I have heard really good things about Cerro Lopez and wanted to check it out. Unfortunately the refugio was already closed for the year, so we opted for a nice day hike! The trailhead is accessible by bus and is located close-by to the Colonia Suzia. The hike took us about 4hrs round-trip, with approximately 650m of elevation gain. The refugio is located at 1650m and the summit is over 2000m. Also make sure you register with the Club Andino before heading out so they know where you are, should something happen.
The trailhead is hard to miss. Just ask the bus driver to drop you at Cerro Lopez caminata. There is also a small restaurant or café with a massive hotdog statue in front. Yeah. That surprised me too. The trail is quite steep most of the time, and the markers can be a bit difficult to follow in the first 1h30. Make sure you follow the red spots on the rocks and trees. The Club Andino told us they would be working to improve the markers, as a few groups got issues getting back down in the last year. Just make sure you always have a marker on sight and you will be fine!
Most of the trail is covered in the forest. As you go up, you will start having very nice view of the lakes the and moutains from the Cerro Campanario to the Llao Llao. Cerro Lopez and the refugio will also slowly become visible on your right. After about one hour of hiking you will see on the left the Roca Negra, which is a restaurant where you can stop and have a drink. It was closed when we went, but I was told they organize some snowshoe trips up during the winter, so it should be opened in high season.
After a while of uphill hiking, you will reach a point where the trail merge fully with the 4×4 road. At that point most of the trail have minimum elevation gain. At the end of the 4×4 road, there is a pile of wood and in high season, they ask each hiker to carry one log up to the refugio. After that point, you will have a full view of the refugio and should be able to reach it within 15 more minutes.
We headed back down the way we came from after having our lunch on the picnic table beside the refugio. At this time it is getting quite cold so make sure you carry enough clothes to change or stay warm when you stop for a bit. We also saw 3 condors flying up around the peak of Lopez!