Cajon del Maipo: How to Get There & What to Do

Cajon del Maipo is a canyon located in the outskirts of the Andes mountains in the southeastern corner of Santiago de Chile. It is the perfect place for any adventurer who wants to go off the beaten tourist track and take part in some great outdoor activities. With many indigenous communities living in the precordillera mountain range between the Central Valley of Santiago and the bordering Andes, there is still a sense of authenticity to the region. Travelers often find themselves captivated by the surrounding mountains, which you can see from the center of Santiago, and venturing into Cajon del Maipo is a popular way to explore the high-altitude scenery as well as take part in the adventure sports on offer.

Cajon del Maipo: How to get there

1. By public transport:

To get to Cajon del Maipo you can take the metro to one of the following stations:

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, which is what you need in the city center. 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). Alternatively, the journeys 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 CLP (~$1.60 USD) and $1,800 CLP (~$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 to know how to time your trip.

If you don’t want to get the bus, you can take one of the local colectivos which are similar to taxis, except cheaper and painted black. You can get number 4029 outside Metro Las Mercedes or numbers 4010-4014 outside Metro Plaza de Puente Alto. Usually these will cost anything from $1,400 CLP ($2.30 USD) to $2,700 CLP ($4.60 USD) depending on how far you want to go. These do not run all night, usually up to around 22:00 PM though there should be alternatives for a higher fare if you wish to travel later.

2. By Car:

The town of San Jose de Maipo, in the heart of Cajon del Maipo, is only 48km southeast of the center of Santiago. It will take you roughly less than two hours to get there by car, depending on your starting point and traffic. The main road named Camino al Volcán, crosses all the valley, starting in Santiago’s Puente Alto neighborhood and finishing in Pueblo Valdés, this road is completely paved up until Pueblo Valdés, after this point towards Baños Colina Hot Springs the road isn’t paved. The other road that isn’t paved is the one that takes you to El Embalse del Yeso (El Yeso Dam). You can check the following map showing paved roads in blue and dirt roads in light orange. One thing to note is that it is highly recommended to go in a 4×4 if you wish to reach any higher points on the mountain, the hot springs or any gravel walking paths. Smaller vehicles can reach San Jose de Maipo in the center easily but may struggle to get to other more secluded areas. For exact directions, you can find route guidance here with further information in English.

During the summer the dirt road of El Yeso Dam is doable with a 4×2 car, during the winter depends on the conditions it is impossible to get to the Dam with a 4×2 car.

To get to Baños Colina hot springs during the spring and summer you will need a 4×4 car since the dirt road suffers mother nature’s watercourse force, creating small creeks that make it impossible for regular cars and sometimes even 4×4 cars to cross them. The other options are to park your car and trek or take a tour with a guide that will explain you the different fauna that inhabits in the area and its history. More info about this tour here.

During winter time Baños Colina is usually completely inaccessible by car, and you can only get there with the help of a snowmobile, a pair of randonée skies or snowshoes. Check this Snowshoe Trek to the Hotsprings of Baños Colina.

The following map shows the main paved and dirt roads to get to the main attractions as well as information about these attractions:

Many private tours will offer transportation between your hotel or place of residence and Cajon del Maipo, so if you’re interested in doing more than just exploring the area, we would recommend booking a tour so your transport can be easily taken care of.

Cajon del Maipo: What to do

At Keteka we provide access to unique adventure tourism offerings which give travelers authentic experiences they otherwise would not be able to find. We offer a number of tours throughout this region which you can find below. If you don’t want to pay for a private tour, then there are still several ways to experience the region which I have included so you can make the most of your trip. This couple’s blog post on their day trip to Cajon del Maipo includes some handy maps of the area too, as well as a great feel for the type of excursion you might be in for.

1. Trekking:

Cajon del Maipo is beautifully located on the border of Argentina in the precordillera of the Andes. It is a favourite destination for travelers who want to go hiking and get to see some of the real mountainous countryside. 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 picturesque town to explore, or if you would like to visit the other towns in the mountains, here is a full list of all the small towns you can find.

However, if you are looking for real trekking and the best views, it’s worth going a little bit further into the mountains for a more exhilarating experience. On the Cajon del Maipo official website you can find maps which show you the different paths you can take through the canyon, although note the website itself is all in Spanish. Please, keep always in mind that the weather can change dramatically, therefore we recommend to always check the forecast before you leave and in case of bad weather, always cancel the trek, also you should never go trekking alone and that you check some treks are in We want to put some emphasis on the hard weather conditions that this area may

Please, keep always in mind that the weather can change very fast, therefore we recommend to always check the forecast before you leave and in case of bad weather, always cancel the trek, also you should never go trekking alone and that you check some treks are in We want to put some emphasis on the hard weather conditions that this area may

One great option is to trek to Embalse el Yeso, a high altitude reservoir in the Andes just a bit further on from San Jose de Maipo. It’s a challenging hike, taking you up 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level, however on our day tour you will be provided with a guide, equipment and snacks for the journey. Don’t miss some wonderful photo opportunities and a chance to really explore the region and test yourself at the same time. If you think you will need a rest afterwards, then you can always include a visit to one of the hot springs for a small extra fee!

