El Chalten Hikes – Which To Choose?

by 30 Apr, 2019

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If like us, you like your travel with a good dose of adventure, the El Chalten hikes in Los Glaciares National Park will be right up your street. Nicknamed the hiking capital of Argentina, there really is no better base than El Chalten from which to get your hike on.

Despite being a small mountain town, there really is everything you could need in El Chalten. There’s plenty of accomodation options and really great restaurants, but more on that later because what you’re really here for is to decide which treks to do, right?!

El Chalten Hikes

One of the best things about the El Chalten hikes is that there are so many of them, meaning virtually all levels of fitness are catered for. From a couple of hour jaunts out to a viewing spot or more taxing multi day treks, you’ll find your jam in El Chalten.

Most of the trailheads start right in the town meaning there’s literally zero wasted time on getting out into the snow peaked mountains. Because the trails are so accessible most people just head out on El Chalten day hikes, returning at night. But you can also camp overnight.

The trails are well marked, well maintained and well loved. Seriously I don’t think you could do any of them and be disappointed. However there are a couple of routes that we would highly recommend and those are Laguna Torre and Laguna de Los Tres.

So first up we’ll give you lots of helpful info about those El Chalten hikes and variations of them. But don’t worry if those aren’t your bag as we’ll be covering some of the other El Chalten trekking routes afterwards. Let’s dig in.

Laguna Torre & Cerro Torre

  • Length: 18 km round trip
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Time 5-6 hours
  • Cost: Free

You’ll find the trailhead on Calle Riquelme. Just follow Avenida José Antonia Rojo up the metal staircase and then swing a left. You can’t miss it.

There’s a few short steep parts at the beginning but after that the path to Laguna Torre is fairly flat for the most part. Distance markers will guide you along the way. It’s impossible to get lost.

The beautiful route will meander you through vibrant green forests and alongside the milky turquoise glacial Río Fitz Roy.

After around an hour of walking you’ll arrive at Mirador Cerro Torre. It’s a nice view but nothing compared to what you’ll see later on this El Chalten hike.

You’ll almost constantly have the tips of the mighty Torre Massif in full view on a clear day throughout this favourite of El Chalten hikes. But as you round a corner and head up a short incline after the last trail marker, you’ll soon see what the fuss is all about.

The glacier flowing down Cerro Torre meets a vast glacial lake at the base and on a good weather day, the view is literally like stepping into a picture perfect postcard.

It takes a while to take in the sheer scale of the scene. So find a rock to sit on while watching the icebergs float by. It’s the ultimate picnic spot.

Mirador Maestri

To get a closer look at the glacier and the 3102m high icy spire of Cerro Torre we recommend extending this El Chalten hiking route by continuing up and around the right of Laguna Torre and onto Mirador Maestri.

This part of the Laguna Torre hike isn’t marked and isn’t as well trodden so it’s a little more difficult. The path is narrow and there’s lots of loose rocks.

There also isn’t a sign marking when you’ve actually reached Mirador Maestri, you’ll just know because the trail just kinda fades out.

The view of Laguna Torre and Cerro Torre from here is insane.

From the shore of Laguna Torre it’s another 2km / 1 hour to Mirador Maestri (so will add 4 km / 2 hours onto the trek). But unless you really don’t have time or aren’t physically capable, you really should do it. You’ll be missing out on the best views otherwise.

To get back into El Chalten town after this El Chalten day hike, you simply hike back the same way.

The first part of the hike to Laguna Torre is totally doable as an independent trek, even for absolute beginners. The second part to Mirador Maestri is still for independent trekkers, as described it’s just a little more tricky underfoot.

Laguna De Los Tres & Mt Fitz Roy

  • Length: 20 km round trip
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Time: 7-8 hours
  • Cost: Free

The trailhead for the Laguna de los Tres hike is found at the end of Avenida San Martín. There’s a huge overhead sign saying ‘Sendero al Fitz Roy’ (trail to Fitz Roy).

Immediately you’ll start to ascend into a forest with beautiful views of Río de los Vueltas over to your right.

After a couple of kilometres you’ll come across a sign depicting that the Laguna de los Tres hike is diverging. One route will take you along side the shores of Laguna Capri, the other past a viewpoint for Chorrillo del Salto waterfall.

They are both roughly the same distance and the path converges again so it doesn’t matter which you choose. You can take one there and the other back.

Next up you’ll reach the campsite Campamento Poincenot, continue through there and onwards to the base of the start of a scree slope. There’s another campsite called Campamento Río Blanco just there.

