Trekking in El Chalten: different trails and options available

El Chaltén serves as the gateway to a variety of treks in the Fitz Roy Massif area, with Fitz Roy Mount being the crown jewel of the region. This magnificent mountain straddles the border between Argentina and Chile and sits within the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, near the village of El Chaltén and Viedma Lake.

The first ascent of Fitz Roy Mount took place in 1952, when French alpinists Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone climbed the mountain, making history in the process.

Nowadays, there are many options available for visitors to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of this incredible mountain. It’s crucial to choose the most suitable trekking option based on your preferences and fitness level. Therefore, it’s essential to take a close look at the various trekking options available in the Fitz Roy Mount area.

There are different trekking options available, ranging from day hikes to multi-day treks. Some of the most popular treks in the area include Laguna de Los Tres, Laguna Torre, and Piedra del Fraile.

Laguna de Los Tres is a challenging trek that offers stunning views of Fitz Roy Mount, with the glacial lake at the end of the trail providing a picture-perfect spot to rest and enjoy the views.

Laguna Torre is another popular trek that takes you to a beautiful glacial lake that offers stunning views of Cerro Torre and its surrounding peaks.

Piedra del Fraile is a less-crowded trek that offers a more peaceful experience. It takes you through a forested area before reaching the stunning glacial lake of Laguna Pollone, surrounded by majestic peaks.

Overall, Fitz Roy Mount and the El Chaltén area offer an unforgettable experience for those who love nature, hiking, and adventure.

Trekking trails in El Chalten


Trekking trails to the Fitz Roy: Easy options.
Up to 2 hours of trekking from El Chalten

If you are not used to walking in the mountains or if you doubt of your physical condition it is highly recommended that you start doing short walks before undertaking hikes of longer.

The following trekking trails suggest trekking activities of up to 2 hours in the Fitz Roy Massif area.

Trekking trail to Los Condores and Las Aguilas
Duration: 2 hours. Difficulty: easy

After crossing the access bridge of the Fitz Roy river, you will find the trailhead at the National Park Visitors’ Centre. A short walk leads you to a small gate with a sign indicating the path to the left, and a few steps further, a second sign displays the trail plan. It takes about half an hour to reach the Los Cóndores viewpoint via this relatively new footpath, which opened in 2004. Along the way, several informative signs allow for a better appreciation of the surrounding landscape, and the trail is well-marked.

The Los Cóndores viewpoint is strategically located for spotting condors in flight between the valleys of the De las Vueltas and Fitz Roy rivers. Additionally, it offers an excellent vantage point for admiring the impressive granite peaks and glaciers dominating the horizon. Watching the sunset from this viewpoint can be a great way to bid farewell to El Chaltén. The Las Águilas viewpoint trail begins at a signposted bifurcation about ten minutes before reaching the Los Cóndores viewpoint. This short trail has a gentle slope, and as you go along, you can enjoy the magnificent view of the Viedma lake on the horizon. The viewpoint itself is a natural balcony with a panoramic view over the steppe and the Viedma lake to the south, the Cerro Huemul to the west, and the Cerro Piramide to the east.

Trekking trail to Cascada La Margarita
Duration: 2 hours. Difficulty: easy

As you make your way from El Chaltén towards the Laguna Torre footpath, you will encounter a small climb before entering a forest primarily composed of Ñires trees. Within minutes, you will find yourself comfortably walking along a gentle slope in the protective shade of the forest.

The trail gradually gains elevation and follows the course of the Fitz Roy river until you reach a natural viewpoint that stands high on a cliff above the river. From this vantage point, you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view to the west that encompasses the valley of the Fitz Roy river and its winding path in the background. The view is framed by the distinctive Mount Solo on the left, the backdrop of the Adela range, and the imposing Mount Torre, while to the right, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Fitz Roy. Across the river canyon, you will also see the Margarita waterfall. If you have extra time, it is definitely worth continuing along the trail for another hour until you arrive at the Mount Torre viewpoint, which is one of the two most stunning lookout points in the area.

Trekking trail to Chorrillo del Salto
Duration: 2 hours. Difficulty: easy

This delightful trek offers a perfect introduction to the natural beauty of El Chaltén. The footpath is easy and leads you through a forested area. At the end of the trail, you will find a charming waterfall and stream that invites you to take a moment to appreciate the peaceful surroundings of the native forest. The trek starts at the end of Av. San Martín, in El Chaltén, on the same trailhead towards Laguna De Los Tres. Take the path to the right, which ascends briefly and then descends to the unpaved Provincial Route 41 leading to Lago del Desierto. Look for a signpost on your right indicating the entrance to the “Bicisenda” (bike trail), and after a few minutes, you will see another signpost on your left, indicating the trail to Chorrillo del Salto, which crosses the low forest of Ñires and enters the foothill area.

