Cerro Provincia is a great peak to add to your Santiago-bucket-hiking list. While currently in the midst of COVID and the ever-changing rules about where you can go, this is a great full day hike you can do where you feel you are in the middle of nowhere, yet you are still in RM Santiago. (Note: We did this hike mid-December 2020.)
Doable in a day it requires a good fitness level, hiking boots and sticks. The peak stands at 2,750m, you start at about 800m or so, so you do climb 2,000 metres in four hours.
We started out at 5:30 a.m. to avoid the heat and were hiking by 6 a.m. from Puente Nilhue. There is an office where you can sign in and pay the day fee. When went it wasn’t staffed but the trail and parking is still accessible.
The first thing you are faced with is climbing over a huge rock by hanging onto a chain that’s been anchored into the side. Don’t worry, this is the only section involving a chain. At about 500 m you come to a slight fork where the trail curves around the hill to the left, take the path to the right. There are some signs marking off the metres and also some large posts with yellow stripes so keep watch for them. You go up slowly and then it gets quite steep and remains so until you reach Alto Naranjo and The Big Tree for breakfast. You really can’t miss The Big Tree and it is a gorgeous shady spot for a rest and view out over the Andes. (If you only have half a day Alto Naranjo also makes for a great day hike.)
After breakfast at The Big Tree it flattens out for about a kilometre and we had great views out over the escarpment and down to Santiago on the right. We also walked through a large horde of buzzing cicadas. After that you go up to a steep peak and then walk along the ridge which is up up up all the way.
It flattens out ever so slightly again right before you zig zag up a rocky section, which does look like you will never get to the top. This section takes about two hours. At the top you have to climb and scramble through some rock faces twice and then after a couple hundred metres you are on the flat smooth top.
At the top you have great views by the flag and if you go down a bit past the flag you can see the dome-shaped refugio which you can sleep in but remember temperatures drop at night so if you do camp out you will need gear for freezing temperatures and sufficient water is key. We made it to the top by 12:30 p.m. and enjoyed a great lunch and were also joined by some lizards.
The partial eclipse was happening that day too and a friend packed eclipse glasses for us to share. It made it nice and cool at the top for mid-day which was a real treat because after the eclipse it was boiling.
Views of the city as we go down, eclipse watching.
We arrived back to the car around 5 p.m. The last hour was really tiring as the going down can be hard on the knees and toes! I did end up with a massive blister on my toe which was a first for me in a long time.
I had been groaning about the 5:30 a.m. start but in the end I was glad we did as it was very hot even in mid-December so the earlier you go the better.
What to pack
- at least 3 litres of water
- breakfast, lunch and sweet snacks
- ibuprofen for altitude
- sticks and hiking boots