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The Cochamo Valley is one of the most pristine places in northern Patagonia, with its historic Cochamo Trail - up to the border with Argentina - having been in use for more than 100 years. Once traversed only by gauchos, missionaries and the occasional bandit (Butch and Sundance being the best-known of the latter), the trail is today being explored and used by travelers from all parts of the world. This is, in large part, due to the 'discovery' of this hidden gem by maverick traveler and journalist Clark Stede, was one of the early European visitors to this remote valley, in the waning years of the Pinochet regime. He was just 'passing by' in his aluminium yacht, but once he glimpsed the valley and his peaks - he decided to stay. Working with young local huasos, he explored the Cochamo Trail and other long-unused byways, and decided to lead and guide horseback explorations of this magnificent valley, thus bringing international tourism to little-known Cochamo.  
 
The Cochamo Valley is one of the most pristine places in northern Patagonia, with its historic Cochamo Trail - up to the border with Argentina - having been in use for more than 100 years. Once traversed only by gauchos, missionaries and the occasional bandit (Butch and Sundance being the best-known of the latter), the trail is today being explored and used by travelers from all parts of the world. This is, in large part, due to the 'discovery' of this hidden gem by maverick traveler and journalist Clark Stede, was one of the early European visitors to this remote valley, in the waning years of the Pinochet regime. He was just 'passing by' in his aluminium yacht, but once he glimpsed the valley and his peaks - he decided to stay. Working with young local huasos, he explored the Cochamo Trail and other long-unused byways, and decided to lead and guide horseback explorations of this magnificent valley, thus bringing international tourism to little-known Cochamo.  
  
Today, the Cochamo Valley - specifically the upper La Junta section - is a famous rock climbing destination with many granite walls and domes ranging around 1000 meters. New routes are opened every year and thousands of new long lines are waiting to be done. For most other types of outdoor travelers, the multi-day horseback trekking and hiking activities remain the most popular and common way to access this natural treasure trove. An excellent resource and provider of these is [http://www.campoaventura.cl campoaventura.cl]
+
Today, the Cochamo Valley - specifically the upper La Junta section - is a famous rock climbing destination with many granite walls and domes ranging around 1000 meters. New routes are opened every year and thousands of new long lines are waiting to be done. For most other types of outdoor travelers, the multi-day horseback trekking and hiking activities remain the most popular and common way to access this natural treasure trove.
  
 
In addition to rock-climbing, the Cochamo and La Junta valleys offer visitors a rich feast of nature - crystal-clear pools and streams; towering ancient trees; scattered, occasional encounters with traditional mountain homesteaders; and dozens of hikes - ranging from easy to moderate to challenging.  
 
In addition to rock-climbing, the Cochamo and La Junta valleys offer visitors a rich feast of nature - crystal-clear pools and streams; towering ancient trees; scattered, occasional encounters with traditional mountain homesteaders; and dozens of hikes - ranging from easy to moderate to challenging.  
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Relatively unknown until recently, the valley receives more and more hikers and climbers each year, which brings its own set of challenges - ill-prepared or ill-equipped visitors; littering and trash; unauthorised camping and fires. Whether the growing number of local and international visitors will respect the fragile environment and local inhabitants and their property, and do what they can to keep this "Yosemite of Chile" clean and unspoiled, remains to be seen.   
 
Relatively unknown until recently, the valley receives more and more hikers and climbers each year, which brings its own set of challenges - ill-prepared or ill-equipped visitors; littering and trash; unauthorised camping and fires. Whether the growing number of local and international visitors will respect the fragile environment and local inhabitants and their property, and do what they can to keep this "Yosemite of Chile" clean and unspoiled, remains to be seen.   
  
