After a while on the boardwalks of Caleta Tortel, the beauty of the natural environment may have you yearning to be in closer contact. This hike is the perfect mix of both. It takes visitors past the main areas of town, and then sends them way above, to the top of Cerro La Bandera, along a well-marked trail that provides breathtaking panoramas, and fascinating up-close views of the unique flora. The circuit is circular, so it can be started at any point in Caleta Tortel and walked in either direction. We recommend starting in the area near the school and the parking lot, and hiking in a clockwise manner, because the trail head is easier to encounter. You’ll walk along the boardwalk leading to the airstrip, and approximately 200 meters after the school, you will find the signage indicating the trail which heads up to the left. It’s well marked.
The trail begins and ends with sections of raised wooden planks, which help you navigate the particularly boggy areas. Once you reach the top, the area becomes rocky and flat, making it easier to navigate the trails. Arrows mark the route, and several different overlooks, from which you can spot the Baker River Delta, lots of islands and channels, the Pisagua waterfall, and the airstrip, by the river. Once you complete the trail portion, you will descend back to the boardwalk, on the opposite side of town from where you began. Complete your circuit, returning along the walkways, until reaching your starting point.
The route travels through very humid peat areas, where there are enormous ferns, and plants with giant, umbrella-type leaves, called nalca, or pangue. There are also cypress forests, and moss fields. You will see lots of bird life and hear tiny frogs croaking. There are four frog species found in the area: Puerto Edén frog, southern patted frog, white lagoon creeper, and the speckled frog. These little critters are not easy to spot, but if you should be lucky enough to see one, please avoid touching them. An attentive eye can spot small carnivorous plants called violetillas of the marshes, the bright red flowers of the coicopihue, which are very similar in shape to the national flower of Chile, the copihue, and a wide variety of lichens, mosses, and small fosforitos. In the Junquillo Sector, you’ll pass through a second-growth forest of cypress of the Guaitecas, where you might be lucky enough to spot a unique variety of night butterflies. Considering the amazing flora, fauna and sightseeing this area offers, we suggest that you take binoculars and maybe even a magnifying glass, if you can find one, and definitely, a flora-fauna field guide.