The final section of the trail is exclusively for pedestrians, and bicycles are not permitted. This beautiful footpath is entirely flat, surrounded by low trees, and you will hear the distant sound of the waterfall as you approach the end of the route. Along the way, depending on the season, you may see different flowers from the local vegetation, such as the lovely Magellanic orchid. The waterfall is located at the end of the Arroyo del Salto before it flows into the De las Vueltas river. The total distance of this trek is less than 4 km from El Chaltén, and it is a perfect way to begin your exploration of the area.

Chorrillo del Salto, El Chaltén, Trekking in Patagonia
The Chorrillo del Salto. An easy option from El Chalten

Trekking trails to the Fitz Roy: Eater to moderated options.
Up to 5 hours of trekking from El Chalten

Let’s now explore a series of slightly more complex options. They are of greater duration and difficulty, but still not as demanding as the most challenging treks that we will see later on.

Trekking trail to Laguna Capri
Duration: 5 hours. Difficulty: easy to moderated

The trail to Laguna Capri starts at the end of San Martin Avenue, where the urban area of El Chaltén finalize, and the car park and National Parks dome are located. It´s a moderated trekking activity and during the first hour of the trek, the slope is relatively steep until you reach the natural viewpoint of the De las Vueltas river valley. From here, you can enjoy the stunning panoramic view of the valley before descending towards the Del Salto stream valley, heading towards Mount Fitz Roy. Enjoy the amazing views.

As you continue along the trail, you will notice an increasing number of Ñires trees surrounding the path, and after about an hour and a half, you will come across a signposted bifurcation indicating the footpath to Laguna Capri on the left and the viewpoint of Mount Fitz Roy and Laguna de Los Tres on the right.

Laguna Capri offers a unique view of the Fitz Roy massif and its surrounding needles, which is one of the classic postcards of El Chaltén. It is the perfect spot to take a break and soak in the beautiful scenery. It´s an amazing landscape!

If you have an additional 40 minutes, be sure not to miss the Mirador del Fitz Roy, which is a well-signposted natural rocky viewpoint. It offers a fantastic view point to interpret the mountains and glacial landscape that unfold before your eyes. Enjoy this unique place!

Trekking trail to Cerro Torre Viewpoint
Duration: 4 hours. Difficulty: easy to moderated

At the Mount Torre viewpoint, you will have a chance to take in the breathtaking scenery of the Fitz Roy river valley, which is surrounded by the Adela range, and the stunning Mount Torre with its granite spires. This is one of the most beautiful and impressive viewpoints in the area and a perfect spot for photography.

The trail itself is well-maintained and marked, with several resting spots along the way. You may encounter some challenging sections, but overall it is a moderate hike suitable for most fitness levels.

It’s important to note that this trail is only accessible during the summer months, as heavy snowfall and ice make it dangerous during the winter season. Additionally, hikers should be prepared for sudden changes in weather, as Patagonia is known for its unpredictable climate. It is recommended to bring plenty of water, warm layers, and sunscreen.

Overall, the Laguna Torre trail and Mount Torre viewpoint offer an unforgettable experience of the Patagonian wilderness, and it’s a must-visit for anyone traveling to El Chaltén.

The Capri Lagoon, amazing trekking from El Chalten
The beautiful Capri Lagoon (Laguna Capri)

Trekking trails to the Fitz Roy: Moderated to hard options
Up to 9 hours of trekking from El Chalten

Finally, we have the longer, more complete and demanding treks. They are undoubtedly the best options that El Chaltén has to offer, with unique and incredible views. The routes, in addition to being long, are quite demanding, especially the last section of the trek to Laguna de los Tres, which is a steep ascent that undoubtedly presents a great deal of difficulty.

Trekking trail to Laguna Torre
Duratoin: 8 hours. Difficulty: moderated

From El Chaltén, there are two main trails to reach Laguna Torre, both of which merge after a 5-minute walk. The trail takes you into the Fitz Roy River valley and follows alongside the stream until it reaches its source. After a 15-minute walk, you will arrive at the first viewpoint which offers an impressive panoramic view of Cerro Solo, the Adela Range, Cerro Torre, and Mount Fitz Roy. Across the river canyon, you can see the Margarita waterfall. At the halfway point, you will come across a natural viewpoint that provides breathtaking panoramic views of the Adela range, Cerro Torre, and the satellite granite needles.

