Any outdoors enthusiast who travels to Mendoza is likely to be overwhelmed by the opportunities the Province has to offer. Tourist information centers are chock full of literature about rafting, high mountain treks, paragliding, Aconcagua ascents, and other high-intensity (and often high-budget) adventures. But for those of us who enjoy a humble walk in the great outdoors, information about easy and inexpensive day trips can be few and far between. Even more, reliance on public transportation further limits options for outdoor excursions on a budget. Don’t fear, however, for there are many accessible walks, hikes, and beautiful vistas to satiate your wanderlust.
Self-guided hiking in Argentina can be quite an unsystematic affair, as public information about trails is quite limited. Trails are often unmarked and unmaintained. Some may be kept secret by guiding companies and others may even be on private property. Expect to ask for directions from locals. Consequently, it is imperative to pack prepared with plenty of water (at least 2L), layers, snacks, extra money, cell phone, and most importantly, a corkscrew for that Malbec you brought with your lunch. Always bring a travel buddy, and avoid staying out past sundown. When you get off a bus, verify your return route with the driver.
Cerro de la Gloria
Look on any $5 peso note and you will see on one side General José de San Martín, and on the other, the Cerro de la Gloria. Located on the western periphery of the Parque General San Martín, Cerro de la Gloria offers not only pleasant views, but also an important piece of Argentine history. The monument commemorates the Army of the Andes, which San Martín organized in Mendoza before daringly crossing the cordillera to liberate Chile and Peru. Although the ascent to this historic landmark only takes about 10 minutes, the steep climb will leave you sweating. At the top, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the city center to the east and soaring mountains to the west.
Getting there: Take the G3 112 bus west from the city center. Stops can be found all along Av. Sarmiento and Av. Emilio Civit. Get off the bus when you reach the base of the Cerro, in a parking lot that also serves as the entrance to the zoo. Follow the paved, switchbacked footpath to the summit.
Duration: 1 hour round trip
Distinguishable by its crown of radio antennae, Cerro Arco lies just to the west of the city amongst the looming Andean foothills. This half-day hike offers a 360 degree panorama of the city and the seemingly endless expanse of land to the east, as well as a peek into the higher foothills to the west. Easily accessible from the city center, the hike is quite popular amongst tourist and locals alike. The mountain also serves as the launching point for paragliding excursions, and throughout the hike you’ll see paragliders soaring off the summit. The out-and-back hike entails a 1.5 hour trek up the mountain on a winding dirt road. Expect a moderately strenuous, constant ascent. The route is very exposed, so pack plenty of water and sunscreen. Return to the bottom from the same route (about 1 hour). When you get back down reward yourself with a cold cerveza at the clubhouse. Aim to go earlier in the day and give yourself time to return before sundown, as the nearby area of Challao can be unsafe at nighttime.
Getting there: Take the G3 114/115 bus from Chile 987 near the corner of Rivadavia and Chile (Plaza Independencia). Ride the bus to the end of the line and get off at the Puerta de la Quebrada. Another landmark for the bus stop is a flying saucer-shaped discoteca nearby called Scanner. Walk down a dirt road past the green sign that says “Puerta de la Quebrada” for about 1km until you reach the clubhouse and a small parking lot. To hike to the summit, continue up the dirt road as it passes past the clubhouse.
Duration: 3 hours round trip
Acenso de la luna llena: For two nights every month, it is possible to night hike Cerro Arco under the full moon with a guided trip. The excursion costs $120/person and includes the guided trip as well as a midnight asado at the clubhouse afterwards. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Cocina Poblana at calle Aristides Villanueva 217.
Perched on a crystalline lake, the sleepy town of Potrerillos is a popular destination for lakeside picnics, Sunday asados, and romantic weekend getaways. Although the area around Potrerillos is laced with hiking trails and campsites, few of these backcountry trails are accessible via public transportation. There are, however, wonderful opportunities for waterfront wanderings and other escapades that are totally accessible by bus from Mendoza city. Once in Potrerillos, you can easily explore a web of multipurpose trails that run parallel to the lake. If it’s warm enough, there are many small inlets and peninsulas that make for great swimming spots. Be sure to pack a hearty lunch and a bottle of wine to enjoy by the lake.
Getting there: The bus ride is about an hour from the central bus terminal, and tickets to Potrerillos can be purchased for about $40 pesos roundtrip. Buttini services the route, but tickets can also be purchased at an Andesmar desk. Get off the bus at then end of the line, at a small supermarket called “La Proveeduría” (there is also a rafting business there). From there, walk south back towards the town area on the road, crossing a small bridge and curving uphill to the right (southwest). Continuing up this road, you will pass houses, cabanas, a few stores, and a tourist information desk. Continue south, bearing towards the lake and shortly passing a gas station on your right. This road is an 8km scenic byway complete with a paved sidewalk. Alongside this road is a web of trails that weaves between the road and the lake. There are no particular routes or circuits – just explore the trails at your leisure!
Duration: 3-5 hours (depending on how far you want to explore)