If you are looking for a little quiet time in nature, the Chucao Trail in Puerto Raúl Marín Balmaceda is the perfect option. You can easily walk this trail solo, but, if you’d like the company of a guide to share information on the flora and history of the area, stop into the office of the Tourism and Commerce Association in the center of town. The trail-head is beside the school, along the road that follows the waterfront. It is marked by signage and used year round by locals, which collectively maintain it in good condition. It’s a simple trail, so grab a day-pack, some water, sunscreen and snacks and head to the forest for a hike that will allow you to feel, hear and think.
The first section of the trail crosses dense native forest located at the edge of town. Entering the forest, you’ll soon be enveloped in greens and browns; trees towering above and around, vines and bushes, ferns, tree trunks, and roots. It’s almost overwhelming, surrounding you with millions of hues, scents and textures. You will be surrounded by enormous coigües, with hanging lichens like old man’s beard (usnea barbata), lumas, canelos and hundreds of different types of ferns, among other native flora. The old man’s beard is a lichen of whitish hues that grows from the trees throughout Aysén, an indicator of air purity; the further away you are from the civilization, the more abundant and healthy it grows. If you’re lucky and quiet you may be rewarded with the chance to observe the chucao, a small bird with a vivid orange chest and a beautiful song; the namesake for this trail.
After a bit, you’ll reach an opening in the forest which deposits you onto the dunes, and the contrasting panoramic of beaches, sea, and wide-open skies. Wild strawberries grow rampant in this area and nearby there is a rustic overlook where you’ll have a panoramic view of the coast, the Gulf of Corcovado, and in the distance, Las Tres Hermanas, a string of small islands where live sea lions and cormorants abound. Continue along the vague trail to the access road and head left to the beach, which is called La Boca and is the only continental shore of Aysén where you can see the open sea. As you walk along the sand, you’ll feel the sea breezes on your face. There are no lifeguards or bathing areas on this beach, but, if you dare, dip your toes in the water and feel the adrenaline that is sure to hit you – it’s freezing!
At the southern end of the beach you will find the Vivo (Living) Cliffs, so named for their foliage. You can return to town via the shoreline and a vehicular path located at the edge of the forest. The forest will be to your right and the Pitipalena Fjord to the left. Across the fjord, you’ll spot a lighthouse and in the distance, the mountains with their evergreen forests. The fjord is home to many birds, so it is an ideal place for observation and some good photos. Keep a watchful eye on the sea, because when you least expect, austral dolphins, or toninas, as they are locally known, will delight you with their playful swirling, jumps and leaps, near the shore.
The circuit ends in the sector of the pier, and if you are interested, there is a brief side trail that leads to the historic cemetery for Raúl Marín leading off from the right side of the road. Before returning to town, stop once more to take in your surroundings, breathe deep and feel the satisfaction of being in a place so remote, far away from the large buildings and the bustle of the crowded beaches in other parts of the world. For sure, it will be a hike to remember forever.