18/07/2024

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Trekking in El Chalten – Complete 2023 Hiking Guide

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Trekking in El Chalten – Complete 2023 Hiking Guide

El Chaltén, located in Los Glaciares National Park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares) is seen as the trekking capital of Argentinian Patagonia. In this hiking guide, we discuss different one-day and multi-day trekking routes around the small town of El Chaltén as well as our budget, accommodation, and transport.

Reflection in Laguna de Los Tres El Chalten
The iconic Laguna de Los Tres in El Chalten with a spectacular reflection of the mountain.

The geographical region Patagonia, at the southern end of South America, belongs to two countries, Argentina and Chile separated by the gigantic Andes Mountains. Covered in mountains, volcanoes, lakes, and fjords Patagonia is one of the best regions for hiking in the world. We spent months trekking in this spectacular part of the world, awesome day hikes and challenging multi-day treks.

The most popular hikes in Patagonia are the W-trek in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, and Laguna de Los Tres, Los Glaciares National Park, El Chalten, Argentina.

El Chalten Tours

See our Complete Guide to Camping in El Chalten and our Detailed Guide to the Laguna de Los Tres Hike.

El Chalten Trekking

The status of El Chaltén as a major hiking destination is due to the wide variety of trekking routes accessible to all fitness and experience levels. El Chalten offers some of the best day hikes in Patagonia. These trails vary and there are plenty of fantastic options to do either a full-day hike, a shorter day hike, or a multi-day trek. Mount Fitz Roy is located in the Andes Mountain range forming a border between Argentina and Chile.  There are spectacular views of the two most prominent peaks, Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre while camping and hiking in the park. We really enjoyed the vibe in the town, everybody is here to hike. Many people do one-day routes returning to town every night.

The way to do multi-day hikes from El Chaten is to combine several trails and stay in the free campsites to make up a hike to your requirements. We hiked this way and give details in this post on our trekking route. The other options if you want to do multi-day treks are to do the El Chaltén to Piedra del Fraile (Cerro Fitz Roy) trek or the challenging Huemul circuit.

You can combine hiking in El Chaltén with a trek to O’Higgins Glacier or a visit to Perito Moreno Glacier.

El Chalten Day Hikes

There are several trails leading to the main viewpoints, each taking between two and ten hours to hike from the town. The trails are well-marked and free maps are available all over the town. The most popular one-day hikes are named after the viewpoint where the respective trails end.

  • Los Condores – duration 2 hours
  • Chorrillo del Salto – duration 3 hours
  • Laguna Capri – duration 4 hours
  • Cerro Torre – duration 6 hours
  • Laguna de Los Tres – duration 8 hours
view of Mt Fitzroy and El Chalten
Approaching El Chalten and Mt. Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina

El Chaltén and Tores del Paine National Park host some of the best hikes in Argentina, with some amazing shorter hiking trails. For some great day hikes check out day-hikes in Torres del Paine National Park, for some awesome day hikes in Chilean Patagonia.

Los Condores, 2 hours

Distance: 3 km round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Parque de los Glaciares ranger station

This trail is an easy 45-minute to an hour walk from town, straight past the ranger station for some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. This is a great spot to walk for sunrise to see the reflection on the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.  You can walk to Mirador de Los Condores, or continue about 1.5km (15 to 20 min) to Mirador Las Águilas for views of Lago Viedma and Tunnel Bay.

Chorrillo del Salto, 3 hours

Distance: 7 km round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: North side of town, Av. San Martín

This is a short, easy hike leading into a hillside of Ñire and Lenga forest to a beautiful waterfall of more than 20 meters drop. Starting the hike in El Chalten at the north side of town, the trailhead to Laguna de Los Tres taking the path to the right the total return hike is 7 km. Driving to the Chorrillo del Salto trailhead the hike is only about 3 km return.

Laguna Capri, 4 hours

Distance: 8 km round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: North side of town, Av. San Martín

The walk starts with an incline for the first 40 minutes or so until you enter the valley of Del Salto River, towards Mount Fitz Roy. From the valley, you have nice views of the Fitz Roy Massif. After walking for about 90 minutes the road splits to Laguna Capri (left) or to the Fitz Roy (right). When you reach Laguna Capri you will have a unique view of Fitz Roy and its surrounding peaks.

