Hiking in El Chalten, Argentina is a top Patagonia itinerary thing to do. Given how remote El Chalten is, it can feel more challenging to plan, especially when you don’t want to miss out on everything that is spectacular about Los Glaciares National Park and Mount Fitz Roy.
In this El Chalten hiking guide, I share my experiences hiking Laguna Torre and Laguna de Los Tres. You’ll also find information about taking the bus from El Calafate to El Chalten, where to stay in El Chalten, and resources for planning your Patagonia and El Chalten itinerary.
Hiking in El Chalten Argentina (as a Non-Hiker!)
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 El Chalten trekking outpost, with less than 1000 residents, sits at the base of Mount Fitz Roy and exists largely to meet the food and lodging needs of the hikers who visit.
When I planned my Patagonia trip, I knew the multi-day W Circuit trek in Torres del Paine was not a fit for me. The El Chalten day hikes suited my style and abilities and got me closer to the mountains in Los Glaciares National Park.
I’m writing this post specifically because I’m not a hiker. At least I’m not in the same way as someone who’s an avid hiking enthusiast who hikes often and has all the right gear. Most El Chalten hiking guides I’ve seen are written by serious hikers for serious hikers.
And for anyone who doesn’t hike often but wants to do some Patagonia hiking and visit Patagonia generally, I wanted to show it’s more than possible. In fact, El Chalten’s day hikes are a perfect fit.
I decided to spend 3 nights and 2 days in El Chalten doing the Laguna Torre and Laguna De Los Tres hikes.
Remember, if you’re someone who doesn’t hike often like me, be sure to pack lunch and plenty of water. You’ll need to hydrate and refuel along the way and El Chalten’s shops sell prepared foods for hikers. From sandwiches to baked goods to delicious empanadas, it’s convenient and quick to prepare yourself for the day.
ProTip: El Chalten is also limited when it comes to buying any hiking gear so it’s best to come prepared. I wore hiking pants that were easy to move in and protected me against Patagonia’s unpredictable weather. I was also glad I thought to pack a shell jacket in my day pack when the sun went behind the clouds and the wind picked up at the top of the Fitz Roy Trek.
And, don’t forget to grab an El Chalten hiking map from your hotel or hostel. You never know when you might need a point of reference while you’re on the trails.
Laguna Torre El Chalten
Access the start of the trail from the metal staircase in the village. The national park lists the Laguna Torre hike level of difficulty as easy to moderate. Think more moderate than easy because the trail winds up around the mountains, down into the Fitz Roy River Valley, and back up to Laguna Torre.
Hiking Laguna Torre could take up to 4 hours one-way and 8 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 round trip hike took me the full 8 hours. First off, I wasn’t in any hurry. I was also taking a lot of photos. The 8 hours also included a lunch break and stopping for about 45 minutes to watch a pair of male and female huemuls, an endangered species of South Andean deer.
The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, but you’ll still want to wear sturdy hiking boots. About 10-15 minutes into the hike, you’ll notice the Fitz Roy River on your left.
The mountains are ever-present throughout the hike. I was so thrilled to visit in late March. The Southern Hemisphere brilliant fall foliage adds another level of WOW to an already breathtaking landscape.
The final section of the hike includes walking through the flat river valley until you reach the lake and its glacier. As you can see from the photos, what started out as a sunny day, turned into a cloudy and even temporarily drizzly afternoon. No matter which El Chalten hiking trail you choose, be mindful of the weather, especially if you visit toward the end of the peak visiting season like I did.
And of course, keep an eye out for wildlife along the way. Birds and small animals like foxes are more common, but if you’re lucky, you just might spot an endangered Huemul or two.
Hiking in El Chalten soon?
I had a fantastic stay at the Nothofagus Bed & Breakfast. Search and book more great hotels on TripAdvisor and Booking.com.
Laguna de Los Tres El Chalten: the Fitz Roy Trek
When it comes to Patagonia trekking, the El Chalten Fitz Roy hike (a.k.a. Laguna de Los Tres) is near the top of most hikers’ bucket lists. Speaking from just my own limited experience here and in Ushuaia, I’m not sure hiking in Argentina gets any better than this.
The access point for the Laguna de Los Tres hike is about a 10-minute walk just outside of El Chalten. I walked it but there’s also a shuttle that brings hikers to the start.
Los Glaciares National Park lists the level of difficulty for trekking Laguna de Los Tres as medium to hard. Much of the 10 km path meanders through a forest and into a flatter river valley. But, the first 2 kms 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.
I hiked with a friend I met at my hostel in El Calafate. It was great to hike with someone, but either way, I was planning to complete this hike solo. If you’d rather, there are guided Fitz Roy trekking excursions.
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.
The sun was just rising as I began the Laguna De Los Tres hike. You’ll see the river valley on your right.
As with Laguna Torre, the trail is clear and easy to follow. After making it up the steeper 2km at the start and walking a bit further along the path, it opens up to a viewpoint perfect for taking photos of Mount Fitz Roy. As tempting as it is to take tons of photos, it’s important to keep moving.
The trail becomes flat and much easier for the middle portion of the hike. In fact, there are sections where the trail was very easy, feeling more like a brisk walk than a difficult hike.
The path through the river valley is the lowest point of the hike. These log pathways take you through the grassy wetlands. With the colors of Fall in full radiance, I don’t think I’ve seen a more gorgeous yellow landscape.
Arriving at the final kilometer, you’ll see signs warning of the steep, rocky trail ahead. You’ll also see it’ll take about an hour to complete the last bit of this 10km hike.
The trail continues up the rocky mountainside. There are yellow arrows pointing you in the right direction. But, you’ll have to plot each footstep according to the rocks on the trail. The arrows are there only as a guide because there isn’t a clear pathway.
The views of the valley below are breathtaking, particularly in Fall. I made frequent stops to catch my breath and to drink water. It was still before 1 pm, the time when I needed to begin the return trip, so there was no stress about not making it back to town in time.
Reaching the top and seeing the glacier-fed lake at the base of Mount Fitz Roy was and still is one of my biggest hiking triumphs. That last kilometer was so much work but it was so worth it!
Bus from El Calafate to El Chalten
Chalten Travel runs buses several times a day between El Calafate and El Chalten. At the time of my trip, I paid about $62.50US for a round-trip ticket between these 2 towns. The ride takes about 3 hours. Most travelers will be coming from El Calafate where it’s easy to purchase tickets at the bus terminal. Your hotel or hostel in El Calafate should also be able to help you purchase bus tickets.
Where to Stay in El Chalten
I had a great stay at the Nothofagus Bed and Breakfast and would happily recommend it. It was a quiet and cozy place to stay, with private rooms and modern bathrooms. My rate also included breakfast. Payment must be made in U.S. dollars, which is the case with many places to stay in El Chalten. Recent trip reports from El Chalten are there are no more ATMs. (When I visited, there was 1 and it was usually out of cash.) Get all the cash you need from El Calafate or before you arrive in the region.
Hiking in El Chalten is not only for experienced hikers! You’ll find some of the best hikes in Patagonia in El Chalten. Even for (non)-hikers like me, Fitz Roy trekking and other beautiful day hikes are possible for your Patagonia trip.
Is hiking in El Chalten on your Patagonia itinerary?
Like this post? Please share it on social media using the buttons below.
44 thoughts on “Hiking in El Chalten Argentina (as a Non-Hiker!)”
This is SO on my bucket list! I’ve always dreamed of going to patagonia. It looks amazing! I’m saving this post for the day I make it to South America 🙂
Fantastic! I’m sure it will be everything you imagine! I was totally blown away by how beautiful it was. When you plan your trip, reach back out if you need any tips!
