Gallivanting with the Grinch: Exploring El Morado National Park

Wish lists, fake trees and stores overflowing with red and green tinsel since late September have seemingly transformed Christmas from a holiday to an entire season of materialistic joy. While everyone has a little Christmas cheer in their hearts, the celebration’s overwhelming presence can turn almost anyone into the Grinch. Fortunately, just as the Dr. Seuss character escaped by hiding on a rocky summit, anyone can venture to El Morado National Park to disappear near identical mountaintops.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Christine Loftus

Located in the farthest reaches of Cajon de Maipo, the park features numerous peaks remote enough to host a Grinch or any other jingle-phobe. Although inexperienced hikers cannot safely reach the summit of this mountain, they can still enjoy stunning views of the peak and a tamer trek through the adjoining meadows.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Christine Loftus

This tranquil route begins with a slight climb from the town of Baños Morales into the fields beneath the mountain peaks. About three kilometers and hundreds of stunning views later, hikers will arrive at Laguna el Morado. While some may be tempted to continue onward without stopping, the irresistible vistas make it an excellent spot to pause and snack. Eventually, however, all must tear themselves away and continue until reaching the San Francisco Glacier, roughly a kilometer later.

After fully absorbing this natural wonder only a few hours from Santiago, all but the most experienced hikers must return to Baños Morales.

With the only return bus departing the town at 6:00 PM, day-trippers will have some time to relax in Baños Morales before returning to Santiago. Some may choose to simply sip NesCafe in one of the tiny restaurants near the park’s gates, but others can continue a few more yards down the road to arrive at the hot springs from which the town got its name.

The putrid, dull-green waters seem repulsive at first, emitting an odor of rotten eggs and garbage. Yet, the warm liquid still proves to be the perfect remedy for overtired muscles after a long trek as long as guests plug their noses.

Likewise, a visit to El Morado National Park can cure any disillusionment with the holiday season. While relaxing amid Andean peaks with loved ones, the consumerism of the season seems slightly less overbearing and the celebrations more enjoyable. In the words of the Grinch himself, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.”

El Morado National Park
Open: October-April
Price: CP$1500 or US$2.85
Baños Morales, Chile

How to get to the park: Take the bus from Metro Bellavista de la Florida at 8:30 AM; CP$3000
How to return: Take the return bus at 6:00PM; CP$3000

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