La Campana National Park

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This weekend while my mother was away, my brother, my dad and I decided to take a trip to one of the national parks close to Valparaiso. With plans for an early start in the morning we went to bed on Friday night. However by 10:00 the following morning we were still searching for our hiking boots, filling water bottles, and researching the best way to travel the nearly 60 kilometers to the national park. Finally, after an hour or more of preparation we left around 11:00 with only a vague idea of how to get where we were headed.

We walked down to the metro and bought tickets to the very last station, Limache. After turning inland at the popular vacation destination next to Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, the metro emerged from the concrete urban tunnels to show us the dry and hilly Chilean landscape dotted with small villages. Inside the metro, there are always a busy few vendors who walk up and down the cars selling everything from fresh fruit to flash drives. Once we stepped off the metro at the last station in Limache we asked for directions to Olmué, the town closest to the base of La Campana. We hurried out with the crowd and entered the warm friendly city of Limache. We found the bus to Olmué easily enough, but we were unsure if La Campana was the final destination.

By the time we reached the center of Olmué we were faced with a decision, either stay on the bus despite not knowing its final destination or get off and walk the rest of the way. My father decided for us that we should get off of the bus, but after checking a map we saw that we still had more than five kilometers to go, and it was already well past noon. On my insistence we flagged down another bus and the driver asked where we were headed. We were informed that we must walk a short ways from where we were dropped off up the hill to the national park. An old lady who got off with us was helpful in pointing us in the right direction. No more than twenty minutes later we finally arrived at the entrance to the park.

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Picture credit to Macca Sherifi, check out his blog for some great information.

The most popular hike led to the peak of Cerro la Campana which offers views of both the Andes Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean. However we were much too late to attempt that hike as it is around four hours to the summit. Instead we decided to explore a loop through the woods with signs explaining the wildlife. Before the trek we stopped in a nice shaded picnic area to have our lunch. We wandered up to the loop and after a comfortable hour of walking we had seen enough of the lower parts of the park. One of the most entertaining parts of hiking in Chile for me has been watching and chasing after all of the various types of lizards that populate the rocks and trails.

As we headed down we stopped to wait at the bus stop. I was joking to my father about hitchhiking because we hadn’t seen a bus in a while when a car pulled up and a middle aged women offered us a ride down to the center of Olmué. After that act of kindness it was easy to catch the next bus back to Limache, hop on the next train and within an hour or two we were back in our apartment in Valparaiso. From the little we saw of the park it looked beautiful and provided a great day trip to get out of the busy city. We definitely plan to make a trip to the summit one of these upcoming weekends, and we recommend La Campana to anyone visiting Santiago or Valparaíso and looking to get out of the city for a day.

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