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The low down on El Cañi Reserve in Pucón

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As you noted in our previous blog about off the beaten track treks around Pucón; if losing yourself in nature is an integral part of travelling for you, then Pucón offers some of the best hiking options within relative proximity to the town. The national parks and reserves around Pucón are really quite something else due to the many viewpoints offering panoramic vistas over lakes, volcanoes and lush green forests. So, if you are into trekking then there are quite a few options to choose from. To begin with this week we introduce you to El Cañi reserve, a 500 hectare park located just 21 km outside of Pucón.

Santuario El Cañi Pucon lake and araucarias

Principally dedicated to the conservation of the ancient Araucaria araucana forests, a species which is known to be one of the oldest on the planet, El Cañi became one of the first Private Protected Areas of Chile. In 1990 the area that is today the park was up for sale and there was a rumour that a forestry company was going to buy it and use it for the exploitation of wood. Two foreigners who lived in the region set out to buy the terrain and convert it into a protected area. The couple, along with other friends, began to seek funds for the acquisition which was eventually successfully purchased in the name of the Lahuen Foundation.

Right from the outset, the idea of the foundation was to train locals to manage the park itself via a community based project. This idea became reality in February 1999 when the management and administration was passed to local inhabitants from the Pichares community, a small town in the vicinity of the reserve.

Santuario El Cañi Pucon vistas

In order to prepare the locals for this task, the Outdoor Education Centre was set up by the foundation in order to harness the in depth knowledge and skills of the local community. This was merged with the instruction and preparation of the management of the reserve so the pillars of what we know today as sustainable tourism, such as control of visitor numbers, preservation of endemic species and reinvestment of income from entrance fees into the maintenance of the reserve, were upheld.

The location proved perfect for attracting tourists and locals alike, and has since become a popular stop for day hikes and longer treks using the camping infrastructure available in the park. The name Cañi means “Another eye” or “Another vision” in the indigenous language, Mapudungun, relating to the innovative way that the reserve was purchased and passed over to the local community. It is also called a Sanctuary because the place is known to possess a powerful energy that is unique and has existed since ancient times.

In the years that followed, fences were erected to protect grazing land, and the Base Camp was constructed at the main entrance of the reserve. Also, Ecole hostel was created in Pucón itself with the main function of offering quality accommodation in the town and to link visitors in Pucón to the park.

To arrive at the Cañi reserve, head out of Pucón towards Caburgua lake. When you reach a junction you will see signs for Huife/Villa San Pedro to the right hand side. Take that road and once you arrive at Villa San Pedro itself, go 1 km further and you will see the entrance sign to El Cañi on the right hand side.

Santuario El Cañi Pucon how to get there map

You can also take a rural bus from Pucón and ask to be dropped at the entrance to El Cañi. The local bus terminal is located on Calle Uruguay between Arauco and Palguin opposite the main Jac Bus Terminal.

Once on site, check in at reception where you pay the entrance fee, and will receive a map and additional information about the state of the trekking routes and the expected weather conditions.

There are various trekking options starting with the one day hike which takes around 7 hours return and offers superb views from the main viewpoint located at 1550 masl of four volcanoes (Villarrica, Quetrupillán, Lanín and Llaima), two lakes (Villarrica and Caburgua) as well as the valleys surrounding the park.

Santuario El Cañi Pucon camping

There is also a two day hike available which is a little more demanding. You will see the panoramic views of the local volcanoes, lakes and valleys, as well as various lagoons and maybe even condors if you are lucky. There are various campsites within the park enabling you to extend your stay and totally immerse yourself in nature. Base Camp is located next to reception allowing for an early start the next day. Aserradero Refuge is located 4,5 km from Base Camp and will take around 2,5 hours to reach. Laguna Negra Refuge is 8 km from Base Camp and 3,5 km from Aserradero Refuge.

It is recommended to hire a guide for the trek for safety reasons, but also to really learn more about the flora and fauna within the park itself. Do bear in mind that between May and October the reserve is covered in snow so you can only access the trekking routes with a registered guide of the park. You must consult and reserve in advance during this season.

So, El Cañi is a great choice to kick start your trekking adventures in Pucón. For information of other hikes around the area please refer to our previous blog about Huerquehue National Park and also the Quetrupillán section of the Villarrica National Park too.

Feel free to drop Sol y Nieve a line here for help on advice on how to make the most of your stay in our region. You can also find information here on How to Make the Best of 3 Days in Pucón for those of you on a tighter schedule.

Happy trekking planning!

©Sarah White2014-Author’s rights reserved

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