El Chalten, located in Los Glaciares National Park, is seen as the trekking capital of Argentian Patagonia. In this hiking guide we discuss different one day and multi-day trekking routes around El Chalten as well as our budget, accommodation and transport.
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.
Two hikes not too miss in Patagonia is the W-trek in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile and Laguna de Los Tres, Los Glaciares National Park, El Chalten, Argentina.
El Chalten Trekking
The status of El Chalten 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. 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 is to do the El Chaltén to Piedra del Fraile (Cerro Fitz Roy) trek or the challenging Huemul circuit.
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
El Chalten and Tores del Paine National park both have some spectacular one 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
Trailhead: Parque de los Glaciares ranger station
This trail is an easy 45 minutes 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 Los Cóndores, 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
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 metres 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
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.
Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre, 6 hours
Distance: 20 km round trip
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. 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.
The trail kicks off with great views of Cerro Torre after about 30 minutes 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, 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 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 lose rocks. You have long days in summer, so go for it just take it slow.
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 was 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.
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, provide 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.
Our hiking route in El Chalten
We combined hiking routes to some of the parks 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 chilll 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.
We started in the afternoon and hiked the following route :
Day One El Chalten to Campamento Pointcenot 11km
Located outside of town, trail starts here, you have to register if you are planning to camp or walk further than the viewpoints, registration is free of charge.
- Laguna Capri
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.
- Campamento Poincenot
The campsite is located just over an hour’s walk further. On the way we could see the glacier Piedras Blancas, almost at the start to 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.
Day Two Campamento Pointceno – Laguna De Los Tres – Laguna Torre – El Chalten 27km
- Laguna De Los Tres
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 a 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.
- Laguna Torre
This was a long walk from Mirrador 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 is supposed to be good from here. The view of the lake and it’s glacier was nice.
- Mirrador del Torre
Nice views of the Cerro Torre Range, was our last stop on the way back.
More Hiking and Camping options
Our second day on the above route was 28 km, it is 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 The Huemul Mountain is known as one of the toughest and most beautiful hikes in Patagonia. This Circuit involves semi technical terrains, such us 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 places, 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.
El Chalten Tours
G-Adventures Patagonia Hiking – Los Glaciares National Park, Hike El Chalten and Perito Moreno
G-Adventure Hike Patagonia in depth – hike El Chalten and Torres del Paine, explore Perito Moreno
Here are some more Organised Hike options. Accompanied by a mountain guide for a 16 km trek, you will visit the best views of the Piedras Blancas Glacier and the imposing Fitz Roy Mountain.
Accommodation in El Chalten
Thousands of cyclists and hikers come through El Chalten every season and there is a huge variety of accommodation to cater for every budget from camping to luxury lodges. We enjoyed camping, but it is nice to return to a warm lodge, 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, 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 – La Guanaca Nice mountain house with hill views, heated rooms, restaurant, breakfast included. Common kitchen facilities are featured. Nice breakfast, big comfortable beds.
Camping in El Chalten
Some of the most popular campsites in the town El Chalten can be seen below, see our article on Camping in El Chaten for a review on the sites and camping in the region.
- El Relincho Camping
- La Torcida Camping
- El Refugio Camping
- Casa de Cyclistas
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What to pack for hiking in El Chalten?
- Good hiking shoes such as KEEN Targhee II Waterproof or more budget option – Columbia Granite Ridge makes it more comfortable on the trail.
- Hiking poles takes a lot of strain on your knees.
- There are great campsites in El Chalten, pack a good tent – the MSR Hubba Hubba NX – it’s very light (1,3kg), packs small, easy to pitch, waterproof, it’s shape is great for strong wind and it’s durable. for a middle price range tent the MSR Elixir, is a good option
- An inflatable camping pad works very well and takes little space.
- Pack a sleeping bag, for summer synthetic such as Teton Sport TrailHead is sufficient, down Vitals Summit 20 is necessary for cold weather.
- Pack a stove with Piezo Ignition and cooking set.
- Buy enough gas for cooking in Chile it is much cheaper.
- most campsites in El Chalten have a communal kitchen for cooking.
You’ll find a complete packing list for hiking and camping in the region in our post Patagonia packing list.
Restaurants and eating in El Chalten
There are a couple of supermarkets selling the basics in El Chalten, we did shopping in the supermarkets and cooked in the campsite kitchen. Get fresh bread at Panaderia Que-rika
El Parador Fast Food
Awesome small, cozy little restaurant, also good for take aways. Nice home made 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 service was good. Show sport on TV.
Not cheap, good restaurant lamb, trout amazing steak Bife de Chorizo (you are in Argentina!)
How to get from El Chalten to El Calafate?
The nearest airport to El Chalten is El Calafate about 220km away, 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 morning and evening (3 times in the peak season). The bus trip is quite expensive Chalten Travel. You can book a bus transfer from El Chalten to El Calafate here.
Due to the expensive bus tickets in the region, some people try hitchhiking. f 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 that was a really nice detour.
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The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.