Bariloche is full of mountains and some of the best scenery you’ll find in Argentina. The styles of hikes also differ a lot, and it’s home to hikes for all fitness levels. One of the most popular hikes here is the one to Refugio Frey.
This hike has it all. It offers spectacular views of a lake along a ridge, steep inclines, and up-close views of the mountains.
Keep reading this guide to figure out everything you need to know before embarking on this journey.
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Why You Should Hike to Refugio Frey
We chose this hike because it was hard, especially if done all in one day. We needed to get ready for the hikes in El Chalten, like Fitz Roy and the W Trek in Chile.
This hike has an elevation gain of over 800 meters, and the hut sits at an altitude of 1700 meters. The Frey Hut can comfortably sleep 40 people!
This is a shelter used for those looking to climb in the Nahuel Huapi National Park or for longer treks throughout. It’s one of the most picturesque refugio you’ll find.
When hiking in this region, be sure to fill out this form before heading out!
Where is Refugio Frey
It will take around 30 to 40 minutes to arrive at the parking lot of the trailhead.
How to Get to Refugio Frey
Getting here is rather straightforward, and that’s one of the things I love about Bariloche. We’re not the ones to rent cars normally, so a good public transport system is always nice to have.
Using the Bus System in Bariloche
In a lot of the major cities in Argentina, like Buenos Aires and Bariloche, they use something called a SUBE card. This is for public transportation.
You can’t simply get on the bus and pay the driver. We had to go to a store, purchase a SUBE card, and add money to it.
In order to purchase a SUBE card, go to a Kiosco or anywhere where you see a sticker on the window.
The rides are very cheap and affordable. Once you get on the bus, scan the pass and look for your stop. Look out for bus number 55. We had issues finding this bus and I’m just now realizing why.
The bus stops for this specific bus alternates every hour. Starting at 7:15 and every other hour afterward, you can catch it at Avenida Bustillo.
And from 8:15 and every other hour afterward, you can catch the number 55 bus at Avenida Pioneros.
I like to download the offline map on Mapsme and watch where I’m going, just in case.
Getting a rental car in Bariloche is one of the best ways to get around. It will give you access to more hikes and decrease the wait times for the bus.
There are plenty of parking spots at all the different hiking trails, like Refugio Frey and Cerro Campanario.
There were a couple of instances where we had to take a taxi or an Uber in Bariloche. Uber works perfectly fine, but it’s technically illegal, so don’t be weirded out if they ask you to sit up front.
Things to Know Before Hiking to Refugio Frey
There are a lot of details to figure out when hiking, especially in a foreign country. Well, I have you covered! Below are some extra things you should know before setting off to hike Refugio Frey.
Things to Bring
Depending on what time of year you visit, you’ll want to bring layers of clothes. We visited in late November/early December. It was warm in the sun but extremely chilly in the shade and at night. Here are some other things I suggest bringing as well.
The Different Routes
There are a few different routes that you can take to reach Refugio Emilio Frey. The main trail, which is what we took, can be accessed by the parking lot at Cerro Catedral. You can find this trail by reading the signposts pointing towards the lodge.
This trail begins in the area next to Cerro Catedral called Villa Los Coihues. You’ll begin your hike at the beginning of Lake Gutiérrez, in the southern part of this area.
Keep following the gravel road until you reach a ranger’s post. This is where the trail to Refugio Frey begins. This route is harder and has a steeper ascent.
You’ll hike along Lake Gutierrez for around 3km before you start to head west up the mountain. I didn’t do this trail, but if you want more of a challenge, I suggest following it on Alltrails.
You can take bus #55 to this area and either #55 or #50 on the way back.
Staying the Night at Refugio Frey
Instead of doing the entire trail in one day, you can opt to stay the night at the Refugio instead. This can be an amazing experience, and you’ll be able to see the area for sunrise or sunset.
The prices to stay here are fairly priced, and you can also purchase food from here if you’d like. The prices are as follows (as of February, 5th 2024):
- One Night Stay: $24,000 Pesos
- Full Board (Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, Overnight): $60,000 Pesos
- Breakfast: $9,000 Pesos
- Simple Dinner: $13,500 Pesos
- Full Dinner: $20,300 Pesos
For the up-to-date prices you can check them out on the Refugio Frey website.
Is the Hike to Refugio Frey Difficult?
I think Refugio Frey will seem difficult for most people. Only about half of it is challenging but it’s also a long hike if done all in one day.
Hiking Details for Refugio Frey
- Distance: This is an 11.7-mile out-and-back hike.
- Duration: On average, it will take people 6 – 8 hours to go up and a little bit longer to go back down. This depends on how long you stay at the top.
- Difficulty: I’d rank this hike as difficult because of the increased elevation gain and length of hike.
- Incline: The elevation for this hike is around 2706 feet or 825 meters.
- Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public
Best Places to Stay in Bariloche
- Portales de la Patagonia Apartments: Looking for a place that feels like home? This apartment complex has everything you need to make your trip to Bariloche great.
- Charming Luxury Lodge & Private Spa: If you want to make your trip to Argentina special, there’s no better place than this charming luxury spa!
- Cinerama Hostel: If you need a cheap but nice hostel in Bariloche, I highly recommend Cinerama. It’s right in the city center and comes with free breakfast!
My Experience Hiking to Refugio Frey
This was one of my favorite hikes we did in Patagonia due to the multitude of different views it offers. You’ll get opportunities to view pristine lakes, mountains, and a beautiful refugio hut.
Getting a Ride to the Trailhead
Earlier, I mentioned we had trouble finding the bus that takes you to Cerro Catedral. We showed up at the bus stop across the street from the National Park administration right before 8:15. It got closer to 9:00 in the morning before we decided to find another ride there.
We first asked for a taxi, and he told us to just wait for the bus. At this point, it probably would’ve been a good idea to wait for the bus, but we thought it was never coming.
But in reality, it was on the other street at 8:15 and was going to come again where we were at 9:15.
So, instead of waiting, we called an Uber, and it all worked out.
The trail starts right outside the large parking lot and is flat for the majority of the time. There are multiple instances where there’s a bridge to cross.
The Stunning Views of Lago Gutiérrez
After the many bridge crossings, the trail continues to stay flat, but this time, we get to gaze at the stunning Lago Guiterrez.
I kept stopping multiple times because I wanted to take as many photos as possible. I’m sure this will be the case with you, too.
This trail continued on for an hour or so before we began our ascent up.
The Ascent Up
The ascent was extra steep in the first parts, and sometimes we had to grab onto rocks. This isn’t for too long, though. The trail will then gradually increase in elevation as you get towards Refugio Frey.
While some parts of this were challenging, it was easy enough to keep a steady pace. In long hikes like these, that’s the main thing I like to focus on.
Snow at Refugio Frey
One of our biggest concerns was if there was any snow along this trail. Luckily, there was only a tiny bit of snow a few meters before reaching the Refugio.
This made for an added adventure that I honestly enjoyed. We did this hike in early December. I’m sure within a week or two, all of the snow we hiked on would be melted.
The lake was frozen, but it did make for some awesome-looking photos!
Final Thoughts About Hiking Refugio Frey in Bariloche
Hiking to Refugio Emilio Frey is something I would highly recommend when visiting Bariloche. If offers multiple styles of hiking with a different but more stunning view at every corner. It’s a great hike if your plan is to continue south to do much harder hikes in Patagonia.