As soon as its steel beams spanned the Chacabuco River, the new Berkley Footbridge began its career as an enabler of outdoor adventure. Begun less than a year ago, this bridge now allows hikers to access easily the north side of the Chacabuco Valley from the main road. Before this season, you had to either bring a boat with you to cross the river, or engage in a serious soggy wading/ swimming situation. A gift from our dear friend and outdoor enthusiast Forrest Berkley, the footbridge spans the Chacabuco River about a half-hour’s drive east from the park headquarters.
For the first time, exploring the spectacular mountains and valleys in this area of the park has become a viable and exciting option for a wide range of visitors. Although some stonework remains, the bridge has seen substantial foot traffic throughout the summer.
At the point where the bridge spans the Chacabuco River, the river’s main channel runs close to the southern edge of the valley. However, the glacially-formed riverbed extends for another kilometer or so to the north, forming a wide, gravelly plain. The Aviles Valley begins directly across this plain from the Berkley Bridge.
The thirty-ish kilometer long Aviles Valley offers some of the future park’s mostspectacular hiking and connects the Chacabuco Valley to the Jeinimeni Mountains/ Lago Jeinimeni. Luigi Solis, head of trail construction, says this valley is his favorite part of the park. In the next couple years, we’ll formalize the horse track that now runs up the valley, granting spectacular views of Cerro Pintado, called “painted” for its bright red color, of the blue glacier-fed Aviles stream, and of the snowy Jeinimeni mountains. The first section of the hike up the valley runs along perfectly flat grassy plateaus, remnants of the area’s glacial past. The unusual and almost comical topography leaves you eager to learn more about the geological history of this region—or play a soccer game on the level plateaus.
Before the summer’s over, we’re expecting more explorations and fun hikes to begin at the Berkley Bridge.