The best guide of Free National Parks in Argentina
Overlanding South America
Thousands of kilometers has taken us to travel through a country where nature is exuberant in every corner of it, endless and stunningly beautiful. Somehow we could say that when you overland Argentina it is like if you were always immersed in a Natural Park. Below we have detailed what for us have been the 6 greatest National Parks in Argentina with FREE access.
- Nacional Park El Leoncito
Covering an area of 89,900 hectares, El Leoncito National Park is located southwest of the province of San Juan, in the Calingasta department and at the heart of the Tontal mountains. Mendoza city is about 200 km away, while the nearest town is Barreal, located at a distance of 35km.
El Leoncito is a delight for the senses, here the lack of lights and atmospheric dust and almost a whole year of clear skies, allows us to feel like if we were much closer to the stars. There are two astronomical observatories which entrance in not for free, but they are well worth the investment.
Although the park can be visited throughout the year, it must be taken into account that temperatures can vary considerably; an average temperature of 26 ° C can be found in summer time and 10°C in winter, which can drop to -10 ° C. The sporadic summer rains may cause the road shut.
Among the 3 hikes that can be done, we have to highlight the one name Cerro El Leoncito; almost 4 hours walking through a place surrounded by the purest silence and delimited only on one of its fronts by the imposing mountains of the Andes.
The guanacos, rheas, cuises, red foxes and pumas make this paradise their home.
Upon arrival you can obtain more detailed information in the Rangers office.
In the camping area there are tables, showers, bathrooms and firewood.
If you want to see all the free sites where we sleep in Argentina click on the red icons on the map below
- Jaramillo Petrified Forest
Jaramillo Petrified Forests National Park is located in Jaramillo, province of Santa Cruz, and it covers a total of 78,543 hectares belonging to the Estepa Patagónica ecoregion. Here we find the Petrified Forest Natural Monument.
150 million years ago the area that today occupies this Natural Monument was completely different; It was green and cover with dense vegetation, a great and very humid forest with a stable climate.
In the forest you could find enormous trees similar to the pehuenes or araucarias, but all this changed with the sudden volcanic eruptions and the rise of the majestic Andes. Then, the humidity ceased, the ash and lava spread all over and in consequence the woods petrified.
The landscape, far from appearing desolate, transmits an astonishing tranquility, broken only by the shades of sand that sometimes the strong wind lifts in the distance. The access to the park is by an unpaved road where we must drive slowly, it begins at kilometer 2.074 of the RN3.
The NP does not have free camping area, although there is a lodging on the way to the Petrified Forest where you can stay for small price. Although a place where to sleep for free can always be found 😉 (-47.658004 -67.855398) these are wilcamping coordinates.
In this inhospitable place the guanacos, piches, gray foxes and the impressive puma share space with choiques, loicas and tucúqueres (giant owl)
From April 1 and until September 30, the Park opens from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
From October 1 and until March 31, the Park opens from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Water is scarce in the area, and the nearest city is 220km away. So don´t forget it.
In the Ranger building there is a very complete interpretive center, and the staff gives you a free tour of it. There is a circular path that takes you through the petrified remains of the forest.
- National Park Rio Pilcomayo
Rio Pilcomayo National Park is located at the east of the country, very close to the border with Paraguay. It is almost an obligation to start by saying that in this park, from the footbridges that float on the Laguna Blanca, you can see one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.
The same lagoon has a rich an abundant life within, with beautiful floating plants, piranhas and dozens of Yacares (alligators) that rise to the surface and to the footbridges with some frequency.
The park can be accessed by two entrances that give access to 2 different part of the park, no communicated one with the other by any internal road. Being both beautiful areas that must be visited.
In both parts of the park there are free camping areas, with grills, grass, toilets, showers and info center.
Here there are some trails we can visit during our stay, as for example;
- Vehicular trail of 16 km,
- Lookout tower at Estero Catalina.
- Bathed Pirity bird observatory.
- Lookout to the Pilcomayo River.
- Interpretation Pedestrian path.
There are parts of the park where you can find estuaries, gullies and lagoons that can be easily flooded, and other sites that remain partially flooded all year round, such as pastures where the impressive Palmeras de Carandy create a magical landscape.
