Los Alerces National Park

Located in Argentine Patagonia, Los Alerces National Park spans 259,822 hectares, approximately 2,630 square kilometers of mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers. A true treasure of this region, the park is named after the ancient "alerce" tree, which can live up to 4,000 years. If you’re seeking a destination rich in natural history, biodiversity, and stunning landscapes, this is the place.

An Introduction to Los Alerces National Park

Los Alerces National Par

Geographical Location

Los Alerces National Park is situated in the Chubut province, west of Esquel, within the Patagonian Forest ecoregion. It extends along the Andes mountain range and covers areas of mountains, lakes, and forests. Its geographical coordinates are: 42°48′27″S 71°53′56″W / -42.8075, -71.89888889.

History and Recognition as a National Park

Established on May 11, 1937 (Decree 105.433/37 ratified by Law 13.895) under the Spanish name "Parque Nacional Los Alerces", with the goal of protecting the alerce forest (Fitzroya cupressoides), a millenary tree species that is in danger of extinction. The alerce trees are impressive and long-lived, considered true living witnesses to the history of Argentine Patagonia.

Los Alerces National Park is one of the oldest in Argentina, being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

For many years, the park has been a focal point of interest for scientists, conservationists, and nature enthusiasts from around the world due to the importance of preserving this unique ecosystem and its biodiversity.

Over the years, conservation and management measures have been implemented to protect the park’s ecosystem and its rich natural history. These actions include promoting scientific research, monitoring endangered species, implementing measures to prevent forest fires, and providing environmental education to visitors and local residents.

Climate of Los Alerces

The park has a temperate to cold and humid climate. Temperatures range from 14°C in summer to 2°C in winter. Annual precipitation ranges from 800 to over 3,000 mm, concentrated in the winter. It is recommended to visit the park between November and April, during spring, summer, and early autumn.

Contact Information

  • Phone: +54 2945 47-1015.
  • Address: Chubut, Argentina.

The Flora and Fauna of the Park

Iconic Species

The pudú (Pudu puda) and the alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides) are the two most iconic species of Los Alerces National Park.

The pudú, known as the world’s smallest deer, is a symbol of the park’s wildlife. Its small size and habitat in dense forests make it a captivating animal. Despite its size, the pudú is an expert at maneuvering through vegetation and primarily feeds on leaves, tender shoots, and fruits.

The alerce is a species of conifer that is primarily found in the humid and temperate forests of Argentina and Chile. The alerce is notable for its slow but steady growth and has become a symbol of longevity and resilience. The famous Ancient Alerce or "Grandfather Alerce" in the national park is an impressive example of the lifespan of these trees, with over 2,600 years of age.

The alerce forest, where the "Ancient Alerce" is found, is a place of great importance and beauty within the park. This nearly pure alerce forest represents a natural gem and a testimony to the history and evolution of the ecosystem. The majesty and imposing presence of the alerce trees in this forest are one of the main attractions for park visitors.

Both the pudú and the alerce are living examples of the biodiversity and natural history of Los Alerces National Park, and their presence in the area highlights the importance of conserving and protecting this natural treasure in Argentine Patagonia.

Millennial Larch

The alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), an iconic tree of this park, is a millennia-old species that can live for more than 4,000 years. In this park, the second oldest tree in the world resides, known as the Ancient Alerce Grove, with over 2,600 years of age, a height of more than 60 meters, and a diameter of over 2.20 meters.

Diversity of Flora

In addition to the alerce trees, the park hosts a wide variety of flora, standing out as the largest portion of Valdivian rainforest on Argentine soil. Its lush and ancient forests are home to emblematic species such as bamboo, Chilean myrtle, coihue, and alerce trees.

The alerce tree is particularly prominent in the park, being the most long-lived and robust tree species. In the Northern Arm of Lake Menéndez, the oldest known alerce grove is located.

The flora of Los Alerces represents a valuable showcase of the region’s biodiversity, with species adapted to the conditions of the mountains and the humid and temperate forests. Exploring these lush forests is immersing oneself in a natural treasure that has withstood the test of time and deserves to be preserved for future generations.

Park’s Fauna

In terms of fauna, the park is home to a rich diversity of animals, including the huemul deer, the pudú (the world’s smallest deer), and various species of birds and fish.

