Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

When walking through Santiago de Chile it’s impossible not to be impressed by the stunning mountains surrounding the city. At least, that’s certainly true in the summer or after rain when the city smog clears! On those good days, the view of the cordillera Andes mountain range is almost unbeatable.  There are a number of treks which can be reached from Santiago, whether you want to head into the cordillera or to nearby canyon ‘Cajon del Maipo’ on the edge of the city. The walks in the area cater to a variety of different hiking abilities, from the basic cerros, or hills, to the more difficult treks through San Carlos National Park east of Santiago.  If you are looking for a real adventure though, nothing will beat escaping the city and immersing yourself into the Chilean Andes mountain range on a longer expedition.

Please bear in mind that if you are a lone traveller doing some of these treks, take care and try not stray too far from the path or flash your cash. There are known to be thieves on some of the trails and if you slip and fall whilst alone there may not be others nearby to help you.

Trekking Santiago: 5 hikes you can reach on public transport

1. Cerro San Cristobal

Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

Many will argue this shouldn’t in fact fall into the ‘trekking Santiago’ category, but for those inexperienced hikers it is the best and easiest walk to get a great view like the one above of Santiago and the Andes from the heart of the city. It’s about an hour to an hour and half’s casual walk up to the top of the cerro and if you go on a clear day you have a breathtaking view of the city at the top. (For those who REALLY aren’t into walking you can try the little stroll up Cerro Santa Lucia instead, though I’m sorry, this one can’t be counted as a hike!)

If you can’t face the walk up Cerro San Cristobal in both directions, then fear not, there is a handy funicular (grounded cable car) which you can get either way. This is located just next to the entrance to the zoo on Pio Nono street in Bellavista.

Difficulty (assuming good fitness level): Very Easy

Cost: Free

Height (above sea level): 880 meters (~2,800 feet)

How to get there: Centrally located by the zoo in Santiago, just walk to the north end of Pio Nono street in Bellavista and you will see the road leading up towards the Virgin statue at the top of the hill. The nearest metro is Baquedano, and you simply cross the river where Vicuña Mackenna meets Providencia to find Pio Nono street.

2. Cerro Manquehue

For a slightly steeper hike, Cerro Manquehue (pronounced man-kay-gway) is the other obvious option to attempt for more inexperienced hikers. This hike should only take around 2 hours to get to the summit and is a good option if you want just a basic trek nearby to get some great views of the city and surrounding mountains.  Whilst the difficulty is easy, many parts require a bit of scrambling, so it’s best if you’re in good enough condition to navigate the looser and steeper parts of the path. Along with this, leave plenty of time to get down as many travelers find themselves easily lost on the hill if you don’t go down exactly the way you came.

Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

By Falmazan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Difficulty: Easy

Cost: Free

Height: 1,638 meters (~5,400 feet)

How to get there: You can reach Cerro Manquehue by taking the metro and then a bus.  Get on linea 1 or the red line 1 to Escuela Militar metro station, which is only 10-15 minutes from the city centre. Once you arrive at the metro, head towards the corner of Francisco Barcelo and Los Militares where you will be able to take bus C14 towards the stop Rotanda lo Curro (the intersection of Avenida Louis Pasteur with Avenida Santa Maria). This is the furthest that the bus will take you towards the hill.  From here, you can take a collectivo local taxi towards the foothills of Lo Curro, where the trail up Manquehue begins.

From Manquehue metro station, you can also exit on Avenida Manquehue Norte, and take bus number C07, which takes you north up this road until Rotonda lo Curro as well.

Cerro Manquehue also has a smaller neighbour, Cerro Manquehuito (1,316 meters, or 4,317 feet high), which you can attempt if you would like to escape the city for some great views but are looking for a shorter trek. This couple have a nice account of their trip up Manquehuito if you would like further insights in English.

3. Cerro Carbón

Cerro Carbón is Manquehue’s neighbour, located in the adjoining foothills next to Manquehue and Manquehuito.  Less well known than its neighbour, the trail is usually not as crowded, and it is a good trek to do even for those who are not in great condition. The path is well maintained and routes to the summit are signposted, there are lookout points and even bathrooms available on the way, and there are no especially steep parts or difficult obstacles.

The round trip should take you about 3 hours in total.  Unfortunately a number of robberies have been known to take place around this area in particular, so do try to travel in larger groups, only in daylight, and with as few valuables as possible.

