Another Great Hike in Bariloche- Refugio Frey
Refugio Frey is a mountain refuge about a four-hour hike from the tiny tourist town of Catedral. Hikers can bring tents and use the facilities for free (bathroom, water, kitchen, etc), or even buy a proper bed inside the Refugio for about $60 AR which includes dinner. Since we already paid for our room at the hostel, we chose not to stay overnight and just hike up and back down the same day.
To get to the start of the trailhead, we took a 25 minute bus ride from downtown Bariloche to Catedral for $8 AR. It's worth noting that this particular bus only comes once an hour on the :15, so it requires a little more planning than with the other, more frequent busses.
We got on the trail about noon, and followed the spray-painted red markers on rocks and trees. The path was moderately difficult, but super fun and astoundingly beautiful. We wound along Lake Nahuel Huapi, tip-toed over rickety wooden bridges,walked through a forest of sky-scraping trees, down to a bubbling river and then straight uphill through rocky trenches.
By the time we arrived at Refugio Frey the sun was already starting its descent and we had only a couple of hours before sunset. We made the most of them though, and took tons of pictures, chatted up some fellow hikers, ate lunch, and dozed with our feet in the water. Yeah...we pinched ourselves.
Another really cool thing about the Refugio is that cathedral-like peaks completely surround it, so mountain climbers are everywhere. We were almost more nervous than they were as we watched them latch onto the rock face and scramble inside the narrow crevasses that sliced up the mountains. Talk about live entertainment!
Also, a lot of hikers we talked to were doing the full 'Refugio Circuit'. It takes 5 days and stops at all 4 mountain refugios, all with more or less the same facilities. From what we heard, the circuit gets more difficult as it progresses, but is an amazing experience for those who love to hike or just need some peace and quiet.
The time finally came for us to head back into civilization and the hike down took us about 2.5 hours. We hopped on the last bus of the night (9:15pm) and ended our day exhausted, a little sore, but super giddy from our last two days in Bariloche!