Los Alerces is home to a rich vertebrate fauna, with prominent species adapted to the various habitats present in the area. Among mammals, the pudú or little deer stands out, a small and emblematic deer species of the region. The huiña cat, a medium-sized wild feline, is also found here. Another notable species is the huemul deer, an endangered species whose main populations are found in this park.

Regarding birds, the park is home to the torrent duck, an aquatic species adapted to rivers and mountain streams. The Araucanian pigeon, a species of bird endemic to the region, is also found here.

In terms of amphibians, the graceful tree frog and the Batrachyla fitzroya frog stand out. The latter is exclusive to Lake Menéndez and was recently discovered, demonstrating the park’s importance for the conservation of unique species.

These are just a few examples of the diversity of fauna found in the protected area, although there are many more animals of all sizes, making it a safe refuge for these species and an ideal place to observe and enjoy wildlife in its natural environment.

Geology and Landscapes

Geological Formations

Los Alerces National Park is located in the Andes Mountain Range, showcasing a series of striking geological formations and glaciers.

Lakes and Rivers of the Park

Lake Futalaufquen

Surrounded by breathtaking beauty, Lake Futalaufquen offers a unique experience. Enjoy the serenity of the water and admire the mountainous landscapes while savoring delicious food at one of the nearby restaurants.

Lake Verde

Lake Verde will captivate you with its crystal-clear waters and natural surroundings. Explore the nearby dining options and be surprised by the flavors and hospitality of the region while enjoying panoramic views.

Lake Krüger

Immerse yourself in the tranquility of Lake Krüger and discover a variety of restaurants offering delightful dishes. Whether you wish to try local cuisine or savor international options, you’ll find a wide range of flavors to please your palate.

Lake Rivadavia

Enjoy a charming atmosphere by Lake Rivadavia. Explore the nearby restaurants and taste fresh and delicious dishes while admiring the panoramic views of the lake and its natural surroundings.

Lake Menéndez

Lake Menéndez invites you to enjoy a unique culinary experience at nearby restaurants. Taste local dishes and regional specialties while marveling at the stunning views offered by this beautiful lake.

Lake Amutui Quimei

Located in a picturesque setting, Lake Amutui Quimei offers you the opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal at nearby restaurants. Savor the flavors of the region and relax as you gaze upon the calm waters and natural beauty surrounding this lake.

Arrayanes River

Embark on a unique culinary experience near the Arrayanes River. Explore the restaurants nearby and savor delicious dishes while enjoying the serene ambiance and the beauty of the river and its natural environment.

This includes Lakes Futalaufquen, Verde, Krüger, Rivadavia, Menéndez, Amutui Quimei, and the Arrayanes River.

Recommended Activities and Excursions

Trails with Low Difficulty

Los Alerces National Park offers a variety of family-friendly trails where you can enjoy nature and explore the surroundings. Here are some recommended options:

Northern Zone

  1. Río Rivadavia Circuit: Duration of 2 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 6 km and with medium difficulty. The trail follows the Rivadavia Lake to the Colehual Creek, then continues along the creek to RP 71 and returns to the starting point.
  2. Lahuán Solitario: Duration of 1 hour and 30 minutes (round trip), covering a distance of 3 km and with low difficulty. The trail starts by crossing the Arrayanes River footbridge and follows the Menéndez River. Along the way, you can observe a 300-year-old lahuán or alerce tree.

Central Zone

  1. Villa Futalaufquen – Puerto Limonao: Duration of 3 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 4 km and with medium difficulty. The trail follows the coast of Lake Futalaufquen, offering beautiful panoramic views.
  2. Rock Paintings: Duration of 40 minutes, covering a distance of 850 meters and with low difficulty. The access is located 2.5 km from Villa Futalaufquen. The trail leads to a rock shelter with ancient paintings and then ascends to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Futalaufquen.

Southern Zone

  1. Los Tambores: Duration of 15 minutes, covering a distance of 250 meters and with low difficulty. The trail starts 1 km from the Information Center and enters a closed forest with cypress, coihue, aljabas, ferns, and mosses. It leads to the base of a small waterfall. Despite having some slope, it’s ideal for young children.

These trails provide accessible and safe options for families to enjoy scenic hikes and discover the natural beauty of the region.