Up until here the hike is relatively easy going. There’s a few ups and downs in the first section but after that it’s pretty flat. That is until you get to the last kilometre. This is the part that makes this El Chalten hiking route difficult.

It’s a seriously steep 400m scramble and the loose rocks make it very unsteady under foot. It’s also completely exposed and when the wind is whipping you really need to mind your balance.

But your effort will be rewarded. And then some.

Because trust us, as soon as you reach Laguna de los Tres and clap eyes on the close up of the famous Mount Fitz Roy, you’ll forget all about the hard slog you just undertook.

So called because it refers to the three peaks of Cerros Fitz Roy, Poincenot and Torre that can be seen from the shores of lake, Laguna de los Tres is the most impressive of the El Chalten hikes.

In contrast to the grey waters of Laguna Torre, the water here is stunningly turquoise. And the sight of the Glaciar de los Tres rolling down on into it will literally take any breath you have left away.

Chill by the lake, wander around the shore, take a dip in the icy water if you’re brave enough. Or if you still have some energy left, head up the hill to the left for a gorgeous panoramic view over neighbouring Laguna Sucia in the next valley.

You’ll probably struggle to drag yourself away from the views on this El Chalten day hike, we know we did. But to get back into El Chalten town, simply retrace the trail back the same way.

Be sure to listen out for the woodpeckers on the way back too, we saw quite a few tapping away as the sun was dimming in the late afternoon.

Alternative Route

Alternatively, instead of beginning the Laguna De Los Tres hike in El Chalten, you can take a taxi up Ruta 41 to Hosteria El Pilar and start on a path from there instead.

We didn’t do this, but we heard from other hikers that it’s about 14km away and should cost around $800 ARG (£15 GBP / $19 USD).

You’ll still have the same steep ascent to do, but this way you won’t be hiking the same route there and back. First this alternative route to Laguna de los Tres will take you alongside the Rio Blanco and through lots of pretty forest.

On the way there you will be able to hit up the viewpoint for Piedras Blancas glacier, then on the way back take the route past Laguna Capri straight back into El Chalten.

The first part of the hike to the start of the steep climbing part is accessible to almost any level of fitness. Just do be aware from the point of the last kilometre you do need to be physically fit.

It’s really not possible to get lost, but if this is your very first hike or you are worried about your physically capabilities you may prefer to do it with a guide.

El Chalten Camping Overnight

If you fancy tying the laguna de los tres and the laguna torre hikes together instead of returning to El Chalten inbetween, you can. We met a few hikers who did this and they had a great time. This is the best route:

Day One: Laguna Torre

Set off nice and early and hike to Laguna Torre. But on your return, after you come back past Campamento D’Agostini swing a left and take the path signposted ‘Laguna Hija y Laguna Madre’. Literally translated as Daughter Lake and Mother Lake.

It’s pretty flat 8km route that should take around a couple of hours. At the end of the path turn left and head towards Campamento Poincenot. That’s where you’ll be setting up your tent and kipping for the night.

It’s really basic, in fact it’s billed as a camp without services. But there’s plenty of space and it’s free. There’s no need to book, just rock up and get set up.

Fires are strictly forbidden throughout Los Glaciares National Park, but you can use a camping stove. You must take all of your rubbish with you, there’s nowhere to dispose of it.

Day Two: Laguna De Los Tres

Time for an early start, like 4am early start. Because you’re going to hike up to Laguna De Los Tres in time to watch sunrise cast it’s red glow over mighty Mt. Fitz Roy. Plenty of others will be doing it so don’t worry – you’ll have company.

Leave everything you don’t need in your tent. You’ll be back to pack it up later and trust us, you’ll be thankful for as little weight as possible on your scramble up to the top. Don’t forget your head torch and take it steady, the climb is pretty treacherous even in daylight.

After watching the sunrise burst through the mountain tops, you have plenty of time to head back down to Campamento Poincenot. Then pack up up your stuff, head back into El Chalten, return your gear if you’ve hired it and straight for a happy hour beer.

Note: You can also do it in the other direction and instead stay at Campamento D’Agostini. Same set up, it’s basic but free. We’ve suggested this way so you’re not having to carry your tent for the hardest part of the trek.

Or if you want to extend your El Chalten camping into a second night you could stay at both campsites and take three days to do these El Chalten hikes.

If however you do prefer to do the both of these El Chalten treks in a group, this a good option for a guided tour.

Multi Day Huemul Circuit

  • Length: 65 km round trip
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Time: 4-5 days
  • Cost: Free

Also known as Paso Del Vientos, the trailhead for the Huemul Circuit begins at the visitors centre and heads out towards Rio Túnel.

This is the hardest of the El Chalten hikes and should only be undertaken independently by technically experienced hikers.

