El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy: Argentina’s Hiking Capital

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El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy: Argentina’s Hiking Capital View of El Chalten from Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado Hiking in El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy www.compassandfork.comEl Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy

If you are into hiking, El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy need to be on your Patagonia itinerary. Located just north of Los Glaciares National Park, El Chalten is Argentina’s hiking capital. It was founded in 1985 to cater to hikers in the area. You can day hike from the town or overnight hike whichever you prefer. It is a small town and you can walk to everything. And as an added bonus, the food is surprisingly good for such a remote place.

We stayed in town and day hiked. Because we had not camped on the “W” hike we did not have camping equipment and as mentioned I’d prefer a real bed every night anyway. The day hiking is plentiful and spectacular.

Day Hiking (Trekking) in El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy

Senderos is the word in Spanish for trails. All of the senderos or trails are well marked and most start and finish in town. The distances and times are all one way. The trails listed are hikes we did, there is a lot of hiking in this area and many more hikes than the three we overview.

Laguna de Los Tres

This hike can be undertaken overnight, as an up and back hike from town or as a one way hike by taking a shuttle to Hostel El Pillar and walking back to town. We took the third option so that is the route I describe.

Have your accommodation arrange for the morning shuttle to pick you up for transport to Hostel El Pillar (You can also stay here overnight and just start in the morning.)

The hike begins with a walk along Rio Blanco. It is pleasant hiking through a forest and easy walking. It is all relatively flat. The highlight on this part of the hike is the viewpoint for the Piedras Blancas Glacier.

El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy: Argentina’s Hiking Capital Piedras Blancas Glacier El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy Hiking www.compassandfork.com

After the glacier you continue walking until you reach a split in the path, here you head back to El Chalten or turn right and head toward Laguna de Los Tres. (There is a campground here as well- Camparmento Poicenot if you are on an overnight hike.)

We headed toward Laguna de Los Tres. At this point the trail is still following the Rio Blanco. Eventually you reach a turn, here the trail leaves the river and begins a steep climb up to Laguna de Los Tres. The total elevation gain on the hike is 750 meters and I’d say at least 700 if not all 750 is right here on the climb up to the Laguna. If it is clear, at the top near the lagoon your reward is fantastic views of Mount Fitz Roy (3,405 meters) and Cerro Torre (3,102 meters). You can also see Laguna Suda. The hiking maps warn you this climb can be dangerous if it is windy or rainy and I wouldn’t want to attempt it in either, plus there would be no view at the top.

The scale of the mountains and the lake at the top makes you feel small. In our pictures the people near the lake look tiny. (There are people in this picture if you look closely.)

El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy: Argentina’s Hiking Capital People at top of Laguna de Los Tres Hiking in El Chaten and Mount Fitz Roy www.compassandfork.com

Return via the same trail until reaching the junction for Rio Blanco, here you now turn right and head toward town. From Laguna de Los Tres to El Chalten is 12.5 Kilometers, about 4 hours of walking. Other than the climb up to Laguna de Los Tres, it is easy walking.

You will pass Laguna Capri and there is another campsite near here. The scenery and views of Mount Fitz Roy on the way back to town are spectacular. It is a great hike and walking from El Pillar also lets you explore the Piedras Blancas Glacier (and walk one way of course) so the shuttle was well worth it.

 Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy: Argentina’s Hiking Capital View of Mount Fitz Roy from Laguna de Los Tres Trail www.compassandfork.com

Laguna Torre and Glacier Grande

This hike leads to the Laguna Torre and Glacier Grande. We started (and ended) this hike on a beautiful warm day from El Chalten. You couldn’t have asked for a better day for a hike. It is an 11 kilometer, 3 hour hike to Glacier Grande with little elevation gain (250 meters).

There is a viewpoint for the glacier about 5 kilometers into the hike. If you want a shorter hike you can hike to here and return.

We continued on, the closer we walked to the glacier, the worse the weather became. In the end we had to run back. The wind and rain were so strong it was threatening to blow me over. Even with trekking poles I was struggling to stay upright. It was very rocky and in the end, since there was going to be no scenic view of the glacier, we decided it was safer to cut our losses and turn around. I hate not finishing a hike so this was quite disappointing, but better safe than sorry.

Had we made it to the glacier there is a lookout 3 kilometers past the lagoon the glacier drains into. The lookout is also very exposed on a windy day. So there was no way we were going to make it to there. If you continue to the lookout, the hike is 14 kilometers one way.

As we returned toward town, the weather continued to improve until we arrived back in town on the same sunny warm day we had left. That’s Patagonian weather for you!

El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy: Argentina’s Hiking Capital View of Mt Fitz Roy Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy www.compassandfork.com

Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

This hike starts south of town, cross the bridge heading out of town toward El Calafate and turn near the Visitor Center to find the start of the hike. It is 10 kilometers, or 4 hours, with a 1000 meter elevation gain. It is a steady uphill walk until nearing the end. Here it becomes a steep, exposed climb up to a lagoon. From the top there are great views when it is clear. You can see out over Lago Viedma.