Difficulty: Easy

Cost: Free

Height: 1365 meters (4,478 feet)

How to get there: Head to the corner of Avenida Américo Vespucio and Camino La Pirámide in the commune of Vitacura.  The trek starts from here, by the roundabout La Pirámide, next to St. George’s College. To get here, you could take bus 405 from the Costanera Center and then bus C22 at the intersection of Vitacura and Américo Vespucio. Depending on where you are coming from, you can use the Transantiago bus planner to find the best route, such as from Escuela Militar metro station on red linea 1.

Once at the roundabout, you will see the road slopes upwards on the West side of the roundabout on the Autopista Nororiente (Northeast Highway).  Walk so that the highway appears on your left and a fence on your right, and continue on this road in the direction of the antennas for about 300m. Just past these antennas on the right, there is an opening in the fence and you can begin your hike from here.

4. Cerro Pochoco

Pochoco is considered a tougher hike due to steepness and loose terrain, so is a better option for those more accustomed to trekking.  Try to avoid hiking in the peak of summer (January and February), not just to save yourself from the sun, but also to get better views of the greenery on the surrounding mountains in other seasons which will improve the (already impressive) view:

Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

By Erazo-Fischer [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Andes Handbook says that Cerro Pochoco is a great place for a day out with the family and for a relaxing Sunday walk.  Whilst this can be true, don’t underestimate how long the walk may take (around two and a half hours to the summit) and ensure that you have proper hiking boots, perhaps even walking sticks, and food/drink to get you through.

The path is fairly well marked at the start, but after a while you may need to use some intuition and/or follow other footprints where possible.  There is a point nearer the top where you can see a large face made from stones located on the floor. There may appear to be a few rocks in the way of the path near here, but as these have a break in the middle it is advised to go straight up and over them rather than trying to go around. This couple’s blog documents their trip up the hill and includes a nice picture of the face.

In addition, note that this hill has a false summit.  You will arrive at what seems like the top after a steep zigzagging trail leading to some stunning views of Santiago.  However it’s worth continuing on just a few more minutes to reach the true summit.  This is signposted, and the path will take you downwards initially before leading you up to the final summit where there are some large rocks.

Difficulty: Hard

Cost: Free

Height: 1,804 meters (~5,900 feet)

How to get there: The best way to get to Pochoco is to get out at metro station Manquehue, located on linea 1, the red line 1. From here, look for bus stop number 7 (paradero de micro numero siete) and take the Transantiago bus C-01 or C-01e. This bus will take you up Avenida Las Condes and you should stay on it until Plaza San Enrique in the area of Lo Barnechea.

From here, you will need to take a taxi or collectivo about 3km to the base of the hill. Look for signs to Observatorio Cerro Pochoco which is at the start of the trail. These are very cheap and should cost around $2,000 CLP (less than $3 USD) to the entrance, just tell the driver to go to Cerro Pochoco (Eg. Me gustaría ir a la entrada de Cerro Pochoco).

It would be advisable to write down the telephone number of the taxi driver who takes you there so you can call him afterwards to take you back when you come down. (Ask “Cual es su número de teléfono?” and give him something to write it down on). There should be taxis and collectivos around heading to Plaza San Enrique, but this would at least provide you with a backup option to prevent you having to wait too long on the way back.

5. Cerro Provincia

Whilst this mountain is higher than previous ones, the paths are manageable by those not accustomed to trekking as there are no extremely steep parts and it’s not known for loose rocks. This can be accessed without facing too many major obstacles ,so is a good choice if you would like a longer hike, with some stunning scenery along the way. From the top, you can see the whole of the Central Valley where Santiago is located and have a great view of the precordillera.

The path is fairly well marked out on the trail going up, and you will find a small domed shelter at the summit to take refuge from the heat. (If you think you’re at the top when you see a wooden post, you will need to keep going for another 5 minutes or so eastwards before finally getting to the real summit). A guard at the entrance to the cerro will ask you to register your name and pay a small fee.  You can only enter the park between 08:00 AM and 20:00 PM.

The ascent to the summit can take between 5-7 hours to make, with the descent around 4-5 hours.  If you are in good physical condition you should be able to make it up and down in one day, however if you would rather take your time or are less accustomed to long treks, it might be advisable to camp overnight either at a strategic point on the way, or on the summit. Bear in mind that whilst there is a shelter at the top, it will still be almost freezing temperatures at night, even in summer, so pack warm clothing and appropriate sleeping gear if you choose to do this. The mountain climb during the day will be extremely hot so you will need to be prepared for all conditions, make sure you take lots of water with you as you will not find any on the mountain.

