Santiago’s proximity to the Andes makes it a playground for hiking enthusiasts. Check out these three hiking options: Cerro de Ramon, Cerro La Campana and Cerro el Roble.
1. Cerro de Ramon
Cerro de Ramon is one of the mountains that tower beside Santiago. The starting point of the climb is a national park named Quebrada de Macul; Wikipedia describes this as the “green lung” of Santiago. Wikiexplora gives a detailed description of how to arrive at the base of the mountain by both public bus and car. This hike requires three days: two days hike to base camp and a third day to the summit, if weather permits. It’s important to summit early in the afternoon/morning, and then you will be able to hike back down to the park on the same day.
This is a difficult hike. The Santiago Trekking Website offers guided tours, but personally, I have never used their services. There are a few places to collect water from small waterfalls of glacial runoff along the path. Farmers’ cattle graze on the hillsides along the trail. Watch out for the pies. The Chilean red fox roams the territory within the park. If you’re hungry, large sized ladybugs named Pololos (also the Chilean word for “boyfriend”) buzz around your face frequently. You can snatch them out of the air and eat them or grind a bunch of them up to make coffee. They taste like bland peanuts. Near our base camp (a three to four hour hike) there were small pools filled with glacial water where you can bath and refresh before the steep hike the next day. At night, Santiago’s lights shine like an immense collection of fireflies bonded to an endless black page.
After a short distance from base camp, the trail becomes non-existent. You need to ascend to the left of Cerro de Ramon, where the terrain isn’t too steep to climb to the top of the mountain range. There may be alternate routes. From the top of the mountain range, you walk carefully along the spine up to the base of Ramon. The final stretch is what seems to be volcanic matter; the rocks are jet black; they slide under your boots, which makes it necessary to take two steps for every one. The view from the top is the central range of the Andes.
2. Cerro La Campana
“Pasamos el día en la cima del monte, y nunca me ha parecido el tiempo más corto, Chile se extiende a nuestros pies como un panorama, inmenso limitado por los Andes y el océano pacifico.”
– Charles Darwin, from a plaque on the top of Cerro La Campana.
Cerro La Campana is a popular climb in La Campana National Park. From Santiago, it is about a two hour drive. The birdingsiteguide provides some of the most detailed information about how to arrive in La Campana National Park by bus. Here’s a small summary: from Santiago’s Alameda bus terminal to Olmue, Olmue to Granizo. If you have access to four wheel drive, you can take the Pan-American highway north to Til-Til and through the Cordillera de la Costa until you hit Olmue; from Olmue you drive east towards the park (Parque Nacional La Campana). If the road conditions permit, you can drive nearly half way up Cerro La Campana and cut off some of the climb.
Though, from the bottom, the hike to the top of La Campana only takes 4-5 hours, it’s best to plan for two days. There’s much to explore in the park, and the rangers may not allow you to hike up the mountain if you don’t register by 10 am. Wikipedia gives a detailed account of the route to the peak. Though it’s listed as an average hike, the trail is thin, rocky, and it becomes extremely steep towards the top.
Tarantulas climb all over the forest floor, although they are friendly, not poisonous, and edible; there are foxes, a myriad of birds, and mint leaves that you can rub on your teeth on the way to the mines.
I’m not saying it’s a good idea to explore the mines. On the contrary, it says, Danger, Do Not Enter outside of the second mine. But, I imagine that the first cave has a large numbers of screeching bats, and you’d have to dodge their shadows that shoot back and forth across the ceiling in panic-fueled directions; the second cave might have large mounds of rock that have fallen from the cave ceiling, and large chunks of quartz, crystal, and even some small sections of gold that shine within the debris; the cave might feel like it’s about to collapse from the immense weight of this mountain roaring above you.
It’s best to move on to the peak. On a clear day, you can sit in the same spot as the young Charles Darwin and scan the horizon, stretching all the way from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean.
It’s a great idea to camp, though the fourth link is a site — which I have never used — that offers hotels that you can book in advance. The third website — which I also cannot vouch for — offers guided tours which you can reserve in advance. The fee to enter is $2,500 CLP for foreign adults.
3. Cerro el Roble
Cerro el Roble is also located in La Campana National park, but is a distance from Cerro La Campana. When I was there, there were less tourists than on Cerro La Campana. The trail to base camp in a wide section sand. This makes for a good night hike. If you are with a decent sized group of people with good headlamps, you can walk to the base of the mountain in darkness, and watch the beetles and scorpions scurry along the path.
There is a more developed road leading up Cerro El Roble and there is an observatory located on the top. This being so, depending on how fast you hike you may be able to hike to an additional peak, Cerro ĺman. There aren’t mapped out directions, being that there is not exactly a trail, but Cerro Iman is south of Cerro Roble.
Flightoftheplatypus has some decent photos of Roble. Wikiexplorer has the most detailed information on how to arrive at Cerro Roble from Santiago, as well as a detailed route description. If you have access to a car you should translate this page into English and follow the directions under the section “In Order”. If you’re taking a bus, you should go to the La Paz Terminal, and take a bus to Til-Til where you will need to take an additional bus to Caleu. For this hike, it’s also probably best to plan for two days. Though you can do the hike in a day, it’s important to start early, and check the weather. Snow can be a problem on this hike. The fee is listed as $2,000 CLP per adult, probably $2,500 CLP for foreigners.