The natural beauty of Southern Chile is undeniable, from the dramatic scenery of Torres del Paine, to the raw intensity of Villarrica's Volcano, to the quaint authenticity of Chiloe's small towns. However, these tourist destinations are already overshadowed by the hordes of foreigners trying to soak in the beauty of the South. While this also holds true for the majority of southern trekking hotspots, there remains one trek untouched by the backpacking tourism industry: Cabo Froward.
Photo by Lindsay Apperson
Also nicknamed "El Fin del Mundo," Cabo Froward is a trek along the coast of Peninsula Brunswick, the southernmost tip of continental South America. Apart from a single hostel that can only be reached by boat, the coastline is completely uninhabited, making it an ideal place for a more solitary trekking option. The trek allows for incredible vistas of Tierra del Fuego and Isla Dawson, opportunities to see penguins and dolphins incredibly close to shore, and a more intimate connection with the surrounding nature.
Photo by Hunter Conrad
The trek typically takes 5 days and 4 nights, making it a perfect addition to any trekker's southern adventure. While there is a bus that runs most days out of Punta Arenas to Río Santa Maria, the easiest way to travel to the trailhead and back is by hitchhiking. Catch a ride out of Punta Arenas towards Fuerte Bulnes and then hitch back to Punta Arenas after completing the trek. Now readers, before you freak out, know that the south of Chile rates as one of the safest places in the world to hitchhike, and it is also a great opportunity to experience the genuine warmth of southern Chileans.
One thing to keep in mind: this trek is not recommended for beginners. It includes river crossings where you have to carry your packs above your head, extreme weather conditions of blustery wind and downpours, and slippery reef crossings that are even harder with the additional weight of a backpack. Be prepared for perpetually damp shoes and socks, frequent stops to add or shed a layer and gusts of wind that can (and will) knock you off your feet. This is not meant to deter potential trekkers from taking on this amazing feat, but it is worthy information to know ahead of time.
Even with the soggy feet and bone-chilling cold, Cabo Froward is an unbelievable trek that can give a trekker's Chilean experience a touch of southern authenticity. It is calm and serene while violent and harsh, mentally stimulating while physically draining, and full of life, color and beauty while hidden behind a mask of isolation and desolation.
Unique in this world, Cabo Froward is unforgettable to all its worthy venturers.
Getting to the trailhead:
Start in Punta Arenas and find your way to Ruta 9 and start heading south. There is a bus that runs south every day except for Tuesdays and Sundays that will drop you off at Río Santa Maria. Once you are there, keep walking south towards the trailhead. If buses are not your thing, it is also typically easy to hitchhike from Ruta 9 with cars heading south. Disclaimer: Revolver Santiago Magazine assumes no responsibility for hitchhiking misadventures.
What to bring:
Apart from your normal backpacking gear, make sure to bring waterproof layers (from head to toe), and at least two complete sets of clothes (one for hiking that will probably get wet and another for wearing around the campsites). Bring a map of the Cabo Froward trek and tide charts to see the best times to cross the rivers. Finally, a piece of chocolate a day is always a great morale boost after a long day of hiking.
For more information, check out:
Address: Manuel Baquedano 719, Puerto Natales, Magallanes
Phone Number: 61414217
Erratic Rock is a great resource for more information about Cabo Froward. While it offers a guided group trek, the owners are also incredibly nice and are happy to provide the information you need to take the trek without a guided tour.