I understand not everyone is crazy about hiking for hours with a heavy backpack on, only to camp in the wilderness with no amenities available, day after day. That’s okay! I do enjoy it but luckily for you, there are other ways to see just about all of the El Chaltén region without those long hauls. Using day hikes alone, you can see most of this beautiful section of the Los Glaciares National Park, and then go home to a hot shower, hot dinner, and comfy bed back in town. For those looking to do some overnight trekking in the El Chaltén region, check out my guide to the region here.
For the casual day-hiker, read on:
Los Condores, 2 hours
This hike is an easy 45 minutes to an hour up, where you’ll get a lovely view of the nearby mountains. Bring yourself a small picnic and a windproof jacket if you’d like to enjoy some time up there, perhaps watch the sunset. This hike can also add the Las Aguilas mirador, which is 15 minutes beyond Los Condores. From there you can see views of Viedma Lake and Tunel Bay.
Cerro Torre, 6 hours
Choose a day with good weather for this longer hike out to Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre. The elevation doesn’t increase much, and the trail is pretty friendly to the beginner hiker. The trail is marked with distance points so you can track your progress. Bring plenty of water and snacks to get you through this long day, and factor in extra time for photos and a break at the viewpoint! After all, you need the reward of enjoying the views after working so hard to get there!
Mount Fitz Roy, 8 hours
The longest day trek by far, this hike will get you all the way to the famous Mount Fitz Roy. The trail is very manageable and flat, with generous views of the mountain, for the majority of the hike. But the last hour is all uphill and you won’t see the mountain during that time until you reach the top (although the valley landscape is spectacular!). Don’t be deterred by this long and strenuous hike; I saw plenty of older folks and not-so-fit people make it up to the very top, they just scheduled extra time and took breaks as needed. You’ll be glad you did it, so don’t hold back! Plus, there’s 16-18 hours of sunlight in summer here (Jan-Mar) so you shouldn’t have a problem getting back before dark!
Laguna Capri, 4 hours
If the thought of the Mt Fitz Roy hike sounds like too much for you, you can take this hike to about the halfway point on the trail, where there’s a nice viewpoint. This is great for a shorter day hike and is a very manageable trail for all levels of hikers.
Chorrillo del Salto, 2 hours
Nearby is the lovely waterfall Chorrillo del Salto, which can be reached on foot in 2 hours or on bike in less. Bike rentals are available throughout town, but the road is unpaved and it won’t be a pleasant bike ride unless you’re accustomed to off-roading. This is a great little day trip and the base of the waterfall is a perfect spot for a picnic!
Lago del Desierto, day tour
The lake that’s north of town makes for a lovely day trip with a tour company that can drive you there. At about 37km (22miles) north of town on an unpaved road, it would be a bit of a stretch to get there by bike. I saw plenty of people do it, but they tended to be the type that was biking all around South America, and were accustomed to the unpaved road conditions. Some tours can also drive you and your bike up so you only need to ride yourself back.
Glacier Viedma trek, day tour
Another day (or multi-day!) tour option is to go trekking on the Glaciar Viedma. Once you see how massive this glacier is, you’re going to want to get on it yourself! The tour companies will take you out to the glacier on a boat, provide you with crampons and the necessary glacier trekking gear, and lead you around on the ice. For multi-day treks you can camp out on the ice as well! My biggest advice on this is to bring sunscreen! You think it’s cold and you don’t need it that much but I’ve seen people with third degree burns on their faces from spending days out on the glacier. The hole is the ozone layer is right here above Patagonia, and the sun reflects off the ice to hit you extra times!
As you can see, the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park is very accessible to a day-hiker. You could have lots to do to fill your schedule whether you stay for 2 days, 4 days, or a week! But be sure to book your accommodations far ahead, as this remote town gets filled up quickly. Cell service and wifi are also virtually unavailable here. But you’re here to experience the extraordinary natural wonders of Patagonia, so you don’t need your phone or computer anyway! And if you want to know more about the southern region of the park, check out my posts about the glacier and the hiking!
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