Situated between 44º22′ latitude south and 72º25′ latitude west, Queulat National Park is located in the Aysén region, with the Hanging Glacier (Ventisquero Colgante) only 15 minutes from the jetty of Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa. Its highest summit is the Alto Nevado, at 2,255 meters above sea level, from which comes the Hanging Glacier with its impressive cascade.
It was discovered in 1767, when a Jesuit priest, José García Alsué, went in search of the mystical Ciudad de los Césares (City of the Caesars), echoing indigenous legends; according to which, the gunshots and bell-ringing that had been heard on the other side of the mountain range had come from this very Ciudad de los Césares.
The Park was created as such on the 13th October 1983 and is managed by CONAF (Chile’s National Forest Corporation). Within its area of more than 154 thousand hectares, it is possible to find an extraordinary environment comprising virgin forest, fjords, channels, glaciers, and ice fields. Its rocky hillsides, deep and steep valleys, and impressive snowcaps and snowdrifts show the remains of glaciations that took place thousands of years ago. In fact, the spectacular Hanging Glacier was discovered in 1875 by Captain Enrique Simpson, who declared that the snow drift was found 100m from the edge of the sea. In the present day, however, it is almost 8km from the edge of the sea.
The glacial activity can be seen by observing the woods that grow on the moraine that, despite being thousands of years old, appear to be a lot younger. Likewise, the mosses and lichen that are found on the rocks show the start and the restoration of the woods after the last glaciation.
The weather is damp, with abundant precipitation throughout the whole year, which reaches between 3,500mm and 4,000mm, and the various sectors of the Park have an average annual temperature of between 4°C and 9°C.
Various rivers cross the Park, like the Queulat, the Ventisquero which comes from the glacier and flows into the channel of Puyuhuapi, the Bordalí, the Guillermo, the Cisnes and the Pedregoso. It also has splendid lagoons, like the the Laguna Témpanos (Ice Floes), which is located at the foot of an impressive waterfall that melts the glacier and has a pale green color due to the strong presence of minerals. Its name owes itself to the fact that up until only a few years ago, it was possible to appreciate in it ice floes that came from the deposits of the snowdrift.
The main cascade of the Hanging Glacier falls from a great height to a cliff, at the base of which, across the years, materials have accumulated from thawing and avalanches.
The flora and fauna of the woods are rich. In the woods’ evergreen vegetation you can find coigües, tepas, lumas, arrayanes, tineo, mañíos, canelo, ciruelillos, and a thicket with a huge variety of ferns, orchids, creepers, coicopihues, quila, chilcos (magallanic fuschia), and enormous nalcas.
Numerous birds are found amongst the fauna, like the black woodpecker, the hummingbird, the ringdove, the great bustard, the huet-huet, the small parrot, the kingfisher, a variety of ducks, and the chucao. Pudúes, which are the smallest deer in the world, zorro culpeo (Andean fox), the puma, and the guiña (Andean mountain cat) also inhabit the area. Also, in the waters of the Queulat Fjord and the Puyuhuapi Sound it is possible to spot chilean dolphins, seals and wide variety of seabirds, like herons and the beautiful black-necked swans, among others.
Walking the paths that penetrate the woods is a beautiful experience, where you can enjoy, as constant company, the singing of the birds, the sound of the water, and the surprising views. Among the most beautiful paths, you can find the Hanging Glacier Viewpoint (Distance there and back: 3.3km – Duration: 3 hours – Difficulty: Medium); Témpanos Lagoon (Distance: 1.2 km – Duration: 1 hour – Difficulty: Low), where the River Ventisquero is crossed by a hanging footbridge; Padre García Fall on the Queulat Slope; Río Guillermo Path; Enchanted Forest Path (Duration: 3 hours – Difficulty: Medium), through which you enter the magical and mysterious woods and, after crossing the River Cascadas, arrive at the Los Gnomos Lagoon to enjoy its amazing beauty; and Los Pumas Lagoon Path (Distance: 5.6km – Duration: Full Day – Difficulty: High), towards the extreme north of the park.As well as the numerous snowdrifts, other very attractive natural scenes are the Salto del Cóndor (Condor Fall) and the Portezuelo Queulat, which is the highest point of the Carretera Austral.