There is no phone signal within the Los Glaciares National Park so you’ll need to download maps.me before and work off GPS or use an ordnance survey map.

The terrain is challenging and if you don’t know what you’re doing, the risk of getting lost out there can be quite high. Plus you need to know what technical gear you need to take for the snow, glacier and moraine terrains.

Oh and river crossings. Yep you need a harness and carabiners to rappel across the rivers.

This is the only of the El Chalten hikes that requires registration at the Visitor Centre of Los Glaciares National Park. It is mandatory because if you don’t come back on time they need to know where to send a search a team.

Please note we haven’t done this El Chalten trek – we heard about it second hand from another hiker who had just completed it.

They said it was crazy hard. But in the next breath, that seeing the southern Patagonian ice fields was the most incredible experience of their life. So there’s that.

Most people opt to join an organised trekking tour. This is what we would do. This four day El Chalten trek around The Huemul Mountain, includes a specialised guide, all your camping equipment and necessary technical gear.

Shorter El Chalten Hiking Routes

If we’ve gone a bit extreme on you with the above El Chalten hikes, let’s take things down a notch. Because there’s also lots of shorter El Chalten hiking routes. Perfect for if you either don’t have much time or aren’t up to a full day hiking.

Los Cóndores and Las Águilas Viewpoints

  • Length: 6 km round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Cost: Free

This short jaunt out starts from the visitors centre and is the easiest of the El Chalten hikes.

And although not the most dramatic (because you don’t get up close and personal with the landscape), it does offer spectacular views. Along the Rio de las Vueltas valley, which you will walk, you’ll see the peaks of Cerro Adela, Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy.

It’s a well signposted route and if you’re an early riser, perfect for a sunrise stroll. Or sunset for that matter.

From Mirador De Los Condores, you’ll also be treated to a bird’s eye view back over El Chalten town. Then from Mirador de las Aguilas the Bahia Tunnel and mighty Lago Viedma.

Laguna Capri

  • Length: 8 km round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: Free

We’ve mentioned this viewpoint above because it’s actually part of one of the El Chalten hiking routes to Cerro Fitz Roy. So if you’re after a pretty view of Mount Fitz Roy but don’t fancy scrabbling up the rocky moraine of the trek this a great option.

The glistening blue water lagoon and lakeside forest are a proper treat too. Plus you’ll get to see the epic view over Río de las Vueltas. There’s a few beaches on route to relax at if you’re taking it steady. Add maybe even take a dip in the lake if the weather is hot enough.

The trailhead starts at the end of Avenida San Martín, just follow the signs for Laguna De Los Tres until you hit Laguna Capri which is your queue to head back.

Chorrillo del Salto

  • Length: 6 km round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Cost: Free

This easy El Chalten hike begins at the north end of town. You need to follow the hillside path alongside Ruta 41. And then descend to meet a gravel road where you’ll pick up the trailhead.

From here it’s just over 1km to Chorrillo del Salto waterfall. It’s a really pretty spot and a great option for either flexing your muscles still on a rest day or if you want to pack in one last El Chalten hiking experience before you leave town.

El Chalten Packing List

With the changeable weather and extreme conditions, it’s paramount that you’re properly prepared. Here’s a list of essentials to pack for your El Chalten trekking:


How To Get To El Chalten

Not surprisingly, this really depends on where you are coming from. But if you are travelling to El Chalten on a stand alone trip (as opposed to a backpacking route for example) the quickest and easiest way will undoubtedly be to fly.

The nearest airport to El Chalten is in El Calafate. It has daily flights from most of Argentina’s main airports. However it is 125 miles away from El Chalten so you’ll need to complete the second half of the journey by car or bus.

You can hire or pre-book cars at El Calafate International Airport. Or there’s buses running between El Calafate and El Chalten four times per day at 8am, 1.30pm, 6pm and 9pm. In the opposite direction (from El Chalten to El Calafate) you have 7:30am, 11:00am, 1pm and 6pm.

The journey from El Calafate International Airport to El Chalten takes around 3 hours and the cost is $800 ARG (£14 GBP / $18 USD). There’s a few bus companies running the route. We went with one called CAL-TUR. But there’s also Chalten Travel and Torres Del Paine Travel.

If you are travelling by long distance bus on a backpacking route from the south or east you will likely come through El Calafate. You might have to change onto one of the above buses. If you are travelling from the north you can take a direct bus there with the company Marga.

If travelling from Bariloche you’ll find this guide helpful. For all other routes you can search for bus tickets here.

