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The complete El Chalten hiking guide

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El Chalten is seen as the trekking capital of Argentian Patagonia. In our trekking guide we discuss different one day and multi day routes around El Chalten as well as review accommodation and campsites, discuss our budget and transport to El Chalten.

Do to a multi day hike in El Chalten your options are to either combine several trails and stay in the free campsites to make up a hike to your requirements, we did this and give details in this post or to do the Piedra del Fraile or Huemul circuit.

The status of the town as a major trekking destination is due to the wide variety of trekking routes accessible to all fitness and experience levels.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 routes returning to town every night.

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
Approaching El Chalten and Mt.Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina

Los Condores, 2 hours

Distance: 3 km round trip
Difficulty: Easy
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
Difficulty: Easy
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
Difficulty: Moderate
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.

Laguna Capri
Laguna Capri

Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre, 6 hours

Distance: 20 km round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
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.

Laguna Torre at the base of Cerro Torre

The trail kicks of with great views of Cerro Torre after about 30 minutes walk, the first kilometer or two is uphill from where it becomes more flat 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 some slippery rocks on this last part.

Laguna de Los Tres (Fitz Roy Trek), 8 hours

Distance: 21 km round trip (26 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 untill 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 skree and loose rocks. You have long days in summer, so go for it just take it slow.

Stingy Nomads at Lago de Los Tres wtih Mt.Fitz Roy on the background
Stingy Nomads at Lago de Los Tres with Mt.Fitz Roy on the background

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 Piedras Blancas, El Chalten
Glacier Piedras Blancas, El Chalten

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 Trekking

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. This is not an off the beaten track place for wild adventurous hiking, but the views are spectacular and we really enjoyed it, it is an amazing place.

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.

Map of Los Galaciares National park. Our route, first day; El Chalten - Laguna Capri, - camping Rio Blanco. Second day; Rio Blanco - Lago de Los tres - glacier Piedras blancas - Laguna Madre e Hija - Laguna Torres - El Chalten.
Map of Los Galaciares National park. Our route, first day; El Chalten – Laguna Capri, – camping Rio Blanco. Second day; Rio Blanco – Lago de Los tres – glacier Piedras blancas – Laguna Madre e Hija – Laguna Torres – El Chalten.

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 Poincenot  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.

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.

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.

Mt.Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares Nationl park

Day Two Campamento Poinceno – Laguna De Los Tres – Laguna Torre – El Chalten 27km

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 2 or 3km 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.

Laguna Sucia
Laguna Sucia, the lake next to Laguna de Los Tres

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.

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.

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.

Travel insurance for hiking in Patagonia

Hiking like any outdoor activity involves a risky part with the possibility of getting an injury (even on a day hike) it’s always advisable to have travel insurance that can cover you in case something goes wrong. We’ve done many hikes all over the world and never had any accidents (except one time when I lost my backpack hitchhiking in Patagonia) but it’s always great to know that if something happens you’re covered. 

Out of many insurance companies, we recommend World Nomads, they work all over the world and specialize in outdoor activities like hiking.

Check out World Nomads Hiking Policy.

Already traveling? no problem, you can buy insurance policy online while traveling (it takes a couple of minutes), their policy is very flexible it can cover the whole period of your trip or only the hiking part of it, even if it’s one or two days. Get a quote right now!

Note! Always make sure you carefully read the Terms and Conditions part.

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

Don’t feel like hiking alone? Explore this beautiful region with G-Adventures’ El Chalten experts – Trek through the crisp air of El Chalten (with its crazy beautiful Cerro Torre mountain) and then to the area near the imposing Perito Moreno Glacier. In between, marvel at the giant sky, vast views, and big city appeal of Buenos Aires while you revel in a sense of personal triumph.

G-Adventures 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.

What to pack for hiking

You’ll find complete packing list for hiking and camping in Patagonia in this post ↓↓↓↓

Camping in El Chalten

El Relincho Camping

A$ 120 ($8) per person, this was the first campsite we stayed. Fantastic hot showers. Very nice indoor common area for socializing. It has a good kitchen (utensils are limited) as well as an area to do laundry by hand. Supermarket across the road. In the main road. It is the most popular as a result most expensive campsite. By the way a shared food section here was very good (area where you leave food you do not want) many camper vans and tourists left things like olive oil, good coffee etc.

La Torcida Camping

A$80 ($5.50) per person, Hot showers. Very nice indoor common area for socializing. Good kitchen. Small, cosy, great place to meet other travelers. Located close to the start of the trail.

El Refugio Camping

A$70 ($4.80) per person. Located next to El Rencho. Kitchen. Showers. We never stayed here

Casa de Cyclistas

Donation, legendary among cyclists in Patagonia. A lady opened her house to any cyclists to stay for free. I spoke to a couple of people, they said it has turned into more of a hostel, a business, you can buy cooked meals A$30 ($2, $32). Only one bathroom. A reasonable ‘donation’ is expected for staying here.

El Relincho Camping,  A$150 ($10) for a dormitory bed

El Chalten, cozy but quite expensive little town in Argentinian Patagonia.
El Chalten, cozy but quite expensive little town in Argentinian Patagonia.

Restaurants and eating in El Chalten

Self catering

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

Restaurants

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.

Hosteria Senderos

Not cheap, good restaurant lamb, trout amazing steak Bife de Chorizo (you are in Argentina!)

Che Empanada

Good empanadas, interesting fillings, awesome snack with a beer after a hike or pack a couple as snacks for hiking tomorrow.

Wafleria

Amazing waffles, sweet or savoury, bit expensive but delicious.

Transport 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 season). The bus trip is crazy expensive Chalten Travel or Caltur. You can book a bus transfer from El Chalten to El Calafate here.

Due to the expensive bus tickets many backpackers had their first hitchhiking experience here, if you decide to hitchhike, just get on the road early, we had a long day of very competitive hitchhiking here. We hitchhiked everywhere in Chile and Argentina for months, check our post Hitchhiking Carretera Austral for more details. 

Getting from Villa O Higgins to El Chalten

To get 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.

Lagunas Madre e Hija, Los Glaciares National park, El Chalten
Lagunas Madre e Hija, Los Glaciares National park, El Chalten

Packing Tips for 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 of your knees.
  • There are great camp sites 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. If you go hiking every once in a while buy one of the middle price range tents like MSR Elixir, Marmot Catalyst, Hyke and Byke Zion.
  • 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, Doite gas was $3 at most places in Chile, about $8 more north in Argentina and cost $15 in El Chalten.
  • most campsites in El Chalten have a communal kitchen for cooking.

Check our Patagonia Packing list for more gear recommendations.

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