For the end of our road trip through the Quebreda Las Conchas we chose something special in Cafayate. We just wanted to see something green again, after the last days we only saw a lot of red-brown and gray when looking out of the window. Which was of course nevertheless beautiful to look at. When we discovered the hike along the Rio Colorado in our guidebook, we didn’t really know what to expect.
We had neither seen pictures nor did we know exactly where the hike begins. So with not knowing what to expect we went to the presumed starting point of the hike at the Rio Colorado and wondered how much water this river would carry in this dry region. At the end of the hike we were not only totally exhausted, but also totally overwhelmed by the almost paradisiacal nature at the Rio Colorado.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Facts about the Hike in Cafayate
The Parking Lot
You have to drive about 6 km from the center of Cafayate towards the mountains, directly to a small campsite where there is a paid parking lot. We paid a “voluntary” fee for parking of 100 ARS (2€). You will find the parking lot at the end of a very long gravel road.
In addition to the 100 ARS for parking, the two of us had to pay 150 ARS (3€) for the entrance fee. Divided into 100 ARS and 50 ARS. For that you get toilets, hot water, information about the hike and you are registered at the entrance with your name, phone number and passport number. If something should go wrong and you do not come back.
That you come back, a guide can take care of that, which you have to pay extra. Since we both have a lot of confidence in ourselves, we wanted to save the money and go on the hike on our own. And except for a crossing of a small but steep hill, it did go quite well.
Length and Duration of the Hike to the Rio Colorado
The hike to the big waterfall took us just under 4 hours. Together for the way there and back. Each way you have to walk about 3 km. The way mostly goes slightly uphill and there is only one large, steep hill in the way, which you have to cross. You should therefore start walking in the morning in order to be back at the parking lot before the sun sets.
Tips for the Hike
- Put on good walking shoes/sandals: You have to climb over rocks and walk through the river again and again.
- Take enough water and provisions with you. You will be exposed to the sun a lot and the hike is very exhausting.
- Sun protection: Put on good sunscreen and wear a hat if necessary. The sun burns mercilessly.
- Clothing: You have to walk through bushes and past plants that leave some scratches on your skin. It is best to wear long pants on the hike.
Our Experiences on the Hike to the Rio Colorado
The small rivulet that accompanies you for the first few hundred meters on the trail does not give you any idea of what a beautiful river should grow out of it further uphill. Nevertheless, the coming beauty of this path can already be guessed here. It is greening and blooming all the time and directly at the water stand vast amounts of pampas grass.
As you continue to hike, everything becomes greener and livelier, and to the left, right and in front of you, high, green-covered rocks tower up. Several times you have to cross the river. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes not so much. Here the experience of a guide would help, who of course knows the right way exactly. Whereby, there is actually no right way here. Often it doesn’t matter on which side of the river you make your way.
In doubt, you only have to cross denser reeds than on the other side. Only in some places the rock wall completely blocks the further way and you may have to go back a few meters to get to the other bank with dry feet. This is mostly possible. Very rarely you really have to wade through ankle-high water to get across.
Since the Rio Colorado winds through the narrow valley sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right, you always have different views of the great landscape. The hike is really super idyllic and actually also for less fit people to create.
The worst part of the hike is the one slope over a hill that you have to overcome. The steep way is not easy to find. If you choose the wrong way, it is really dangerous. I (Andreas) unfortunately chose a way too steep during my ascent. And would definitely not go again.
The right way is the far left on the steep face. This is also relatively easy to go. There are, as I said, at least 2 other paths, but they are much steeper and also more dangerous. On the other side, you then have to walk a little more than a kilometer over almost flat paths until you finally reach the day’s destination, the waterfall.
Of course, not the most beautiful or largest waterfall in South America. But combined with the beautiful hike and as the goal of all the effort but a wonderful sight.
If you are hardy enough and not afraid of ice-cold water, you can go swimming in front of the waterfall, as in many places on the hike itself. It is indeed bitterly cold mountain water, but in the heat this cooling down just did good. If you also want to make a small excursion in Cafayate then we can only warmly recommend the hike at the Rio Colorado!
Do you have questions or other tips for the hike in Cafayate? Then post them in the comments.