Trails with High Difficulty

Here are 5 trails of higher difficulty for more demanding hikers in Los Alerces National Park:

Northern Zone

  1. Cerro Alto El Petiso: Duration of 7 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 16 km and with high difficulty. It starts in Puerto Mermoud, near Lake Verde. The trail ascends through the forest, crosses the Zanjón Hondo stream, and reaches the summit. It’s recommended for experienced hikers, and registration before ascending is mandatory.

Central Zone

  1. Cerro Cocinero: Duration of 6 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 8 km and with high difficulty. It’s one of the highest peaks in the region and part of the Cordón Situación. The trail starts from Arroyo Rañinto, and ascent with a licensed guide is recommended. Registration before the hike is necessary.
  2. Lake Krugger: Duration of 12 hours (one way), covering a distance of 34 km (round trip) and with high difficulty. It’s a demanding trail recommended to be done with a guide or by experienced hikers. It starts from Puerto Limonao, and overnight stay at the Krugger Lake refuge is possible. Registration before starting the hike is necessary.

Southern Zone

  1. Laguna del Toro: Duration of 4 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 4.9 km and with medium-high difficulty. The trail, located 500 meters from the Information Center, crosses the Andean Patagonian forest to reach Laguna del Toro at the base of Cerro La Monja. Registration before starting the hike is mandatory.
  2. Laguna Escondida: Duration of 3 hours and 30 minutes (round trip) and with medium difficulty. The trail starts from Río Arrayanes Section and ascends through forests to reach Laguna Escondida. Along the way, you’ll have excellent panoramic views of Lakes Verde and Menéndez. Registration before starting the hike is necessary.

Other Trails and Trekking Routes in the Park

With over 20 trekking trails, the park is a paradise for hiking and trekking enthusiasts, offering routes ranging from easy walks to more challenging trails for the adventurous.

Northern Zone

  1. Cascada Arroyo del Hacha: Duration of 1 hour (round trip), covering a distance of 1 km and with medium difficulty. Starts from the Rivadavia Section and leads to a waterfall with a viewpoint of Lake Rivadavia.
  2. Mirador del Lago Verde: Duration of 1 hour (round trip), covering a distance of 1.6 km and with medium difficulty. Starts 1 km north of the Lago Verde Section and gently ascends to a viewpoint overlooking Lakes Verde, Rivadavia, and Menéndez.
  3. Lago Las Juntas: Duration of 1 hour and 30 minutes (round trip), covering a distance of 2 km and with medium difficulty. This interpretive trail features steep slopes and crosses the Arrayanes River. It skirts Lake Verde until reaching the former settlement of Mermoud.
  4. Viejo Lahuán: Duration of 1 hour and 30 minutes (round trip), covering a distance of 3 km and with low difficulty. Starts at the Arrayanes campsite and follows the river of the same name downstream to an ancient broken alerce tree, approximately 800 years old.

Central Zone

  1. Cascada Yrigoyen: Duration of 30 minutes (one way), covering a distance of 150 meters and with medium difficulty. Located on the east bank of Lake Futalaufquen, it offers panoramic views after an ascent. The trail can be muddy on wet days.
  2. Quebrada del León: Duration of 3 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 2 km and with medium difficulty. Located 400 meters north on RP 71 from the Bahía Rosales Section. The trail leads to a viewpoint of a waterfall over the creek.
  3. Cinco Saltos: Duration of 2 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 2 km and with medium difficulty. Starts 3.5 km from Villa Futalaufquen towards Puerto Limonao. Ascends a steep slope to reach two viewpoints, one overlooking the lake and the other the waterfalls.
  4. Las Palanganas: Duration of 2 hours (round trip), covering a distance of 4 km and with medium difficulty. Starts at the Lago Krugger Section and follows the shore of the Frey River for 4,900 meters. The trail offers panoramic views and passes through areas dominated by coihue and caña colihue.

Southern Zone

  1. La Balsa: Duration of 6 hours (one way), covering a distance of 12 km and with medium difficulty. Access is coordinated with park rangers of the Southern Zone. Starts on the shores of the Amutui Quimey reservoir and ascends to a pass, then descends to a meadow. The trail continues passing through the Burgos Settlement until reaching La Balsa.
  2. Mirador de los Pozones: Duration of 6 hours (one way), covering a distance of 12 km and with medium difficulty. Offers a panoramic view from above of the "pozones" where the Futaleufú River used to flow.

