Established in 1934, the Nahuel Huapi National Park is the oldest national park in Argentina. It surrounds Nahuel Huapi Lake in the foothills of the Patagonian Andes. The largest of the national parks in the region, it has an area of 7,050 km2 (2,720 sq mi), or nearly 2 million acres. Its landscapes represent the north Patagonian Andean Zone consisting of three types, namely, the Altoandino (with perpetual snow above an altitude of 1,600 metres (5,200 ft)), the Andino-Patagónico (in the lower reaches of the hills) and the Patagonian steppe. I’t also represents small parts of the Valdivian Rainforest.
The park and the reserve lie at an altitude of 720–3,574 metres (2,362–11,726 ft), and are designated under IUCN management categories II (National Park) and IV (Management Reserve). The park is completely protected while the reserve is partially protected. The national park is dominated by the high mountain chain of the Andes, many lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, snow-clad peaks, glaciers and extensive forests. It is bordered by Chile on its western side. The park covers approximately 7,050 square kilometres (2,720 sq mi). It is located in the southwest section of the Neuquén and northwest section of the Río Negro provinces, bordering with Chile.
The park has two zones: the park and the natural reserve with development concentrated in the reserve. The largest city and a base for tourism is San Carlos de Bariloche, which is surrounded by the park. San Carlos de Bariloche is the main hub when visiting the lake, and is known as the “Gateway to Patagonia”, the “Chocolate Capital” and the “Honeymoon Capital” of Argentina. However, the city and other settlements are zoned outside the limits of the park. A further subzoning into the north, south and southern zones has been implemented with an exclusive recreational area named the Cerro Cathedral. Villa La Angostura is another lakeside resort also within the boundaries of the park.
The area is known as the Argentine Lake District, as there are many lakes in the park, including Nahuel Huapi, Mascardi, Gutiérrez, Traful, Guillelmo, and Perito Moreno Lakes. Cerro Catedral is a 2,388 metres (7,835 ft) high peak within the park and an important ski resort. Cerro Tronador, on the Chilean border, is the highest mountain in the park at 3,491 metres (11,453 ft). Bordering the park to the north is the Lanín National Park.