The Best Hikes in El Chaltén
For the best hiking in Argentine Patagonia, there’s only one choice: El Chaltén. Sitting in the shadow of legendary Mt Fitz Roy and at the doorstep of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, it is a trekker’s dream. Naturally, there are more than a few solid hiking options around this village in Los Glaciares National Park. Some you can complete in an afternoon, while others will take days. Below are some of the best.
#1. Laguna de Los Tres
If Fitz Roy is the king of the El Chaltén region, then Laguna de Los Tres is the crowned queen. This turquoise glacial lake sits right underneath the famous massif and the hike up to it is equally renowned. It’s also a relative breeze, as you can follow a well-marked trail right out of town (marked Sendero al Fitz Roy) for 6 miles (10 km) up to the glassy lagoon. Here you can enjoy a picnic lunch at 3,838 feet (1,170 m) above sea level. It generally takes between 7-8 hours to complete the hike.
- Distance: The hike to Laguna de Los Tres is approximately 10-12 kilometers (6-7 miles) one way, depending on the starting point and specific route taken.
- Elevation Gain: The trail involves a significant elevation gain, typically around 700-800 meters (2300-2600 feet) from the trailhead to the lake.
- Difficulty: The hike is considered moderately strenuous to strenuous, primarily due to the steep sections and altitude gain. It's recommended for experienced hikers or those with a reasonable level of fitness.
- Time: The hike usually takes around 4 to 5 hours one way, depending on the hiker's pace and rest stops.
- Trail Conditions: The trail to Laguna de Los Tres is well-marked and maintained, but it can be rocky and uneven in places, especially towards the final ascent.
- Scenery: Hikers are rewarded with stunning views of Mount Fitz Roy and its surrounding peaks, as well as the turquoise waters of Laguna de Los Tres. It's one of the iconic landscapes of Argentine Patagonia.
#2. Laguna Torre
This is another bucket-list lake hike at El Chaltén. To get there you’ll follow an 11 mile (18 km) loop trail that typically takes between 4-5 hour to complete. It’s a popular day hike that attracts all kinds of folks, from trekkers to backpackers to campers, mostly due to the fact this scenic trail isn’t too taxing. Of course, once you arrive at the stunning glacial lake, the real draw is the incredible view of the eastern face of Fitz Roy.
- Distance: The round-trip distance for the Laguna Torre hike is approximately 18 kilometers (11 miles), starting and ending in El Chaltén.
- Elevation Gain: The elevation gain for the hike is around 250 meters (820 feet), making it a relatively moderate hike in terms of elevation change.
- Difficulty: The hike is generally considered moderate in difficulty, suitable for hikers of varying experience levels. It's well-maintained and relatively straightforward, with some gradual inclines and rocky terrain.
- Time: Most hikers complete the round trip in about 4-5 hours, including time for breaks and enjoying the scenery.
- Trail Conditions: The trail to Laguna Torre is well-marked and well-maintained, offering beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and glacial landscapes along the way.
- Scenery: The highlight of the hike is reaching Laguna Torre, where you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Cerro Torre, a stunning granite peak, and the glacial lake at its base. The landscape features rugged mountains, pristine forests, and possibly even icebergs floating in the lake, depending on the season.
#3. Loma del Pliegue Tumbado
The 12-mile (20 km) trail leading up to this group of three craggy peaks begins at the Ceferino Fonzo Visitors Center just south of El Chaltén. The roughly seven hour trip (out and back) will take you through scenic trails along open meadows. Once you reach the windy summit you’ll not only have great views of the peaks (each of which tops out at over 4,265 feet/1,300 m), but you’ll also enjoy splendid vistas out over the Río Túnel Valley. This route is a bit off the tourist trail, which is great if you want all that Patagonian beauty to yourself.
- Distance: The round-trip distance for the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado hike is approximately 20 kilometers (12.4 miles).
- Elevation Gain: The elevation gain for the hike is around 1000 meters (3280 feet). This makes it a moderately challenging hike in terms of elevation change.
- Difficulty: The hike is considered moderately difficult due to its length and elevation gain. It's suitable for hikers with some experience and a reasonable level of fitness.
- Time: Hikers typically take around 6 to 8 hours to complete the round trip, including breaks and time spent enjoying the panoramic views from the summit.
- Trail Conditions: The trail is generally well-marked and maintained, but it can be rocky and steep in sections, particularly as you ascend towards the summit.
- Scenery: The highlight of the hike is reaching the summit of Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, where you'll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, including Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, as well as the vast expanse of the Patagonian landscape stretching out before you.