Where To Stay in El Chalten

Despite being a small mountain village, with only about 350 permanent residents, there are plenty of options when it comes to where to stay in El Chalten. Also, fun fact, El Chalten is only 33 years old! It was formed in 1985 after a border dispute between Argentina and Chile.

Budget: Rancho Grande

This large ranch style hostel has a mixture of mixed dorm rooms with shared bathrooms or private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. There’s WIFI, a 24 hour restaurant and a well equipped kitchen for use. It’s close to all the hiking trails and has beautiful mountain views.

Click here to check prices and availability.

Mid-Range: El Alamo

Comfy and practical rooms with private room options and great views. Right in the centre of town and close to the main trailheads, there’s free parking available and a bar on site. There is also a daily breakfast with regional jams for guests to enjoy.

Click here to check prices and availability.

Luxury: Chalten Suites Hotel

All rooms in this comfortable hotel are tastefully decorated and come with a TV, minibar and private bathroom. Designed with mountain views in mind, the building is full of huge windows and very light. Breakfast is included and there is also free parking onsite.

Click here to check prices and availability.

El Chalten Restaurants

Similarly, for such a small town, there are lots of bars and restaurants to take your pick from in El Chalten. And there’s nothing better than chowing down on some hearty grub with a delicious pint after a long day hiking in the mountains.

Here’s our favourite El Chalten bars and cafes.

Bourbon Smokehouse

The outdoor terrace at this El Chalten bar is a great spot for watching the sunset go down after a rewarding day’s hike. They have some super tasty beers and the food is real good.

Be sure to try their signature ‘bourbon fries’.

Address: Avenida San Martín 401

La Vinería

This is the stand out bar in El Chalten. Whatever your preference of tipple, you’ll find it here. They have a huge wine collection, like a whole wall full. Some really great cocktails and the even better craft beer. Plus mulled wine. Oh and the food, you have to try the platters.

Address: Avenida Lago del Desierto 265

La Cervecería Chaltén

It’s hard to decide which is better, the outside seating area with twinkling tree lights or the wood kitted interior with its cosy ambience. The microbrewery serves a small selection of classic beers with a bowl of popcorn. The food menu is really good too.

Address: Avenida San Martín 320

Best Time To Do El Chalten Hikes

Weather wise, the best time to visit Los Glaciares National Park is during the summer between December and February. We were there in shoulder season, in mid March however and got really lucky with the weather. Like blue skies every day lucky.

Another reason for going to El Chalten at this time of year is that daylight hours are at their peak. So you get longer out on the trails. During the winter, the weather in El Chalten is extreme. Temperatures are seriously low and there’s only a few hours of daylight per day.

It’s therefore a very seasonal town and most of the tourism industry closes down during this time with access also greatly reduced.

El Chalten Essential Information

Just before we sign off we want to give you some more helpful information for planning your El Chalten hikes.

  • ATM’s: There’s only two in town, both at the bus station. You can pay on card in most restaurants though.
  • Gear shops: If you are planning on doing a spot of El Chalten camping and don’t have your own gear with you, there are plenty of places in town to rent from. Plus the technical gear you will need for the Huemul Circuit if you are tackling that.
  • Toilets: There are no toilets on the trails so you’ll need to do some wild wees. Practice leave no trace and take tissues with you. If anything else is needed there are basic toilets at the campsites.  
  • Rubbish disposal: There are also no bins on the trail or at the campsites so anything you take out with you into Los Glaciares National Park needs to come back with you.
  • No smoking or campfires: Hopefully this doesn’t need an explanation.
  • No phone signal: As soon as you head out of the town onto any of the El Chalten hikes your phone signal will promptly disappear. There’s nothing, nada, zip.
  • Bring a torch: Similarly there’s no electricity out in the Los Glaciares National Park so when it gets dark, it gets dark. Having torch isn’t a luxury, it’s essential.
  • Water on route: There’s quite a few natural water sources along all the El Chalten hiking routes. However it’s best to have a proper filter water bottle with you because there were signs up warning about Hantavirus being present in the area.
  • Hiking routes map: You can pick one of these up from the information point in the bus station and there’s usually someone there who speaks some English.
  • Laundry: If you need to freshen up while in El Chalten there are plenty of launderettes around that will turn your sweaty garms into flower fresh delights within the day.

Travel Insurance For Hiking

Make sure you have a good quality travel insurance in place that covers you for hiking in the mountains. Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. Because they cover these kind of activities as standard and they have a no bullshit approach to policy wording.

Perfect for adventurous travellers like us. Get a no obligation quote here:

If you have any further questions about which El Chalten hike to choose or in general about El Chalten drop them in a comment below and we’ll do our best to help.

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