These additional trails offer a variety of landscapes and experiences to enjoy during your visit to Los Alerces National Park. Remember to follow recommendations and register your activities before starting any hike.

Kayaking Expeditions

Lake Menéndez offers boat trips to the Alerzal Milenario and is also an ideal site for trout and salmon fishing.

For those seeking a family adventure filled with excitement, kayaking expeditions are a perfect choice. You can opt for a Sit on Top kayak, an individual watercraft that is very stable and easy to maneuver, or for a touring kayak to explore the Arrayanes River. There’s an option to kayak independently if you have prior experience, or you can hire the services of an authorized guide from the National Park to ensure a safe and enriching experience.

The Arrayanes River offers a beautiful and thrilling setting for kayaking, surrounded by the lush nature of the park. Enjoy the serenity of the water, observe wildlife, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the surroundings as you paddle along this impressive river.

Sport Fishing

Los Alerces National Park is renowned as a destination for sport fishing, especially for trout and salmon enthusiasts. In its waters, various species can be found, such as rainbow trout, silver salmon, brook trout, native trout, brown trout, silverside, and silver trout.

The sport fishing season extends from November 1st to May 1st. It’s important to read and familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations, specifically the Parques Nacionales del Sur annex, where the fishing methods and daily limits for each fishing season are detailed.

To engage in sport fishing within the park, it’s mandatory to obtain a fishing permit in person from the National Park’s Intendencia. Make sure to meet all requirements and obtain the necessary permit before commencing your fishing activity.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is an excellent option for exploring the beautiful Patagonian forests and alerce groves of Los Alerces. You can hire services from local providers to organize excursions to prominent places like the Rincón del Sol Complex. Enjoy the natural beauty as you ride horseback through the magnificent landscapes of this park.

Natural Beaches

Within Los Alerces National Park, you’ll find natural beaches with cool water access that are ideal for those who enjoy water and aquatic activities.

However, it’s important to note that the waters of the beaches in the park are deep and the water tends to be quite cold. This is due to the nature of mountain lakes and rivers. Therefore, it’s recommended to take precautions when entering the water, such as wearing life jackets and considering the temperature to avoid hypothermia.

Despite the chilly water conditions, the beaches of Los Alerces offer a natural and tranquil environment where you can enjoy the scenery, relax by the shore, and engage in water activities such as swimming, paddling, or simply admiring the panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.

Beaches with Lifeguard Services

  1. La Capilla Beach: Located on Lake Futalaufquen, the "La Capilla" beach from the head of the lake to the power station has lifeguard services. Here, you can enjoy the waters of the lake and relax on the beach with the peace of mind of having lifeguards on duty.
  2. Bahía Rosales: Both at the Bahía Rosales and Rosales Uno campsites, you’ll find beaches with lifeguard services. These beaches provide a safe option to enjoy the water and aquatic activities within the park.

Boat Tours

Lake excursions are an excellent way to explore the biodiversity and natural beauty of Northern Patagonia from a different perspective. One of the highlighted experiences is boat navigation on Lake Menéndez, offering panoramic views and a unique connection with nature. Excursions to the Alerzal Milenario and Torrecillas Glacier are also available. You can learn more and make reservations through operators like Safari Lacustre and Marcelo Coronado.

Camping Zones

The park has several camping zones and shelters for those who wish to spend the night amidst nature.

Services Available in the Park and Surroundings

Tourist and Educational Information

The park has tourist information centers where visitors can learn about the history, flora, and fauna of the park.

There are various accommodation and dining options within the park and its surroundings, ranging from campsites to more luxurious lodging, as well as restaurants to enjoy local cuisine.

Conservation and Protection of the National Park

Threats to Park Conservation

Climate change and forest fires are some of the main threats faced by the park. Conservation of this natural treasure is essential for its survival.

Conservation Projects and Actions

Several organizations and the government are working to implement conservation and protection projects for the park and its biodiversity.

How to Reach Los Alerces National Park

Park Access Points

The park can be accessed from the city of Esquel, via National Route No. 259 and Provincial Route No. 71.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Los Alerces National Park is during the summer, between December and March, when temperatures are warmer and all routes and trails are open.

Visitor Recommendations

It’s important to remember to respect all park rules to help with its conservation. This includes not littering, not feeding animals, and following established routes.

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