There is also the trail to Mirador del Morado, another mountain keen climbers can attempt, at 4,320 meters high (14,173 feet).  This whole area is protected by CONAF (the National Forest Corporation) and is a nature reserve in the area near the small town Baños Morales. It is a great place to scout out indigenous fauna and flowers if you are also interested in birdwatching and seeing local animals and plants thriving in their natural habitat.

If a high altitude trek is still not difficult enough, then why not challenge yourself to a glacier trek in Maipo Valley to El Morado. At 5,060 meters (16,602 feet), this is truly quite the challenge yet 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!

Cajon del Maipo: How to Get There & What to Do

By Alvaro Tapia from Auckland, New Zealand (Laguna El Morado, Cajón del Maipo) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco is another glacier you can tackle at 4,320 meters high (14,173 feet), however this still includes ice climbing so you will need to be prepared. Alternatively you can make your way to Cascada de las Animas waterfall for more stunning natural views.

If you still want the reward of a nice terma to round off the day, you can combine a glacier trek with the hot springs of Baños Colina on our combined Andean day tour.

2. Hot Springs (termas)

Did someone mention hot springs? Well that’s right, if it’s some simple pampering and relaxation you are looking for then there are many options to choose from! Whether you’ve been tired out after a tough hike in the day 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: Baños Morales, Baños Colina and Termas El Plomo.

All the Hot Spring are maintained and charge an entrance fee to visitors. Baños Morales is the most accessible one, you can get there by car (with the exception of days following heavy snowfalls) as a consequence it is also the most crowded. In the other hand, the access to Baños Colina and Termas el Plomo is a lot harder, therefore they offer wilder landscapes and are usually less crowded, we highly recommend to visit this two hot springs. During summer time, Baños Colina has more services than Termas El Plomo, since they have a small cabin that works as a locker room, however, it doesn’t have lockers so people usually leave their belongings and trek gear there, after putting the swim suit on. 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  part of their belongings stolen by people who left before them.

As mentioned above, you can add this experience on after your high altitude or glacier trek, or you can head to El Plomo straight away passing through the Yeso Dam. In addition, Baños Colinas and Baños Morales are both locations which have several outdoor hot springs you can bathe in as well as numerous options of places to stay or get food during your visit.

Alternatively if the natural pools are too exposed and you would like something a bit more civilized, there are several Cajon del Maipo spa options which offer heated pools and massage parlours as well as accommodation camping, in cabañas (cabins), and in luxurious apartments.

3. Adventure Activities

Cajon del Maipo has many opportunities for adventure activities if you would like to try something different and find another way to explore the Andes.

Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding is one of the best ways to combine a chance to see the mountains and glaciers whilst conserving some energy to take in the beautiful surroundings. Our day trip from Santiago has you picked up by car from your hotel and driven through stunning scenery before being dropped off at Fundo Santa Matilde, a secluded location many tourists would not find. Here you can see where the real cowboys of Chile come from and encounter many animals and birds in their natural habitat.

WHY CHOOSE WHEN YOU CAN DO EVERYTHING? CHECK OUT OUR ACTIVITIES HERE

Canopy / Ziplining

Another option is visiting one of the few Canopy parks in the area. Climb to the canopies, cross rope walks or the Maipo river on a Zipeline!

Rafting

El Maipo River starts up in the glaciers above Baños Colina, very close to the Argentinian border, and follows its way down the valley gathering strength from various lagoons and dams along the way, 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 most operators. Check out a great rafting day tour from Santiago here.

Skiing

The pioneers of Club Andino de Chile’ founded a mountain shelter and a small ski resort way back in 1934. Since then, many ‘commercial’ ski resorts have been created in Farellones. These resorts are closer to Santiago, and include most of the modern amenities that you’re used to. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if you are in Chile or in a well-known ski resort from the northern hemisphere. Alternatively, Ski Lagunillas keeps the enchantment of the old days, when pioneers used to climb uphill and then ski down, taking in the majesty of the wild mountains and leaving a much smaller footprint. Note that this resort doesn’t have any chairlift, just T-bars.

Outside this ski area, there are other backcountry options in Cajón del Maipo, but we never recommend to explore the area on your own. So, if you are interested in a randonée or freeskiing adventure in El Cajón del Maipo, please send us an email to <ahref=”mailto:info@keteka.com”>info@keteka.com,
We know local mountain guides in Lagunillas and El Cajón del Maipo area, as well as many parts of the Andes Mountains!

4. Wine Tasting:

The famous vineyard of Concha Y Toro is also located in Cajon del Maipo and is a great way to engage with the beautiful region without exerting yourself too much if you would rather just enjoy the view whilst sampling different local wines. With tours offered in both English and Spanish, you are guided through the grounds of the vineyard and learn about the wine-making process as you sample three carefully chosen options. Renowned for the internationally-exported red wine, Casillero del Diablo, or the Devil’s Locker, you even get to 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.

Cajon del Maipo: How to Get There & What to Do

You can find many wine tours to Concha Y Toro which will pick you up and take you there directly from your place of residence, or also which do combinations with other vineyards in the region. We offer a combined city and wine tour which gives you a chance to whet your appetite exploring Santiago and then wet your palette sampling the local wine in your choice of vineyard.

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 simply a relaxing day in stunning scenery. Whatever your tastes, we can help advise on the best way to have an authentic and memorable experience in the Andes. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for further information on any of the above tours or simply to ask a question about the area!