We like a national park with variety and Lanin National Park, in the northern Patagonian region of Argentina, delivers with a namesake active volcano, hiking trails, waterfalls, glimmering lakes, and forests of ancient trees. Here’s how to explore Lanin National Park in Argentina including hikes, a boat tour, and more.
Exploring Lanin National Park in Argentina
Lanin National Park was created in 1937 with the 12,388-foot (3,776-meter) active Lanin Volcano as its centerpiece. This huge park that stretches nearly 100 miles (160 km) along the Andes from Alumine in the north to Lago Hermoso on Seven Lakes Drive south of San Martin. Lanin National Park is also home to lakes, waterfalls, trails, and forests of lenga, conifer, and ancient araucaria trees sometimes called pehuén trees or monkey puzzle trees.
There are three main easily accessible tourist areas in the park. The Tromen area is north of the town of Junin de Los Andes. The Huechulafuen area is west of Junin. And the Lago Lacar area is accessed directly from the town of San Martin de los Andes.The Tromen entrance to Lanin National Park does not require an entry fee and is located about 65 miles (105 km) from San Martin de los Andes and 40 miles (65 km) from Junin de los Andes (the last 6 miles/10 km as you enter the park are on gravel). There’s a ranger station, a basic campground, bathrooms (though they weren’t working when we were there), and Wi-Fi. The Mamuil Malal border crossing with Chile is located less than 1.5 miles (2 km) from the ranger station.
Near the ranger station is the trailhead for the 2-mile (3 km) Lanin Volcano North Face trail which is a gently sloping, clear trail that you can extend over a rocky area to get even close to the base of the volcano. You can then bike further across the lava field to where the trail begins to climb the volcano. Allow at least 1.5 hours roundtrip. This is also the primary route used if you are climbing the volcano. From the ranger station, there is also a trail to Lago Tromen, and to a mirador overlooking this lake.At the Huechulafuen entry to Lanin National Park visitors have to pay an entry fee that was good for just one day, though when we entered the park in the morning no one was at the entry station to collect a fee so we just drove in. This entrance is located about 42 miles (67km) from San Martin de los Andes and 16 miles (26 km) from Junin de los Andes. From this entrance, a dirt road travels through the park for about an hour to Puerto Canoa on Lake Huechulafquen.
Along the way, we passed farmsteads inside the park with fences, livestock, and ranch buildings. These are Mapuche communities that were allowed to keep their land and homes after the area was turned into a park. Today, many of them run camping areas (these get more developed and nicer the closer you get to Puerto Canoa) and some cabins. There are also a couple of hotels and restaurants inside the park around Puerto Canoa. NOTE: The final 6 miles (10 km) leading to Puerto Canoa is a narrow and rough stretch of road and it can get backed up with traffic in high season.We reached the start of the trail to the El Saltillo Waterfall after a 20-minute drive beyond Puerto Canoa (follow the signs). The sloping well-marked trail covers about half a mile (800 meters) each way, gaining 300 feet (90 meters) to reach nearly the top of the falls. Some short stretches near the top are steep.
From a misty viewpoint very close to the El Saltillo Waterfall, we could admire its 85-foot (25-meter) drop. The water eventually runs into Lake Huechulafquen. We did this walk in 45 minutes round trip even though the sign at the trailhead inexplicably said it would take nearly two hours to do the hike. Allow 30 minutes up and 30 minutes down at a moderate pace.Another great thing to do in this part of Lanin National Park is the 2-hour boat tour on crystal-clear Lake Huchulafquen onboard the Catamarán José Julián. The 60-seat catamaran, which was named for a local fisherman, is very comfortable, warm, and stable and is a great way to see the lake and the lakeshore as an onboard guide (Spanish only) talks about local flora, fauna, and natural features including a section of lakeshore covered by a lava flow. Head to the open-air upper deck of the boat for the best views. Fun facts: the water in the lake averages between 57 and 65 degrees F (14-18 degrees C) and the name means high lake in an Indigenous language. You can reserve your space in advance or buy tickets at the company’s Puerto Canoa office. Note that this trip only departs in fair weather. The third primary tourist access point into Lanin National Park is on Lago Lacar which is right in the town of San Martin de los Andes and 26 miles (42 km) from Junin de los Andes. The public beach around the lake is part of the national park and you can drive around parts of the Lago Lacar via the famous Seven Lakes Drive road out of San Martin de los Andes that goes all the way to Paso Hua Hum on the Chile border. However, the best way to see the Lago Lacar and this part of Lanin National Park is on a boat tour from San Martin de los Andes.
Here’s more about travel in Argentina
Here’s more about National Parks in the Americas