This cerro has a sub-summit, Alto del Naranjo, where you can find a giant Quillaja or soapbark tree clearly marking the summit.  If you are not used to trekking or wish to easily go up and down in one day, I would recommend just going up to this point, which will be about a 5 hour round trip and still give you some fantastic views, like this one:

Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

Difficulty: Medium

Cost: 1,500 CLP (about $2 USD)

Height: 2,750 meters (~9,000 feet)

How to get there: There are two main entrances to Provincia, one at Puente Ñilhue (Ñilhue Bridge) and one by San Carlos de Apoquindo Stadium.

To get to Puente Ñilhue, you can take linea 1 (the red line) on the metro to Manquehue, and take the C01 bus from here until a Terpel gas station (before Plaza San Enrique) that will signal the road heading into the Farellones ski resort.  The bridge is about 6 kilometers from here on Camino a Farellones, so it’s advised you take a taxi or collectivo to the start of the trail after getting off the bus. There is a sign marking the 6k point on this road, and you will see a dirt path leading off to the right. You need to follow this trail for about 500m until you reach the bridge.

This is the most commonly used path up Provincia. Note that if you take this route you may find a steep section towards the start which requires you to use an iron chain which has been installed to help pull yourself up, however this is just for a few meters and nothing like this occurs again higher up. For full details on the route up the mountain itself, the Andes Handbook has some detailed explanations in English.

If you wish to avoid this steep section, you can also begin through the park San Carlos de Apoquindo, the entrance to which is next to the Stadium on Avenida Las Flores 13000 in Las Condes. You can get here by going to Los Dominicos on the metro, again on red linea 1, and taking one of the following buses from there: 421, C02 or C02c. Once in the stadium, head up towards the stables near the car park and take the path left once you pass through the fence to get up to the entrance to the trek.

This provides a fairly straightforward trail up to Alto del Naranjo and you can continue on to the summit from here or choose to return to the ground after a rest under the quillaja tree.

Trekking Santiago: 5 hikes you can reach with private transport

1. Cerro San Ramón

The mountains seen from the center of Santiago would not be the same without Cerro San Ramón, where you can find the most distinguished peak of the precordillera. The Andes Handbook describes this peak in the following way:

It seems to have its own charisma, as if it were a man of serious temperament, a respectable and noble character”.

If that is not enough reason to climb this mountain I’m not sure what is!

Due to the height of the mountain and some of the more strenuous sections, it is best to try this only if you have experience hiking. In the winter, you will need crampons and ice axes, whilst in the summer it is equally difficult due to the intense heat. The route is fairly well marked but paths can be steep and zigzag unexpectedly.

It is also recommended to split the trek over two or three days.  Over two days, you can camp three-quarters of the way and then complete the summit and descent on the last day.  Over three days you can make camp once you hit around 2000m on the first night, reach the summit and descend near to the base on the second day, and then dismantle camp and complete the descent on day three. Even for those with high levels of fitness, it will take around 7 hours to ascend and 5 hours to descend with very strenuous exertion all in one day.

At around 1348 meters (~4,400 feet), you will come across a wooden post marking options on the route. This is somewhat confusing as two paths are marked as Cerro La Cruz. Just make sure to take the one that is leading upwards as the other one will take you on the descent. Equally, there is a route leading right which should not be taken, as this does not lead to the summit but will take you on to a different path, El Litre.

There is a map of the trail later up on the path which can be found at around 1,940 meters (~6,400 feet).  From here, the slopes increase in steepness and the path will be harder to manage, though you should not need ropes or any extra gear.

For a full breakdown of the route and each step, Wikiexplora has an in-depth San Ramón route guide in Spanish.

Difficulty: Hard

Cost: $500 CLP (less than $1 USD) for hikers, and for cars to drive into Parque Mahuida it will be $3,500 CLP (just under $5 USD) for up to 6 people.

Height: 3,253 meters (~10,700 feet)

How to get there: Whilst it is possible to get to the park entrance by bus, it will be much easier to take a taxi or drive here.  Buses D02 and D10 will take you to the entrance (they will drop you on the corner of Avenida Larraín and Alvaro Casanova), but you would need to take these in La Reina commune and there is precise metro stop to access in this area.

By car, you should head to Mahuida Park, which is located at the end of Avenida Larraín, number 11095. You should see signs to the park from the intersection of Avenida Príncipe de Gales and Avenida Ossa.

There are three main routes to summit Ramón: via the Macul river valley, the Peñalolén river valley, and via Manzano river valley. In addition, you can traverse the Sierra de Ramón from Cerro Provincia or Cerro Punta de Damas – Ramón’s peak is the highest of the range.

You can also summit Cerro Provincia and then continue on to Ramón as suggested by local magazine Revolver should you wish for a longer trek if camping overnight on Provincia.

2. Cerro Manillas

Found in the Sierra de Ramón, this cerro is one of the smaller summits you can go for if you would like just a day trek but still want to venture into the Sierra. The ascent will take you around 4-5 hours and the descent 3-4, so you will need to be well prepared and it may not be the best trek to start with if you are a beginner. Alternatively, if you are more experienced and want a challenge, you can trek up Manillas and join up with Ramón or other summits over a longer hike.

You will see some stunning views though as Manillas is home to a number of different trees and interesting vegetation.  It is part of the privately owned Bosque Panul, the Panul forest, however La Red por la Defensa de la Precordillera seeks to reclaim it and protect this area.

For details on the route up the slope itself, the Andes Handbook has further specific information in Spanish, accompanied by pictures of the route which will be useful to anyone planning this trek.

Difficulty: Medium

Cost: Free

Height: 2467 meters (~8,100 feet)

How to get there: The start of the trail can be found at the side of the school Pablo Apóstol, on Las Tinajas 6000 in the commune La Florida.  You will need to take Avenue Rojas Magallanas which will lead to Las Tinajas and take you towards the school.

It is possible to take public transport here, but you would need to walk certain parts. You can take the metro to Bellavista de la Florida, on the green linea 5. From here, walk to Walker Martínez and take bus E03 until the last stop of this bus. This will take you to about 700m from the college from where you start the trek, and you can walk to the entrance from here.

3. Cerro Pintor

In the ridge between the Yerba Valley and the Molina Valley, Pintor is one of the highest peaks which stands out.  Towards the side of the Molina Valley, the cerro has abrupt cliffs which are coloured unusually, giving rise to its name of ‘Painter’.

Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

By Lion Hirth (User:Prissantenbär) (Own work (Own picture)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The best way to approach this is from the Ski Resort La Parva, heading through Barros Negros sector to Piuquenes, crossing the occasional gully along the way.  Whilst the path is not that difficult, it is not a very clear and requires good orientation skills to ensure you maintain the right direction. The rock towers of Cerro Falso Parva can be seen on the left of the pass, which can be used to aid with navigation. You should reach this area, which is just above the path heading to the Valle Nevado ski area.

From here, take the zigzagging road up Cerro Falsa Parva on the west and east sides of the peak.  At the summit, follow a gently inclining, marked trail towards Cerro Plomo. For a couple of pictures and further description illustrating this last section, take a look at the Andes Handbook. Between the pass and the summit of Pintor, it will take up to around 3 hours.  The whole trip itself is a full day excursion, so ensure you have appropriate gear and provisions.

Difficulty: Medium

Cost: Free

Height: 4,180 meters (~13,700 feet)

How to get there: Take the road Camino de Farrellones towards the La Parva ski center.  From here, you will need to hike or drive to the highest point you can reach, taking the dirt roads from the bottom of the ski resort to the pass between Cerro Falsa Parva and Cerro Franciscano.  This pass is found at 3450 meters (~11,300 feet), and will be up to two hours from Camino de Farrellones.

Be cautious, because sometimes in winter the roads are not open up to this pass because of the snow. If the roads are closed, you will need to make the hike from the beginning of the ski center, which will add up to another 3 hours to the trek.

4. Cerro El Morado

Described as “one of the most beautiful and emblematic mountains of Chile’s Central Andes,” El Morado was given its name because its fearsome South Face turns purple at dusk. This South Face forms part of what is referred to as the “rock trilogy,” made up of Cerro Arenas’ South Face, Punta Zanzi’s North Face, and El Morado.  It has quite the history of famous attempts at climbing it and is renowned for its difficulty.  Some heroic efforts are documented by the Andes Handbook and show that climbing this cerro seems like a rite of passage into truly becoming an Andes climber.

As this route is not well signposted, you should only attempt this if you are an experienced hiker with appropriate gear and knowledge of how to use it.  This cerro requires ice axes and crampons, along with rope for glacier crossings.  For a full description in English on the route and list of required gear, take a look at the Andes Handbook advice from the Morado Valley.

Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

By Jfbustos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Difficulty: Very Hard

Cost: Free

Height: 4,647 meters (~15,200 feet)

How to get there: To begin your ascent up Morado, you will first need to get to Cajon del Maipo. From within there, you need to head through Baños Morales and go from there towards the Morado Valley. At the end of this road, it will take an hour or so to hike to the base camp site, found next to Laguna del Morado at 3,200m.  If you wished to hike to this point, it it will take 6-8 hours to get here from Baños Morales.

Want to test yourself but don’t have the right gear? Try our El Morado Glacier Tour which provides it for you!

