Refugio Frey: A Bucket List Hike

The hike to Refugio Frey is one of the best hikes in Bariloche and holds some of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see. Candy pink sunsets over jagged peaks and the calm, reflecting lake makes the Refugio Frey deserve a spot on everyone’s Argentina itinerary.

This hike may seem a bit intimidating, but there are a few different routes with varying levels of difficulties, so you can choose which works best for you. While we didn’t see any kids, there were people in their sixties that did this hike. You have no excuse!

Refugio Frey is often the first stop on multi-day treks between Bariloche’s various refugios, but this can also be done as a simple day hike. Whether you’re staying overnight or just stopping in for a glass of wine, we’ve got you covered!

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Know Before You Go

  • Any trash you bring up, you must bring down!
  • You must first register your intentions for trekking with the national park here
  • Reservations at Refugio Frey are required. This is the busiest refugio so you really should have a reservation, and in the summer you may need to make it a few days in advance. Make your reservations here!
  • You do not need a Mercado Pago account to pay with a debit or credit card for your reservation. This might not work perfectly the first time but keep trying!
  • BRING CASH! While you can make your reservation and pay for your bed with card, they don’t have internet so they cannot process card payments for food at the Refugio.
  • You’ll lose cell service within 1-2 hours of the hike, so download the GPX file or trail on AllTrails before going!
  • Food and drinks are a little more expensive at Refugio Frey than they would be in town! The dinner is 100% worth it, but I would bring your own food for breakfast and lunch.
  • Fires are not allowed, but gas stoves are!
  • If you’re planning on going to Refugio Jakob (aka San Martín), Frey receives the next day’s weather forecast at 8 pm so you can double check it’s safe to proceed with your trek!

How to Hike to Refugio Frey

There are a few different options for hiking to Refugio Frey. Each is beautiful in their own unique way, and they vary in difficulty. The four main ways to hike to Refugio Frey are from the base of Cerro Catedral, via the ridge (“filo” in Spanish), from Lake Gutiérrez, and from Refugio Jakob. These could be done as day hikes, depending on your physical ability and how much time you want to spend relaxing at Refugio Frey. Read below for the best route for you!

The distances and times listed below are for one-way treks, not round-trip!

HIking Options for Refugio Frey

Option #1: Via Base of Cerro Catedral (Pink)

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 3-5 hours
  • Distance: 6.2 miles/10 km

This is the most common way to hike to Frey. The trailhead is located to the left of the ski lifts and the various small buildings. The trail is well marked and it would be pretty hard to get lost. You’ll have beautiful views of Lake Gutiérrez, followed by a shaded forest walk, and then a steep but manageable incline to the left of the abandoned Refugio Petriček. While the last hour or so is all uphill, you will have absolutely spectacular views that get better and better the closer you get to Refugio Frey.

Option #2: Via Cerro Catedral Filo (Blue)

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Time: 4-5 hours
  • Distance: 3.7 miles/6 km from the second lift

The most popular way to hike the Cerro Catedral Filo route is to take the gondola up followed by a regular chairlift to the start of the hike (shown as a dotted line on the map). The gondola is open every day except Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm and costs around $28 USD. Check if the gondola is running here! The other chairlift only runs in high season, so you may be doing some extra hiking! The employees at the gondola are very helpful and can tell you if the second chairlift is running.

This route involves hiking the ridgeline, then down to Laguna Schmoll, then down to Laguna Toncek, where Refugio Frey is located. If you’re hiking to Refugio Jakob after Frey, you’ll have similar views, so we recommend a different option if a stay at Jakob is in your plans.

Option #3: Picada Eslovena (Purple)

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 4-5 hours
  • Distance: 6.2 miles/10 km (+1.2 miles/2 km walk from the bus stop)

The Picada Eslovena is unique because you can stop at the Cascada de los Duendes, a cool little waterfall shortly after the trailhead. The trailhead is located at Camping Lago Guitiérrez on Google Maps. This is basically a combination of the Lago Gutiérrez Lookout hike and the hike from the base of Cerro Catedral. If you plan on hiking to the Lake Gutiérrez Lookout separately, there’s no need to do the Picada Eslovena route.

Option #4: From Refugio Jakob (Green)

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Time: 5-8 hours
  • Distance: 9 km

This involves summitting and descending two fairly large peaks. This route is fairly rare, as most people hike from Refugio Frey to Refugio Jakob, but the opposite is possible as well. We don’t recommend doing this route due to the amount of loose rocks and scrambling involved. However, if you do plan to do this route, make sure to bring hiking shoes with great traction and hiking poles!

Check out our post about the hike from Refugio Frey to Refugio Jakob

How to Get to the Cerro Catedral Base in Bariloche (Options #1 and #2)

How to Get to the Cerro Catedral Base by Bus

Take bus #55 for around 30 minutes from downtown Bariloche – this costs around $1. The buses usually come 5-20 minutes after Google Maps says they’ll arrive.

To use the buses in Bariloche, you need a SUBE card. Find places to buy and recharge your SUBE card using this map. Worst case scenario, you can pay someone to use their SUBE card, but this is not a guaranteed option. Make sure to wave down the bus so it stops, and scan your SUBE to pay. When it’s almost time to get off, press the button on the railings near the rear door to alert the driver to stop at the next stop.

How to Get to the Cerro Catedral Base by Car

If you don’t want to take the bus, Ubers are a great option for getting around Bariloche, costing around 40 cents per minute. Taxis are slightly more expensive than Ubers, but if you want to schedule a taxi, contact one of the official Bariloche taxi services here. You can also park in the Cerro Catedral parking lot if you have a rental car, but if you’re not heading back the same way you came this is obviously not a great choice!

