Rio los Cipreses and Altos del Lircay are two of my favourite parks we visited. Both are located in middle Chile and both a bit off the radar, so much so that they were effectively closed when we arrived. Luckily having the Wicked Campervan meant we could drive miles up the backroads and visit them both.
Rio los Cipreses is named unsurprisingly after the mountain Cypress trees that grow there. We arrived at about 7pm pulling up to the locked park gates. The area was surrounded by high fences and secure gates. We had driven in the dark along a wild feeling dirt road darting from small village to hamlet. We crossed large rivers and avoided many stray dogs. All in all the area felt rather uninviting. We decided the only option was to pull in close to the park gate and wait for morning. After we started cooking dinner, at the back of the camper van a chap wanders over from a nearby house, mainly to check us out, also he was surrounded by numerous cats, odd. The scary part was when he told us the area was dodgy “many people with guns, not safe,” erm we have no choice but to park the camper here, he agreed to keep an eye on us. It was going to be long night! Then as if by magic the giant park gates opened, we half expected dinosaurs to escape, but no a middle aged lady in a Honda Civic emerged, we started the van and drove in through the open gates, we had breached the park, another 6km along narrow steep dirt roads and we found the main and only open camp spot.
We awoke to the beautiful birdsong, warm sunshine and prospect of cold showers. We hiked the length of the park admiring cacti, beautiful vistas of snow capped peaks, deep narrow water carved gorges, huge cliff top waterfalls spilling into the air and the enormity of a concrete hydro electric canal . We saw no Cypress trees though!
The campsite came complete with a stray dog. We named him Smokey the campsite dog due to his bear like appearance, he was very lonely and very fluffly. He took a liking to us, sleeping by the van and chasing after us when we left. We felt bad leaving him there, have a look at the pictures to see him looking sad!
Altos del Lircay was a similar situation, the park gates were locked but this time it was 11am, a park warden approached us to inform us the road was closed due to snow. The campsite was inaccessible but this being super friendly CONAF they allowed us to camp up by the visitor centre, with water and toilets left open. The snow depth was about 2m on the giant basalt plateau we wanted to hike. A quick change to ski touring and the next day we climbed up to the deep snow with mind blowing views of the wild never ending snowy Andes. Our only companions on the trip were criss crossing cougar prints in the snow. We reached Lago de Altos and then rode down a sweet couloir back to the snowlin. Boards on back we started the long hike back out to the gate. As fortune had it a CONAF 4×4 was pulling up we hitched a ride in the back as it slid along the rough snowy track. Sketchy but it saved a good 6km hike out!
This park is totally off the radar for ski touring but it shouldn’t be. It has endless possibilities, just look at some of the pictures, remember that this is a bad snow year too!