My favorite trip to date?
El Chaltén is Called the hiking capital of Argentina for obvious reasons. Keep reading to find out more about the fitz roy trek and laguna torre, two of the most iconic hikes in Patagonia.
The Fitz Roy Trek (Laguna de los tres)
The Fitz Roy Trek is an absolute must-do while in El Chaltén, Argentina. It's one of the most iconic hikes in the world, and considered the most beautiful hike in Southern Patagonia for good reason - the views are out of this world. It's also the mountain range that the clothing company Patagonia took their logo inspiration from.
Helpful Hint: The main trailhead for the Fitz Roy Trek is at the most north-west point of El Chaltén, well-marked with a large sign. This is a very populated hike, even when I went (as the tourist season was no longer in full swing). If you start here, you'll be hiking amongst many other groups of hikers. If you want a less-crowded trail up, I suggest doing what I did: starting at the Hostería El Pilar, which is located about 15km north of El Chaltén. If you don't have a rental car, there are vans that make the trip to the Hostería. Parking there is only for the Hostería guests, but there is a pretty large parking area a few hundred meters from the Hostería that's open to the public. This trail meets up with the main trail to the summit of Fitz Roy towards the last few kilometers of the hike, where it definitely becomes more crowded.
This hike is definitely worth the 16-mile (26km) round-trip. The majority of the hike was nearly flat and very easy trekking through beautiful forests and fields. You'll see vistas of Monte Fitz Roy, followed by the Glacier Piedras Blancas viewpoint, and eventually you'll come to a pretty populated campground that the trail runs right through, called Poincenot Campsite.
After the campsite you'll cross a foot bridge, and then the fun and games are over, and you're onto the last few kilometers - nearly straight uphill, steeper than the Presidential Range in New Hampshire and any 46-er or 14-er I've climbed. The last few kilometers probably took me as long as the first 20km combined.
There are no words for summiting this one - so I'll just leave this here...
Bring lots of snacks, water, and rain gear. And don't forget warm gear for the top so you can hang out and take in the endless beauty of this place. You'll want to sit and stare for quite a while, guaranteed. You can't forget your wide angle lens for this one!
The whole hike took me six hours round-trip, which I read was pretty average for the ordinary hiker. Post-hike I was pretty sore and my heels were rubbed raw, so you may want to consider packing Moleskin or the like if you're a tenderfoot, like me.
Laguna Torre is an easy 12-mile (20km) hike, also very popular due to some pretty spectacular scenery. It's easier and a bit shorter than the Fitz Roy Trek, making it a popular choice for hikers of all abilities. This really was a stroll through the woods, despite some websites ranking it as a "moderate" hike.
The trailhead is clearly marked with a beautiful sign on Calle Riquelme (Riquelme Street). There's ample parking at the trailhead, but it's just a short walk from the center of El Chaltén.
Within a few minutes of hiking you come across a beautiful waterfall called Cascada Margarita (pictures, of course, don't do it justice).
The vistas of the mountain ranges are incredible, and become more visible at about the halfway point (if it's a relatively clear day). If you're lucky, you can see Cerro Torre, one of the highest peaks in Southern Patagonia (but not quite as high as Fitz Roy) at the viewpoint pictured below. This is quite a controversial peak; if you're a climber you may be interested in reading more about this peak here.
Despite this being the second most clear day out of my ten day trip, it was still somewhat cloudy at the summit. But even the low-hanging clouds couldn't make for a bad picture: