600m and Portezuelo Peñon pass – 1435m.
  • Permits – no special permits or guide required, entrance fee – CLP 29 000/US$33 is paid at the gate.

Suggested tours and activities in Patagonia

Cerro Castillo weather

Summer (December to March) – is the best time for hiking in Patagonia in general; nice and warm during the day (it rarely gets hot), days are long (you have daylight till 9pm) though it rains a lot in Patagonia any season be prepared to experience some rainfalls. We hiked in February and in general, were very lucky with the weather on this hike, not a single drop in 4 days.

In winter (June to August); night temperatures go down to -2°C and below, and days are cold and short, it’s very likely you’ll encounter snow on the trek. April and September are the months with the most rain probably the worst time for hiking. March, October, and November are quite cold though the temperature even at night stays above 0°C and it doesn’t rain too much. 

Average monthly temperatures in Coyhaique
Average monthly temperatures in Coyhaique, Patagonia
Graph with average monthly rainfalls in Coyhaique
Average monthly rainfalls in Coyhaique, Patagonia

Cerro Castillo trek

There are no shops or restaurants inside Cerro Castillo National Park you must be self-sufficient and bring all the equipment and food with you.

Some travelers consider the Cerro Castillo trek as a good (less crowded) alternative to the W trek in Torres del Paine.

There are 5 designated campsites with basic facilities in the reserve where you’re allowed to camp, wild camping is not allowed.

Drinking water can be found everywhere (taps, rivers, lakes, falls), it’s good quality and drinkable. We didn’t use any purification tablets or a UV filter here. 

Patagonian weather is unpredictable; strong winds and heavy rains are quite frequent make sure your gear is right.

The route is marked quite well all the way, the only time we were unsure about it was at the beginning of the second day.

If you hike in summer, especially in the months of December and January bring insect repellent there might be many tabanos (horseflies) in Patagonia this time of the year, they are extremely annoying.

Not many people in Patagonia speak English some basic Spanish knowledge will be handy.

In peak season; January-February there are many people traveling the Carretera Austral – a road through Patagonia, sometimes it’s difficult to get on a bus often they are full. Hitchhiking in the area is very popular and safe, locals and tourists stop a lot to pick up travelers. We hitched to Cerro Castillo from Pumalin Park and it worked out great.

How we rank Cerro Castillo trek

  • Difficulty level – 3 out of 5, there are two steep ascents and descents on the way.
  • Scenery – 4 out of 5, pine forest, lakes, glaciers, rivers – quite impressive landscape. 
  • Touristy – 2 out of 5, we hiked in February which is still high season but there were not many people, mostly Chileans, and very few foreigners – nothing compared to some hikes in Torres del Paine.
Stunning view of the area from the pass, Cerro Castillo circuit, Chile
Beautiful scenery on the Cerro Castillo circuit, Patagonia, Chile

Cerro Castillo vs Torres del Paine

If you have to choose between visiting Carro Castillo or Torres del Paine National Parks I would recommend the second one. We’ve been to both parks and enjoyed hiking there but for me, the scenery in Torres del Paine is far more impressive than in Cerro Castillo. The attractions of Torres del Paine include some of the main Patagonia highlights such as Grey Glacier, Mirador Las Torres, Nordenjkold Lake, Mirador Frances, and Pehoe Lake. The scenery in Cerro Castillo is beautiful with the Mirador Cerro Castillo being the main highlight but I wouldn’t choose it over Torres del Paine.

The main advantage of Cerro Castillo is that it’s easier to arrange the hike. Unlike in Torres del Paine, you don’t have to book campsites in advance to be allowed to enter the park. It’s possible to do the Cerro Castillo trek last minute without too much planning. It’s cheaper to hike in Cerro Castillo than in Torres del Paine because the entrance fee includes camping. In Torres del Paine you pay the entrance fee + camping fee.

Travel insurance for the circuit

Cerro Castillo is not a high-altitude or dangerous hike but some parts of the route go through remote and difficult-to-access areas of the Natural reserve. Hiking like any outdoor activity involves risks of getting an injury, losing or breaking gear, and other unexpected situations. It’s always advisable to have insurance when traveling. Be properly covered for injury, evacuation, gear loss, trip cancellations, or delays.

Out of several insurance companies, we recommend World Nomads, they work all over the world and specialize in outdoor activities like hiking. A great thing about World Nomads is that you can buy an insurance policy online while traveling, it takes only a couple of minutes. Their policy is very flexible it can cover the whole period of your trip or only the hiking part of it, even if it’s only one or two days. Get a quote right now!

Note! Always make sure you carefully read the Terms and Conditions part.

Can Cerro Castillo trek be walked in either direction?

