In the Cajón del Maipo mountain range, one of the must-see promenades is to visit the Natural Monument (M.N.) El Morado, with an area of 3,009 hectares. It was created in 1974 and is located southwest of Santiago, immediately east of the town of Baños Morales.
The place is administered by Conaf and its name is due to the dark color of the rock of the hill. Its altitude fluctuates between 1,750 and 5,060 meters above sea level; It has an ice climate, with average daily thermal oscillation between 10 and 25 ° C from December to March. The precipitations, in the form of water and snow, are concentrated between April and September; in winter the snow reaches 2.8 m, which prevents the stay in that period.
The peaks that stand out are El Morado hills (5,060 m) and El Mirador del Morado (4,320 m). From these points you can see a beautiful view of the valley and the mountains that border the impressive glacier at the foot of El Morado hill.
The main channel of water in the area is the Morales estuary, which is the result of the melting of the eternal snow. Other attractions of the place are the mineral waters (carbonated iron) called Panimávidas Waters and the environment of the El Morado Lagoon (2,400 m), which remains covered with ice from June to October.
It must be borne in mind that the M.N. It is closed due to weather conditions from May to September. In its interior there is a complete signaling and guided walks are also offered to organized groups.
Andean sclerophyllous scrub is one of its main features, along with the high Andean steppe of the Santiago mountain range, which dominates much of the landscape. The llaretilla and olivillo of the mountain range, in danger of extinction, are of interest. The most common species up to 1,900 m are: the molle, olivillos of the mountain range, white grass, cloth grass, seven shirts, guindillo and foxtail. On this height stand out the coirones, field carnations, soldadillos, pingo-pongos, quinchamalís, zarcillas, vira-viras and others.
In this typical central mountain landscape, the predominant species are birds, reptiles and mammals. Among the latter the most common are rodents, mainly the cucurus and the silky mouse of Noah. Among the birds, it is frequent to observe species such as the yal, comtocino, golden chirihue, black jilguero, mountain jilguero, tench, zorzal, chilean golondrinita, dormilona friar, churrín, bandurria and miner. Also common are the giant hummingbird, mountain hummingbird, turtledoves, cordilleran turtles, perdicita and perdicita cojón. In aquatic environments you can observe the juarjual duck, whose population gradually increases.
Sites of greater scenic beauty
One of the points that allows a wide field of view is the viewpoint of Las Panimávidas. The lagoon El Morado and the glacier of the same name also deserve special mention for their beauty.
History and culture
From the historical point of view, the Andean area where the M.N. It was one of the places visited by indigenous nomadic populations, who frequented these mountain areas until the 18th century. The chiquillanes, related to the primitive pehuenches, had as an activity the hunting, the harvest of fruits and wild plants and the summer pasture.
Mountaineering and climbing :
the southwest face of El Morado hill, with the hanging glacier, allows to climb on ice. Another alternative for mountaineering enthusiasts is to climb the Mirador del Morado (4,320 m).
There is a hiking trail Camino al Ventisquero (6 km, 1 hour and 30 min). It begins in the sector of Panimávida and culminates in the language of the San Francisco snowdrift. Suitable for all audiences without physical problems. This walk allows the observation of the natural characteristics of the sector, its scenic beauty, geomorphology, geology, flora and fauna. The final destination is the San Francisco and El Morado glacier, which shaped the micro-basin of the Morales River.