Explore Bariloche and the Lake District
There are 130km of public trails in the park, which are generally well maintained and marked at intervals with red spots. As always, you are required to register with the nearest guardaparque before setting off (remember to check back in afterwards), and some treks – such as El Dedal – are not recommended in winter or for those under 10 years old. In times of drought, some trails are closed, while others (including El Dedal) can only be undertaken with a guide. Bring plenty of water, sun protection, and adequate clothing as the weather changes rapidly and unseasonal snowfalls occur in the higher regions. Insect repellent is worthwhile, especially after several consecutive hot days in December and January, as that’s when the fierce horseflies (tábanos) come out.
The most difficult part of the pastoral 500m Pinturas Rupestres circuit is the spring-loaded gate at the beginning. You pass eroded indigenous geometric designs painted about three thousand years ago on a hulk of grey rock that’s surrounded by caña colihue and maitén trees; the lookout from the top of the rock affords a fine view. Longer walks include the Cinco Saltos, El Cocinero and Cerro Alto El Petiso in the north of the park, which is best accessed from Lago Verde and provides sterling vistas of the northern lakes. Another worthwhile trip is to the hostería and campsite at the southern end of Lago Krugger. This can be reached in a fairly stiff day’s trekking, returning the same way or by launch the next day (cost depends on number of passengers). However, it’s better to make it into a three- or four-day excursion. You can break the outward-bound trek by putting up a tent by the beautiful beach at Playa Blanca (about 8hr from the intendencia), but you must have previously obtained permission at the visitors’ centre. Fires are strictly prohibited and there are no facilities.
The El Dedal Circuit is one of the most popular and convenient hikes in the park. It involves some fairly stiff climbs but you’ll be rewarded with excellent panoramic views – ask the guardaparque about guides. Calculate on taking some six to seven hours (4hr up and 2–3hr down). Take the “Sendero Cascada” (which runs up behind the visitors’ centre) for approximately 35 minutes through thick maitén and caña colihue, then take the signposted right-hand branch where the path forks. Further up, you enter impressive mature woodland. Approximately two hours into the walk, you climb above the tree line into an area of open, flattened scrub on the hilltop. From here you have a panoramic view of the scarified, rust-coloured Las Monjitas range opposite. If it’s tábano (horsefly) season, though, you’ll want to keep moving rather than enjoy the view. Climb up to the ridge and follow this northwest towards the craggy El Dedal massif above you. Up here you’ll see delicate celeste and grey-blue perezia flowers, and possibly even condors. Do not follow the crest too far up though: look out for a short right-hand traverse after some 300m. The path then levels off for 100m. Below you is gorgeous Lago Futalaufquen, whose turquoise body is fringed, in places, by a frill of Caribbean-blue shallows. Bear left across a slight scoop of a valley, and you’ll come to the lip of an impressive, oxide-coloured glaciated cwm (valley). From here, follow the thirty-degree slope down into the bowl. The path up the other side of the cwm is difficult to make out: follow the paint blotches, choosing the pale, broad band of scree and make the tiring scramble up the top of the ridge, which overlooks the Hostería Futalaufquen and Puerto Limonao. From the ridge, a poor path leads up left to the summit of Cerro Alto El Dedal (1916m), about forty minutes away; don’t attempt it in poor weather. Descending from the ridge, it’s about ninety minutes to the road by the port’s prefectura and then another half-hour back to the intendencia.