Yes, you can start at Estero Prada Entrance (Villa Cerro Castillo) and walk from west to east or start at Las Horquetas Entrance and walk east to west. Whichever direction you walk the itinerary and distances are the same.

Cerro Castillo National Park entrances

  • Estero Prada Entrance (the start of the circuit if you walk in the west-east direction) – from 7 am to 4 pm for hikers, from 7 am to 1 pm for day visitors.
  • Entrance to Mirador Cerro Castillo (day hike) – from 7 am to 12 pm
  • Entrance Las Horquetas (the start of the circuit, east-west direction) – from 7 am to 1 pm.

Cerro Castillo trek cost

  • Transport – CLP 9000/US$10 bus
  • Shopping (food, gas) – CLP 9000/US$10
  • Accommodation + entrance fee –  it used to be separate and in fact nobody charged for camping on the trail but it has changed. Now if you do a multi-day hike you pay CLP 29 500/US$33 which includes the entrance fee and overnight camping in the park. For more details on price check the official website.

Total: CLP 47 000/US$53

Distances on the circuit

  • Las Horquetas – campsite Río Turbio – 15 km/9,3 miles
  • Rio Turbio – campsite Estero del Bosque – 12 km/7,4 miles
  • El Bosque – campsite Neozelandes – 11 km/6,8 miles
  • Neozelandés – Cerro Castillo village – 13 km/8 miles

Campsites on the route

Río Turbio, Day 1


  • Toilet – yes
  • Running water – yes
  • Tables, benches – yes

Estero del Bosque, Day 2 (moved 1 km on following the trail in 2022)


  • Toilet – yes
  • Running water – yes
  • Tables, benches – yes

La Tetera, Day 2 (closed in 2022)


  • Toilet – yes
  • Running water – yes
  • Tables, benches – no

Porteadores, Day 3


  • Toilet – yes
  • Running water – yes
  • Tables, benches – no

Neozelandes, Day 3


  • Toilet – yes
  • Running water – yes
  • Tables, benches – yes
Beautiful scenery on the way to the trek
The scenery on the way to the Cerro Castillo trek

How to get to Cerro Castillo?

Cerro Castillo National park is about 75km from Coyhaique, the capital of the region. To get there you can catch a daily bus from the Coyhaique terminal, it leaves between 9.00-9.30am for CLP 9000/US$10. The hike starts at Las Horquetas, about 30km before (if you drive from Coyhaique) Villa Cerro Castillo. If you go by bus just ask a bus driver to stop there, if you hitch ask the same.

To get to Las Horquetas entrance from Villa Cerro Castillo you can get on a bus to Coyhaique that leaves at 7 am and get off at Las Horquetas.

We had some extra luggage and didn’t want to walk for 4 days with two backpacks each so we had to go first to Villa Cerro Castillo and ask to store our extra bags in one of the campsites (for free), we promised to stay there when we’re back. You can do the same and either start walking from Villa Cerro Castillo to Las Horquetas or catch a ride from the town to Las Horquetas. 

As an option you can hitchhike, depending on your luck and how many people are on the route, you can wait for a long time or get a ride in 15 minutes.

A drawing map of the Cerro Castillo trek route
A map of the route of the Cerro Castillo trek in Patagonia

Cerro Castillo trek – a 4-day itinerary

Day 1. Las Horquetas – Campamento Río Turbio, 15 km/9,3 mi

Trek starts at Las Horquetas a turn from Carretera Austral to the gravel road, between Coyhaique (75km) and Villa Cerro Castillo (30km). From the turn to the park entrance about 13km; easy walk, mostly flat, on the gravel road through fields and forest.

At the entrance, you register, pay CLP 29 000/US$33 entrance fee and get a free map.


  • Indigenous forest
  • The beautiful valley of Río Turbio


  • It was an easy day of walking without steep ascents or descents.
Rio Turbio, Cerro Castillo circuit
Scenery near Rio Turbio campsite, the first day of the Cerro Castillo circuit

Day 2. Río Turbio –  El Bosque, 12 km/7,4 mi

In the beginning nice easy walk through the forest along the river for about 4km at some stage, we lost the trail but found it quickly. Then only one long steep up on the hike to El Peñon pass, on top of it you’ll get a chance to walk on snow/ice in the middle of summer.

After the up always comes down; steep and rocky, be careful, don’t rush, and watch your step. Walk from the campsite to the pass and over it takes about 5 hours. Once down, it’s 1,5 hours more to camping El Bosque. Note! In 2022 the campsite El Bosque was moved deeper into the forest. It’s a 40-minute walk from the original campsite that is closed for recovery.

There used to be another campsite La Tetera, about 1-hour walk from El Bosque but as of August 2022, it’s closed for recovery.