View of Laguna Capri hiking from El Chalten
The hike to Laguna Capri is a fairly long flat hike from El Chalten.

Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre, 6 hours

Distance: 20 km round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: marked trailhead on Calle Riquelme

This is a beautiful long hike to Laguna Torre at the base of Cerro Torre, a stunning mountain (3128m) located at the border between Chile and Argentina.

It is a fairly flat and easy hike, it is well-marked even with distance markers. The toughest part is the 2 km ascent at the start and the final ascent to Mirador Maestri, with very uneven terrain. Remember a snack and water.

view of Laguna Capri and Fitzroy hiking from El Chalten
Laguna Torre at the base of Cerro Torre a mostly flat hike from El Chalten.

The trail kicks off with great views of Cerro Torre after about a 30-minute walk, the first kilometer or two is uphill from where it becomes flatter and easier. The hike follows the beautiful Río Fitz Roy offering incredible views of the river and Torre Massif. When you reach the shores of Laguna Torre with icebergs floating in the glacial lake expect spectacular close-up views of the Torre Massif, not a blue glacial lake the water is muddy, but very nice views.

Worth it to go all the way to Mirador Maestri, with great views of the spectacular glacier, Be careful with some slippery rocks on this last part.

Laguna de Los Tres (Fitz Roy Trek), 8 hours

Distance: 24 km round trip (28 km with Piedras Blancas Glacier)
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Trailhead: Parking lot at the north end of Avenida San Martín

This is the longest day hike, the trail is the same as for Laguna Capri up to the split, starting with an incline for the first 40 minutes or so until you enter the valley of Del Salto river. After walking for about 90 minutes the road splits to Laguna Capri (left) or to the Fitz Roy (right). From here it is fairly flat until you reach the mountains For the last hour or so it is a steep climb gaining 400m in altitude in approximately a kilometer. Be careful on this part, it is steep with scree and loose rocks. You have long days in summer, so go for it just take it slow.

Hikers with Lago de Los Tres with Mt.Fitz Roy on the background.
Stingy Nomads at Lago de Los Tres with Mt.Fitz Roy in the background.

Laguna de Los Tres is probably the best one-day hike you can do from El Chalten and is an iconic hike in Patagonia. This hike is also known as Fitz Roy Trek because of the classic viewpoint of Mount Fitz Roy towering above the glacial lakes that conclude the hike.

Go down to the lake’s shore and continue to the left, You will reach another viewpoint from where it is possible to see both Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Sucia another blue glacial lake.

If you have time the side trip to the viewpoint of Piedras Blancas Glacier is worth it with great views of the glacier and a flat walk there taking about 45 minutes.

Amazing view of Piedras Blancas Glacier
Piedras Blancas Glacier on the Laguna de Los Tres hike is a beautiful side trip.

Glacier Viedma trek, guided tour

Ice trekking on Glaciar Viedma is an awesome guided option, an unreal experience, but it is pricey.  The tour companies will take you out Transport to the glacier is by boat, kitted with crampons and the necessary glacier trekking gear you go for a guided hike on the ice. Multi-day treks where you camp on the ice are also available.

El Chalten Multi-Day Trekking Routes

The park is truly for everybody with very well-marked trails, fairly flat for most of the routes and there are many other hikers on all routes in season.  I don’t think a guide is necessary actually El Chalten is a great place to do your first independent hike. Like backpacking in Torres del Paine in El Chalten, you’ll see quite a lot of tourists during the peak season, but it’s still worth it to come here. The views are spectacular and we really enjoyed it, it is an amazing place for hiking.

For multi-day trekking in El Chalten, your options are to either combine several trails to make up a hike to your requirements or to do the Piedra del Fraile or Huemul circuit which is known as the toughest hike in the region. There are four free campsites in the park where you can camp to do a multi-day hike, you can see our two-day hiking route below.

map of hikes from El Chalten
Map of Los Galaciares National Park hikes. Our route, first day; El Chalten – Laguna Capri, – camping Rio Blanco. Second day; Rio Blanco – Lago de Los tres – glacier Piedras blancas – Laguna Madre e Hija – Laguna Torres – El Chalten.