If it rains the access to the park or the exit of this one can be complicated, since in some places the land is very clayey. The subtropical climate has an average annual temperature of 23° C, with maximums above 40° C.
Apart from the Yacarés we should also know that at dusk we can meet the boa curiyú, and the monkey Carayá and the bats fishing at sunset.
- Monte León National Park
Monte León National Park is located on the coast of the Argentine Sea, in the province of Santa Cruz, housing 62,169 hectares.
Although the entrance to the park is free, you can only spend the night in a paid campsite. In spite of everything, a full day is enough to be able to visit all the authorized areas, although the charm of this one can make you want to spend more than one night in it.
The central icon of the park is a peninsula that as some say, has the shape of a lying lion, kown as “Lion Head”, although for us the Pinguinera Trail is the real jewel of Monte Leon. Along the trail you can see the print of foxes and pumas as we approach the area where more than 60,000 pairs of penguins give life to new generations.
To complete the visit we must walk Lobería Trail that brings us to the viewpoint, where the sea lions relax in front of the ocean.
We can also rest on the beach and fish in season.
Temperatures can vary depending on the season between 0° C and 30° C
- Los Glaciares National Park
And here what for us is the jewel of crown; 726,927 hectares created to preserve and protect the continental ice and glaciers. Los Glaciares National Park is located in the southwest of the province of Santa Cruz, and it is not necessary to say that a trip to Argentina would never be completed if you do not visit this wonder of nature.
The access to the park is free, except for the entrance to visit the always imposing Perito Moreno, and other excursions to glaciers such as Upsala and Spegazzini.
The landscape is also filled with lagoons, lakes and rivers from the melting glaciers, and also hills that will leave in us an unforgettable memory, such as the Chaltén or Fitz Roy and the Torre. El Chaltén is a good place for climbing lovers and for all of those who love hiking.
Upon entering the village El Chaltén we find the Ranger offices, where we can take information about all the treks and from where we can walk two paths that take us to the viewpoints Los Cóndores and Las Águilas. Short hikes of short duration.
The following coordinates -49.321708 -72.894349 take us to a nice parking area right at the here we can overnight without problem. It is located at the beginning of the most popular routes that attract hundreds of travelers every year, such as Laguna Capri, Laguna Torre, Piedras Blancas Glacier and Laguna de los Tres among others.
In this link you can find more detailed information of the routes. There are free camping areas along some treks. (Cerro Chaltén or Fitz Roy area).
The ideal season to visit de NP are spring, summer and early autumn (September-April). Average temperatures can range from -3° C to 14° C.
Easily in this unique environment we can see condors, eagles, giant woodpecker, pumas, foxes … Do not miss it!
- Lanin National Park
Lanin National Park encompasses such diversity that it becomes a paradise for all tastes and for anyone looking for adventure with thousands of hidden treasures in its more than 400,000 hectares. Here we will find landscapes that seems to be taking for postcard, the songs of stunning birds such as the Fio Fio Silbon, and an endless color scale.
Although you have to pay to enter in on area of the park, most of it can be enjoyed for free.
The NP offer of big range of activities, as well as the possibilities of accommodation, both paid and free.
In this paradise we welcomed a new year , 2017!
Click HERE to see our 2017 Overland Highlights
In our humble opinion these are the best Nacional Parks with free access in Argentina, although there are many others to visit such as:
- Formosa National Park: with a beautiful dirt road to reach the camping area, passing through different indigenous populations. Along the way you can see wild donkeys, turtles and birds. In the park you can also see the anteaters at certain times of the day and of course, being a lucky. When we were there they were enabling a part of the river to go for swim. It is very hot in this area, and if it rains the road becomes very difficult.
- Laguna Blanca National Park: with an interpretive center with wifi and a few hikes. Many birds and possibility of fishing in season. Grills, tables and lots of wind.
- San Guillermo National Park: entrance is not really for free since you need a guide to access.
- El Palmar National Park
- El Chaco National Park
- El Rey National Park: sadly we didn´t visit this one and we guest it could have been the number 7 on the list.
- Los Cardones National Park: where you will find the largest Cardones fields in all of South America. The image on the landscape the form is spectacular.
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