El Rey National Park

Immerse yourself in the dazzling beauty of El Rey National Park, a paradise in the heart of Argentina’s wilderness. In this vibrant mosaic of wildlife, rich cultures, and mighty landscapes, you will embark on an unforgettable journey. Keep reading to uncover the hidden treasures awaiting your visit.

National Park Information

El Rey National Park

Geographic Location

Located in the provinces of Salta and Tucumán, within the department of Anta, in Argentina, El Rey National Park stretches across a vast territory encompassing the eastern Andes mountain range and the Yungas and Dry Chaco ecoregions. It can be pinpointed at coordinates: 24°42′00″S 64°38′00″W / -24.7, -64.63333333.

History of El Rey National Park

Established on June 24, 1948 (Decree No. 18.800/48) under the Spanish name "Parque Nacional El Rey", this park has preserved and protected a valuable piece of the mountain jungle, offering a safe haven for numerous endemic species.

In the 18th century, the former estate of El Rey was one of the strongholds situated on the eastern border of Salta and Jujuy, under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of Peru. In 1767, it was granted by royal concession to Colonel Fernández Cornejo y Rendón, who had led the expulsion of the Jesuits that same year.

On June 24, 1948, through Decree No. 18.800/48 by President Juan Domingo Perón, the lands intended for the creation of a national park in the province of Salta were subjected to expropriation. Initially known as Finca El Rey National Park, it became the first national park established within an Argentine province, as previous national parks were situated in national territories. It is important to note that it was not declared a national park through a national law, nor was its domain and jurisdiction granted through a provincial law. Decree No. 18.800/48 is considered the legal instrument of creation, even though it solely orders the expropriation of the lands for the purpose of establishing a national park without mentioning its official name.

Subsequently, Law No. 19.292 on the Boundaries of Different Parks and Reserves, enacted and promulgated on October 11, 1971, refers to El Rey National Park by its current name.

Finally, National Parks Law No. 22.351, enacted and promulgated on November 4, 1980, ratifies El Rey National Park and makes reference to Decree No. 18.800/48.

On October 10, 1990, through Decree No. 2.149/90, a sector of the national park was designated as a strict nature reserve. However, the boundaries of the strict nature reserve were modified on March 23, 1994, through Decree No. 453/1994, which reduced its extent and created the wild nature reserve.

General Information

Establishment of the National Park

The Park was established with the aim of preserving a representative section of the mountain jungle and Yungas, along with their respective native species.

Extent and Terrain Characteristics

Covering an area of over 44,162 hectares (about 441.6 km²), the park stretches from river valleys to mountain peaks, offering a great diversity of landscapes.


El Rey National Park experiences a varied climate. During winter, average temperatures hover around 8°C, while in summer, they reach around 21°C. The rainy season primarily spans from November to March. In the higher mountain areas, temperatures can drop below freezing, and snowfall can occur, creating a picturesque landscape.

Flora and Fauna

Flora Diversity

This park is home to an impressive variety of plant species, from orchids to giant ferns, populating the dense jungle. The flora of El Rey National Park is distributed across different levels or strata as altitude increases. At the lowest level, we find the serrano Chaco forest with species such as horco quebracho, cochucho, atamisque, and cardones. Next, there’s the transition jungle with trees like tipa and pacarae. Then, in the mountain jungle, we can encounter towering specimens of cedar, tarco, tipa, and walnut trees. Starting from an altitude of 800 meters, the myrtle jungle begins, dominated by species like palo barroso, alpamato, mato, chal-chal, and güili. Above 1,500 meters, mountain pine forests develop, followed by alder and, finally, queñoa. One of the highlights is the diverse range of epiphytes, such as the tank bromeliad, "clavel del aire" flowers, and various orchid species. In the higher parts of the mountains, we find serrano grasslands.

Fauna Diversity

A multitude of animal species, including the jaguar, tapir, and Andean condor, make this park an ideal spot for wildlife observation. Notable bird species include the red-legged seriema, charata, and common mountain pava. Brown and red brocket deer, peccaries, river otters, tapirs, foxes, and pumas can also be found.

Rivers and streams are home to several native fish species like dorado, boga, catfish, and sábalo. At Laguna de los Patitos, diverse waterfowl can be observed, such as the red-gartered coot, black coot, cutirí duck, and gray gallinule. The rich diversity of animal species makes the park an ideal place for wildlife observation.

Biodiversity Conservation

El Rey plays a vital role in protecting threatened species and conserving the biodiversity of the region.

Tourist Attractions and Activities

The park offers a variety of sites to visit and activities to enjoy, providing a comprehensive experience:

Santa Elena Field and Los Lobitos Waterfall

Located 4 km from the operations center, you can access these sites via a vehicular trail. Here, you can marvel at the natural beauty of the Los Lobitos waterfall and enjoy the surroundings of Santa Elena Field.

