The Enchanted Forest Trail in Chilean Patagonia’s Queulat National Park

In one of the most isolated and unspoiled national parks on the planet, a hiking trail that lives up to its name.

Updated 22 January 2017

One way, the Enchanted Forest Trail covers less than two kilometers of southern Chile’s pristine Queulat National Park. But between its trailhead, set in a lush dense evergreen forest and its terminus on a cliff above a clear and clean turquoise-tinted glacier-fed lagoon, it packs a lot into those 1.1 miles. Its name fits.

Located about 35 kilometers south of Puyuhuapi on the Carretera Austral, Chile’s remote southern Patagonian highway, Queulat National Park is an easy day trip and worth the effort it’ll take in securing transportation.

Even the ride there, across an entertaining and photogenic stretch of gravel road that includes more than thirty hairpin turns that climb and descend through the park’s various altitudinal zones, is memorable for both the bumpy ride and its dynamic scenery.

It’s not a strenuous hike, but there is some steep climbing involved. Be sure to get an early start (more on this below); portions of the path have been washed out by floods so expect to get a little muddy, particularly if you arrive later in the morning or early afternoon when temperatures rise and more visitors arrive.

That said, you won’t come across that many people. This part of Chile is still quite remote with parts of the park still largely unexplored. We –my travel companion for a week Inbal and I— left Puyuhuapi just before 8 and arrived at the trailhead just under an hour later. We crossed paths with less than a handful of others on the way in and at the lagoon, but upwards of a couple dozen were heading in as we were making our way back.

I’ve heard from visitors who’ve been there since and they report more or less the same: arrive at the trailhead by 9 and you shouldn’t come across too many others.

The first half of the trail is through a damp mostly evergreen forest, much of it virgin. You’ll walk and wade through a wealth of botanical diversity –various lichens, moss, ferns and fungi.

Lichens and moss along the Enchanted Forest Trail.
it wouldn’t be an enchanted forest without lichens and moss.

I couldn’t tire of the wide swaths of chilco (fuchsia magellanica), or Hummingbird or Hardy fuchsia, that was in fiery bloom everywhere –in the forest, at its edges, in open spaces. [More about Chilco and a couple photos snapped further south in both Chile and Argentina, is here.] Chilean holly, or desfontainia spinosa, was another favorite.

Once out of the forest, the path takes you above the tree line and  continues to traverse and climb across the Cascada River valley. As we climbed, so did the morning mist that blanketed the area, revealing sensational views.

I turned to take a photo of one such vista down towards the valley from the top of the trail. When I turned around again, I watched a clifftop glacier being unveiled before my eyes. Steadily, the sheer rock face and sparkling surface of the Los Gnomos Lagoon below it came into view. That natural curtain-raising was one of the most serenely beautiful moments I experienced during my six-month jaunt through South America.

At the terminus of the Enchanted Forest Trail. Seriously. Queulat National Park, Patagonia, Chile
At the terminus of the Enchanted Forest Trail. Seriously.
Inbal, one of the finest Travel companions on the planet, at the end of the Enchanted Forest Trail
Inbal, one of the finest Travel companions on the planet.

The lagoon is the source of the Cascada River; it in turn is fed by snow melt and the glacier through dozens of waterfalls that give the park its name.  Queulat, or Queolat as a native Chonos called it, means ‘sound of waterfalls’. Those sounds still echo from time to time.

Above the Los Gnomos Lagoon, Queulat National Park
Above the Los Gnomos Lagoon
Enchanted Forest Trail
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Getting There

You’ll have to make your own arrangements. A travel companion and I got a lift there from the daughter and son-in-law of our rooming house owners in Puyuhuapi. For the return we managed to hitch a ride fairly quickly — but don’t count on that.

What to Bring

As always, drinking water and a camera. And even if the forecast calls for sunny skies dress for rain and chill. The park receives from 3500 to 4000mm (138 to 157in) of rainfall per year with the average annual temperatures ranging from 4° and 9°C (39° and 48°F). The warmest and driest time is during the southern hemisphere’s summer, between November and March.

All photos © 2013-2016 Bob Ramsak. All rights reserved.
Visited in February 2013

 

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  1. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy says

    Are you for real about that lagoon? I mean seriously…it looks like a painting. I was going to say the photo of the Chilco was my favorite until I kept scrolling haha. Great photos as always Bob 🙂

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks, Ashley – It truly is an amazing place. You should add this to your list of hikes. 🙂

      1. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy says

        Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler Bob and I will definitely add it to my list 🙂

  2. The Crowded Planet says

    OOOOOHHHH el Bosque Encantado! I thought I was one of the few people in the world to know this place… amazing isn’t it! Lovely shots Bob!

