Bikepacking Chile: The Lakes District & Reserva Huilo Huilo

  • Distance

    126 Mi.

    (203 KM)
  • Days

    4

  • % Unpaved

    75%

  • % Singletrack

    25%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    5

  • % Rideable (time)

    99%

  • Total Ascent

    9,636'

    (2,937 M)
  • High Point

    2,700'

    (823 M)
Twelve years ago, the main bridge on this back road from Lago Ranco to Neltume fell down. As the rainforest engulfs the old road, gauchos have maintained a singletrack through this remote corner of the Chilean Lakes District.
Share Facebook 0 Twitter Pinterest Google+

The Chilean Lakes District is often overlooked by travellers who are lured to the more famous Ruta de los Siete Lagos across the border in Argentina. But, the Chilean side forgoes Argentina’s tourist-packed highways, offering a dirt cyclist’s paradise. This route travels quiet dirt roads and trails past clear lakes, pristine trout-filled rivers, towering volcanoes, hotsprings, and lush rainforests.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • The ride is on horse trails and volcanic pumice two-tracks through the Reserva Huilo Huilo.
  • Swimming in pristine lakes and rivers in summer months.
  • Consuming sweet and savoury pastries, craft beer, fine chilean wines, and other local specialities in every village.
  • Catching trout in the Rio Pillanlenfu.
  • Taking a day off to explore the mountain bike trails around Neltume.
  • The route described here requires two challenging crossings of a knee- to waist-high river. According to locals, it might be possible to skip the crossing at the northern end of the single track on a foot bridge.
  • The front gate to the Huilo Huilo Ecological Reserve at Neltume might not let cyclists through without a guide. For this reason, we recommend tackling this route from south to north. Southbound cyclists might try entering the reserve via a gated entrance near Puerto Fuy.
  • Besides military topo maps, the best maps for cycling in Chile are the series of 1:400,000 waterproof maps available at many Copec petrol stations. Map #6 covers this area.
  • Reliable GPS road and topographic maps fare available from proyectomapear.com.ar for free.
  • There are multiple established campgrounds in most towns in this part of Chile, including all towns and villages on this route.
  • Wild camping is possible in Reserva Huilo Huilo.
  • Rooms or cabins can be rented in Lago Ranco, Llifén, Neltume, and Coñaripe.
  • Food is available in Lago Ranco, Llifén, Neltume, and Coñaripe.
  • Resupply opportunities are one or two days apart.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Clement

    Hi,
    I would like to inlude this itinerary into my bike touring trip across south america. Is this track accessible with a touring bike loaded by 4 paniers?
    Thanks

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’d say it would be pretty tricky in places. Where there’s a will there’s a way… but lighter is certainly better for this one.

  • Clement

    Thank you for the answer.
    What about the other track in this website, in the araucania region?

  • Victor Barra

    What about 2 rear paniers? I’m planning to do this next week on a couple of 29ers

  • The other route will also be challenging, due the amount of climbing. Which direction will you be riding? Northbound is substantially easier than southbound on the araucania track. Are you still in the area Clement? I’m in Neltume, Chile, if I can assist somehow.

  • Two rear panniers will be fine. That’s how we originally rode this route.

  • Clement

    Hi skyler,
    We are finally changing our plans due to the bad weather forecast. We take a bus tonight from Villarrica to Santiago and then to Arica, in order to find better conditons… riding in Araucania will be for the next time, probably with more adapted bikes for these kinds of tracks.
    Thank you so much for taking time to answer to me!
    Clement

  • By that point I’ll have updated both these Chilean routes and published a much longer bikepacking route. So you have that to look forward to! You’re skipping right to Arica? It seems there are a quite roads to be found north of Calama, if that altiplano riding interests you.

  • Victor Barra

    We succesfully complete the huilo hiilo route! Thank you skyler.. if you need to stay in santiago you can stay at my house!! Cheers!!

  • Thanks Victor! I’ll be in Santiago next week. I think I have somewhere to stay, but I’d love to hear about your ride! Email me at: skylerdes at gmail dot com

  • Wm Coe

    Skyler, I’m doing some future planning, thinking about biking from Santiago to Peceliemu (Punto Lobos), to visit my sister. Are there any resources you could recommend for planning a ride like that? I’d be on the ECR or Fargo… Will

  • Victor Barra

    it’s 100% paved. you can use the old road to Melipilla to avoid the highway and then head to south, there is a camp-site in “laguna esmeralda” in melipilla and then another one near lago rapel. People do it on a single day on road bikes.

  • tony

    My wife and I recently returned from five weeks of bike packing in Chile and one of the routes we did was this one. We approached the route from the south and took two days to get to the northern end. The first day was perfect the second day it pissed down, such is life. However, we had to find an alternative route because the river was too deep and fast to cross and we managed to find a good trail on the west side that negated the need for river crossings.
    Closer to the northern end there is a large locked gate that appears to be fairly new but it was possible to sneak the bikes by on one side but only just. It doesn’t appear that entry into the area is encouraged and asking for permission is likely to get a negative response which is the answer another cyclist we met was given. All part of the adventure though.

  • Felipe

    Hi there Skyler,
    What parts of the route are singletrack? Can i ride more singletracks by this route.
    Cheers

  • Nicolas Swid

    Hello Skyler, where are exactly the 2 difficults river crossing? In order to plan how to cross them. Thanks

  • Nicolas Swid

    Hello Tony, could you tell more details. So you had skipped the 2 difficult river crossings? The trail you did was just on the other side of the river compared to the GPS tracks here? (on the west side). It was rideable? Thanks!

  • tony

    Hi Nicolas,
    When coming from the south and heading north we stayed on the left side of the river so avoided the big river crossing. It’s quite hard to find the exact spot where to cross but the trail we took on the left side was quite obvious. Hope that answers your question.
    Tony

  • Nicolas Swid

    Hello Skyler, thanks, the route was great! Just did it northbound (I confirm that the rangers of huilo huilo will not let you enter the park southbound.
    Actually they caught us, but close to the north entrance, so we could continue and exit.

    About the rivers corssing of huilo-huilo: We tried the first one (southern), but it was with water up to the butt in the morning of februrary 2018 (exceptionnaly high), so we could not.
    Instead of crossing the river we just followed the side of the river northbound, and after 200 meters there is a 4×4 trail . This trail is very good, and go all the way north, join your toute at the level of the second crossing (so basically: it stays on the W side of the river, there is no difficult crossing to make, everything is with good bridge after.). On GAIA GPS app it’s possible to see this trail.

    To do this traverse southbound, maybe possible from Puerto Pirihueico, there is a 4×4 trail going into Huilo Huilo.
    http://www.wikiexplora.com/Greater_Patagonian_Trail

  • Nicolas Swid

    Thanks Tony, just did it, thanks you very much.

  • tony

    That’s great Nicholas, I hope you enjoyed it and didn’t find the route too difficult to find and hopefully you got better weather than we did.

  • Ski5

    Hey, which map source layer are you using on Gaia that shows the trail around the river crossing?

  • Grant Henderson

    Hi Nicolas – any other information on the route – we are on the carraterra austral at the minute but plan to do this route and head further north and do the Monkey Puzzle trail. Did you do anything similar? (I see the track on Gaia btw – thanks for this info as I was concerned about the `river crossings!

  • Nicolas Swid

    Hello, I used Gaia TOPO, sorry for late reply. You can do it without the map also, it’s not hard to find.