Cajon del Maipo is a canyon located in the outskirts of the Andes mountains, southeast of Santiago de Chile. It’s the perfect day or weekend trip for travelers and adventurers. Offering plenty of outdoor activities, you’ll find yourself captivated by the surrounding mountains.

Cajon del Maipo: How to Get There

1. By Public Transport

To get to Cajon del Maipo you’ll first need to take the metro to one of the following stations:

Bellavista de la Florida (Line 5)
Las Mercedes (Line 4)
Plaza de Puente Alto (Line 4)

From these stations, you need to take Metro Bus 72 (MB72). As this is a rural bus, you will need to pay with cash rather than use the usual Bip! travel card. If you want a seat, take the bus at Bellavista de la Florida, where the bus starts (look for signs to Conexión Intermodal from the metro station). The journey will be quicker from the other two stations but the bus will likely be busier.

Depending on where you take the bus, the cost should be between 950 – 1,800 Chilean Pesos (around $1.60 – $3 USD). The time of the buses varies significantly depending on where you take the bus from/to, so it’s best to check with the local station when you buy your tickets.

If you don’t want to get the bus, you can take one of the local colectivos which look similar to taxis, except they’re cheaper and shared. You can get number 4029 outside Metro Las Mercedes or numbers 4010-4014 outside Metro Plaza de Puente Alto. These will cost between 1,400 – 3,000 CLP ($2.30 – $4.60 USD) depending on how far you travel. Please note, colectivos do not run all night and usually run until 22:00 PM.

2. By Car

The town of San Jose de Maipo, in the heart of Cajon del Maipo, is only 48 km southeast central Santiago. It will take you less than two hours to get there by car, depending on your starting point and traffic.

The main road, Camino al Volcán, crosses through the whole valley. It starts in Santiago’s Puente Alto neighborhood and finishes in Pueblo Valdés. Beware, after Pueblo Valdés the road isn’t paved as is the road leading up to El Embalse del Yeso (El Yeso Dam). The map below shows paved roads in blue and dirt roads in light orange as well as information about the main attractions.

It is highly recommended to drive a  4×4 if you wish to reach any higher points on the mountain or the hot springs. Smaller vehicles can reach the town of San Jose de Maipo easily but may struggle to get to more secluded sections of the canyon. For exact directions, you can find route guidance here with further information.

During the summer, the dirt road to El Yeso Dam is doable with a 4×2 car; during the winter, you will need a 4×4 car.  To get to Baños Colina Hot Springs you’ll need a 4×4 car since the dirt road has small creeks running through. If you’re concerned with accessibility, consider taking a tour with a local guide to the hot springs. In the winter, Baños Colina is inaccessible by car and you can only get there with the help of a snowmobile, a pair of randonée skis, or snowshoes. Check out this Snowshoe Trek to the Hotsprings of Baños Colina.

 

Cajon del Maipo: What to do

Whether you’re traveling solo, as a backpacker, or as a family, Cajon del Maipo  offers something to fit everyone’s interest. If you’re prefer to travel independently, this couple’s blog post on their day trip to Cajon del Maipo includes some handy maps as well as a great feel for the type of excursion you might be in for.

1. Trekking

Cajon del Maipo is a favorite destination for travelers looking to hike and experience the mountainous countryside. The canyon offers a number of different treks and incredible views of the Andes. On the Cajon del Maipo official website you can find maps with different paths you can take through the canyon (note the website is in Spanish). Here are a few of our recommendations:

Embalse Del Yeso Chile

Embalse el Yeso
This high altitude reservoir is just a bit further on from San Jose de Maipo and a great trekking option. It’s a challenging hike, taking you up 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level and offers some wonderful photo opportunities.  Considering taking a day tour with a local guide. You’ll get transportation from and to Santiago, hiking equipment and snacks for the journey. You can even add-on a visit to one of the hot springs afterwards to relax after the hike.

Mirador del Morador
If you’re a bit more adventurous, we recommend the Mirador del Morado trail. At 4,320 meters high (14,173 feet), this trail is located on a nature reserve near the small town Baños Morales. The whole area is protected by CONAF (the National Forest Corporation) and great for birdwatching and exploring various flora and fauna. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some local animals in their natural habitat.

El Morado Glacier
Another popular trek is the high-altitude glacier trek in Maipo Valley to El Morado. At 5,060 meters (16,602 feet), this is one of the most challenging trails but also extremely rewarding. You can see the summit from Lake El Morado where many hiking trails take you, so you can at least see what you’re up against!

You can combine a glacier trek with a relaxing afternoon at the hot springs of Baños Colina on our combined Andean Day Tour.

