Previous – Section 22: Cochamó

There is a boat ramp and nice beach at the docks on the north shore of Lago Puelo. Located at put-in is an Argentine Coast Guard outpost so don’t be surprised if an official asks you where you’re planning on paddling. While paddling, the occasional small sandy beach may be spotted on the east side of the lake, but for the most part the shore is very steep. The official route follows the west side, where there are obvious beaches.

North shore of Lago Puelo. On the right you can see Argentine Coast Guard docks.

If wind makes passage across the lake impossible, hiking the well maintained Camino al Desemboque is a good option. It is possible to access the trail from the lake if need be, but be prepared to bushwack up through some hard terrain. Be aware of the signs along Camino al Desemboque that say camping is prohibited in Parque Nacional Lago Puelo.

Jan:  Recent reports state that the hiking trail (track [email protected]) on the eastern side of Lago Puelo is nearly impassable due to wildfire and lack of maintenance.

At the south side of Lago Puelo is a nice, lakeside campsite. The route continues south on another well groomed path, Cajón del Arroyo Derrumbe, that winds through rocks and scrub heading towards a forest. After entering the forest and crossing the footbridge, the land opens up and camping is plentiful. This path continues, but it becomes harder to follow. Eventually it widens into a 4WD track which winds through private farms.

One of the best, open forests for camping along the GPT comes after Lago Puelo.

After passing by the farms, the trail turns off the 4WD track onto a single track trail which is difficult to follow. There are several misleading spurs and the trail is overgrown with prickly vegetation. The trail remains like this until the steep climb beginning approximately 11.5 km from the south shore of Lago Puelo.

During the steep 800 m climb it is possible to spot a faint game trail, but for the most part this is a cross country route. This climb is difficult! There are very few trees, mostly bushes and prickly grasses full of burs, and the route does not cross water. At the top of the climb, just over the crest, there is a spot to camp.

The descent involves bushwhacking through a dense, woody forest for a couple kilometers, broken up by the occasional meadow. Be wary of the route you choose to take as it is possible to cliff out. After reaching the bottom (at approximately elevation 1.160 m) and beginning the next ascent (to approximate elevation 1.350 m), the forest opens up allowing for easier movement. The second descent (to approximately elevation 980 m) is densely forested, steep, and very slow going. The subsequent ascent (to approximately elevation 1.280 m) involves bushwacking until reaching treeline. At this point, the route descends cross-country on talus and alpine marshland. The dense forest and wet conditions of the meadows makes camping in this area difficult.

The “trail” is dead center in this picture. Best of luck bushwhacking through these woody trees.
Eventually the trees let up. For perspective, we were ecstatic to be walking on talus.

After dropping below treeline, a stream winds through relatively open forest until joining Del Turco. In several places it is possible to walk along the bank of the river, crossing it as needed. Since there are several occasions where crossing Del Turco is necessary, doing this section when the water is high may be dangerous. When the GPS route deviates from the river it’s usually to avoid a steep section where the flat banks disappear. There is the occasional small trail which frequently fades into the thick bamboo forest. The combination of rocky terrain and prickly vegetation makes camping along the river difficult to find. However, there are some clear flat areas; a couple places even had evidence of fire rings.

Approximately 5 km from where the route joins the dirt road to Lago Cholila, the trail becomes more established. There are still some misleading spurs, but generally the route is straightforward. There are also higher quality and more frequent camping options in this area. The route joins a nice dirt road lined with several private residences about 1 km from Lago Cholila. The put in for the 4 km paddle across the lake is a grassy beach.

Tranquil Lago Cholila.

The outlet of Lago Cholila is Río Carrilefu. This river is swift but has few obstacles. Most of the river is lined with thick bush or private property, but the occasional place to camp can be spotted (some areas even have picnic tables). Watch for the take-out just before Villa Lago Rivadavia. Exit the river on a grassy beach just below a small campsite called Camping El Abuelo Daniel. There are several amenities at this site including flushing toilets, cold showers, and home cooked meals. The price in 2018 was 170 argentine pesos to camp per night without breakfast and 230 argentine pesos per night with breakfast included.  

Town: Cholila

The closest resupply option is the small town of Cholila. The largest grocery store here, which takes credit cards, is located in a building a block off the central park with “Autoservicos” written on the side. There are several smaller stores that offer snacks, a couple of ferreterías (hardware stores), good restaurants, and lodging/camping options.

Next – Section 24P: Parque Nacional Los Alerces Agua