Introducing Parque Nacional Chiloé
Running back from the pounding Pacific coastline, and over extensive stands of native evergreen forest, the 430-sq-km Parque Nacional Chiloé is located only 30km west of Chonchi and 54km west of Castro. The park teems with Chilote wildlife, ranging from 110 different types of bird, to foxes and the reclusive pudú (the world's smallest deer), which inhabits the shadowy forests of the contorted tepú tree. Within the park and situated along the eastern perimeter are a number of Huilliche indigenous communities, some of which are involved with the management of campsites within the park.
The park comprises three sections. The northern sector is called Chepu and includes Isla Metalqui (and its sea-lion colony) and is not truly accessible without a machete and a pioneering spirit. In addition, Metalqui is highly restricted because of ecological concerns and can only be visited with special arrangements from the parks service. The middle sector, Abtao, is restricted by Conaf and accessible only by an 18km hike from the Pichihué property. The more accessible southern sector, Chanquín, contains the majority of the eight official hikes in the park, ranging from quick jaunts to 25km slogs.
Visitors are at the mercy of Pacific storms, so expect lots of rain. The mean annual rainfall at Cucao is 2200mm, and anyone planning more than an hour-long walk should have water-resistant footwear, woolen socks and a decent rain jacket. Insect repellent is not a bad idea, either. There is a Conaf visitor center 1km past the bridge from Cucao. The center covers flora and fauna extensively and it also houses a small museum.
Cucao is your last chance to pick up supplies, although you will find better prices and wider selections in Chonchi or Castro.