Best hikes in Patagonia
Patagonia covers a vast territory that starts at the edge of La Pampa in the northern argentinean side (Palena’s province in Chile) and finishes in Cape Horn (the last tip of land before Antarctica, right below Tierra del Fuego). This is over 2800 km long, with thousands of hidden trails along different landscape. Even though it’s not possible to mention all of them in just one text, we would like to show below which ones are some of the best hikes in Patagonia:
1. Fitz Roy Trek, Cerro Torre and El Chaltén – Best hikes in Patagonia
El Chaltén is a village located 220 km north from El Calafate (Glacier Perito Moreno), in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina. It’s the trekking capital in Argentina, and considered as many trekker as the right place to do the best hikes in Patagonia Argentina. It counts with dozens of amazing trails that lead to different views of the Fitz Roy and Torre mounts (among other imponent granite mountains). The most popular hikes are the one to “Laguna de los 3”, which takes about 10 hours return, and the one to “Lago Torre”, which takes around 8 hours.
The best time to come is within october and march.
Laguna de los 3 is a lagoon with a perfect view on the Fitz Roy –probably the most picturesque viewpoint of the Fitz Roy trek, surrounded by 3 glaciers (that’s why it’s named like that). The trail starts either from the village or from another point called “El Pilar”. On the way you will see forests of the nothofagus trees, lagoons, glaciers, granite walls, and creeks. The difficulty is high in the last part, which is about 300 meters walking on a 45º surface; the rest of the way it’s medium and can be done without major inconveniences.
The “Lago Torre” (the trail starts from the village) is less challenging than Laguna de los 3, but very beautiful as well, since you reach a lagoon with ice chunks and a glacier, surrounded by a mountain chain in which the Cerro Torre stands out with its impressive needle: absolutely worhty!
The weather is unpredictable, therefore it’s convenient to stay no less than 3 nights, in order to improve the chances of having unclouded sky. Apart from these two trails, there are many others, such as: Loma del Pliegue tumbado, Glaciar Huemul, Glaciar Piedras Blancas, Refugio Piedra del Fraile, Paso del Huemul (multiday trek), Paso del Cuadrado (multiday trek), Paso Marconi (multiday trek) étc.
As a bonus track, if you’d like to have a life-time expedition, don’t miss the “vuelta a los hielos continentales” in which you can do over 100 km around the andean cordillera, visiting in part of your trip the continental ice cap: a humoungous ice field of 400 km long which stands right behind mount Fitz Roy. Even though this is an intense expedition, is also part of the best hikes in Patagonia.
2. Torres del Paine – Best hikes in Patagonia
Two hours away from Puerto Natales, and five hours west from El Calafate, Torres del Paine National Park is home to one of the best hikes in Patagonia: the “W Trek”. This consists in a 4-5 days circuit in which you visit the main valleys of the Park.
These valleys are three: the valley of the Rio Asencio, which leads to the Base of the Towers, the French valley, with amazing views on the Horns, and the Grey valley, right next to the Glacier and Lake of the same name.
The W trek can be done in different ways, and you can even do just part of it (in case your stay is not so long or you’re just not in the mood of doing everything). You can do it in camping, staying in refuges, or opting for a comfortable accommodation at different hotels inside the Park (which are very few though).
The base of the towers takes about 8-9 hours and it has some steep parts, but the lagoon at the foot of the towers compensates any effort.
In between the Asencio and the French valleys, there is a very nice trail along the the shore of Nordenskjöld Lake, Almirante Nieto Hill, and the striking Cuernos del Paine, with beautiful views (if the weather is good) of Los Cuernos, hanging glaciers, lakes, and the abundant local vegetation and wildlife.
In the French lookout Point (French Valley, also full day), you will enjoy one of the most breathtaking views of the circuit: the view to the valley framed by the Hills Paine Grande, Catedral, Hoja, Máscara, Espada, Aleta de Tiburón, and Cuerno del Norte.
The third milestone of the circuit is the Lake Grey, a place that ores one of the most unforgettable sceneries of the park, the magnificent Grey Glacier. The trail goes around the Paine Grande Hill, the highest peak in the mountain range (3,050 m), with incredible views of its hanging glaciers. Walking amidst Antarctic Beech (ñirre), Dombey’s beech (coigüe), and Chilean firebush (notro), you will reach the first lookout point of Grey Lake, where you will see floating pieces of glacier. The hanging bridges are also in this area.