I feel the same way as you. I am not a hiker but enjoy to hike and realize this is necessary when exploring the outdoors. I was faced with not a so easy hike recently at Yosemite. The good news is that I was able to push it and make it to the goal. You photos in here are incredible. This is a place I would love to visit.
Thanks, Ruth. I haven’t hiked in Yosemite, but would love to give it a try. Patagonia is a truly special destination. Hope you can make it for a visit!
WOW! Not much of a hiker myself but I think those views are worth it. Breath- taking! Might have to add this one to my bucket list 🙂
Thanks for your comments, Bryna! If you go to Patagonia, definitely consider their fall/autumn. The foliage against the mountains and lakes is incredible!
This is EXACTLY the kind of post I bookmark for future travel plans — thank you! Like you, I’m not a hugely rugged backpacker/hiker, but I love hiking when I can. If I go to Patagonia, this will be the perfect reference for my trip.
Thank you, Jennifer! I agree. Hiking is such a great way to explore the natural landscape of a place, but I’m so not the rugged backpacker type. Glad to help you plan a trip to Patagonia! 🙂
GOSH! Your photos! Love the fall colors too. Very different to the usual snow covered landscapes we see of Patagonia.
Thanks, Anna! I had the same reaction when I saw the landscapes in person! It didn’t seem real with the snow-capped mountains and the brilliant fall foliage. If you ever visit, I would highly recommend fall. It’s simply stunning!
What a view! This is definitely the kind of hike I’m going to be enjoying.
The landscapes were breathtaking, Erica! They keep you going for the whole hike. 🙂
vibrant and very colorful. Happy for you.
Thank you, Himanshu. Patagonia in the fall is spectacular!
Such fantastic scenery… I would never want to leave!
Trust me Dave, I could have stayed! It’s such a stunning part of the world.
I appreciate this perspective because I’m a non-hiker and though I want to see that area, I’ve always been leary because I’m not a hiker.
It’s true, Laura, because a lot of the information out there is for hardcore hikers. I was glad to find El Chalten because it’s a great jumping off point for great day hikes.
So beautiful! I wonder if it would be possible for my 3 year old daughter? Nine hours is a long day.
Nine hours is long for a 3 year old, Lesley. The youngest child I saw on all my hikes was probably around 7 or 8. But that being said the trails all vary in length and difficulty so it would depend on what age you think she could handle something like this. A few very child friendly aspects of hiking here are the paths are well maintained, it’s super clean, and there were surprisingly few (if any) insects or animals.
I’m a non-hiker as well so it’s good to see a hike that I could manage. The scenery is well worth the effort! Great info!
The day hikes in El Chalten are long, but allow you to complete them in a single day. The landscapes are stunning and you get to sleep in a warm bed when you’re finished. Perfect for us non-hikers! 🙂
I’m so glad you shared this. I too am a non-hiker. I love walking, but it’s usually more of an exploration stroll. It’s good to know that trails like this aren’t just for hiking superstars and we normal folk can get in on the views too.
Thanks, Mags! No need to be a hiking superstar on these day hikes in El Chalten, lol. 🙂 If I can make it and love it, you can too!
One of my dream destinations! Always when I see posts like yours I am amazed by this place, thanks! 🙂
I understand, Oliwia! I couldn’t get Patagonia out of my head and just had to get there! I promise, when you make it, you’ll be even more amazed by the natural beauty before you.
Great post and lovely pictures. This is so on my list to do things. Thanks for sharing. It looks fabulous there.
Thanks, Marc. It’s one of my all time favorite places to visit!! It’s stunning. Hope you can make it to Patagonia!
wow, your pictures are amazing! I guess you were really luck to have these clear skies in the fall. I’m want to go to Patagonia but need to be in better shape to enjoy it. Your post is encouraging.
Thanks, Naomi! Trust me when I say, I was huffing and puffing for that last bit to the top. Patagonia is stunning. I’m glad to provide some inspiration! 🙂
Hey I am total non hiker…with weak physical stamina. We are headed to El Calafate in August 2016. do you recommend we hike El Chalten?