* '''Rock Climbing - Big Walls and cragging ''' Thousand meter granite walls border the valley along the Cochamó River. Valle Cochamó's rock provides route potential beyond the imagination. The area has already become a world class climbing destination, with first ascents from people from almost every continent on the globe. If you're into long routes, sport routes, bouldering, establishing new routes or just hanging in a gorgeous landscape, Valle Cochamó is one of South America's best.  
+
* '''Rock Climbing''' Thousand meter granite walls border the valley along the Cochamó River. Valle Cochamó's rock provides route potential beyond the imagination. The area has already become a world class climbing destination, with first ascents from people from almost every continent on the globe. If you're into long routes, sport routes, bouldering, establishing new routes or just hanging in a gorgeous landscape, Valle Cochamó is one of South America's best. Sport climbing and cragging exist throughout the valley's basen, including the overhanging Pared Seca which stays dry when it rains. Check out the route info at  [http://www.cochamo.com/climbing Cochamo.com/climbing] and at [http://www.escalando.cl Escalando.cl].
  
* '''Hiking'''  Many visitors come to Cochamo to trek the four to six hours into La Junta, the heart of Valle Cochamo. From there, many day hikes reach spectacular peaks, waterfalls and 3000-year-old alerce trees. The main trail continues all the way to Argentina passing a rock arch, lakes and mountain passes. Checkout the trail info at [http://www.cochamo.com/trekking Cochamo.com/trekking] and ideas for fully guided and supported programs at [http://www.campo-aventura.com campo-aventura.com]
+
* '''Hiking'''  Many visitors come to Cochamo to trek the four to six hours into La Junta, the heart of Valle Cochamo. From there, many day hikes reach spectacular peaks, waterfalls and 3000-year-old alerce trees. The main trail continues all the way to Argentina passing a rock arch, lakes and mountain passes. Checkout the trail info at [http://www.cochamo.com/trekking Cochamo.com/trekking]. You can get info for fully guided programs at [http://www.campo-aventura.com campo-aventura.com] and [http://www.cochamo.com/guides www.cochamo.com/guides].
  
 
* '''Horseback treks'''  Numerous visitors also choose to travel through the Cochamo Valley's native rainforest up to magnificent La Junta  valley on horseback - a time-tested and traditional way of accessing this hard-to-reach natural gem. Day rides and multi-day trips, combined with hiking, lodge stays, or camping, provide an unsurpassed opportunity to experience the "huaso" traditions and culture - along the centuries-old Cochcamo Trail.
 
* '''Horseback treks'''  Numerous visitors also choose to travel through the Cochamo Valley's native rainforest up to magnificent La Junta  valley on horseback - a time-tested and traditional way of accessing this hard-to-reach natural gem. Day rides and multi-day trips, combined with hiking, lodge stays, or camping, provide an unsurpassed opportunity to experience the "huaso" traditions and culture - along the centuries-old Cochcamo Trail.
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* '''Arco Iris.''' The 'arc of the rainbow' is one of the more popular trails. It is a vigourous hike, with a small section requiring ropes - and the reward is well worth it. Stunning, 360-degree views of a lush valley and imposing peaks are your reward.  
 
* '''Arco Iris.''' The 'arc of the rainbow' is one of the more popular trails. It is a vigourous hike, with a small section requiring ropes - and the reward is well worth it. Stunning, 360-degree views of a lush valley and imposing peaks are your reward.  
  
* '''El Arco''' The 'arch" is a destinal approximately 10 - 15 kms up river from the La Junta basin and valley. It gets it's name from a lone Alerce tree growing atop a natural rock archway, through which a waterfall courses. In the higher reaches of El Arco are hundreds of millenary Alerces, the second-longest living tree in the world, renowned for its ability to remain strong and usable in home-building, boat-building and other uses for decades, even in an intensely wet and cold climate. A "ride & trek" program is the ideal way to epxlore this reserve. [http://www.campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks/]
+
* '''El Arco''' The 'arch" is a destination approximately 10 - 15 kms up river from the La Junta basin and valley. It gets it's name from a lone Alerce tree growing atop a natural rock archway, through which a waterfall courses. In the higher reaches of El Arco are hundreds of millenarian Alerces, the second-longest living tree in the world, renowned for its ability to remain strong and usable in home-building, boat-building and other uses for decades, even in an intensely wet and cold climate. A "ride & trek" program is the ideal way to explore this reserve. [http://www.campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks/]
  