The W trek can be started either from Lake grey or from Las Torres. Besides the W trek, you have also other hikes such as the Rio Pingo and the challenging “vuelta al Paine” or “O circuit”, which takes more days than the W trek and allows you to reach behind the mountain change.
Same as in El Chaltén, the best time to come is within october and march.
3. Bariloche and the Lakes District – Best hikes in Patagonia
Situated in the northwest of Argentinean Patagonia, Bariloche and the Lakes District is definitively a great place to combine hiking and aventure. Plenty of forests, mountains, rivers and lakes, the “southarmerican alps” invite to stay for at least one week. One of the best ways to discover this area, is to rent a car and combine trekking with scenic roads.
Basically, the district starts in Los Alerces National Park (UNESCO site), and it’s plenty of trails across ancient larch woods, passing by colorful and virgin lakes. The mínimum required time to visit it is a full day (you can start from Esquel city), which allows you to do some short hikes, particularly the one that joins Lakes Menendez and Verde: a picturesque 2 hours hike that goes around an island (between both lakes). To reach this small island you cross a hanging bridge over a colorful river, and you have also the possibility of navigating towards virgin areas such as the “Lago Cisne” or the “Alerce milenario”.
If you continue up to the north of the lakes district, through the mytical Ruta 40, you’ll reach El Bolsón. This is a place where you can find some of the best hikes in Patagonia Norte, with lot’s of refuges and different levels of difficulty. The classics are “Refugio Hielo Azul” and “Refugio Piltiquitrón”. You can overnight in both places. Also, you can go on a full day hike to “El Cajón del Azul”, which is an area where the Blue River (Rio Azul) creates a natural basin where you can jump and swim (but just a little bit because is cold!).
Continueing up to the north, and about 2 hours from El Bolsón, you will reach the most emblematic city of the lakes district: Bariloche. From Bariloche you can go for full day hikes to different places, such as “Refugio Frey” (in the Cathedral hill), “Refugio Lopez”, or immerse in multiday hikes that join the refuges accross the mountains. “Pampa Linda” is another picturesque route to follow. You need to make sure to come in a time of the year where the weather is nice, such as spring or summer (from october/november till march/april). “Cerro Tronador” is also a very impressive place to visit, since a glacier stands at the top, right at the border with Chile.
Going further north along the Lakes District you will reach Villa La Angostura (the hike inside the National Park Los Arrayanes is very nice!), then the 7 lakes route, San Martín de los Andes, Parque Nacional Lanín (where is the Lanín Vulcano: a 2 days climbing great experience), and it finishes near the area of Villa Pehuenia, in the province of Neuquén.
The mínimum suggested time to visit the Lakes District for trekking and scenic purposes, is 1 week.
Even though the best time to come is within october and march, you have also some winter trails that can be combined with winter sports, such as nordic ski and other activities.
4. Tierra del Fuego, Chilean Fjords, and rest of Patagonia – Best hikes in Patagonia
Ushuaia counts with many different trails for half or full day experiences. The most classic is the one inside the National Park Tierra del Fuego, which allows you to see the different ecosystems that exist in the island. It’s an easy trek. Another one which is very popular is “Laguna Esmeralda”: 4-5 hours (return) hike towards a turquoise lagoon beautiful views on the andean cordillera.
Down south the Beagle Channel, you have the famous “Dientes de Gavarino”, which is a challenging mountain chain that takes a couple of days to be explored, and is considered by many people as one of the best hikes in Patagonia as well (and harsh).
The Darwin range and the Peninsula Mitre are also very nice and remote areas to explore.
In between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, you can find the Chilean Fjords, plenty of hidden gems to visit (you’d have to navigate to reach them). Among these places you have the Alacalufes National Park, which has virgin trails among the mountains and channels of the South Pacific Ocean.
Patagonia counts with many other uncountable places to hike, which deserve to be included in the list of the “best hikes in Patagonia”, such as those along the legendary Carretera Austral or the Chilean Lakes District.
The best time to come is within october and march; nevertheless, in some areas such as Ushuaia and the Chileans lake district, you can also find some trails in winter for nordic ski and other activities.
Beyond BA LATAM – custom tours in Argentina and Chile
As a kick off, we invite you to discover some of the best hikes in Patagonia by yourselves, through our Fitz Roy Trek & W Trek – Patagonia Trekking Tour.
We offer personalized, tailor made trips to Argentina and Chile, and not all of them are related to trekking! Perhaps you want to discover the region with another travel style. We would love to hear about your interests and preferences, and plan together the best possible trip to this remote and beautiful region of the world…. Don’t hesitate to get in contact!0