For any serious hiker, El Chaltén is the Trekking Capital of Argentina. But don’t let that deter you from visiting, there are trails here for every level of outdoor enthusiasts.
El Calafate is the portal to the village. Buses depart each day bringing travellers to this well-known region of Patagonia for sight seeing, hiking, rock climbing, camping and other activities. The village is situated in the northern section of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Up until 1995, El Chaltén was a small Argentine military outpost in the disputed area with Chile and a base camp for serious climbers of the jagged peaks of the Los Torres and Fitz Roy mountains.
In the last twenty years, the town has expanded rapidly to accommodate the influx of visitors. Hotels and hostels of every sort are available, as well as food markets, gear stores, and an array of restaurants for any budget. Contrary to outdated information on the world-wide-web there is even an ATM in town.
Our home in El Chaltén was a refurbished railway car, a small and cosy retreat perfect after a hard day of hiking. We did several treks in the area, two near the village and two longer more demanding hikes into Torres and Fitz Roy.
Chorrillo del Salto
Distance: 6 km return
Elevation Gain: Minimal
From El Chaltén, this is an easy and mostly level walk along a road that follows the Rio de las Vueltas before turning into a narrow trail to a beautiful waterfall that is about 20 meters high.
Mirador de Los Cóndores & de Las Aguílas
Distance: 2 to 4 km return
Elevation Gain: 100 meters ( ft)
Two times in one day we made this short hike up to the viewpoint behind the Park Ranger station at the entrance to El Chaltén. The early walk was windy, wet and void of views.
In the late afternoon the skies cleared and the winds calmed and we were treated to incredible views of the mountain range as the sun set.
Laguna Torre and Mirador del Maestri – Cerro Torre
Distance: to lake 18 km return,
to Mirador Maestri 22 km return
Elevation Gain: 200 m to lake, 377 m to Mirador Maestri
The hike into Laguna Torre is long but with a minimal amount of climbing, passing through different terrains making it an enjoyable walk. It was a pleasant and sunny day, but as we reached the lake, a stubborn cloud remained fixated over the crown of Torres obscuring a close-up view of this colossal granite spire. We lingered hoping it would lift, and so we continued uphill to the Mirador del Maestri, a viewpoint from above the lake. The views were outstanding, especially the serpentine glacier that runs into Laguna Torre.
Laguna de Los Tres – Fitz Roy
Distance: 20 km to Laguna de Los Tres return, 24 km via connecting trail to Laguna Torre
Ascent: 775 m
Cerro Fitz Roy, at the height of 3,405 m, it is one of the most impressive mountains in the world. The signature trek of this region can be done in several ways. We elected to hike in from the Fitz Roy trailhead in El Chaltén and walk the 9.5 km to Laguna de Los Tres. The first hour is steep, before easing off to a flat trail through woods and river beds with outstanding views of Fitz Roy.
Start the trek early in the morning, you will beat the later day crowds and have a chance to enjoy the landscape in relative solitude.The last kilometre to the lagoon is a demanding 400 m ascend, up a steep but well-maintained trail.
“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” – Greg Child
And as you near your destination, you quickly forget the arduous climb with the peaks in proximity. The incredible vistas at Laguna de Los Tres and the Fitz Roy massif.A short walk left of the lagoon, up and around delivers views of the emerald waters of Laguna Sucia and Laguna de Los Tres.Navigating the arduous trail on the way back down is much easier, but still, tricky. Our route back to El Chaltén was via the connecting loop to the Torres trail in the hope of getting a clear look at the towers. As the day progressed, the skies became overcast, but we luckily had a clear look at the mountain range. Running out of energy, we admired Cerro Torre from the 4m mark and headed home on tired feet.
From short walks, long day hikes or overnights treks, a visit to the trekking capital of Patagonia, truly is for everybody!