The village of El Chalten, Argentina, located in the northern area of Los Glaciares National Park, is known as the Trekking Capital of Argentina. The tiny trekking outpost sits at the base of Mount Fitz Roy and exists mainly to meet the food and lodging needs of the hikers who visit.
Here’s the thing, though…I am no hiker, at least not in the same way as an avid hiking enthusiast who hikes often and has all the right gear. But, I do enjoy hiking because it is usually the best way to explore a National Park.
When I planned this Patagonia trip, I knew the multi-day W Circuit trek in Torres del Paine was not a fit for me. El Chalten and its day-hikes suited my style and got me closer to the mountains in Los Glaciares National Park. I spent 2 days doing 2 hikes, Laguna Torre and Lago De Los Tres.
Hiking in Patagonia as a Non-Hiker
Before setting off, pack lunch and plenty of water. You’ll need to hydrate and refuel along the way for the 2 day-long hikes discussed below. El Chalten’s shops sell prepared foods for hikers.
One access point to start the trail is from a metal staircase in the village. The level of difficulty listed by the park is easy to moderate. Think moderate because the trail winds up around the mountains, down into the Fitz Roy River Valley, and back up to Laguna Torre.
The hike could take up to 4 hours one-way and 9 hours round trip. I’ve read that others have done the one-way in 2.5 hours, and while there were certainly people on the trail moving faster than I was, that pace seems to leave no time for any stops. In total, the hike took me about 8 hours round trip, which included lunch, taking a lot of photos, and stopping for a bit to watch a pair of male and female huemuls, an endangered species of South Andean deer.
Hiking in Patagonia soon?
Lago De Los Tres
The access point to begin this hike is about a 10-minute walk just outside of El Chalten. There is also a shuttle that brings hikers to the start. The level of difficulty listed by the park is medium to hard. While much of the 10 km. path meanders through a forest and into a flatter river valley, the first 2 kilometers are up a tougher incline and the last kilometer is downright killer, as you claw your way up the rocky mountainside to the glacier-fed lake at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy.
But, if I can do it, so can you!
Plan to do this hike on a clear day so you can clearly see Mt. Fitz Roy. This hike is a lot of work to do without the reward of seeing the granite spires clearly or having bad weather at the lake.
In order to make the 6 p.m. bus back to El Calafate, I made a 7:45 a.m. start and returned to El Chalten by 5:30 p.m. There were few stops and the pace was quicker than the previous day’s hike to Laguna Torre. I knew if I began my return by 1 p.m., I would make the bus.
P.S. Time for a confession…
I made a friend named Jenny and we hiked together. It was as much her encouragement as my own physical strength that got me to the top!
What are your thoughts about hiking as a non-hiker? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Like this post? Please share it on social media using the buttons below and sign up to get weekly updates with tips on miles and points, destinations, and much more!