We rose early for a day trip our first Chilean national park, La Campana, about 90 minutes from the house. We hiked 10km on the out and back trail called Sendero Los Peumos. The trail was lightly trafficked, as most hikers opt for the trail that leads to the top of mountain La Campana, from where you can see the Andes to the east side and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
We chose the easier of the two routes to spare the kids a grueling climb. I thought we’d be fortunate to make 10km, though Jane and Wilson showed no doubts. Three hours uphill and then three back down, they both hiked well and in good spirits.
The national park was much less developed than parks found in the United States. Rough dirt roads led to the main entrance to the park, which was small and basic. The visitor center had a small office, a booth to pay the entry fee, bathrooms, and an outdoor exhibit area. No more than about twenty cars could park in the dirt lot carved on the steep slope of the mountain, and the area was very tight for two way traffic. Since we had a 4×4, we could venture deeper into the park on an old mining road to a small parking lot at the trailhead. Though the roads and buildings were lightly developed, trails were well marked and well maintained.
We hiked to a mountain pass called Portezuelo Ocoa. The pass overlooked the palm tree forests growing high in the mountains, set against the snow-capped Andes. The mountain palms are one of the unique features of the national park. We all concluded the view as not the highlight of the hike, but the trail itself was the highlight. The trail was lush with greenery, cool in the shade, and often provided big vistas.