Frey por Cerro Catedral

How to Get to the Picada Eslovena Trailhead (Option #3)

How to Get to the Picada Eslovena Trailhead by Car

To drive to the Picada Eslovena, put “Camping Lago Guitiérrez” into your GPS. This is the trailhead and there is free parking! The road is gravel but any sedan should be able to make it here. This takes around 30 minutes by car from downtown Bariloche. Rent your car here or with if you’re in the Genius loyalty program for cars less than $40/day!

Ubers are also a great option for getting around Bariloche and cost around 40 cents per minute. Taxis are slightly more expensive than Ubers.

How to Get to Picada Eslovena Trailhead by Bus

You can’t get all the way to the trailhead by bus, but you can take a 30 min bus ride with bus #50 to the intersection of Balcón Guitiérrez and Parque Nacional Perito Moreno that costs ~33 cents. From here, it’s about a 25 minute walk to the trailhead.

Best Time to Hike to Refugio Frey

The best time to hike to Refugio Frey is between spring and fall, when there is little to no snow on the ground. Patagonia’s seasons are opposite of North America’s and Europe’s, so the winter months are between mid-June and mid-September. Their autumn is mid-March to mid-June, and with the changing colors, this hike is absolutely gorgeous. You can still hike to Refugio Frey in the winter, but you need to check the conditions and if the Refugio is even open. Check the weather on Cerro Catedral here!

Hiking to Refugio Frey Bariloche

Refugio Frey Cost

Hiking to and hanging out in the Refugio doesn’t cost anything, but staying overnight and eating does! Camping, which gives you access to the refugio’s common area, bathrooms, and hot water is the cheapest way to do this. You can see the updated price list here. You’ll see on the list that there are options for a “Simple Dinner” and a “Full Dinner” – we both just had the simple dinner when we stayed here and it was honestly more than enough!

Refugio Frey Simple Dinner

Sleeping at Refugio Frey is an adventure in itself. The house has one room where everyone sleeps in, and if it’s overcrowded there may end up being three people for every two mattresses! You need a sleeping bag here, which you can rent from the house, but sheets and pillows are provided. We much preferred the sleeping situation at Refugio Jakob, where there were only two sets of bunk beds to each room!

Refugio Frey Dormitory

If you plan on living in Bariloche and frequenting the Refugios, consider becoming a member of Club Andino, which gives you discounts on your stays at the Refugios!

Packing List for Overnight at Refugio Frey

Patagonia Bike Trips is a great place to rent camping gear in Bariloche, including, sleeping bags and mats, stoves, and tents!

  • Purifying Larq Water Bottle
  • Toilet paper or baby wipes – TRUST US!
  • Windbreaker
  • Winter jacket and layers
  • Change of clothes (optional)
  • Hand Sanitizer or Soap (none provided)
  • Snacks
  • Sleeping Bag (you can also rent one for $6, although they don’t always have them).
  • Hiking poles
  • Single Burner Gas Stove if you want to do any cooking
  • Tent and camping equipment if you plan on camping

Activities at Refugio Frey

Aside from relaxing in the lodge or at one of the outdoor picnic tables, there are a few things to keep you occupied at Refugio Frey. Refugio Frey offers rock climbing with the backdrop of the massive peaks, which we would have done if we weren’t planning on hiking to Refugio Jakob the next day! You can also take a leisurely stroll along the lake and admire the swamp-like climate and search for frogs! If you’re up for it, you can hike up to Laguna Schmoll, which takes around an hour one way. If you’re hiking to Refugio Jakob the next day, this is the trail you’ll take, so no need to do it twice! This hike is fairly strenuous so make sure you have enough energy.

A Note on the 4-Refugios Nahuel Huapi Traverse

A trek that you may have read about if you’re traveling to Bariloche is the 4-Refugios hike commonly done over the course of 4 or 5 days (depending on whether or not you stay at Lopez – most people don’t). The most popular route is Frey -> Jakob -> Laguna Negra -> Lopez. When we were in Bariloche, we did a shortened version of this trek over 3 days and 2 nights, staying at Refugio Frey and Refugio Jakob. This was in part due to the questionable weather (we visited during the fall, where the weather tends to be rainy), and due to the difficulty of the trek from Refugio Jakob to Refugio Laguna Negra (also known as Refugio Italia Manfredo Segre). You can see the route we took below.

Read about Hiking from Frey to Jakob

Hike Frey to Jakob from Bariloche

We’d read multiple accounts of the trek between Jakob and Laguna Negra requiring a good amount of scrambling and essentially rock climbing, with the trek made even more difficult by the lack of markers. Helmets are highly recommended for this part of the trek due to the falling rocks from the strong winds. We met a group of people doing this trek when we were at Refugio Jakob, and they had hired a guide to do just that leg of the trip with them. We highly recommend doing the same if you want to do this.

If you want to visit all of the refugios and want to skip that leg of the trek, we recommend heading from Refugio Jakob to Colonia Suiza (near the Tambo Trailhead) and staying there for the night before hiking up to Laguna Negra. This will extend the trip by a night, but it’s definitely the safest option if you want to avoid any issues! You can see a map of our suggested trail (in pink) below, with the yellow portion mapping the trek between Jakob and Laguna Negra.

5 Refugios Hike Bariloche

Keep Exploring Bariloche…

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