 
* '''The Gaucho Trail''' - a circle route between the Cochamo and Puelo river valleys, pioneered by Campo Aventura. This is an unforgettable journey  - in the words of a Chicago Tribune article, it is " a chance not just to see mountain scenery far removed from the well-trampled tourist track and romp through a bit of history; but also to ride back to an earlier age, a time of hand-hewn log cabins and crystal streams and partnership with a horse to whom you trust your life." For more information on this trail and the riding and hiking possibilities, refer to [http://www.campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks/]
 
* '''The Gaucho Trail''' - a circle route between the Cochamo and Puelo river valleys, pioneered by Campo Aventura. This is an unforgettable journey  - in the words of a Chicago Tribune article, it is " a chance not just to see mountain scenery far removed from the well-trampled tourist track and romp through a bit of history; but also to ride back to an earlier age, a time of hand-hewn log cabins and crystal streams and partnership with a horse to whom you trust your life." For more information on this trail and the riding and hiking possibilities, refer to [http://www.campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks/]
 
* '''Climbing''' With in the valley, granite walls rise more than 1,000 meters, holding some of the countries most classic free climbing routes. Sport climbing and cragging exist throughout the valley's basen, including the overhanging Pared Seca which stays dry when it rains. Chekout the route info at Checkout the trail info at [http://www.cochamo.com/climbing Cochamo.com/climbing] and at [http://www.escalando.cl Escalando.cl].
 
  
 
==Lodging==
 
==Lodging==

Revision as of 15:08, 17 September 2010

The Cochamó Valley is in the Lakes Region of Chile. The valley is known as the Yosemite of Chile, a term and comparison first coined by Seattle Times reporter Bill Dietrich, who wrote about his horseback trek and visit in 1997. See community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19970223&slug=2525216

Contents

Landscape

With its remote location, far removed from modern, urban living, Cochamó is like stepping back in time. The U-shaped valley, lined with 1000-meter grainte walls and peaks, was originally carved by a glacier millions of years ago. Lush, green pasture land gives way to dense, deep-green rainforest, and thence to bamboo forests and, eventually,bare, granite peaks that rise more than 3,000 feet from the upper valley floor. As for the waterfalls - there are more than you can count. And the water is clear, pure - and drinkable!

Flora and fauna

The lush, virgin temperate rainforest - one of only three such natural treasures in the world - is a highlight of the valley. Towering native trees, hundreds and even thousands of years old, are entwined with ferns, vines, and the bell-like, bright-pink copihue flower. The Alerce trees (fitsroya cupressoides) are one of nature's wonders, living for up to 3,000 years.

The fauna is perhaps on a smaller, less-dramatic scale -- but still very unique, and often threatened. Lucky visitors often glimpse pudu (the world's smallest deer), or the flash of a wild boar racing through the trees. Puma do prowl the upper reaches, but are shy and rarely seen. The Darwin's Frog, a very are and endangered species, is to be found in this valley - as are nesting condors, caranchos, and a variety of migratory birds (ibises, humming birds, swallows, etc.) Occaionally, at the mouth of the Rio Cochamo a small family of black-necked swans makes a graceful appearance.

Although trout are not native to the area, they were introduced more than a century ago - and now the Cochamo abounds with brown and rainbow trout.

Climate

This area receives a huge amount of rain every year. The best time and dryest, however, is January through mid March. The weather can be good from December to the end of March.

Fees/Permits

There are no entree fees or permits needed - as the entirely valley is owned by private individuals. Almost all of them allow access through or past their lands (in the tradition of good neighbours), and visitors are urged to respect boundaries, fences, and be careful with gates. (Close a closed gate; leave an open one open.) And be sure to pack out all your trash!

Getting There

If you are heading to Valle Cochamó from Santiago (Chile) or Bariloche (Argentina), you need to get to Puerto Montt - or, better yet - the more picturesque tosn of Puerto Varas as a starting point. It has several travel agencies and the local bus service passes through here also - with three busess a day to and from Cochamo. Make sure to ask the bus driver to drop you a the bridge on the River Cochamo - from where you can start your hike into the valley directly, or camp or stay at Campo Aventura's Riverside Lodge.

