Cascadas del Rio Colorado, Cafayate, Argentina
Today, 3 of us decided to adventure ourselves to hike to the Cascadas Rio Colorado. It is about a 4hrs (round-trip), with an elevation gain of roughly 370m (highest point roughly 2100m). You can reach the trailhead by following the 7km out of town on the 25 de Mayo dirt road. Basically everyone in town will tell you that you need to go with a tour or an excursion, or you can just head to the trailhead and ask one of the guides (there will be plenty) to take you on the hike. They charge 150 pesos per person, but can make a better deal if you are with a larger group.
After reading all the trip reports and looking at the few (almost inexistent) maps that we can find online, we decided not to hire a guide and just head out. With the 3 of us and our experience, we’d figure we could always just backtrack or join a group half-way if it got complicated. The hike itself definitely isn’t easy, but if you have time and nice weather, it is absolutely amazing. It is quite technical (there is a lot of scrambling involved, with some areas that are quite exposed). If you don’t have lots of hiking experience, I would recommend going with a guide. The trail itself isn’t marked (which is very common in the area), so you have to rely on the path made by other hikers (which can be confusing at times as there are many ways around). The only one thing you need to remember is that you should more or less always be following the river. At some points you will get a bit higher on the sides, cross the river itself or scramble around the sides to go higher up to other waterfalls.
It takes about 1h30 to head to the first waterfall. There are 4 in total. The funny thing is that we ended up heading without too much trouble to the first waterfall. At that point we mainly had passed most of the guided groups and got to the waterfall without much trouble. The trail is at time a bit tricky to find as there are many paths on both sides of the river. When the other group arrived, we realized we actually made it to what I now believe to be the last waterfall – which means we had skipped an entire portion of the trail where the first waterfalls were. We chatted a bit with a guide and decided to keep our eyes opened on our way back to find the intersection we missed on the way up. We ended up finding the path leading up on the left side of the creek (when coming down). It goes up quite a bit before going back down through a pretty steep loose rock and branches path. From there, I think we reached the 3rd or 2nd waterfall. Now we understood that we did definitely missed a HUGE part of the trail… and that going back DOWN that way maybe wasn’t the best option… although sitting on my butt to scramble down ended up my best option for a few paths. There is a huge rock wall (maybe 4 meters high) to climb (down in our case) between 2 of the big waterfalls. For those who know me well, you will understand the trickiness of the trail when I say I actually asked both my hiking partners to stay close-by and actually reached out for their hands multiple times. That should illustrate how steep it was… and not the best stability with my current 30L daypack I have on this trip.
That said – If you are comfortable doing some scrambling with a bit of exposure and have lots of time, it can be done and it is quite enjoyable. In the summer you could also walk in the water at some points (although I am unsure about the water levels at that time of year) and enjoy a little swim into the small pounds created in the valley. There is also a sign-in and out system at the trailhead which is managed by the local native community (who also act as guides on the trail) and they will make sure everyone got out safe at the end of each day. We actually had a great chat with their chief, who offered us to take us on a 3 days excursions in the mountains. Guess what I’ll be posting next!