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How to find the “Hidden” Glacier El Morado in Chile

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Finding the
Another week, another glacier! 😛
This week though, I won’t be covering a glacier down near the infamous ice fields of Patagonia, but rather one right outside of my beloved Santiago!
The hike to Glacier Colgante El Morado, also known as the “Hidden Glacier,” in Cajón del Maipo has definitely been one of my favorites to date! It’s not too far outside of metropolitan Santiago, but feels as though it’s worlds away and boasts some pretty drool-worthy scenery!
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I’ve done this trek twice now. Once, on my own in March, after I first moved to Chile, while my friend Nick was visiting from the States. And the second time, I went with some Chilean friends on a paid-for, guided tour in November. So, now after two times successfully conquering this trail, I’d like to think I’m somewhat of an expert qualified to share some of my findings! 😀
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The trek to the glacier isn’t particularly challenging, technical, or even strenuous, but there is a catch. The hardest part of the hike is first finding where the route begins!

Why all the confusion?

Apparently the trek to Glacier El Morado is often confused with another more popular route to a different glacier. Glacier San Francisco, which is located within a park called, El Monumento Natural el Morado is regularly wrongly referred to as “Glacier El Morado.” Can you see where the confusion comes in? As the route to Glacier San Francisco is better known and way more advertised, it’s pretty easy to be mistaken.
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Glacier El Morado
The “Hidden” Glacier El Morado is notoriously difficult to find information on and is damn confusing to figure out. The route to this glacier is pretty unknown to tourists (and some locals) and has become a sort of secret shared between those who find it, giving its nickname.
Well, sorry to say- but I’m spilling the beans. I’ve had several readers contact me for information on how to find this magnificent glacier, and it just doesn’t feel right to keep it all to myself.
When I did this hike on my own, I researched and researched online (all information was mostly in Spanish) and tried to distinguish between the two different routes to these two very distinct glaciers. I eventually succumbed to pestering multiple local-hiker-friends and finally got the gist, deciding to just go for it. Well, we found it, but not without some bumps (quite literally) in the road. So, the point of this post is to share what I found, and if you’re going to attempt this trek, hopefully make your life a little easier!
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So, how do you find Glacier El Morado?

Guided Hikes to Glacier El Morado

If you are worried about getting lost, or a newbie to the world of hiking, there are several companies with guided hikes available, such as Montaña Nativa. The only downside is that they are ex-pen-sive. Seriously, I was extremely surprised just how expensive they were. But hey, if you have the budget, or are just looking for a safer bet, take this route. No shame!
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Do it Yourself

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, or simply broke as a joke like I am, this hike is totally doable without a guide. I guess it is a bit more risky though, so I recommend going in a group and not attempting this trail on your own!
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How to get there

Unfortunately, there is no public transportation that will take you far enough to begin this hike. I’d suggest taking or renting a car with 4-wheel-drive, as the sad-excuse-for-a-road that leads to the start of this hike is a bit rough for your average sedan. If you’re looking for somewhere to rent a car in Santiago, try Chilean-Rent-A-Car! They’re very reasonably priced and I’ve used them many times- I highly recommend them! 
*Note: We rented a tiny Toyota Camry and ended up having to park a ways down the road, as we were afraid to take it any further, and walk to the “true start” of the hike. This added about an hour to the trail- but again- doable.
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Directions

It turns out that finding the start of the hike really wasn’t so bad. You may not be able to plug the location into a GPS or find it on GoogleMaps, but with a little push in the right direction, you should find it no problem!
So, I’m going to try my best here…
From Santiago take G-25 or Camino Al Volcán from Puente Alto in the direction of Cajón del Maipo. Pass through San Gabriel and continue on towards Baños Morales. Stay on the main road past Baños Morales (do not get confused and turn into the town) towards Termas Valle de Colina. Soon after Baños Morales the paved road will turn to a gravel path in pretty good condition and still suitable for most cars. After some time you will come to a fork in the road. Stay left towards the mine, Mina Yesera (see photo below). You will eventually come to a small parking lot at the base of the mine, where depending on what type of car you have and weather conditions, you can stop and continue by foot. If you feel comfortable, you can continue on and there will be another small space, able to fit several cars, further down the road. (See below)

 

The Fork in the Road
The Parking Lot Near the Mine
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The Start of the Trail

Route Information

Length of Hike from Start to Finish

~3-4 Hours one way (depending on where you park and your speed)

Price to Enter

Free! Unlike many hikes in and around the Santiago Metropolitan Region, there is no fee to enter this area, which is awesome!
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When to go

Chilean Spring & Summer– October to May. It is possible in October and November that there will be some snow on the trail, making it a bit more difficult to navigate.

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The Trail in November

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The Route

Depending on weather conditions, the route to Glacier El Morado is not always the easiest to follow. There is a definite easy-to-follow, trail in the beginning, but if there is snow on the ground, it will eventually become harder to find. The trail will take you through a valley, lined by mountains on both sides, and along a river. Once you go up the first area of incline, you will come to a rocky straightaway and the glacier will be over another incline on your left. (This is where we got confused the first time. Luckily, we were eventually able to find it.)

 The Trail in the beginning.
The Trail in the beginning.
The Last Hump to the Lagoon with the Glacier
Brave the mysterious hidden trail, and you will be rewarded! Say hello to the Hidden El Morado Glacier!
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**Notes

  • This is not a circular route, after the glacier you must turn around and head back the way you came. Some parts of the path are not clearly marked, but it is pretty easy to find the general direction.
  • Bring along plenty of food and water as there will not be many places to stop along the way. Once you pass the few little “bodegas” along the road closer to the towns, there is nothing but nature! 😀
  • Bring layers as the temperatures in Cajón del Maipo can change in an instant. It started warm and sunny and then snowed on my first hike! I wish I had brought gloves!
  • Wear Hiking Boots! Even though this trail isn’t too demanding, hiking boots are a good idea!
  • I suggest avoiding this route during the winter months as the weather in Cajón is very unpredictable and the path could get treacherous!

Well, for those readers out there that requested more information, I hope my descriptions and photos can clear up some of the confusion! Unfortunately, I can’t reveal all of the secrets about finding El Morado as figuring it out is half the fun!
Disclaimer: This blog post is meant to be used for informational purposes only and is written from my own personal experience. Lauren on Location will not assume any responsibility for those who attempt this trail.
Would you attempt this trail? Have you ever seen a glacier up close? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 😀
Liked this post? Don’t forget to PIN IT and save it for later! How to Find the Hidden El Morado Glacier outside of Santiago


Welcome to Wanderful Wednesdays!
Consider yourself a wanderer?! Well then, this Blog Hop is for you!
Meet your hosts: Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.
Here on Wanderful Wednesday we hope to promote an open and supportive community for like-minded bloggers- expats, travelers and all kinds of wanderers!
The linkup will take place every Wednesday at 8AM GMT.
Wanderful Wednesday Guidelines:
  1. Link up a wanderful travel related post below! One per blogger per week please!
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You can also pin your post to our new Pinterest Board! Let me know if you’d like the invite.
This week I’m highlighting Exploring Karlin District Prague by Sarah at Endless Distances! Some of my best travel memories are from those days I put aside the plans and simply let myself wander. There’s something oh so special about travel spontaneity. If you haven’t already, be sure to go check out Sarah’s post for some inspiration and spread the love! Thanks for linking up with us Sarah! 😀
Happy Hopping Friends!! 😀