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tæt på Vilches, Maule Region (Chile)
It follows the Condor Circuit for most of the route but saves 2 days by missing Laguna Mondaca and instead going via Laguna Manantial Pelado.
The route described here is also available on Maps.me with all major waypoints (except Termas del Blanquillo) marked. That may be easier to follow after the first day.
We did the walk at the end of Feb/start of March.
This route is best enjoyed over 5 days but can be done in 4.
DAY 1: VILCHES ALTO - VALLE EL VENADO
This route veers away from the main Altos del Lircay traffic after point 6 onto a well-signposted but less well-trodden path to a mirador and then Valle el Venado. Well worth detouring to Salto el Despalmado waterfall. A stunning spot for a swim towards the end of the day.
Official Valle el Venado campsite is still in the park limits and has fresh water, toilets and showers.
Would recommend spending the night before you start this hike close to the trailhead, either in one of many campsites in Vilches Alto or in the park itself. We arrived on the first bus from Talca and would have liked more time at the waterfall.
DAY 2: VALLE EL VENADO - TERMAS DEL BLANQUILLO
A short day starts with a steep rocky ascent over an old lava flow at which point you leave the national park boundaries. There are then 3 river crossings (knee-deep at start of March) and the last section of the day is a beautiful approach to thermal springs with Descabezado volcano in the background.
The campsite here, marked by a small wooden hut, is basic with no facilities but there were people using it as a base to climb the volcano. Hot springs weren't too impressive.
There is fresh water available at the thermal springs but most streams are too sulphurous to drink. Ask in the wooden hut which water is safe to drink or look out for a small stream with a man-made metal spout forming an artificial waterfall about 30-50m West of the wooden hut.
It is possible to combine Day 2 & 3 but it becomes a long day of ascent (circa 10-12 hours) with no shade.
DAY 3: TERMAS DEL BLANQUILLO - LAGUNA MANANTIAL PELADO
The most beautiful day of the trek provides non-stop stunning views and it really feels like you're lost in the middle of the Andes. We didn't see anybody else in this section of the trek.
The laguna is a beautiful spot to swim and rest at the end of the day in perfect, clear water at the foot of the Manantial Pelado volcano. There is no campsite or facilities.
After the first few hours' walking there is plenty of mountain streams to fill-up water but there is no drinking water at or close to the laguna.
If Day 2 and 3 have been combined, there is also the possibility to camp at Vegas Manantial Pelado (as marked on Maps.me) although it's not as pretty as the laguna and there are no facilities there either.
DAY 4: LAGUNA MANANTIAL PELADO - LAGUNA DE LAS ANIMAS
Slow and steady descent into Parque Ingles national park takes up most of the day's hiking before a steep ascent up to Laguna de las Animas.
Lots of day trekkers go from El Bolson campsite in Parque Ingles up to Laguna de las Animas for the day and we saw lots of people returning as we made our way up, but we were the only ones camping there. The views of the sun setting in the valley below the laguna and the red colour the sun cast on the rocks around the laguna were really beautiful at the end of the day.
Not much water available on this day but after Valle del Indio, before the path turns steeply towards the laguna, you can first hear and then see streams near the path in a rare large area of green. Stock up on water here to get you to the Laguna and back the next day. If you run out of water before then, there is the possibility of detouring by El Bolson camp and refuelling there.
DAY 5: LAGUNA DE LAS ANIMAS - PARQUE INGLES
A long day's descent to Parque Ingles. This day starts by retracing the route back to Valle del Indio and then on to El Bolson campsite. NB. From this point, do not follow the GPS tracker as we ended up on private land behind a locked gate. The normal route back is well-marked and there will most likely be many people on the path.