The trailhead is located 8 kilometers up river following a gravel road, that meanders through pastures and woods. It's possible to hire a car in town to drop you off at road's end where the trail begins.

At the end of the road or trailhead, cross a small bridge and pass through a gate. From that point, hiking into the valley takes four to five hours. The trail is well marked and never crosses the Cochamó River. The hiking is relatively easy except for crossing through some trenches, pools and streams, which can become harder to cross - or even impassable - when it rains. Water proof hiking boots are highly recommended. Gaitors help significantly on rainy days. Continue to La Junta River, the center of activities and accommodation in the valley.

Riding up the valley trail is much less strenuous, and recommended as a way to more thorougly enjoy the rare and unique rainforest environment. There are guides and horse rentals of all variety - so make sure to choose a reputable provider.

See

Huge granite walls, waterfalls, rivers, granite arches, Alerce forests, caves, pools - basically some of Patagonia´s most amazing landscape. And experience traditional Andean mountain life as it has been lived for generations - self-sufficient, low impact, and viable.

Do

The Cochamo Valley is one of the most pristine places in northern Patagonia, with its historic Cochamo Trail - up to the border with Argentina - having been in use for more than 100 years. Once traversed only by gauchos, missionaries and the occasional bandit (Butch and Sundance being the best-known of the latter), the trail is today being explored and used by travelers from all parts of the world. This is, in large part, due to the 'discovery' of this hidden gem by maverick traveler and journalist Clark Stede, was one of the early European visitors to this remote valley, in the waning years of the Pinochet regime. He was just 'passing by' in his aluminium yacht, but once he glimpsed the valley and his peaks - he decided to stay. Working with young local huasos, he explored the Cochamo Trail and other long-unused byways, and decided to lead and guide horseback explorations of this magnificent valley, thus bringing international tourism to little-known Cochamo.

Today, the Cochamo Valley - specifically the upper La Junta section - is a famous rock climbing destination with many granite walls and domes ranging around 1000 meters. New routes are opened every year and thousands of new long lines are waiting to be done. For most other types of outdoor travelers, the multi-day horseback trekking and hiking activities remain the most popular and common way to access this natural treasure trove.

In addition to rock-climbing, the Cochamo and La Junta valleys offer visitors a rich feast of nature - crystal-clear pools and streams; towering ancient trees; scattered, occasional encounters with traditional mountain homesteaders; and dozens of hikes - ranging from easy to moderate to challenging.

Relatively unknown until recently, the valley receives more and more hikers and climbers each year, which brings its own set of challenges - ill-prepared or ill-equipped visitors; littering and trash; unauthorised camping and fires. Whether the growing number of local and international visitors will respect the fragile environment and local inhabitants and their property, and do what they can to keep this "Yosemite of Chile" clean and unspoiled, remains to be seen.

