Hiking to the Mosco River Glacier

Hiking to the Mosco River Glacier
Baker - O'Higgins Area

This great one or two day trekking route climbs Cerro Santiago on trails which follow the banks of the Mosco River, passing through lush native forest and a series of lookout points, to the foot of the Mosco Glacier. This is a great hike to do on your own or with one of the local guides in Villa O'Higgins, who can teach you about local flora and fauna you will observe along the trail.

  • Data sheet

    Activity Type: Hiking. 

    Start: The main entrance point is from the CONAF guard station just outside of town. The trail head can also be accessed outside of town to the north along the Carretera Austral, marked by a small roadside sign.

    Place of Term: Villa O’Higgins.  

    Distance: 20.8 km (round-trip).

    Duration: 8 - 10 hours.

    Seasonality: October – March.

    Special Considerations: Families are recommended to turn back to Villa O’Higgins when the slope becomes steep, before the river crossings. You’ll want trekking boots and poles, layered and waterproof clothing, sunglasses, a brimmed hat and sunscreen. Carry water, a snack, and your camera.

    Reservations: There are several guides in Villa O’Higgins that offer this trek. Guides include:

    • Alonso Díaz (Coya), Excursiones Entre Patagones – Carretera Austral, located in the north entrance to town; (067) 2431810; (09) 66215046; www.entrepatagones.cl; info@entrepatagones.cl.
    • Mauricio Melgarejo, Tsonek Expediciones – Carretera Austral, 1.6 km north of town; (09) 78929695; www.tsonek.cl; info@tsonek.cl.
    • Hans Silva, Villa O’Higgins Expediciones – Carretera Austral, Km 1240; (067) 2431831 - 2431832; www.villaohiggins.com; contacto@villaohiggins.com.
    • Andrea Rosas, Vulturpatagonia - Lago Cisne 215; (09) 93508156; andrearosast@gmail.com.

This hike provides a range of physical and technical challenges; the first sections are suitable for everyone, including families.  The biggest challenge you’ll find in these first sections is forcing yourself to turn back as the going gets a bit more technical; the beauty of the area is sure to tempt you to keep going.  If you do, please make safety a priority as you will be required to cross streams and slippery areas of moraine in later sections of the hike. 

The hike begins at the Cerro Santiago trail head in the town’s center and heads east. Once you reach the CONAF Guard Post, look for the trail head markers.  This trail is well marked, using various mechanisms, including horizontal red and yellow bars painted on trees, rock cairns, and wooden stakes in the ground. The trail ascends through a series of switchbacks for roughly three km, merging with the alternative entrance coming from the Carretera Austral. You’ll pass burned tree trunks from historic forest fires before reaching an overlook offering impressive views of the Mosco and Mayer River Valleys.

The trail continues to climb, entering an extremely dense lenga and coigüe forest. In this section it’s important to keep alert for trail markers every ten to twenty meters to confirm the trail. When the trail levels off, you will begin to encounter several river and stream crossings, with rustic bridges, that when wet, can be extremely slick so cross with caution. Soon, you’ll descend to the edge of the Mosco River.  Although there is a wooden walkway over the river, DO NOT TAKE THIS, if your goal is to see the Mosco Glacier. Instead, continue on the trail marked with horizontal red and yellow bars painted on the trees, winding its way to the Claro River.  Here, a marked section indicates a short, but technical, river crossing. Use judgment in this section; if the water is high and powerful, turn around and head back to Villa O’Higgins. NEVER CROSS ALONE.  If you do not have previous experience with river crossings, we suggest hiring a guide in town who can assist and teach you the techniques. 

Once across the river, the trial begins to climb steeply over large rocks and boulders. This section may require crawling and scrambling, as you maneuver up the steep slope.  Use extreme caution when doing this, as the rock can be loose.  A technique to use is to spread out your group, allowing a safe distance between members, so that, if a rock falls it does not injure another group member.  At the top of this climb, you need to cross the Mosco River.  As before, use good judgment and technique. 

The next section leads to the impressive (25 m), Mosco River waterfall.  Look for signage, which will be posted on the north side of the cliff from which this waterfall descends.  This indicates your route for the final climb. Again, you’ll employ a hands and knees scramble to safely maneuver the slope. It’s worth the work.  At the summit of this hike, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Fria Lagoon, fed by glacial melt coming off the Mosco Glacier and draining into the headwaters of the Mosco River.  Some surrounding peaks include Cerro Mirador (1,788 m), Cerro Catalina (1,894 m), and Cerro White Huemul (2,230 m), which is the highest peak in the Mosco Valley. Return to town along the same path, following the markings, which can be found on both sides of trees and rock cairns.

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