Morado Hanging Glacier

If you’re looking for a lighter trail, the Cascada de las Animas reserve offers a waterfall trail with stunning natural views. The reserve is home to pumas and condors and is located 5 km from San Jose del Maipo. Alternatively, for more advanced hikers, tackling San Francisco glacier is a must. Note that this trail includes ice climbing, so you’ll need special gear and experience.

2. Hot Springs (termas)

If it’s some pampering and relaxation you are looking for, then you’re in for a treat. Whether you’ve been out on a tough hike or simply want a chance to relax in some enchanting scenery, the Cajon del Maipo termas will certainly help you unwind. There are three main hot spring centers in the area. All the hot spring are maintained and charge an entrance fee to visitors.

If you’re looking to do a bit of trekking, you can add on a visit to one of hot springs after your high altitude or glacier trek.

Baños Morales
Baños Morales is the most accessible. You can get there by car with the exception of days following heavy snowfalls. However, it is also the most crowded center.

Baños Colina
Access to Baños Colina is a lot harder and are usually less crowded. During the summer time, Baños Colina has more services and offer a small cabin that work as a locker room (although there are no lockers). Important Note: If you are not alone in the Baños, don’t leave your belongings in the ‘locker room’ we know cases of travelers who got their belongings stolen.

Termas el Plomo
The third center, Terma el Plomo is again a bit more inaccessible, a bit further on from Embalse de Yeso. It offers shallow and warm pools surrounded by beautiful mountains and waterfalls. There’s a bathroom onsite but it is totally natural otherwise. We highly recommend the Termas el Plomo.

Alternatively if natural pools are too exposed and you would like something a bit more private, there are several Cajon del Maipo spa options which offer heated pools and massages as well as accommodations.

3. Adventure Activities

Cajon del Maipo offers a number of different adventure activities from horseback riding to whitewater rafting to skiing. Explore the high-altitude scenery and try something different.

Canopy / Ziplining
Another option while in Cajon del Maipo is to visit one of the canopy parks in the area. Climb to the canopies and cross high-forest rope walkways. You can zipline right above the wild waters of the Maipo river. We recommend visiting Cascada de las Animas.

White Water Rafting
The Maipo River starts up in the glaciers close to the Argentinian border and follows its way down the valley and flows into the Mapocho river in Santiago. The first section of the river in El Cajón del Maipo Valley is perfect for river sports, such as rafting or kayaking. San Alfonso is perhaps the spot with the most operators. Check out our great rafting day tour from Santiago here.

Horseback Riding
One of the best ways to experience the mountains and glaciers in the area is on horseback. Our day trip from Santiago takes you on a adventure through Valle de las Arenas. You’ll get the chance to meet real Chilean cowboys and learn about the region and mountain life. Plus, you’ll enjoy a traditional Chilean barbeque for lunch.

Santiago Horseback Riding - Cajon del Maipo Day Trip

Skiing
The canyon is home to one small ski resort – Ski Lagunillas. Founded in 1934, this resort keeps the enchantment of the old days, when pioneers used to climb uphill and then ski down, taking in views of the wild mountains. It doesn’t have any chairlifts, just T-bars.

There are also backcountry ski options, but we don’t recommend doing this on your own. If you are interested in randonée or freeskiing, contact us and we’d be happy to help. We know local mountain guides in Lagunillas and El Cajón del Maipo area as well as many parts of the Andes Mountains!

4. San Jose de Maipo

If you simply want a nice day out with the family, San Jose de Maipo has a number of great restaurants and picnic areas where you can go for lunch. It is a small picturesque town to explore and often has events going on every weekend in the main plaza.

Cajon is home to a number of small towns, each with its own unique character. You’ll find the lifestyle is different from the city of Santiago – slower-paced and with a strong connection to traditional roots. If you would like to visit them, you can find a full list of all the small towns here.

5. Wine Tasting

The famous vineyard of Concha Y Toro is located in Cajon del Maipo and is a great place to learn about Chilean wine culture while sampling different flavors. The vineyard offers daily guided tours that explain the wine-making process and takes you around the grounds.

Concha y Toro and Beer, Santiago

Concha Y Toro is home to renowned red wine, Casillero del Diablo, or the Devil’s Locker. On the tour you’ll learn how the legendary name came about whilst exploring the underground cellars. Full disclosure, the tour is very scripted and touristy but the tasting makes the trip well worth it.

Let us take care of all the details and book a Cajon del Maipo Vineyard Day Tour. A local guide will pick you up from your accommodations in Santiago and take you to Ski Lagunillas for a short hike. You’ll enjoy a tasty picnic with a marvelous view of the Andes before heading to Concha Y Toro for a tour.

As you can see, Cajon del Maipo provides a huge array of options for tourists and locals alike. Whether you are after extreme adventure or a relaxing day in stunning scenery your sure to ensure your time in the Andes. Let us help you plan your trip, contact us for further information on any of the tours above or  simply to ask a question about the area!