  • Rock Climbing Thousand meter granite walls border the valley along the Cochamó River. Valle Cochamó's rock provides route potential beyond the imagination. The area has already become a world class climbing destination, with first ascents from people from almost every continent on the globe. If you're into long routes, sport routes, bouldering, establishing new routes or just hanging in a gorgeous landscape, Valle Cochamó is one of South America's best. Sport climbing and cragging exist throughout the valley's basen, including the overhanging Pared Seca which stays dry when it rains. Check out the route info at Cochamo.com/climbing and at Escalando.cl.
  • Hiking Many visitors come to Cochamo to trek the four to six hours into La Junta, the heart of Valle Cochamo. From there, many day hikes reach spectacular peaks, waterfalls and 3000-year-old alerce trees. The main trail continues all the way to Argentina passing a rock arch, lakes and mountain passes. Checkout the trail info at Cochamo.com/trekking. You can get info for fully guided programs at campo-aventura.com and www.cochamo.com/guides.
  • Horseback treks Numerous visitors also choose to travel through the Cochamo Valley's native rainforest up to magnificent La Junta valley on horseback - a time-tested and traditional way of accessing this hard-to-reach natural gem. Day rides and multi-day trips, combined with hiking, lodge stays, or camping, provide an unsurpassed opportunity to experience the "huaso" traditions and culture - along the centuries-old Cochcamo Trail.
  • Natural waterslide. La Junta River offers an amazing natural waterslide. Checkout videos on Cochamo.com. A word of caution though: In early 2010, there were a couple of serious mishaps when overzealous (and, perhaps, underprepared) campers took the plunge.
  • Nature Trail. On the south/east bank of the Rio Cochamo, winding through Campo Aventura'as Mountainside Lodge property, there is a well-marked Nature Trail, pointing out the local trees, and going past two beautiful waterfalls. More information on this trail, along with a booklet, is available from the hosts at Mountainside Lodge. [campo-aventura.com]
  • Arco Iris. The 'arc of the rainbow' is one of the more popular trails. It is a vigourous hike, with a small section requiring ropes - and the reward is well worth it. Stunning, 360-degree views of a lush valley and imposing peaks are your reward.
  • El Arco The 'arch" is a destination approximately 10 - 15 kms up river from the La Junta basin and valley. It gets it's name from a lone Alerce tree growing atop a natural rock archway, through which a waterfall courses. In the higher reaches of El Arco are hundreds of millenarian Alerces, the second-longest living tree in the world, renowned for its ability to remain strong and usable in home-building, boat-building and other uses for decades, even in an intensely wet and cold climate. A "ride & trek" program is the ideal way to explore this reserve. campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks/
  • The Gaucho Trail - a circle route between the Cochamo and Puelo river valleys, pioneered by Campo Aventura. This is an unforgettable journey - in the words of a Chicago Tribune article, it is " a chance not just to see mountain scenery far removed from the well-trampled tourist track and romp through a bit of history; but also to ride back to an earlier age, a time of hand-hewn log cabins and crystal streams and partnership with a horse to whom you trust your life." For more information on this trail and the riding and hiking possibilities, refer to campoaventura.cl/trips/horseback-treks/

Lodging

Within the Cochamo Valley proper, there are three main accommodation options - two lodges, owned and operated by Campo Aventura campoaventura.cl/services/, and a more recently opened refugio [1]

Campo Aventura's Riverside Lodge, just off the River Cochamo bridge, offers comfortable rooms, with private baths, and excelelnt meals eals included in the price. Its' Mountainside Lodge lies approximately 20 km upstream, in the La Junta valley, and offers traditional Chilean hospitality, with private and dorm accommodation, and delicious local cuisine. Camping facilities - including tents and hot showers, are available at both locations.

At the Refugio Cochamo, also up in the La Junta valley, you can stay in bunks or get a private room, or camp and enjoy the carmadrerie of dozens of climbers and campers from around the world.

Camping

You can camp in the campground in La Junta's refugio. For those seeking more seclusion and peace, there are additional Campo Aventura provides camping facilities at the mouth of the Rio Cochamo and in the La Junta valley (with hot showers, indoor plumbing, & firewood)- but keeps a limit on the number of tents or campers at any one time, to ensure a more private experience.

In recent years, with the influx of individual or self-guided visitors, hikers, and climbers local landowners have faced the challenge of unauthorized and uninformed camping - resulting in litter, possible damage or misuse of water sources, random fires. The camping facilities at the refugio are very inexpensive; those at Campo Aventura's locations a trifle more costly. But these charges are nothing - compared to the cost of damage and ruination of this fragile and pristine environment.

Eat & Drink

At the Refugio Cochamo, you can cook your own food - or buy breakfast, pizzas and, most importantly, home-made beer. Try Tabano Pale Ale.

At Campo Aventura's lodges, guests are provided with all meals as part of their stay - starting with a hearty breakfast, picinic or hot lunches, the famous afternoon tea (or once) with cake and home-made bread, and substantial dinners. They specialise in catering to vegetarians, and even provide gluten-free options with advance warning. Drinks, snacks, and full meals are also available to visitors just stopping by at Riverside Lodge for a day visit.

In recent years, 'restaurants' have been springing up in Cochamo village, most of them offering the standard empanada and french fries menu. But there is at least one good seafood place, as well as a couple of places to buy the ubiquitous pancitos.


Backcountry

There are plenty of hikes in the valley. Recommended is the Cerro Arco Iris peak hike.


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