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Cerro Manquehue: A steep scramble above Santiago

Updated: Dec 28, 2023


Cerro Manquehue Summit, Santiago, Chile

While southern Chile gets all the press as a hiking mecca (it is Patagonia after all), there are still great options near urban locales like Santiago, providing a way to escape that hustle and bustle. Cerro Manquehue is one such option, located just outside downtown Santiago. Be warned, this is a dusty and steep trail, but reach the top and you will be treated with beautiful views of the city and beyond.

 

Trail Info

Cerro Manquehue Trail Information Table

Know before you go

  • Expect it to be smoggy. Because of Santiago's location in the valley and the heavy automobile traffic, pollution doesn't disperse well, so the city is often shrouded in a layer of smog. It's best to go after a rain which can help minimize the smog.

  • The trail is dusty and slippery. Most of the trail is dirt with some loose rock which makes for a slippery ascent and descent. A little bit of rain can actually help make the dirt less slippery, but expect to be using your balance on this hike.

  • Getting to the trailhead is a bit tricky. The trailhead is located up the windy Via Roja in a residential neighborhood. If you have a car, this is the best option as you can simply drive park along the shoulder of the road by the trailhead. The next best option would be via ride share app. Bus stops, unfortunately drop off quite far from the trailhead, so unless you want to add some distance to your hike I'd advise against it

  • Trail navigation isn't totally straightforward but manageable. The trail did have markers throughout, but I occasionally found myself going off the main trail. It is unlikely you will get lost as your destination is visible and the trail is well-trafficked.

Alternate trails and starting points

  • There are additional routes to reach Cerro Manquehue including a trailhead near the Manquehue Golf Club. However, this route is a bit longer, requires more elevation gain, and is farther from downtown Santiago.

  • Cerro Manquehuito starts at the same trailhead but is a less strenuous option (2 miles / 3.2 km and 850 ft / 260 m of elevation gain) and offers similar views


 


The Trail


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

If you drove, this is what your parking options will look like. Finding the trailhead is easy, just go down to the opening in the fence.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

You will actually walk for a few minutes on the trail before you hit an information station, with includes signs about the trail and area. This map, helps orient us as to where the trail will lead.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

And we're off! The first surprise of the hike was coming across some wild horses. Nothing to worry about as they kept to themselves but it's not something you see on hikes in the U.S.!


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

The first part of the trail is tame with only a gradual elevation gain. As mentioned, it is possible to get off the main path. The trail has some signs and markers, but they aren't frequent or consistent. There's also some tempting side trails that appear. I however, felt that even if I went off the "main path" I'd end up looping back to it pretty quickly. Overall, I'd say the risk of getting lost is pretty low.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

And if you do somehow get turned around, just keep your eye on the prize. That towering peak is Cerro Manquehue. We will be ascending up the right side of it. I hope you're ready for some cardio.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

This is a shot of the alternate hike you could do, Cerro Manquehuito. It follows the same path initially before splitting near this location. But if you're ready to dial up the intensity, veer left for Manquehue.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

And what a climb it is! A quick glance at the elevation profile and you'll see you're averaging a 40% grade (over 1000 ft per half mile or around 380 meters per km). That is STEEP! Not only that, but the trail is tricky. When it's dry, the dirt is slick, especially on the way down. So just take your time and turn around every so often to get a glimpse of these views.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

An upwards facing perspective. The ascent feels like it never ends. Be warned, there are a few false summits as well. So don't lose that momentum and just keep climbing.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

You will see few markers on the way up that help you navigate to the easiest path. But overall, it's easy to stay on trail during the climb.


Cerro Manquehue Trail, Santiago, Chile

After the challenging climb, the trail will flatten out a bit, but keep going so you can get to the true summit.


Cerro Manquehue Summit, Santiago, Chile

And here it is, Cerro Manquehue! A bit hazy as expected, but I could still see pretty far west to the coast. My girlfriend and I had enjoyed some nice Chilean wine somewhere out there just the day before.


Cerro Manquehue Summit, Santiago, Chile

And looking east you can see some of the larger mountains in the area. Even in that haze, the height of these nearby peaks was impressive.


Cerro Manquehue Summit, Santiago, Chile

For a trail right on the edge of the Santiago, this hike has everything you can ask for-- a physical challenge, great views, and even some wildlife. Now it's time to get back down to Santiago for some delicious cuisine!


 

SS Hot Takes

Whenever I travel abroad, I always feel the draw of visiting a major metropolitan area. There's always some good history, great food, and you can get a cosmopolitan experience through the lens of a different culture. But it only takes a few days for me to grow tired of the city vibes and be itching to get out on a trail.


Which is why, when I discovered a trail like this so close to the city, I was thrilled. A short yet challenging climb that gave a great perspective of the area. I think it's a lesson to myself that no matter where in the world I am, I'll always be finding a way to get to that next summit.



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