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 preserve 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, and the latter continues to threaten the area. Over development is another concern. 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 a recreational destination for all to enjoy.
Basics You Should Know
When to go. See the When To Go To Cochamó page. 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 La Junta's Refugio Cochamó or Camping La Junta 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. If you plan to rock climb, see Cochamó's Climbing Beta page.
Getting there. 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.
Accomodation. The Refugio Cochamó (bed & breakfast) makes a great base centered in the valley's epicenter. See the lodging section for a list of amenities available for guests and make a reservation. You can also opt to camp at the Camping La Junta.
Packhorses or/and horseback. 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.
The trails. It's important to know that these are not typical national-park trails. The terrain is more dramatic. Some trails provide incredible, yet scary for some, exposure. They are, nevertheless, fun, adventurous and some of the best hikes in Chile. Click the map to the left to show some of Cochamó Valley's hikes. Also check out few detailed descriptions of the trails in the trails section.
Some experience & physique. Have some hiking experience is essential. And being in descent shape helps. People with heart conditions should take extra precautions or avoid this area.
Communication. It's a very isolated destination, but you're not without some communication via VHF radios and satelite Internet at the Refugio Cochamó.
Hours from any city, supermarket or hospital, it's important to have everything you need before you arrive. So the following lists can give you some suggestions of what you need to have. Also, we included a list of items you can usually find at the Refugio Cochamó, which is located at the center of most activities in the valley.
Don't forget the following essentials regardless of your plans in the valley.
Head lamp & extra batteries.
Lighter or matches.
First aid kit.
Toilet paper & Ziploc baggies. All visitors must pack their trash out with them and back to a public trash facility for proper disposal, and not leave it in the outdoors to negatively impact nature and wildlife.
Water bottle. Most visitors fill their bottle in tributaries to the Cocahamó River or other small rivers without treating it. Use your own discrepancy.
Food. Whether you plan to cook yourself or buy meals at the refugio, you should bring favorite snacks or at least a sandwich (something containing protein like turkey, chicken or cheese) or even just an energy bar or two for lunch.
Money. Even if you don't plan to spend a cent, there are too many unpredictable factors that may imply needing money. Twisting an ankle may entail hiring a horse to take you out or a shortage in your food supply may require you to buy bread at the refugio.
Be somewhat fit. Unless you plan to come in by horse, there are not easy hikes and a degree of physical fitness is required. If you have a heart condition or other medical problems, consult your doctor before coming.
Communication. There is no phone or cell phone coverage in Cochamó Valley. Refugio Cochamó, nevertheless, offers satelite Internet during specific times of the day. You can also bring your VHF radio (148.000 / 100.0) to communicate with the Refugio Cochamó. Contact the Refugio Cochamó at www.cochamo.com/contact.
Tell someone. One last general "must" is to always tell someone (spouse, friend, family) your planned route and when you intend to return.
Encountering horses and cattle on the trail. "Cuando se encuetren con arreo de vacunos (o caballos) en el sendero, por favor dejar la pasada moviéndose hacia el costado," piden los locales arrieros nacidos y crecidos en el Valle Cochamó Flavio Rojas y Cochelo Mendez. "Para nosotros es de vital importancia, ya que así el turista podrá seguir disfrutando de los encantos de éstos bellos parajes y nosotros podremos continuar con nuestra actividad que es herencia de nuestros antepasados. La genesis del sendero existentre entre Cochamó y Paso el León fue el arreo de ganado. Los tiempos han cambiado y debemos evolucionar. Eso si aún quedamos algunos que nos resistimos a desaparecer con ésta actividad. "
The trails, especially the main valley trail, can vary from dry and firm to having deep mud and large pools. It all depends on the unpredictable weather. Summer tends to be the driest season but conditions can change fast and, therefore, it's essential to have good footwear.
Waterproof hiking boots or rubber boots.
Gaters for hiking boots.
Sandals or walking shoes are not nessary but can be a comfortable escape from those boots.
Refugio Cochamó (bed & breakfast)
If you plan to stay in the Refugio Cochamó (bed & breakfast), check out the lodging section for a list of amenities available for guests.
If You Plan to Camp
Check out the camping section to see the available amenities and more info.