Whilst in La Fortuna we decided to hike up to Cerro Chato, the now inactive older brother of Arenal volcano. Located next to Arenal it offers views of its brother and a crater lake to swim in. The entrance to the trail is located next door to the Rio La Fortuna waterfall and starts through the grounds of the hotel.
We were warned that the hike is quite steep and would take about 2 hours to get to the top, once there we would have to descend for around 15 minutes to reach the actual crater lake but that the views are worth it. So off we went.
The first part of the hike, through open fields, was a little slippery but manageable. Once past the first viewing point it started to get quite steep and as it had rained a fair bit over the last few days it was incredibly muddy.
After about 45 minutes we reached the start of the forest. The weather at this point was not looking too good but we were hopeful that it might pass. This part of the trail was a lot harder the incline was higher and there weren’t any real steps in place. The few that were there were incredibly high, at least so for me. At 5′ 2″ it felt more like an SAS assault course rather than a hike with mud holes to jump over, giant roots to scramble up and rocks to climb over.
Just as we reached the second view-point and realised the weather was not going to clear it started to rain, being determined not to miss out we put on our waterproofs and carried on.
2 hours later, covered in mud and wet we reached the summit and the last part of the hike – the descend to the lake. If I had thought that the going was tough before than this was a whole new level! The “steps” were so steep in places that I literally had to jump down ledges.
By now I was rather annoyed with the hike and hoped the lake would be worth it after all. As we reached the lake we realised that there was no chance of seeing more than a few metres across it, let alone seeing Arenal. The clouds were so low that your only view was of grey clouds.
Needless to say by this point we were cold and soaked through and so decided to not hang around but instead try to head back to the warmth of the car.
The journey back was even more treacherous as the rain made the rocks and roots extremely slippery. By the time we got back out of the forest the rain had let up a bit and was now just a drizzle.
After about an hour and a half we finally arrived back at the car, luckily we had bought a change of clothes as we had planned to go swimming in the lake so we quickly changed and had our lunch in the car just in time for the heavy rain to start again.
I am sure that in dry conditions the crater lake offers beautiful views and a lovely swimming spot but if its looks like there is a chance of rain don’t bother as the hike is really not worth it if the views aren’t there. Also be prepared for a challenge!