Our hiking route in El Chaltén

We combined hiking routes to some of the park’s most popular sites such as Laguna de Los Tres, Mirador Glacier Piedras Blancas, and Lago Tore, camping for one night at Camping Poincenot. This breaks up the hike and allows you to have a chill sunset from the campsite at Cerro Fitz Roy and if you start early you can experience the famous glowing orange sunrise from Fitz Roy mountain. Give yourself time, get up early enough. Bring warm clothes for the top when you are waiting for sunrise you will get very cold very fast. The total distance for the two days is about 38 km.

Day One El Chaltén to Campamento Pointcenot  11km

Located outside of town, the trail starts here, you have to register if you are planning to camp or walk further than the viewpoints, registration is free of charge.

This is a nice viewpoint of the Fitz Roy Range, the walk here starts with a bit of uphill and some steps but then becomes flat. It was overcast and rainy on our first day for this reason we saw almost nothing on the first day. The laguna is 4km about 1 hour and 15 minutes’ walk from the visitors centre.

The campsite is located just over an hour’s walk away. On the way, we could see the glacier Piedras Blancas, almost at the start of the trail to Laguna Los Tres. The campsite had a dry toilet, water was available at a close by river. The campsite was quite full with some groups being loud until late.

view of Mt.Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares Nationl park
Nice view of Mt.Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares National park hiking from El Chalten.

Day Two Campamento Pointceno – Laguna De Los Tres – Laguna Torre – El Chalten 27km

The lake is spectacular by any standards, the trail starts close to the campsite, Campamento Poincenot. Unlike the previous day that day, we were very lucky to have perfect sunny weather with no wind.

It is only a 3 or 4 km walk from the campsite but is a steep climb most of the way. There are two lakes (Laguna De Los Tres and Laguna Sucia) and a glacier that you can see on the top. If there is no wind the reflection of the mountain in the lake is amazing. Get up about 2 hours before sun up if you want to see the sunrise from the top.

We broke down our tent before summiting and walked up with our full packs and our tent, If you get up for the sunrise come back and break down your tent after descending, this will also make the climb a bit easier

  • Mirrador Glacier Piedras Blancas 

This viewpoint is about 2km from the Campamento Ponenot campsite. We had a really nice view of the glacier. We walked here after coming down from Laguna De Los Tres and had breakfast.

This was a long walk from Mirador Glacier Piedras Blancas at the end of the day. It was overcast again and we did not have great views, but the views of the Torre range are supposed to be good from here. The view of the lake and its glacier was nice.

Nice views of the Cerro Torre Range, were our last stop on the way back.

beautiful view of Laguna Sucia
Stunning view of Laguna Sucia, the lake next to Laguna de Los Tres.

More Hiking and Camping options

Our second day on the above route was 28 km, It was a long day including a steep ascent to see sunrise from Laguna De Los Tres.

3-Day Hike – This route can be turned into a 3-Day Hike by going from Laguna De Los Tres to Laguna Torre on the second day and camping at Camping de Agostini another free campsite at Laguna Torre, leaving 12 km to hike to El Chalten on day 3. We did consider this, but because we started early on day 2 and were walking at a good pace we decided to continue and finish in 2 days.

Some hikers camp at Campamento Poincenot and take the same route back from Laguna De Los Tres to El Chalten breaking the 24km hike in two and allowing you to see sunset and sunrise at Fitz Roy.

Hike The Humuel Circuit

This five-day hike around Huemul Mountain is known as one of the toughest and most beautiful hikes in Patagonia. This Circuit involves semi-technical terrains, such as snow, glaciers, and moraines. Its particular components involve different types of terrains, climbs, flora, and fauna allowing us, in only a few days, to get to know a remote place, including an amazing view of the Southern Ice Field. We have not done this hike, but understand you need some technical experience and gear to complete this hike.
With a 60km length, this circuit has from 800 to 1600 mts elevations. Entering from Rio Túnel Valley up to Paso del Viento, by The Viedma Glacier up and out through Paso Huemul.

You can book a 4-day guided hike of the Humuel circuit here.

