San Clemente Travel Guide

  • Forest deep on Valle del Venado
    Forest deep on Valle del Venado
    by Glospi
  • Cerro Peine in fall
    Cerro Peine in fall
    by Glospi
  • My tent at night on Conejo junction camp
    My tent at night on Conejo junction camp
    by Glospi

San Clemente Things to Do

  • Autumn colors, hidden lakes and UFO...

    As I said before, autumn season’s colors in Altos de Lircay is an unforgettable sight, but there are at least other two places of interest within close distance from the main trail: the Laguna del Alto (High lagoon), a small lake at the bottom of a very ancient dead volcano crater, and the Empedrado, a natural plain formation of rocks with a...

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  • The Empedrado UFO parking

    The Empedrado, a natural flat formation of rocks on top of a hill with a “design” reminding of a tumbled down brick wall. It is purported as an UFO landing pad, but it’s not so unusual in this geography, and is of natural origin. Both Empedrado and Laguna del Alto are quite eerie and barren, so don’t count on seeing too much wildlife or woods...

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San Clemente Restaurants

  • by Glospi Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The main appeal of the restaurants in the Alto (Upper) Vilches area, is its proximity to Altos de Lircay park, and the possibility to stop at them after a cold winter's afternoon walking the mountains, or in summer after spending the day in the river. Entering them and feeling the warm atmosphere while outside gets colder and the winter night falls over the mountain, is a relieving feel, just as relieving as sitting down outside in summer, sipping a cold drink.

    Favorite Dish: Empanadas (see photo), pastel de choclo (maize stew, a god's delicacy), an excellent selection for hungry mountaineers coming back from -or going to- some of the nearby peaks, or after doing heavy winter trekking or randonee skiing, and looking for a highly caloric meal.
    Also, apple pies and kuchens (sorta of apple pie in German version, but in several other flavours), together with honey and natural juices.

    Empanadas in Alto Vilches
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Mountain Climbing

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San Clemente Nightlife

  • by Glospi Updated Oct 28, 2003

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    As you may have figured, there’s no conventional nightlife in this park...but there is some of it anyway.
    Besides the exhilarating sight of the Universe on a moonless night and the pictures you can take in that conditions, when there’s moonlight it is possible to do amazing night walks into the valley, since the path is quite clearly visible and there is no risk of falling into a crevasse; in winter, doing the same thing on moonlit snow is a pleasure beyond any description (but wear warm clothing...)
    Also, observation of the nightly wildlife (foxes, owls, tucuqueres –this is, giant owls- etc.) is rewarding and amazing as well, since most animals here are not afraid of people.

    Picture taken with Nikon FM2N, Nikkor 20 mm., f. 8, 140 minutes, Kodak Ektachrome EPP 100 Professional slide film

    Dress Code: If doing bushwalking in winter: warm clothing, of course...

    My tent at night on Conejo junction camp
    Related to:
    • Mountain Climbing
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park

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San Clemente Transportation

  • by Glospi Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    To get to Altos de Lircay, you should get to Talca first and then take a rural bus, which departs from the same main bus terminal as long distances buses do, but from simpler aisles across the arrival tarmac.
    Those are the BUSES VILCHES, leaving for Vilches at 0700 and 1230 daily, and returning from Vilches at 0715 and 1715. In summer, there is an extra service at 1815, both ways.
    Ticket cost $ 1100 (US$ 1,70), and the trip takes 3 hours. The buses arrive at the Old Vilches Hotel (not functioning anymore), in front of the visitor's centre. From there, you should walk 2 kilometres to the east to get to the ranger's office.
    The bus office staff in Talca speaks Spanish only.

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San Clemente Local Customs

  • by Glospi Updated Oct 26, 2003

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    The entire area of the park is spotted with centuries-old Mapuche sites and cemeteries; these are found mainly in the cerro Peine area and in a zone known as Quebrada del Milico (Soldier's creek). The remains are just beginning to be studied, because they were discovered just months ago, so be extremely careful if you visit them. Remains of shelters and burial pits are on the path side, quite visible indeed.
    Remember that taking any piece of archaeological interest is a crime in Chile, and is subject to jail penalties and heavy fines.

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San Clemente Warnings and Dangers

  • by Glospi Updated Oct 26, 2003

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    Provided that you are just trekking -not climbing- in high winter there is one danger: deep snow and cold. Always notify the ranger of your intended route, and NEVER try to climb cerro Peine -otherwise a simple trek route- without crampons and proper equipment, as ice forms from early fall.
    Also, check with the ranger the current conditions of rio Lircay, which in springtime or after heavy rains, swells noticeably within hours, leaving people venturing beyond it, isolated. In these cases, a rescue group may look for you after your intended return date has expired. In extreme cases, an helicopter is sent to look for stranded people.
    In winter, temperatures fall easily into the -20ºC, so bring proper clothing and camping gear. Climbing the Sillabur range means to take a topo map, compass, GPS and, ideally, a VHF radio.