#4. Laguna Capri
For a relatively quick turnaround, head out on this 6.2-mile (10 km) hike that takes an average of just over three hours to complete. It begins in El Chaltén on the same trail to Laguna de Los Tres (Sendero al Fitz Roy) but forks off after the first hour. On this route, you’ll pass miradors (natural viewpoints) overlooking the river valley and native forest on your way up to the azure blue lagoon, whose waters turn crystalline at the shoreline. Once there, enjoy the wide panoramic frame of the lake with the jagged ridges of Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre rising above it.
- Distance: The round-trip distance for the Laguna Capri hike is approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).
- Elevation Gain: The elevation gain for the hike is around 250 meters (820 feet). This makes it a relatively easy hike in terms of elevation change.
- Difficulty: The hike is considered easy to moderate in difficulty, suitable for hikers of all skill levels, including families with children.
- Time: Most hikers complete the round trip in about 3 to 4 hours, including time for breaks and enjoying the scenery.
- Trail Conditions: The trail to Laguna Capri is well-marked and well-maintained, offering beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and forests along the way. It's a relatively gentle ascent, with some rocky sections.
- Scenery: The highlight of the hike is reaching Laguna Capri, a picturesque mountain lake with stunning views of Mount Fitz Roy and its surrounding peaks. The landscape features pristine forests, rugged mountains, and possibly even wildlife sightings along the way.
#5. Chorillo del Salto
One of the best waterfall hikes in El Chaltén is also one of the quickest. The trailhead off Route 41 north of town runs just over a single kilometer and you can finish it in about 15 minutes—even with the family in tow (but you can also choose a longer route beginning in El Chaltén). After passing through scenic lenga forest, you’ll arrive at the base of Chorillo del Salto, an awe-inspiring waterfall that plunges 65 feet (20 m) over cliffs into a shimmering pool. The best time to visit is in spring and summer when the Magellanic orchids are in bloom.
- Distance: The round-trip distance for the Chorrillo del Salto hike is approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles).
- Elevation Gain: The elevation gain for the hike is minimal, as the trail follows a gentle incline along the river. It's typically less than 100 meters (328 feet).
- Difficulty: The hike is considered easy, suitable for hikers of all skill levels, including families with children.
- Time: Most hikers complete the round trip in about 1 to 1.5 hours, including time for enjoying the waterfall and surrounding scenery.
- Trail Conditions: The trail to Chorrillo del Salto is well-marked and well-maintained, following a dirt path alongside the river. It's relatively flat and straightforward, with some rocky sections.
- Scenery: The highlight of the hike is reaching Chorrillo del Salto, a beautiful waterfall cascading down from the mountains above. The surrounding landscape features lush forest and mountain views, providing a tranquil setting for a leisurely hike.
#6. Huemul Circuit
If you really want to test your mettle, then this multi-day circuit is for you. It’s a 41-mile (66-km) loop that typically takes 4-5 days to complete and is great for campers, nature lovers, and birders (keep an eye out and you might just glimpse a condor). Among other highlights, this circuit will take you to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, where you can watch glacier ice calve into the icy waters of Lake Viedma.
- Distance: The total distance for the Huemul Circuit varies depending on the specific route taken and side trips, but it typically ranges from 50 to 70 kilometers (31 to 43 miles).
- Elevation Gain: The elevation gain for the circuit is significant, as it involves traversing mountain passes and rugged terrain. The total elevation gain can exceed 2000 meters (6560 feet) over the course of the trek.
- Difficulty: The Huemul Circuit is considered one of the most challenging treks in the region, suitable for experienced hikers with good physical fitness and wilderness navigation skills. It involves steep ascents and descents, river crossings, and potentially hazardous conditions.
- Duration: Completing the Huemul Circuit usually takes 4 to 6 days, depending on the pace of the hiker and specific itinerary. Some hikers may choose to extend the trek or add side trips to nearby landmarks.
- Trail Conditions: The trail conditions vary along the circuit, ranging from well-defined paths to rugged and remote terrain. Parts of the route may be rocky, muddy, or exposed to the elements, requiring careful navigation and attention to safety.
- Scenery: Despite the challenges, the Huemul Circuit offers spectacular scenery, including panoramic views of towering peaks, glaciers, alpine lakes, and pristine Patagonian wilderness. Highlights include views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and the iconic peaks of the region.
Are you looking for a guided or self guided trek in El Chalten? Or seeking the perfect travel itinerary for your time in Argentina? Reach out to our travel experts for help with your trip planning here.