El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy: Argentina’s Hiking Capital View from Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy www.compassandfork.com

Getting to El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy

El Chalten is 220 kilometers from El Calafate. You can catch a public bus from El Calafate. Just purchase a ticket at the bus station. We took the bus to El Calafate from Puerto Natales, landed at the bus station and purchased our ticket to go to El Chalten (not possible to buy the El Chalten portion in Puerto Natales.) We had several hours before the bus to El Chalten departed. The bus company stored our luggage in their office (just ask) and we had a nice lunch in El Calafate, picked up some tourist information for when we returned to go to Perito Moreno Glacier and had a wander around town. We headed back to catch the evening bus and enjoyed a relaxing ride to El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy, arriving about 10:30 pm in time for a good night’s sleep and an early start to hike the next day.

We stayed at Hotel Destino Sur. It was a good choice. It is a newer property. It has fantastic views. You can arrange lunch for hiking if you need one. Breakfast was included, so we started each day with a big breakfast before hiking. Our favorite part of the hotel was the hot tub. You can book it for a specific time and it is all yours. It was an indoor hot tub, in a room with a lovely view. They lit candles for you. It was great for a soak after a long day of hiking.

Check prices and availability for Hotel Destino Sure here.

If you are into hiking add El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy to your Patagonia itinerary! Its reputation as Argentina’s hiking capital is well deserved.


El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy Argentinas Hiking Capital www.compassandfork.com

26 Responses

  1. Philipp
    | Reply

    Awesome! Now I definitely HAVE to go. Cant wait to figure this trip out! Thanks for sharing the experience.

    • Editor

      Phillip it is a magnificent place. Such magnificent scenery. It is worth getting there!

  2. Stacey Valle
    | Reply

    What a view! My travel buddy and I love hiking. It is a great way to see nature. We will definitely hike here if we come to Argentina. Thanks for sharing!

    • Editor

      Thanks for the comment. We have been keen hikers for may years and Mount Fitz Roy is in our top few places. The scenery is spectacular.

  3. Trisha Velarmino
    | Reply

    I’ve been here twice and it’s really a good hiking/camping site in Argentina! I moved to Peru now and if you are looking for something similar, I would recommend Huaraz! Great photos, btw!

    • Editor

      We love hiking Trisha, so thanks for your suggestion on Huaraz. Patagonia is such an easy place to take great photos because the subject matter is so spectacular!

  4. Nikoleta Míchalová
    | Reply

    I love mountains and those definitely look like the ones I would hike 😉

    • Editor

      Nikoleta, Yes, they are spectacular! Especially on a clear day!

  5. James | The Globe Wanderers
    | Reply

    I’ve always fancied Argentina and hiking in these kinds of stunning landscapes.
    This post isn’t helping my itchy feet of making it here someday but the photos are incredible and the hikes sound epic!
    Excellent post 🙂

  6. Chris
    | Reply

    Now you’ve just made us jealous!

    El Chalten was buried under waist deep snow when we were down in Argentina (admittedly, we were there in winter), so hiking, or even visiting wasn’t an option for us!

    Did you get over into Chile and Torres del Paine as well?

    • Editor

      Chris, Yes mate, the previous two posts are about Torres Del Paine- it was spectacular.

  7. karla
    | Reply

    Wow those views, amazing! I would love to do hikes like these too. We don’t have snow back home so these types of hikes… I like

    • Editor

      Karla, It is a beautiful area to hike in, highly recommend it.

  8. Isabela Mariano
    | Reply

    Oh, wow. Those are lovely photos. No doubt you enjoyed the scenery!

    • Editor

      Isabella, Yes it is a lovely area and we were quite lucky on the weather! 🙂

  9. Natalie Deduck
    | Reply

    Argentina is a surprising country!
    El Chalten is a hiking paradise. While reading your post I was talking to my husband that we definitely need to go there! We visited Argentina twice, but stayed on the city, didn’t go up to the mountains, what a shame!
    Thanks for sharing amazing photos.

    • Editor

      Hi Natalie. Thanks for your kind comments.
      We do like to hike and have wanted to go to Patagonia for may years. We finally bit the bullet and we loved Patagonia. It is spectacular hiking and it is more relaxed in the country versus the big cities. Yo won’t regret going there on your next trip to Argentina.

  10. Gemma Two Scots Abroad
    | Reply

    Who knew there was so many hiking opportunities in South America! We did the Colca Canyon and Lares Trek in Peru. Some of best favourite memories.

    • Editor

      Thanks for your comment. We have also hiked in Peru, also stunning. It’s hard to pick between the 2 as to which is the best location. Maybe Patagonia for the scenery and Peru for the culture and history.

  11. Beautiful photos. I’m with you, I prefer a real bed at night. 🙂

    • Editor

      Debbie, The older I get, the stronger the preference!

  12. Tami
    | Reply

    Patagonia–very interesting area with beautiful scenery. Not on my bucket list, but I enjoyed seeing your photos!

    • Editor

      Tami, I am glad you enjoyed it. One of our goals is to help people learn more about a region and culture. Some people will want to go, some will just learn something new and maybe try some new recipes. All good!

  13. Doreen Pendgracs
    | Reply

    I have learned much about Argentina from your posts, Elizabeth. Thx for this. Due to the arthritis in my knees, I won’t be hiking in the mountains, but I would certainly like to enjoy the culture, wine, and the chocolate. 🙂

    • Editor

      Doreen, There is still plenty to do without hiking and plenty of wine to drink 🙂

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