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Río Azul - Escondido Lake Protected Nature Area

Río Negro

The Río Azul - Lago Escondido Protected Natural Area (ANPRALE), west of El Bolsón, protects spectacular sites in the mountains, including the famous Cajón del Río Azul, with large pools of turquoise water. The lenga, coihue, ñire and cypress forests, the Valdivian jungle and the high Andean environments are surprising, as well as the glaciers, rivers, streams, lagoons, peat bogs, marshes and high altitude meadows.

The entire area can be enjoyed through a network of medium and high difficulty trails that are sometimes interconnected, and that can be covered in the day or spending the night in campsites or mountain refuges.

It can be visited all year round. The ideal time to enjoy the beaches and trails is from October to April. It is mandatory to complete the online trekking registration prior to admission. It is also advisable to go to the Mountain Information Office in the center of El Bolsón to find out about the refuges and circuits. From June to September, on the Perito Moreno hill, you can ski and do snow activities.

What to see
Troncal circuit and Cajón del río Azul

The main trekking path of the protected area begins at the La Confluencia access (also known as the Wharton farm, where there is no telephone or Wi-Fi signal).

After two hours of walking with beautiful views, you arrive at the La Playita refuge with several pools of blue-green water. If you continue for another hour, you can get to know one of the most iconic sites in ANPRALE: the Cajón del río Azul, a fault in the rock where the river is boxed in, forming an attraction of great beauty. In total, there are 8 km of walking and approximately three hours.

From the Cajón del Río Azul, and along the Circuito Troncal for about 15 km, you go up to Los Laguitos, the last refuge of this route, from which you can see the Lahuan lagoon and the Soberanía, Montes and Escondido lakes (if you have experience, you can summit Mount Año Nuevo). Another option, from the Cajón del Río Azul, is to connect with the Cerro Hielo Azul Circuit - Laguna Natación.

Cerro Hielo Azul - Natación Lake circuit and Azul River Pools

To tour the Cerro Hielo Azul Circuit, you can enter through the La Confluencia access (located at the junction of the Encanto Blanco and Azul rivers, also known as the Wharton farm) or through the “Doña Rosa” access, on the Azul river coast.

Either entering through one of the entrances and exiting through the other, or entering and exiting through the same path, you can discover the pools of the Azul River, where crystal clear and turquoise water runs between walls of millions of years ago. A tip: the shortest way to get there is entering through “Doña Rosa”.

After more than three hours of walking, and before reaching the Hielo Azul refuge, a detour leads to the path that leads to the lagoon and Natación refuge, from where you can see more attractions. In the vicinity of the lagoon, a path connects with the Circuito Troncal.

Other trekking circuits

In the vicinity of El Bolsón, there are more accesses to visit other circuits within the ANPRALE:

  • Circuit of the Valley of Encanto Blanco: the tour begins at the house of the Tillería family, located in the area of Mallín Ahogado (17 km from El Bolsón). It lasts approximately three hours and ends at the Encanto Blanco refuge. From there, you can reach two viewpoints, the river and a waterfall.

  • Cerro Lindo circuit: it starts at the footbridge over the Azul river, located in the municipal campsite, about 5 km from the center of El Bolsón. It lasts approximately seven hours. From the Cerro Lindo refuge, at the end of the route, you can reach lagoons, waterfalls and viewpoints, and even the top of the hill.

  • Valle del Motoco Circuit: starts at the Azul River footbridge, located in Lago Puelo (Chubut), about 12 km south of El Bolsón. After seven hours of walking, you will arrive at the Motoco refuge from where you can see the Alerzal Milenario, the Mallín Grande, among other attractions.

  • Dedo Gordo hill circuit: starts at the La Confluencia access (located at the junction of the Encanto Blanco and Azul rivers, also known as the Wharton farm). You can go up and down this path, or combine part of it with the Circuito Troncal. It lasts for almost five hours. From the Dedo Gordo refuge, at the end of the route, you can reach different panoramic points, a viewpoint and La Veranada, a large high-altitude mall.

Perito Moreno Hill

25 km north of El Bolsón, the Perito Moreno hill invites you to practice alpine and Nordic skiing and snowboarding among snowy forests. It has 24 skiable km distributed in 16 slopes. You can also snowshoe, cross-country ski and go sledding. It has a gastronomic area and a mountain refuge of the local Club Andino, with rooms to accommodate 60 people.

How to get there and move around

ANPRALE is 120 km south of Bariloche. There are transfers and buses from the airport that leave several times a day.

The access La Confluencia (or Wharton farm) is 14 km from El Bolsón. The access known as “Doña Rosa” is 9.9 km along a local road. Both are gravel and are in good condition.

To do any activity in the ANPRALE, it is very important to have the right information and equipment, and to choose activities according to the physical capacities and experience of each person. Prior to entering, you are required to fill in a trekking registration form in Avoid making fires here and in all the region.

Where to stay

Within the ANPRALE there are campsites and mountain refuges. Check prices, availability and opening dates at the Mountain Information Office in the center of El Bolsón.

In El Bolsón and its surroundings there is a wide range of qualified accommodation. There are also options in nearby towns, such as Lago Puelo, El Hoyo and Epuyén.

More information