Introducing Parque Nacional Los Alerces
This collection of spry creeks, verdant mountains and mirror lakes resonates as unadulterated Andes. The real attraction, however, is the alerce tree (Fitzroya cupressoides), one of the longest-living species on the planet, with specimens that have survived up to 4000 years. Lured by the acclaim of well-known parks to the north and south, most hikers miss this gem, which makes your visit here all the more enjoyable.
Resembling California’s giant sequoia, the alerce flourishes in middle Patagonia’s temperate forests, growing only about 1cm every 20 years. Individual specimens of this beautiful tree can reach over 4m in diameter and exceed 60m in height. Like the giant sequoia, it has suffered overexploitation because of its valuable timber. West of Esquel, this 2630-sq-km park protects some of the largest alerce forests that still remain.
Because the Andes are relatively low here, westerly storms deposit nearly 3m of rain annually. The park’s eastern sector, though, is much drier. Winter temperatures average 2°C, but can be much colder. The summer average high reaches 24°C, but evenings are usually cool.
While its wild backcountry supports the seldom-seen huemul (Andean deer) and other wildlife, Los Alerces functions primarily as a trove of botanical riches which characterize the dense Valdivian forest.