Santiago Day Trips: Cajon Del Maipo in Late Autumn

by Stephanie Walsh · 13 comments

in Chile, South America, Travels

Trekking Cajon del Maipo in Autumn, Chile Travel

Ascending gradually up the steep, narrow cliff roads of Cajon del Maipo, or Maipo Canyon, is enough to put anyone on edge, especially when the gravelly ‘roads’ start to turn to icy snow.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Just two hours drive outside of Santiago and you’re standing a few centimeters deep in the fluffy mountain snow of the El Yeso Reservoir; over 3000 meters above sea level. El Yeso is a vast reservoir, about 20km west of the Argentinian border and surrounded by snowy peaks that reach up to 5,000 meters. The route G-455 ends a further 18km from El Yeso at the hot springs, Termas del Plomo which you can see on the map below.

Cajon Del Maipo Map of Routes and Roads

Cajon Del Maipo Map of Routes and Peaks

Driving the G-455 towards El Embalse del Yeso from the entrance at Romeral (~73km from Santiago), is one of the most scenic and impressive drives I’ve experienced so far (though I have yet to take the road from Santiago to Mendoza!). It’s definitely wise to use a car to get here (although we saw a few brave souls struggling to cycle up the snowy roads), especially if you intend to go all the way to the reservoir or hot springs.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

The narrow, winding mountain roads frequently verged on ‘nerve-wracking’, as the dramatic drops to the canyon floor a few hundred meters below caused my heart to jump to my mouth a few times.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Going in late April or early May, the last few hundred meters of the route were already submerged in snow, while strong winds constantly blew falling snowflakes in our eyes. Visibility can be quite low at times so always drive slowly and watch out for cars coming in the opposite direction, making their way back down the mountain.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Honestly, we were completely unprepared for the trip, as we were only invited by Andres’ cousin the previous day. We definitely weren’t expecting snow, or such low temperatures, although Santiago has been getting gradually colder since we arrived.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Luckily that morning, I decided to break in my brand new Merrell walking boots, courtesy of the lovely people at Blacks.co.uk, and they certainly served me well through rain, snow, ice and rock. Like walking on a cloud, albeit a cloud with very good support, my feet were completely comfortable, warm and safe from water during the entire trip.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

What else can you do in Cajon del Maipo?

There are some serious trekking routes in Cajon del Maipo that will take you all the way to the Argentinian border, but you need to be a pretty experienced trekker to attempt some of the trails here. There are lots of local companies who can guide you through the canyon in safety, many of which can be found on the official Cajon del Maipo site (en Español).

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

We saw lots of people white water rafting with GoPro’s stuck to their helmets further down the river, while you can also go canyoning, skiing and horse-riding in various other parts of the canyon. Windsurfing and fishing are also possible in the Yeso Reservoir, although we saw no signs of any water activities in the area. Perhaps it is only during summer months.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

Even in the beginning months of winter, we noticed a lot of people camping in the flatter grounds of the foothills, bearing the damp conditions for the chance to experience some of Chile’s renowned outdoor activities.

Cajon Del Maipo - May 2014

If you do decide to camp in Cajon del Maipo, you’ll never be too far from a hot meal, as the beautiful sleepy town of San José de Maipo is one of the first towns you’ll encounter on your way out of the canyon.

Travel Tip: Don’t eat shrimp empanadas (empanadas de camarónes) while on a snowy mountain, unless you want to feel ill for the next seven days! I learned my lesson! 😛

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angela Travels May 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm

What a beautiful winter hike! Loved your photos and post.
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2 Zara @ Backpack ME May 19, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Nice! We’re also in Santiago and I was researching day trips to take from here when I stumbled upon your post (on Triberr).
This looks really good! So thanks for the tips.. we’ll do this sooner or later! 🙂
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3 Katie - The World on my Necklace May 21, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Rafting in the snow – those people are crazy! Looks beautiful (but cold!). I had heard about the hiking being really good around there so I will definitely check it out when I visit Chile 🙂
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4 Peter June 3, 2014 at 1:50 am

Hi Steph-Andres, Good to see both of you enjoying at Chile and Thanks for giving us such nice pics. I love the pic second from bottom.
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5 Bisbocci Abroad July 1, 2014 at 11:22 am

Hello there!

I’ve just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Find out more about it at the link below:
http://www.bisbocciabroad.com/2014/07/blogger-awards-part-1-versatile-blogger.html#.U7LYzbvLhXA
Hope you accept the award and pass on the blogger love!
Happy travels!

Erika

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6 Best holiday destinations July 19, 2014 at 5:26 am

Amazing place for visit. nice clicks. its seems to be lots of fun. thanks for posting nice views.
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7 April July 23, 2014 at 4:04 am

It must be freezing out there. Well although it’s already in late Autumn, the photos shown how cold that place is and I’m sure that will be an awesome getaway from a hot temperature of tropical places in many countries. Cajon del Maipo looks really very interesting to me especially at this season. Maybe I can experience that soon with the whole family. Thanks for sharing!

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8 Marysia July 27, 2014 at 9:02 am

Looks like a great place which I missed on my stay in Chile! Feel like visiting this great country again!
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9 Arthur August 29, 2014 at 11:12 am

Wow, che posti incantevoli!!!

Ciao, vi ho conosciuto tramite i Nomadi Digitali e… a presto. 🙂

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10 Craig September 16, 2014 at 9:48 am

Looks like an amazing trip, I’d love to visit Chile one day soon; it’s so beautiful
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11 Hung Thai February 13, 2016 at 5:09 pm

The first thing I’ll do is eat a basketful of shrimp empanadas lol. That picture with the lake is epic though! I didn’t think Chile had snow – guess how dumb I feel 🙁
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12 Stephanie Walsh February 18, 2016 at 10:34 am

Hi Hung, thanks for commenting!

Oh yes it has a lot of snow in the winter, in fact it’s famous for its ski resorts and, of course, you have the gorgeous Patagonia region in the south which is covered in snow for a lot of the year. It’s all obvious when we know it. 😉

Thanks!

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