Accommodation in El Chalten

Thousands of cyclists and hikers come through El Chalten every season and there is a huge variety of accommodations to cater to every budget from camping to luxury lodges. We enjoyed camping, but it is nice to return to a warm lodge, and have your own bathroom and a comfortable bed after a long day hiking in the chilly Patagonian weather!

Super comfort – Los Cerros Boutique Hotel & Spa, is a beautiful boutique hotel with stunning views 5 minutes from the trail. Our friends loved it, knowledgeable, helpful, friendly staff, super comfortable beds, and a jacuzzi-type bath with a view. An amazing breakfast is included.

Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montaña – 5 Star luxury, excellent ratings

Mid Budget – Hosteria El Paraiso Alpine-style cabin with panoramic views of Fitz Roy hills, location great close to the bus stop and the start of the trails. Good value for money.

Backpacker Budget – Hostel Pioneros del Valle, well-rated budget accommodation.

Camping in El Chalten

Some of the most popular campsites in the town of El Chalten can be seen below, see our article on Camping in El Chaten for a review of the sites and camping in the region.

Best Time to Visit El Chalten

December – FebruarySummertime is the high season in El Chaltén with warm temperatures and long days. There are many tourists in the park at this time of the year. The average maximum temperature around this season is  69.1°F (20.6°C). Strong winds do blow in summer. There is little rain in summer. 

March – April:  Fall is a good time to travel to El Chalten. Local schools close and there are not many people on the trails. It is colder with a bit more rain. Maximum temperatures are around 67.7°F (19.8°C). The wind calms down in the fall.

September – NovemberSpring is a great season for trekking in Patagonia. Most routes are possible. Spring daily highs range around 63.9°F (17.7°C) 

Travel insurance for hiking in Patagonia

Hiking like any outdoor activity involves a risky part with the possibility of getting an injury.

Having an accident in a foreign country can be an extremely costly affair without appropriate cover. Want to know what insurance will cost? Get an instant online quote from World Nomads here.

World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers. If you leave home without travel insurance or your policy runs out, you can buy or extend while on the road.

What to pack for hiking in El Chalten?

You’ll find a complete packing list for hiking and camping in the region in our post Patagonia packing list.

beautiful town El Chalten in Argentina Patagonia
The beautiful little town El Chalten in Argentina Patagonia is an amazing base for world-class hiking.

Restaurants and eating in El Chalten

Self-catering

There are a couple of supermarkets selling the basics in El Chalten, We did some shopping in the supermarkets and cooked in the campsite kitchen. Get fresh bread at Panaderia Que-rika

Restaurants

El Parador Fast Food

Awesome small, cozy little restaurant, also good for takeaways. Nice homemade and fresh food. Nice burgers, good soup.

B&B Burger Joint

Burgers, fries, and beer – good portions at reasonable prices. Delicious after a long chilly day of hiking. Can get very full, but the service was good. Show sports on TV.

How to get from El Chalten to El Calafate?

El Chalten can easily be reached by flying to the nearest airport, El Calafate, about 220km away, and continuing by bus. Flights to El Calafate depart from many airports including EZE (Ezeiza, Buenos Aires). The road is paved in excellent condition and the trip takes 3 hours by bus, The daily bus service between El Calafate and El Chaltén works all year round, twice per day in the morning and evening (3 times in the peak season). The bus trip is quite expensive. You can book a bus transfer from El Chalten to El Calafate here.

Transport “door2door” Calafate-Chalten or Chalten-Calafate

Due to the expensive bus tickets in the region, some people try hitchhiking. If you decide to hitchhike, just get on the road early, we had a long day of very competitive hitchhiking here. We hitchhiked a lot in Patagonia and it was a great way to explore the area and to travel the Carretera Austral.

How to get from Villa O Higgins to El Chalten?

Getting from Villa O Higgins in Chile to El Chalten in Argentina was an interesting journey on foot and ferry, we walked more than 40 kilometers with all our luggage, 2 backpacks, and a camera bag each, it was a tough hike that can be done in about 2 days. We walked to the beautiful glacier El Chico on the way which was a really nice detour.

view of Lagunas Madre e Hija, Los Glaciares National park, El Chalten
View of the beautiful Lagunas Madre e Hija, Los Glaciares National Park, El Chalten

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