    Cerro Peine in fall
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Mountain Climbing
    • Hiking and Walking

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San Clemente What to Pack

  • by Glospi Updated Oct 28, 2003

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    Luggage and bags: Internal frame pack, 30-litre daypack, dry-gear bag (in winter)

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: In summer:
    Trekking boots, light trekking pants, T-shirts, hat, bathing suit, sandals
    In fall/winter (April-early October)
    Gore-tex hiking boots and parka, fleece pants and jacket, gloves, fleece balaclava.
    Bear in mind that Altos de Lircay is a mountain park, so it is subject to mountain meteorological conditions.

    Photo Equipment: A mechanical camera (preferably), lenses (wide angle, telephoto not over 200 mm.), polarizing filter, 25A filter and K2 filter (for B/W), shutter release, a small and lightweight tripod (can be replaced w/a couple of stones) lots of film.
    Recommended films: Fujichrome (for mornings), Ektachrome (for afternoons and autumn foliage)

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: 3 or 4-season tent, sleeping bag and pad, camping stove, enough fuel (campfires are forbidden into the park compound), headlamp, racking plates or randonnee/telemark skis are necessary for wintertime trekking deep into the valley. If attempting any summit, add plastic mountaineering boots, crampons, ice axe, etc.

    Miscellaneous: High factor sunblock, GPS, compass, VHF radio, topo map of the area, walking stick/ski poles, sunglasses, bag to take your litter back, candles, enough food for your intended stay +1 extra ration (at least) per person (there’s nowhere to buy groceries inside the park)

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Mountain Climbing

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San Clemente Off The Beaten Path

  • by Glospi Updated Oct 28, 2003

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    EVERYTHING is off the beaten path here...this said, there are two main interest areas:
    1) The Sillabur range: a 3 to 4-day trekking journey can be done along this inner range, up to the valley of Claro river, some 40 kilometres to the north; there’s a more or less marked path, which in winter and early springtime disappears from sight, although the future track of Sendero de Chile will include landmarks to help mountaineers to find their way. This trek ends in Valle del Indio, in the upper reaches of Siete Tazas National Park.
    The best season to do it is late winter and springtime. It is a heavy trek, but does not require special mountaineering skills.
    2) Descabezado Grande (Big Headless) volcano: Further east into the valley, and bordering Argentina, this impressive volcano can be easily climbed, and is accessible thru the park. Radio-equipped ranger’s huts are on the way, but total autonomy and experience in snow and glacier journeys –if attempted in winter- is needed. In summer, it’s just a climb on loose scree. Total journey time can be 4 to 7 days.
    Always ask for directions with the ranger –a high altitude mountaineer himself - and besides the standard gear, take a GPS (ideally), topo map and compass for both ventures.

    Photo made with Nikon FM2N, 80-200 f.2,8 Nikkor @ f.8-11, 1/60, POL filter, Kodak Ektachrome EPP 100 Professional slide film

    Km. 14 of the trail leading to Descabezado volcano
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    • Hiking and Walking
    • Mountain Climbing

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San Clemente Favorites

  • by Glospi Updated Oct 28, 2003

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    Favorite thing: No shops are available inside the park, so bring everything you may need. Cell phones have limited coverage in certain areas around km. 11. Water from all streams is safe to drink (no minerals nor germs in it).
    No dogs, motorcycles or campfires are allowed in.
    Horses can be rented at the several shops and houses around the entrance of the park.
    The Sendero de Chile is a huge government project aimed to create a walking-only trek route along all Chile, and one of its first enabled tracks, is right here; it has a signposted, regular track, dotted with rustic shelters and bridges along it, and has clear indications where the path is not marked to protect the ground and vegetal layers.
    The cost of the daily entrance ticket for Altos de Lircay park is $ 1300 (US$ 2), children under 12 pay $650 (US$1). These prices are the same for both Chileans and foreigners.
    Mountaineers with registration card enter for free.

    Photo taken with Nikon FM2N, 80-200 Nikkor f.2,8 @ f.4, 1/30 sec., POL filter, Kodak Ektachrome EPP 100 Professional slide film

    Fondest memory: Feeling the cold afternoon air, just before the sunset, is soothing and makes feel anybody's spirit in peace. No aggressive noises, no fumes, no people: just seeing the afternoon turn into dusk and then into cold night.
    The scent of the ground, the color of the light, the almost unreal silence of the woods broken only by the knocking of woodpeckers, heals any soul wound.

    The road  leading to the park entrance
    Related to:
    • Mountain Climbing
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park

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