If you find yourself in Argentina and are keen to find the best hiking trails be sure to head to El Chaltén. Coined the “Trekking Capital of Argentina,” El Chaltén has a number of fantastic day and multi-day hikes for every type of trekker. We were limited on time and could only choose one of the trails. The highlight of driving into El Chaltén was getting picture perfect views of the Fitz Roy Mountain. When we were making our selection we knew that we wanted the trek that got us as close to this adventurers magnet as possible. We chose the Laguna De Los Tres Trek.
While most of the treks in the area offer you great views of this popular Andes range, Laguna De Los Tres takes you to the popular Mirador del Fitz Roy, the gorgeous Laguna de los Tres and the often overlooked Laguna Capri. The Laguna De Los Tres trek is the longest and considered the most difficult of all the day hikes around El Chaltén. Always up for a challenge, we made our way to the north of town where the trailhead starts and had an awesome day out.
Here’s a snapshot of how we tackled the Laguna De Los Tres trek:
The trailhead starts in town at the end of Avenida San Martín. The path itself is well maintained and is clearly marked with kilometer markers. If you are like me and want to know how much longer you have left, you’ll love the markers. While you can easily do this trek on your own, our group had a guide to take us out on the trail.
The first hour on the trail is quite steep and a good warm up for the rest of the trail. Once you get to Mirador Rio De Las Vueltas it is smooth sailing from there (almost – but we’ll get to that in a second). Catch your breath and enjoy the view.
The path then continues onward along beautiful streams and forest. Sneak peaks of the mountains come and go as you pass each kilometer marker. The path will take you to a sign that reads like a “choose-your-own-adventure” book of the 1990s. You are given two options: take the path to the left to Laguna Capri or take the path to the right to Fitz Roy.
Knowing we would make our journey back to El Chaltén via Laguna Capri, we took the path to the right and made our way to the Mirador Del Fitz Roy.
The path continues deeper into the forest and takes you along logs that have been turned into bridges over streams. Eventually we reached Rio Blanco, filled up our water bottles, and pushed on to the base of the challenge.
Hopefully you’ll have paced yourself and are ready for the most challenging part of the trek. At kilometer 9 the nice dirt path switches to a steep ascent across boulders. There is even a sign warning you that the path is about to get much tougher. The 400m ascent will take about an hour and will require you to do a bit of scrambling. Don’t let the signs deter you, you will most definitely want to get to the top for what awaits.
I’ve read a few posts from others about the trek and some say don’t waste your time with the last kilometer because you get good views along the way. While the views are great along the path, don’t listen to them – one of the best views is yet to come. Simply take small steps, pace yourself and power through.
Standing underneath the acclaimed Fitz Roy at the stunning Laguna De Los Tres makes it all worthwhile. Laguna de Los Tres in Spanish means “Lake of the Three.” It was named this because of the surrounding three mountains – the Fitz Roy, the Poincenot and the Torre. We stopped to admire the glacier de los Tres and the turquoise lagoon that it feeds.
We made our way down to the lagoon and up the next mound on the left to get better views of Laguna Sucia as well. Our group sprawled out, had our lunches and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.
The trek is fantastic because it allows amateur climbers like us the opportunity to get to experience Fitz Roy. While having lunch we noticed a couple of little dots moving up the mountain. It turned out to be trekkers continuing their path onwards to make one of the most challenging summit attempts that exists. With the clear and beautiful weather we had, I was surprised we didn’t see more people taking advantage of the conditions for their summit attempts.
After admiring the views for an hour, we started our descent back to El Chaltén. Be sure to keep an eye on the time – if you aren’t heading back down the mountain by around 2:30pm you may be in the dark before you are finished. The steep, unforgiving first kilometer back down was as tough as it was on the way up. Have a pair of sturdy trekking poles (unlike Rob’s pole that decided to bend shortly after our departure) and you will be okay.
As mentioned before, on the way back you have the option of closing the loop and trekking alongside Laguna Capri. This route is actually its own smaller day trek and gives you a different perspective of the mountains. Just follow the signs that direct you to Laguna Capri and enjoy.
After taking a breather at the lagoon we continued along the path, which eventually joined the same trail back to El Chaltén. Getting back to the trailhead after a long day trekking is always a great feeling – it means that you’ve accomplished something you set out for (and of course, it is time for a celebratory beer).
Distance: 26km (16miles)
Duration: 8-10 hours
Some trekkers will break this classic trek up and make it a multi day hike. There are a couple of campsites along the trail where you can make this happen – Poincenot and Río Blanco. Most of the hikers that stay at these locations are going much further along the trail, but this doesn’t mean you can’t also book a place to break up your trip. The trek can easily be done in a day – just be sure to get an early start and watch the clock to make sure you leave Laguna De Los Tres in time to be back before sunset.
Looking for something a bit more tame or interested in checking out a multi-day trek? Be sure to check out Destinations // El Chaltén, Argentina for a handful of other popular treks to choose from.
For up to date information on the trekking around El Chaltén be sure to consult the officical El Chaltén Website. Happy Hiking.