After passing through the De Agostini base camp, where you can spend the night in your tent, the path continues towards the frontal moraine, which rises until it reaches the crest after 15 minutes of walking. From there, you can either descend to the Torre Lagoon or continue along the same ridge for another 2 km to reach the Maestri viewpoint. This lagoon is known for grouping numerous icebergs on its shore, which have fallen off from the front face of the Grande glacier. The mountains are always seen from the west, so they are directly illuminated by the sun only in the morning. The best photographs can be taken at sunrise when the color of the granite walls becomes saturated for a few minutes and the sunlight reaches them for the first time. This picture-perfect moment is reserved only for those who stay overnight in the De Agostini campground, waiting for that magical moment with their camera ready when the sun comes up.

Trekking trail to Laguna de los Tres
Duration: 9 to 10 hours. Difficulty: moderated to hard

The trailhead for the Laguna de los Tres trek is located at the end of Avenida San Martín, beyond the urban area of El Chaltén and at the car park. The first hour of the hike is a steep ascent to a natural viewpoint overlooking the De las Vueltas river valley. The trail continues along the Del Salto stream towards Mount Fitz Roy, passing through an increasing number of ñire trees. About an hour and a half later, you’ll reach a well-marked rocky viewpoint with a sign that explains the landscape. The trail continues to follow the Del Salto stream until reaching the drainage area of Laguna Madre e Hija. Four hours from the start, you’ll arrive at Poincenot Base Camp, the most popular campsite in the National Park. After crossing the Blanco River, you’ll reach the base camp for climbers. The trail then ascends steeply for about 400 meters until reaching Laguna de Los Tres, which requires over an hour of effort. The trail ends at the ridge of the old frontal moraine of the De Los Tres Glacier, which now contains the lagoon formed by the glacier’s retreat. From here, you can enjoy an extraordinary view of the lagoon and De los Tres Glacier, which is the closest view of Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks. If you arrive at sunrise, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the hills turning red with the first rays of the sun. To reach the desolate Laguna Sucia and its hanging glaciers, follow the trail down the moraine and skirt the lagoon to its natural draining point. Although this viewpoint is accessible all year round, from April to October, it may be challenging due to snow accumulation on the trail, especially towards the end.

Laguna de los Tres
The unique landscape of the Laguna de los Tres

To Laguna de los Tres from Estancia El Pilar

There is an alternative trail to Laguna de los Tres that starts from El Pilar. This trail follows the Rio Blanco and offers a different perspective of Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks. It is a longer trail than the traditional one, taking around 8-9 hours round trip. However, it is less steep and offers beautiful views of the valley and the river. It is a great option for those who want to avoid the crowds or are looking for a different trekking experience.

A good idea would be to start from Hosteria El Pilar and return to El Chalten, in order to avoid retracing the same route and to fully enjoy the experience

Trekking trail to Pliegue Tumbado
Duration: 8 hours. Difficulty: moderated to hard

The trail to Pliegue Tumbado starts at the National Park Ceferino Fonzo Visitors’ Centre, where a small fence indicates two paths. To the left, the trail goes to Los Cóndores and Las Águilas viewpoints, and to the right towards Pliegue Tumbado and Laguna Toro/Paso del Viento. The trail maintains an ascending slope of approximately 1100 meters in total (3,610 miles), until reaching the viewpoint located at about 1500 meters (4,920 feet) above sea level.

It is important to note that due to its height, the absence of trees, and the total exposure to the wind, visitors should go prepared with a windproof jacket and warm clothes, as a small snowfall is not uncommon even in the middle of summer.

After walking for about an hour, the trail crosses a plain called “Pampa De las Carretas,” where visitors can appreciate the impressive Mount Huemul, the Viedma lake to the south, and the entire imposing Andes to the northwest, where Mount Torre and Mount Chaltén stand out. The trail then enters a beautiful forest until reaching an altitude of approximately 1000 meters above sea level, where the landscape changes abruptly. The trees turn to bushes and scrubby vegetation, and among the many stones on the way, visitors can find the remains of marine fossils that are about 100 million years old.

The last part of the trail fades away, but it is still marked with yellow sticks until reaching the top of the Pliegue Tumbado, which offers an extraordinary panoramic view. However, it’s worth noting that if the trail is snowed in, it’s not recommended to continue. A good time to visit Pliegue Tumbado is during the summer months of December to February, when the weather is usually clearer, and there’s less chance of snow.

Picture of Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in travel market, as Sales & Marketing Manager in RipioTurismo, Marketing Manager in Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

Table of Contents