Know Before You Go
- This is NOT a beginner hiking area. Extensive experience hiking in the mountains is required. If you are a beginner who has minimal or no experience, you may want to consider a national park or another user-friendly destination.
- No rescue nor medical services. This area, furthermore, is very very isolated. The closest medical services is in the town of Cochamó.
- Some La Junta hikes are particularly dangerous. Hikes from La Junta to peaks and upper valleys are for advanced hikers. The Arco Iris hike is probably one of the more popular and rewarding hikes / climbs, but also one of the most dangerous for its steepness and potential deadly falls.
- Hiking in for only the day is very demanding. Be in good physical hiking shape and start early. It’s a 12-kilometer hike one way, that often is very muddy.
- The popular Toboganes water slides are extremely dangerous. They are the source of Cochamó Valley’s most serious accidents. Don’t be fooled by the many online videos and photos. These shots do not show the other side.
A Brief History
Before the 1990s, only cattleman, a few settlers, rumors of Butch Cassidy and the occasional tourist passed through Valle Cochamó, or Cochamó Valley. Only since the late 90s, hikers and climbers began walking and climbing amidst the waterfalls, turqoise pools, 1000-meter walls and snow-capped peaks. Their stories of this Yosemite-like valley have brought many more to follow and, in turn, their ecological views have helped conserve this valley as a tourist destination and not threatened by timber yard nor center for hydroelectric plants. Both these ecological threats came close to reality, though thankfully stopped.
The most current threat today comes from two deep-pocket Santiaguino investors that continue to push their hydroelectric project in the next river valley south and a future Yosemite-like vision in the valley, which many fear may include roads, high-end hotels and commercial centers. As long as it remains a hike in, and not a drive in, the gems of the valley will hopefully remain unspoiled, its quiet forests vibrant with life and its granite walls a recreational destination for all to enjoy.
When to go
Equally important to know, how long to go for. The most common mistake trekkers have mentioned was staying for only one night. One day up, a night and one day down is feasible, but not recommended. Getting to the heart of Cochamó Valley, La Junta, entails a lot of logistics and energy. One night in Camping La Junta or the Refugio Cochamó means spending most of the day and day’s energy getting to the trailhead and trekking in, and the following hiking out, missing Cochamó”s best hikes that originate from the La Junta like Cerro Arco Iris and Cerro Gorila. These hikes include granite walls, alerce forests, spectacular views and peaks, something the trek in doesn’t offer. Keep in mind time for rest to recuperate and seeing close-by attractions. See the When To Go page to help plan on when. If you plan to rock climb, also see Cochamó’s Climbing page.
All visitors to Cochamó Valley’s center, La Junta, are hikers. Getting there (unless you horseback) requires a 4-to-6-hour muddy trek through thick forests that abruptly opens into grassy pampas and views of the surrounding granite domes. From there many day hikes exist to river pools, waterfalls, granite walls and peaks with amazing views. See the Getting to Cochamó pages for detailed logistics and maps.
All visitors to Cochamó Valley’s center, La Junta, are hikers. Getting there (unless you horseback) requires a 4-to-6-hour muddy trek through thick forests that abruptly opens into grassy pampas and views of the surrounding granite domes. From there many day hikes exist to river pools, waterfalls, granite walls and peaks with amazing views. See the Logistics page for how-to-get-there explanations, trail descriptions and maps.
Camping La Junta makes a great base centered in the valley’s epicenter, with plenty of roofed areas, composting bathrooms and sinks. See the Camping La Junta page. You can also opt for a more comfortable and all included option, the Refugio Cochamó (bed & breakfast).
You can choose to have your baggage, packs, etc. carried in by packhorses. You can also opt to ride in and out. See the packhorses section and horseback section for more details.