Chile,  Travel,  Travel Tips

Travel Guide: La Campana National Park

Over the course of the next few months, I expect to visit at least 25 of Chile’s national parks and reserves. I’ll always remember number one!

Parque Nacional La Campana (La Campana National Park) is best known for Cerro La Campana, a mountain climbed by Charles Darwin during his years on the Beagle. It’s easily reached from both Valparaíso and Santiago, making it a great day trip. You can even follow Darwin’s footsteps and climb to the top of La Campana for a view of both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.

Unfortunately, that particular path was closed when we were there. Instead, we did a hike in the Palmas de Ocoa sector of the park to see Chilean palm trees, the southernmost palm species on the globe. The oldest trees are estimated to be 600 years old, which is just incredible to fathom.

Our hike took approx. 3-4 hours roundtrip from the sector entrance to the thickest grove of palms. Along the way, we encountered several different species of butterflies, chirping birds, and even a few cows. With Cerro La Campana as a constant backdrop, it was a great way to start our exploration of Chile’s national parks.

Beautiful examples of Chilean palms with Cerro La Campana in the background.
La Campana is in the coastal range of mountains, which you can see fading into the distance.
Like many signs in Chile, there are both words and small graphics showing you where to go.
I still have no idea why there were cows along the walk, but they made it more entertaining!
A “trunk-eye” view of one of one of the giant Chilean palms.

About the Park

  • La Campana National Park was created in 1967 and is 8,000 hectares in size.
  • It’s a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
  • La Campana holds the largest concentration of adult Chilean palms in the world, with over 62,000 adult trees. These palms were exploited in the colonial times for their sap; they’re also one of only two species of palm trees that are endemic to Chile.

Visiting the Park

Park Sectors

  • Granizo – where you access El Andinista, the path to the top of La Campana. This entire sector is closed for improvement works until 24 December, 2018.
  • Cajón Grande – there are a few shorter hikes here, as well as access to the Portezuelo Ocoa path that links to the other sectors.
  • Palmas de Ocoa – this is where we did a hike to a grove of Chilean palms. You can also hike to a waterfall (6km) or keep going up the path called Portezuelo Ocoa, that links you to the other sectors of the park

Getting there

  • Public transportation: You can get a bus to Limache, and then either bus 45 to Granizo sector or bus 40 to Cajón Grande sector.
  • Driving: All three sectors are easily reached from Valparaiso (~ 1 hour) and Santiago (~1.5-2 hours) and we just navigated with Google Maps.
  • Reminder: Be sure to check the official CONAF website for any notifications about the park. Don’t make the same mistake we did, planning for a hike the day after the path closed for two months.

Park Entry

  • Cost: 4,000 CLP per person (for foreigners).
  • Process: The park ranger will make note of your name, the number in the party, the license plate of the car (if you have one) and which path you’re planning to do.
  • If you drive, make sure to get there early. We were stuck waiting at the entrance for nearly an hour because of the sign-in process and briefing that the park ranger was providing to each car.

If you’re visiting Valpo or Santiago and want to get out of the city and spend some time in nature, La Campana is a great option!

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