  • Stunning views from the top of El Peñon pass
  • Snow and ice on the top of the pass


  • A steep ascent from the valley to El Pañon pass, +600m
  • A steep and rocky descent from the pass, -700m
Alya at the top of El Pañon pass, hiking Cerro Castillo circuit
Alya walking over El Pañon pass, the second day of the Cerro Castillo trek

Day 3. El Bosque/La Tetera – camping Neozelandes, 11 km/6,8 mi

At the beginning of the day after a 1-hour walk you arrive at the lake – Laguna Cerro Castillo (you start there if you camped at La Tetera), one of the most impressive sceneries on the hike; turquoise color lake, hanging glacier, and mountains around. From the lake, you’ll start ascending to Cerro Castillo pass, 1600m.

Don’t forget to turn around from time to time to check the view, from the top of the pass it’s even more impressive. Once at the top you start a steep long descent, be very careful it’s really steep, rocky, and gets very windy.

After about 1,5 hours you’ll find yourself at the river, camping Los Porteadores. Here you have several options; to camp at Los Porteadores and walk to Neozelandes without your backpack, to skip Neozelandes and go down to Cerro Castillo village, or to keep walking with your backpack, about 1,5 hours, to  Neozelandes and camp there. We chose the last option and really enjoyed it, the area around the campsite is absolutely beautiful; a green valley with a river surrounded by bizarre-shaped mountains. Camping Neozelandes was the least crowded, we were 6 people camping there.

If for some reason you don’t want or can’t continue the hike you can take an emergency route. From La Tetera walk up to the Mirador Cerro Castillo where you’ll see Sendero de Emergencia, a route that will take you straight to Villa Cerro Castillo. This route is used by day hikers to get from the town to Laguna Cerro Castillo and back in one day. The descent is very steep, about 900m down.


  • Turquoise blue lake Laguna Cerro Castillo
  • Hanging Cerro Castillo Glacier
  • Stunning views from the top of the pass
  • A beautiful valley at Neozelandes campsite


  • A steep rocky ascent to Cerro Castillo pass, +700m
  • A very steep and rocky descent from the pass, -800m
Campbell at Laguna Cerro Castillo, Patagonia
Campbell at the Laguna Cerro Castillo, day 3 of the circuit

Day 4. Neozelandes – Villa Cerro Castillo, 13 km/8 mi

Last bit and only down, all the way to the road, about 3,5 hours and from there 1,5 hours to the village and campings.

At the exit, you can be asked to show your ticket, and keep it till the end. The trekking is not very difficult but can be if the weather is bad, the path is well marked, no dangerous animals or poisonous snakes, and you walk between 6-7 hours daily.


  • Walking through the forest


  • A long descent to Villa Cerro Castillo, -800m
Campamento Neozelandes, Cerro Castillo circuit, Chile
The scenery at the Campamento Neozelandes, the last day of the trek

What to pack for the Cerro Castillo trek?

There are no accommodation options, restaurants, or shops inside the National reserve bring with you all you need for three nights of camping.

Tent – for camping in Patagonia we’d recommend having a good quality reliable tent that is waterproof and wind-resistant. After 5 years of traveling, hiking, and camping sometimes in very bad weather conditions we bought an MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent. It’s light, pack small, easy to pitch, waterproof, and very stable in strong wind. They might be not the cheapest tents but will serve you for years without failing.

Camping mat – we are both entirely for an inflatable camping pad. It’s small and light, easy to wash, fit inside a backpack, soft and comfortable.

Sleeping bag – if you’re going to Patagonia in summer 0°C comfort sleeping back will be good enough, in other seasons we’d recommend bringing a bag with comfort to -5°C. I prefer down sleeping bags. They are lighter, pack smaller, warm, very soft, and comfortable but if they get wet it’ll be a problem.

Cooking gear (stove, pots, gas) – we recommend bringing a stove to be able to cook hot meals and boil water for tea. Modern camping stoves are very light and small and will hardly add 500 grams to your backpack weight. Buy a stove with Piezo Ignition to have a backup in case you lose a lighter or matches get wet.

As for pots we always take two pots with lids (that we use as plates); one for cooking and one for boiling water. You’ll be able to buy gas in almost any town in Patagonia. You can buy a cooking set with a stove, pots, and utensils.

More details on hiking and camping gear for Patagonia you can find in our Patagonia packing list post.

Mirador Cerro Castillo – one day hike

It’s possible to do a one-day hike to the Mirador Cerro Castillo from where you can see the lake and Cerro Castillo glacier. In my opinion, it’s one of the best day hikes in Patagonia.

