Family Day Hiking Opportunities in Bariloche, Argentina

As much as we’d have liked to tap into the world class hiking opportunities of South America, we were realistic about our limitations before setting out. Our chances, we knew would be slim with Kaia in tow and, as such, some simple family day hiking would have to suffice. Even so, we held onto the fleeting hope, a happy medium would present itself.

Bariloche395We didn’t have to wait long with San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina coming to the rescue.

Bariloche, nestled against the banks of Lago Nahuel Huapi, is both the smoking hot girl of northern Patagonia and the one that doesn’t let you forget it. The one that, if and when you do get the opportunity to bask in her presence, doesn’t let you off with a night out to Applebees or your local surf club for the $10 chicken schnitzel dinner. The place KNOWS it delivers the goods and, by god, you’ll be a payin’, thank you.

So it only stands to reason the little Andean, South American town with Swiss Alp aspirations would be home to some of the most spectacular mountain scenery this side of New Zealand’s South Island. Such were my thoughts even before getting off the #20 bus. A bus route which dissects downtown Bariloche and carries locals and tourists alike along a lakeside road so scenic, I wondered how much the lucky public transportation employee driving us paid each day just for the opportunity to run this route.

“One of the top ten vistas anywhere in the world”, was how a friendly hostel employee had described our possible hiking itineraries soon after our arrival.

I had taken it with a grain of salt but now, as we neared the kilometre 17.5 drop off for our date with a climb up Cerro Campanario, the pitter patter of excitement in my chest told me we were, in fact, on to something special. Even so, less than an hour later, I could’ve never imagined just how special.

Cerro CampanarioIMG_2847

Once off the bus, you’re immediately offered the easy route compliments of a chair lift ride to the 1050 meter summit for a round trip fare of 150 pesos. Ignore this, remember beer taste better when worked for and look for the trail head a hundred meters or so to the right of the trail lift window.

The 3km (1.85 miles) path is fairly direct and steep; about as steep as you could expect of trail builders paid to put in a trail that they know will also be home to a chair lift. The trail is also intersected with varying degrees of game trails to keep you guessing as to whether you’re still on the right path. Just remember, if you’re going down, it’s the wrong way. in all, it’s a decent workout. Especially for a middle aged guy in less than stellar shape. Add jeans, a fleece top and 16 kg (35lbs) of babbling three year old on your back and, even in the brisk temps of a Southern Hemisphere fall, a bit of a lather can be expected. A lather that quickly turns icy cold at the top.

It’s a summit that has a gift shop, food kiosk, and more panoramic photo opps than one hilltop should be allowed. Perfect for a picnic lunch in the wind protected lee of a sunny nook to enjoy a well-earned, 45 min one way climb. Absolutely perfect.


Llao Llao hike up atop of the 1000 meter Cerro Llao Llao (rhymes with chow chow but with the soft ‘sh’ sound, as in ‘shoe’ leading the way) begins very close to the end of the line for bus # 20. Get off in front of the sprawling, golf coursed Hotel Llao Llao just before it leaves the main road in front of Puerto Panuelo. From there, begin a scenic 800 meter road walk in the direction of signs pointing to Circuito Chico.

When you get to the parking lot area for El Sendero de los Arrayanes continue 500 meters further along where a sign will head right, off into the forest.

Whereas the climb up Cerro Campanario seems determined to punish you for not having taken the revenue generating chair lift, the approach to Cerro Llao Llao seems a well-earned reward for having made the effort to find it.

A reward in the form of a gentle and undulating path that takes its time gaining elevation. It’s a path beneath towering trees whose neighbors fell to make way for the hotel’s golf course and leads you on an enjoyable stroll before a junction with a trail down to Villa Tacul signals it’s time to rumble. You’ll cover a bit of elevation gain in a hurry, but, unlike Campanario, switchbacks are the name of the game here. And, past a certain point, switchbacks which give periodic glimpses to the lake below.

Depending on your level of fitness, the size of the child on your back or the number of bottles of wine in your pack, once your road walk is complete, the climb to the top is in the neighbourhood of 1:15 minutes. you can kick back, enjoy a well-earned picnic and enjoy the sort of views that seem a good value at any price.


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