This is our favourite camping spot in Radal: it is a high valley, crossed by a crystal-clear stream which downstream becomes Claro river, peaceful, with a delicious flat sandy (yet firm enough to set tent's stakes) averywhere, with lots of excellent hidden camping spots, with water always handy, away from all Parque Inglés' noise, and with stunning views anywhere.
Its name means Valley of the indian, maybe after some ancient Chiquillan indian settlement that would have been established there centuries ago.
They were nomadic and descended from the Andes to the lower valleys in winter, for trading and fight the Incas, who called them purum aukas ("savage enemies").
Just set your tent anywhere: a grassy meadow next to a stream, a sandy patch surrounded by trees on a sand island, or your own "private" beach.
This can be paradise for as long as you want.
Not too many people gets here, mostly because it takes a hike into the "unknown" from the already lovely spot at El Bolsón, and also because the area itself is little or not known by many, which is good.
Even if there is more people camping there, everybody can go unnoticed to each others.
Valle del Indio makes an excellent operations base to explore the Laguna de las Ánimas, Salto and Cajón (canyon) del Indio, and the way up the Guamparo/sillabur range and the pass to Vilches Protection area, some 40 kilometres to the south (see here: ).
There is plenty of firewood (but be careful with open fires), and by night, it can get a bit cold, even in summer, so bring a good sleeping bag and warm clothing.
The hike from the ranger's station is 13-kilometre long, and to be authorised to camp there, you would be asked by the ranger about carrying proper camping gear, and to show it if necessary.
A camping stove is mandatory: without it, permission to camp outside the camping area is denied (this is strictly enforced).
Its co-ordinates are S 35º29'44,9"/W 70º53'00,5" - Alt. 1796 mts. (this is our camping spot, but there are plenty around)
Slightly W of the Laguna de las Ánimas, there is a lower valley called Valle de Tiburcio, with an extraterrestrial landscape of scattered rocks, a slim and tall waterfall and an amazing view anywhere you look.
It's pretty much like being in Mars, if you think of those pictures sent by space probes.
The area a is quite flat mesa, marshy in some places, surrounded by two deep gorges and a couple of steep peaks to the west (although these can be climbed without too much effort in any season, but in winter, bring crampons, an ice axe for self-arresting and get back before the snow gets hard again), and a few streams around the cone that holds the lagoon uphill.
This is an alternate to the latter, in case it has campers and you don't want to see anybody (my case, quite often), or if you simply want to be there.
Build a small stone wall to shelter your tent from the heavy winds (in the morning, it comes from the W, and from the E in the afternoon) that blow twice a day.
Sometimes, firewood left by shepherds is found around: use it with discretion and care.
The place is silent -but for the roaring waterfall- and strange to see.
This is truly an off-the-beaten-path place: a circular lagoon "hanging" in amidst a somewhat martian landscape of vertical cliffs, hidden rivers running through intrincate rocky formations, bright white volcanic "sand" and red ground, and a crystalline, warm water filling the perfect perimeter of the lagoon.
Its name (meaning Lagoon of the Souls, or rather Lagoon of the ghosts) apparently comes from its strange, almost supernatural environment.
Water is good to drink, as it comes naturally filtered through the volcanic stone and the permeable bedrock.
The place is great for wild camping, nights are beyond any description of beauty, and the silence is absolute (with the occasional splish splash from the lagoon's water).
There are 3 ways to get there:
1) Daytrip from CONAF: Leave as early as you can, give notice about your plans at the ranger's office, and bring warm clothing for the trip back. The one-way walk is 17 kilometre-long.
2) Daytrip from Valle del Indio: you can leave by mid-morning, bring lunch and water, and leave some 90 minutes before sunset.
3) Camp there: The best way to fully enjoy the surrounding's beauty, but it takes a heavy climb from the trail to the range's edge. Nevertheless, it is worth the effort. Note that the lagoon is OUTSIDE the CONAF Protection Area, so if you stay there, you are exempt of paying for the days of your stay at the lagoon; you'll be charged for at least one day of hiking up there, and one day back.
The lagoon is located at S 35º29'04,5"/W 70º50'55,1" - Alt. 2264.
The trip from the ranger's station is 17 kilometres, 6 km. from El Bolson, or 4 from Valle del Indio.
Follow the signs marking the route, and do not subestimate the steep climb from the main trail: despite being easy, it can be hard for some people.
There are details on this route in my co-ordinate list for this area (see it in General Tips)
Up into the canyon, there's an array of places to visit from the CONAF camping.
One of them is the El Bolsón shelter at the crossroad of the canyon's main trail and the branch leading to the Colmillo del Diablo.
Depending on your pace, you can get there in a few hours and go there as a daytrip, or planning on staying in it if you don't want to (or can't) set a camp of your own.
The shelter is an A-shaped hut with room enough for up to 10 people, plus a small animal shelter across the trail (which is encouraged not to be used as a toilet, nor a fireplace), wooden floor and nothing else.
If you cook inside, use a camping stove only, and keep one window open to drain the exhaust fumes of it.
Do not take anything from it (there are usually some basic supplies: sugar, spaghettis, coffee, etc.), although if you are in an emergency, there's nothing wrong with using whatever you need.
Bring water, as for the first two hours' trek from CONAF Visitor's Centre, there's none.
If you see clouds when leaving -and despite having a sunny weather- bring a breakwind jacket or something to cover with in case of a sudden shower.
The distance from the Visitor's Centre to the shelter is 11,2 kilometres (7 miles), so leave early.
The shelter's co-ordinates are S 35º29'51,0"/W 70º54'14,2" - Alt. 1681
This natural formation is not handy to Parque Ingles, but rather to one of the lower entrances of the protected area, some 7 kilometres W of the visitor's centre.
It is a series of waterfalls and hanging pools of turquoise water fed by Claro river, that are a favourite with families on weekends and kayak riders.
To get there, you have to pay a full day's entrance fee at the gate, a charge that is valid for any of the other gates to the protected areas.
So keep your tickets, as they are nominative and specify the name of the bearer.
One can either walk, cycle or hitch a ride there and back.
There is another, shorter nature trail, that detaches from the main trail 2 kilometres from the visitor's centre; this is the trail called "La montaña" ('The mountain'), which leads to a scenic hike to one of the smaller peaks that are within sight of Parque Inglés.
The round trip takes about 4 hours, there is no water en route, and the detour is clearly signposted.
These are the co-ordinates for the trailhead: S 35º28'50,5"/W 70º57'28,2" - altitude 1248
If venturing into the valley, you cannot miss the Colmillo del Diablo (Devil's fang), an impressive rock outcrop due north of El Bolsón shelter.
It is possible to take a walk for the day there from the visitor`s centre, although camping is a much better idea, as the area is really nice, with a continuous patch of grass that leads to think in a well maintained garden rather than in a wilderness area, crossed by crystalline water streams and with the shelter handy just in case.
Around midnight, flashes of light can be seen to the east: they are the lightnings from storms in the Argentinean pampa, across the Andes.
These are the co-ordinates for the canyon´s entrance: S35º29'51,0"/W 70º54'14,2" - altitude 1681
From here, is just a 20-minute walk to the base of Colmillo del Diablo