Popayán River

Around 10 km away, you’ll find the Popayán River, accessible via a vehicular trail. Here, you can relax by the river, enjoy the surrounding nature, and perhaps take a refreshing dip in its waters.

Pozo Verde

10 km from the operations center, you can reach this spot via an easy pedestrian trail. Pozo Verde is an ideal place for a leisurely walk, enjoying the vegetation and serene environment.

Chorro de los Loros

Located 11 km from the operations center, this site is reached via a moderate to high-difficulty pedestrian trail. At Chorro de los Loros, you can marvel at an impressive waterfall and enjoy panoramic views offered by the trail.

Laguna Los Patitos

Just 1.5 km away, you’ll find Laguna Los Patitos, accessible via an easy pedestrian trail. Here, you can enjoy the beauty of the lagoon, observe waterfowl, and relax in a peaceful environment.

These are just some of the attractions and activities you can enjoy in El Rey National Park. Remember to follow the park’s rules and recommendations, respect the natural environment, and savor this unforgettable experience.

Trekking and Hiking Trails

With an extensive network of trails, trekking and hiking enthusiasts will find an unparalleled experience in El Rey, such as:

  1. Path to Popayán River: This trail will take you to the beautiful Popayán River, where you can enjoy the surrounding nature and relax by the water.
  2. Pozo Verde Trail: Walking this trail will guide you through a charming environment to reach Pozo Verde, a perfect spot to rest and enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings.
  3. Los Cajones Trail: You can venture into a picturesque area and discover breathtaking landscapes as you walk through the natural cajones formations created by the unique geology of the region.
  4. Laguna Los Patitos Trail: This trail will lead you to the beautiful Laguna Los Patitos, where you can enjoy birdwatching and the serenity of the environment.
  5. La Chuña Trail: It allows you to explore the natural beauty of La Chuña, with its rich flora and fauna, offering an enriching experience in contact with nature.
  6. Path to Los Lobitos Waterfalls: Through this path, you can reach the impressive Los Lobitos waterfalls, where you can marvel at the cascading water and enjoy the natural surroundings.
  7. Chorro de Los Loros Trail: A route to the Chorro de Los Loros waterfall, where you can enjoy panoramic views and the relaxing sound of water.

These are just a few of the trails available in El Rey National Park. Each one offers a unique experience and immerses you in the natural beauty of the region. Remember to follow the park’s indications and recommendations, as well as to respect the natural environment during your adventure.

Birdwatching and Wildlife Observation

The park offers magnificent opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation, being home to various endemic and migratory species.

Picnic and Camping Areas

For those seeking a more tranquil experience, there are designated areas for picnics and camping amidst nature.

Tour Guides and Guided Excursions

For a more enriching experience, local tour guides offer guided excursions throughout the park.

Practical Information for Visitors

How to Get There

The park is approximately 200 km from the city of Salta and is accessible by both car and public transportation. To access El Rey National Park by car, you can follow the following routes from the cities of Salta and San Miguel de Tucumán:

From Salta

Take National Route No. 9 towards Lumbreras. Then, continue on Provincial Route No. 5 until reaching Paso de la Cruz. Finally, take Provincial Route No. 20, which will lead you to the park entrance. The journey from Salta to the park is approximately 197 km.

From San Miguel de Tucumán

Take National Route No. 9 towards Lumbreras. Then, continue on Provincial Route No. 5 until reaching Paso de la Cruz. Finally, take Provincial Route No. 20, which will lead you to the park entrance. The journey from San Miguel de Tucumán to the park is approximately 387 km.

Bus Services

It’s important to note that access to the park by car is only possible outside the rainy season when rivers are low, and the road is dry. During the months of December to March, which are rainy seasons, the entrance road via Provincial Route No. 20 can become impassable for vehicles.

If you prefer to use other means of transportation, you can take a bus from Salta to Paso de la Cruz, which is 48 km from El Rey National Park. From there, a gravel road begins with several river crossings to access the park.

Remember to check the road conditions and plan your visit based on the season and weather conditions to ensure a safe and pleasant journey.

Best Season to Visit

The best time to visit El Rey National Park is during the drier months, between April and October.

Regulations and Recommendations

It’s essential to respect the park’s regulations, which include not feeding the animals, taking all trash with you, and staying on designated trails.

Services Available in the Park and Surroundings

Near the park, you can find accommodation services, restaurants, and adventure tourism companies.

Challenges and Conservation Threats

Environmental Issues

The park faces challenges such as climate change, deforestation, and poaching, which threaten its rich biodiversity.

Conservation and Sustainability Efforts

Park authorities, together with local and international organizations, are working to implement conservation and sustainability strategies.

Research and Education in the Park

Current Research Programs

Several ongoing research programs focus on biodiversity conservation and monitoring climate change.

Educational and Volunteer Opportunities

El Rey National Park offers opportunities for environmental education and volunteering, allowing visitors to contribute to its conservation.

Photo Gallery