5. Salto del Apoquindo

Not technically a cerro, El Salto del Apoquindo is in fact a waterfall you can reach by trekking through the beautiful park Aguas de Ramón just off the outskirts of La Reina commune.  It is a great trek for beginners who would like a longer walk, as the path is not technically difficult, but the round trip will take around 7 hours. The slope is well signposted, and although it begins with a slight incline, this soon evens out and becomes a more relaxed walk.

It is recommended to go with a guide through the park to do this trek, though not required.  Guides will leave up to 10:00AM in the morning, and you can either turn up on the day or book ahead.  Please note that this park is only open on the weekends. You can call the guides for more information on the following numbers: +56 2 2275 0171 / +56 2 2275 0112 / +56 2 2273 5204. If you wish to go during the week, this can only be arranged by special agreement for companies or educational institutions.

On the path up to Salto del Apoquindo you will come to a fork in the road.  The left hand will take you to a suspension bridge in the park which you can view, but take the right hand fork to continue up the trail. You will soon come to bathrooms and a wooden bridge marking the way. As you continue up the trail, after between 2 and 4 hours, (depending on your pace), you will be able to see views of the stunning waterfall.  At this point, the end of the trek, marked by a large tree, will only be about half an hour away.

The park Aguas de Ramón is host to a number of great walking trails, such as Paso los Peumos and Canto del Agua, with Salto del Apoquindo being the longest path.  Some great pictures can be found here of Aguas de Ramón and some of the striking views you can encounter. For more information on the park and others in the area you can check out the Precordillera Association.

Difficulty: Medium

Cost: $1,500 CLP (about $2 USD)

Height: 17 kilometers (~10.5 miles) long

How to get there: The best way to get to Salto del Apoquindo is through the park entrance of Aguas de Ramón, which is located at Álvaro Casanova 2583, La Reina.  You can drive here or take a taxi fairly easily, just use Google Maps to plan your route, and you can hail taxis from the street fairly easily.

It is possible by public transport, but is a bit more difficult and there is no easy route. You would need to head to metro Principe de Gales on the blue metro linea 4. From here you can take public bus D18 or 412 from stop PD357 until stop DP1290, which is on the intersection of Valenzuela Llanos and Principe de Gales. However at this point you have to walk about 1.5km until the park entrance up Valenzuela Llanos, as there are no other buses or micros which go that way.

On any of these treks, please ensure you are well equipped with food and water as well as the necessary cold/sun protection depending on the season.  Remember that many cerros have false summits, so it’s always worth looking out for a descending path that then ascends again later to find the real cumbre. Do not attempt something which is beyond your limit and make sure that you have the appropriate gear in order to have the best experience.

Cajon del Maipo:

Trekking Santiago: Cerros, Cajon del Maipo, and the Andes

By Femichaelsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Whilst you can head towards any of the cerros for some great treks, nothing is quite like the canyon Cajon del Maipo which can be found in the south eastern side of Santiago.  Here you will encounter stunning hikes through the natural park, as well as adventure activities from glacier trekking to horseback riding. For more information on Cajon del Maipo, see our separate Cajon del Maipo guide on how to get there and what to do.

The Andes:

Heading up into the cerros or heading into Cajon del Maipo is a great way for real mountain lovers and adventurers to experience the Andes. However for those who still want a full Andes experience but are not necessarily looking to venture out on your own, it’s best to arrange to go on a tour so you don’t have any hassle with transportation and so you can ensure you don’t get lost. You can still dive into the mountains even if you’re inexperienced in trekking or unsure how to get around on your own with one of our tours from Santiago which help you get that authentic experience without the hassle.

For you hikers:

Why not try our Hike to Chicauma Lagoon, which is a full day hike from Santiago and includes transport, a guide, snacks, and gear. It leaves from Baquedano in the center of the city at 7:00AM and return to the same place about 19:00PM. This hike will take you to a beautiful lagoon not far from Santiago, full of vegetation and wildlife, and is an unusual route into a side of the Andes which is harder to get to without assistance.

For you non-hikers:

If hiking is not your thing but you still want to get involved in the mountain experience, then we have an Andes Mountains Day Tour which takes you up into the mountains for the beautiful views, includes a lunch at the Valle Nevado Ski Resort, and also a guided tour of the area.  You can incorporate some hiking as part of the tour, or you can opt to mainly drive through the mountains. Just mention this when booking if you would like to customize the trip to your level.

Whatever your choice of expedition, it is worthwhile spending some time going trekking for the stunning scenery and views of Santiago.  You can also consult the Andes Handbook for a full list of all the cerros around.  Use the search bar to type in a specific name and you will be able to see where exactly each summit is located on a map, along with further information on the different routes in Spanish.