While in Esquel we did one major excursion to the national parc Los Alerces. The tourist information in Esquel had told us that this is the best outing possible in Esquel, so of course we had to go. They showed us on a map, that there was a 3km-hike at the top and a 3km hike just a bit further and a 2km hike a little further down and then a 6km hike a bit further away still.. We looked at each other and asked if it would be possible to do them all in a day? The lady in the tourist information looked at us in disbelief, then acknowledged that maybe, if we’d stop nowhere and walked very fast we could possibly make it, but really it wasn’t a good idea at all. We took that advice to heart but decided to completely disregard it. 20km of completely flat or downhill walking in nine hours didn’t seem all that unfeasible to us and it turned out to be the right decision. Not only did we make it, but we also had time to stop for lunch and several viewpoints and still come up with an hour to spare at the end for an craft beer.
Los alerces is completely different from the landscape around Esquel, which is surprising that they’re so close. It’s a forested area, with large trees, crossed by streams and many lakes. Our first stop was the Mirador for the lago verde. The green lake, named such because it has turquoise water. The three kilometer loop was qualified as easy – intermediate because it contained stairs.. Even though we looked for them, we never did find the stairs. I’m guessing we found the easy-easy variant. From there we walked down to Lago Menendez to have a look at the glaciar. After crossing a slightly wonky suspended bridge, we were greeted by large signs warning us about the presence of pumas and giving us all the tips about how to scare away a puma. This prompted us to do the exact opposite of everything indicated to make the Puma disappear. My travelmate tried to sound like a puma to lure the other puma out of the hiding spot, while I tried to sound like a very yummy sheep or something.. It didn’t work. No matter how big the signs were, we didn’t see any traces of pumas anywhere. Rather disappointing. The three kilometer loop, again classified as easy – intermediate was completely flat and I’m not sure how it could’ve been made any easier. Needless to say that we did not need the indicated one and a half hours to make it there and back.
From there we walked along the second to last trail to the last one. I had read that this hike needed to be registered at the local ranger station. What I did not know is that the ranger station was all the way down the hill, while we wanted to go all the way up the hill. Everyone else seems to know this though because the last person registering themselves to go up to the laguna escondida had been there some ten days earlier.. The only good thing that came of this is that since we needed to go back down to register ourselves as “not lost”, we coincidentally ended up right next to the shop selling the beer making for a nice end to our day.
If you do just one of the loops, I would definitely recommend the laguna escondida, even if it’s the most challenging one as you have to walk up a hill to reach it. The laguna is not the part that makes it so spectacular, even though it is nice. It’s the view over the lago menendez, the lago verde and the green river winding itself around the lago menendez which you get once you reach the top of the hill.