  • Starting and finishing point – Villa Cerro Castillo
  • Distance – 12km return
  • Altitude gain/loss – 900m ascent to the Mirador (viewpoint) with subsequent 900m descent back to the valley.
  • The time required – 6-7 hours
  • Permits – no special permits are required. The entrance fee is CLP 18 000/US$20 is charged at the entrance. For a day hike access to the trail is from 7 am to 12 pm. It’s done to ensure you’ll have enough time to descend before it gets dark.

If you enjoy day-hikes with stunning scenery and breathtaking lookout points consider including some of the beautiful day-hikes in Torres del Paine in your Patagonia itinerary.

How to get to Mirador Cerro Castillo hike?

The trek starts at Villa Cerro Castillo, take a bus or hitchhike from Coyhaique. Once there find a sign “Sendero de Chile” and follow the road until you reach a check-point. There you pay admission CLP 18 000/US$20 and start a steep ascend all the way to the Mirador.

Day hikers to Mirador Cerro Castillo have to ascend and descend following the same trail. It’s not allowed to enter or exit through Estera Prado Entrance (the entrance for the circuit). Day hikers are not allowed to descend to the lake as it takes too much time.


  • Laguna Cerro Castillo
  • Cerro Castillo Glacier
  • Views from the Mirador


  • A very steep and long ascent from Villa Cerro Castillo to the Mirador, +900m
  • A steep and long descent back to the town, -900m
Laguna Cerro Castillo, Mirador Cerro Castillo hike
Laguna and the Glacier Cerro Castillo from Mirador Cerro Castillo, the highlight of the day-hike

Mirador Cerro Castillo trek packing list

  • Water bottle
  • Snacks, sandwiches – it’s a 7-hour hike you’ll get hungry.
  • Sunglasses
  • Cap
  • Rain jackets
  • Hiking poles will be useful on the way down, it’s steep and long.
  • Sunscreen – on a sunny day it’s a must.
  • Insect repellent – there might be sandflies, they are very annoying.

Where to stay before the trek?

For Patagonia, Coyhaique is quite a big place the last proper town with good infrastructure on the way down south till El Chalten in Argentina or Puerto Natales in Chile. If you need to upgrade your gear, buy gas, draw cash –  it’s the place to do it. There are a couple of gear and second-hand shops (Ropa Americana) in the town, which was quite important for me because on the way to Coyhaique I lost my backpack with all my clothes, it fell out of the car while we were hitchhiking. 

You can combine the Patagonia hiking experience with exploring the massive San Rafael glacier, there are tours to the glacier that depart from Coyhaique daily.

Coyhaique facilities

  • Hotels – yes
  • Campsites – yes
  • Supermarket, shops – yes, big Unimark and one or two outdoor gear shops
  • Restaurants, cafes – yes
  • ATMs – yes
  • Information office – yes

Accommodation in Coyhaique

There are many guest houses, hotels, hostels, and campsites in the town. If you are on a tight budget bring a tent – camping is the only budget accommodation option in this part of Patagonia. We can recommend El Camping, a bit outside of the town. It has good facilities; hot shower, wi-fi, power outlets but no kitchen you need your own cooking gear, price CLP 9000/US$10 per person. 

The hike finishes at Villa Cerro Castillo, a small town with a couple of restaurants, a shop or two, and small guest houses/cabins and campsites. We can recommend Baqueanos de la Patagonia campsite, 10 minutes away from the park exit, a nice place with good facilities; hot shower, kitchen, electricity, outlets, and wi-fi. Price CLP 9000/US$10 per person. To have more accommodation and restaurant options rather than go back to Coyhaique. 

Villa Cerro Castillo facilities

  • Hotel – yes, a couple of guest houses and cabins (cabañas)
  • Campsite – yes, several through the town
  • Shop – yes, a couple of smallish shops
  • Restaurant – yes, several local restaurants
  • ATM – no
  • Information – yes

Accommodation in Villa Cerro Castillo

Camping Rustik Patagonia | Camping Araukaria | Camping El Mirador| Hostal El Rodeo | La Casona | B&B y Cabañas Cerro Castillo |

How to get from Villa Cerro Castillo to Coyhaique?

If you arrive in the town early you’ll have a chance to catch a bus back to Coyhaique the same day. There are two or three daily buses from Cochrane to Coyhaique but in the season they might be full. Go to the tourist information office just a block away from Carretera Austral. You can try to hitchhike but it can be difficult due to the many people on the road – dozens of backpackers locals and foreigners hoping to get a ride. 

How to get from Villa Cerro Castillo to Puerto Río Tranquilo? 

If hitch-hiking is not your cup of tea you can catch a bus just need to know that public transport is very scarce in the area. There was a bus at 11am to Cochrane, price CLP 9000 pesos/US$10. In our experience the bus was already full when arrived, some people could get in. We hitched all the way to Puerto Río Tranquilo, 120km south of Villa Cerro Castillo, and were very like to get a ride quickly.

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