    1. Bob R says

      There aren’t too many of us. 🙂 Absolutely loved it.

  3. Meredith says

    Seems when you went dot com you fell off my Reader and only a strange comments message reminded me how much I’ve missed you and your adventures. And what a post to come back to – pure enchantment in the cloud forest. I’m off to begin catching up, Bob, but first to see your previous fuchsia post … 🙂

    1. Bob R says

      Hi Meredith and thanks so much for stopping by. Yes the migration from wordpress.com to self-hosting turned out to be a disaster, resulting in, among other things, losing just about all the subs & contacts I had in the worpdress system… Will catch up with you over the weekend as well. Hope all’s well!

  4. Jeff Johns says

    Wow! Such beautiful images. We spent 2 months living in Chile but have longed to go back and explore further, so much left to see!

    1. Bob R says

      I know what you mean. Patagonia has been pulling me back for a year now. 🙂

  5. Fred Yummy says

    Wow the lagoon is really beautiful! I think I would love that place. Just sitting next to the lagoon (like your travel companion) and enjoy the view.

  6. Frank says

    Wow, great pics. That lagoon especially looks fantastic. We’ll have to make it to Patagonia one day, everyone seems to love it!
    Frank (bbqboy)

  7. Paul says

    Great look at a great hike — you make me regret I didn’t explore Patagonia when I was in Chile and Argentina. Hiking through these landscapes is my idea of a good time, and your pictures really bring it to life.

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks! And glad you enjoyed. 🙂

  8. Alli Farkas says

    When I used to live in California I had numerous pots of fuchsias decorating my very long deck. I loved them and babied them and some lived and some didn’t. I can’t even imagine coming across them in the wild–that would just be so gratifying to know they can actually fend for themselves! And the photo of them in the national park is absolutely superb!

  9. Rachel says

    Wow, the whole trail looks stunning, but that lake at the terminus… even more wow. I would also find it strange seeing fuchsia everywhere, I am so used to them being a garden plant here!

    1. Bob R says

      That lake was an unforgettably pleasant surprise. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs says

    Super beautiful!

  11. Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal says

    Incredible pictures of that lagoon…. BEAUTIFUL! I love reading about hikes and this one makes me want to put on my shoes and start walking!

  12. frankaboutcroatia says

    Bob, this place looks beautiful. And so do your photos. Love, love the Los Gnomos Lagoon. What an amazing colors! You made me dream right now.

    1. Bob R says

      It is an incredible spot. Truly one of my favorite corners of the planet.

  13. Raphael Alexander Zoren says

    Amazing photos, Bob, Patagonia is truly spectacular!!!

  14. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} says

    That trail truly does look enchanted with the mists and the moss everywhere. I can see why you are so impressed by that lagoon and the rock face looming over it. It’s such a contrast to the closed in feeling of the beginning of the trail. Magnificent!

  15. Angela Travels says

    This hike looks like something you would find in the PNW with its aqua, alpine lakes and mossy forests. I didn’t visit this part of Chile, but your photos make me wish I did! Keep on hiking!

  16. Samantha @mytanfeet says

    Wow the pictures of the trees highly remind me of WA trees. Fantastic photos and I’m sure it was even more breathtaking in person, especially the lagoon.

  17. Adelina | PackMeTo says

    Oh wow, that lagoon is gorgeous! It really does seem like it is in the middle of nowhere. What a beautiful hike. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

  18. Jessica says

    It definitely does live up to its name. Enchanted, indeed!

  19. Jennifer says

    Looks like that hike packs a lot of picturesque punch into just over 1 mile.

  20. Christina says

    What a beautiful landscape. They picked really the perfect name for it. The turquoise lake is unbelievably beautiful.

    1. Bob R says

      It is beautiful. Truly one of my most memorable hikes. And it wasn’t even too difficult. 🙂

  21. glitchiestgirl says

    what a stunningly beautiful corner of this planet!

    1. Bob R says

      Truly is. Patagonia is one of the few places that I’m going to make a point to return to. Several times.

  22. Kah Choon says

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful shots! There are just amazing.

  23. transcribingmemory says

    This is all just amazing. Thank you for the interest in my blog because it brought me here and I am thrilled to follow!

    1. Bob R says

      This really is a phenomenal spot. Be sure to book mark it for future reference. 🙂

  24. paula graham says

    Fabulous, I add my voice to the chorus.

  25. Jetsettera says

    I have been to the Chilean Patagonia, but havent visited the Queulat National Park. I feel like I should return to see more of that beautiful region.

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