I am a bit scared of hiking in snow…any thoughts?
Hi there and thanks for reading. It’s really hard to say since I was not there with snow on the ground. I can say the hardest hike I did was the Los Tres hike to the lake up near Mount Fitz Roy. Aside from the first km or so and the last, the path was mostly flat. Again, though, I wasn’t there facing winter conditions. I’d love to know what you decide or find out so check back in if you can! 🙂
I’m not a hiker either but am so keen to do these day trips. I’m trying to work out if I should buy some hiking shoes/boots or if my trainers are enough. Any advice would be amazing!
Thanks so much for reading. The El Chalten hiking day trips were fantastic. I’d say your trainers are probably enough. My only hesitation is the last bit of the Fitz Roy hike. It’s quite rocky and a bit of a “climb.” I was glad to have hiking shoes for that, but there were plenty of others with just trainers. If you’re interested, these are the hiking boots I wore in Patagonia. Have so much fun! Patagonia is spectacular. 🙂
Your blog report was our inspiration to go to El Chalten on our first trip to Argentina, and we will be there this coming weekend!
We are a couple in our early 60’s, pretty fit and like hiking but have never done an 8 hour plus hike.
If we have one full day on Sunday (with weather predicted to be partly cloudy, no rain, upper 40’s) for one of the hikes you talk about, which would you recommend?
Thanks for your input!
Thanks so much for reading! I’m so glad you were inspired to visit El Chalten. If you have only full day, I’d do the Lagos de Los Tres, with the views of Fitz Roy and the glacier-fed lake. Start early, like with the sun coming up. The beginning kilometer or so is uphill and the last bit is the hardest of the trek, but everything in between is really gorgeous and feels more like a walk than a hike. Best of luck on your hike! I hope your trip to Argentina is unforgettable! Thanks again for reading. 🙂
Hi Jackie, this post is great . I am visiting Patagonia this April 2018. I was worried to hear that april weather is not very good but your article is a lot more optimistic with the pictures to prove it. What date exactly in April did you hike? I am trying to decide what days in April to visit. Thank you so much
Thanks for reading, Deanna, and how exciting about your trip. I was there late March through the first week of April. To be honest, the hiking weather in El Chalten was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. Great fall weather. Not to mention the foliage!! Good luck and have an amazing time! 🙂
Awesome read and appreciate all the valuable information you provided in your post! I visited El Chalten last year and it was as amazing as you described! I’m visiting again this year in March but will only be there until March 24th and I’m hoping to see some fall colors. When did you visit in March and were you able to see any of the fall colors then or did they mainly come out in April?
Thank you so much!!
Thanks so much for reading, Alex. So lucky you get to return to El Chalten! I was there in late March and into April. But even in late March, the colors were vibrant and out. I think you should be able to see a gorgeous fall landscape. Fingers crossed for you! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I are heading to El Chalten to do almost this exact itinerary in about a week and it is awesome to see someone else complete it so successfully, in March, without necessarily being an avid hiker. This post made us that much more excited to get there 🙂 🙂
Thanks for reading, Ashley. I’m so glad to hear and I hope you have a fantastic time hiking in El Chalten. The National Park is so gorgeous!
thanks for your honest information. Very useful for non hikers but active people. We are arriving around noon and spending also two days. What hike would you recommend to do the day of arrival? IF you had to stay a third full day, what hike would you recommend.
Thanks for reading, Danya. I’d recommend starting with Laguna Capri hike. It’s a shorter hike and might be better for you than Laguna Torre given your noon arrival. If you’d rather start with Laguna Torre, keep in mind if the weather is cloudy, you may not be able to see much at the Laguna. The prettiest parts of the hike were along the way versus at the end. I’d keep the Fitz Roy hike for its own day so you don’t feel rushed. Enjoy El Chalten! It’s gorgeous.