Hike to Laguna de los Tres and Fitz Roy from El Chalten

Take a 22km-return day hike from El Chalten in Los Glaciares National Park to Laguna de los Tres, sitting at the base of Mount Fitz Roy.

While we were travelling around Argentina, this is undoubtedly one of my favourite day-hikes.

El Chalten

As we get closer to El Chalten out the front window of the bus I can see the very recognisable silhouette of the Patagonia logo, Mount Fitz Roy. Its snowy slopes are illuminated by the morning rays of sun. Excitement is building as we get closer to this famous Argentinian town among hikers and climbers.

As we enter town we stop at the information centre for a briefing on the trails, then we walk from the bus station to Patagonia Hostel (1.3km).

Mark stands outside Patagonia Hostel

After unpacking our things, we walk to a nearby bakery and buy a coffee, two empanadas and a cake to share. The town is eerily quiet at this time of year. No cars are driving on the roads, no travellers are walking around town. It feels like it’s just us.

It’s mid-May, which is a very quiet time to travel through Patagonia as it’s the start of a long, dark winter.

How to get to Laguna de los Tres from El Chalten

At 9am we leave our hostel in El Chalten and walk to the trailhead at the end of San Martin Street (you’ll see a sign that says ‘Sendero El Fitz Roy’) to start the hike to Laguna de los Tres.

Early morning in El Chalten.
Early morning in El Chalten. The trailhead is right beneath that rock at the end of the road.

The hike is approximately 11km one way, and we’ve packed a tasty lunch to enjoy when we reach Laguna de los Tres.

We got this park map at the information centre in the town of El Chalten.
We’ll be following the purple trail that leads to Laguna de los Tres.

The first section from the trailhead is steep and winds up a rocky path. At the top we stop to look out over Rio de las Vueltas. It’s still early in the morning and the sun hasn’t risen over the mountains. It’s cold, but it’s thankfully not windy.

Looking out over Rio de las Vueltas.
Rio de las Vueltas.

The next section of the hike takes you through a thick green forested area, before we reach a viewpoint where we see Fitz Roy in the distance – at this point I begin to question whether we can make it all the way there and back before the sun goes down.

Descending through the forest we reach an easy, flat, winding path through a clearing where we can finally enjoy the sunshine.

Walking through a clearing.

We walk past Laguna Capri, and cross a wooden bridge over a gushing river of ice melt flowing from the glaciers higher up.

Inching closer to Laguna de los Tres.

The hike is long but mostly easy until the final ascent up rocks. If there’s been heavy snow or rain recently, keep in mind this section will be very slippery. The path is clear for us, but there is snow beside us, and some ice on the ground.

As we get higher, I am desperately trying not to slip, carefully placing my hiking boots away from ice for the last few metres before we reach the top, where I sigh with relief. We made it.

Lunch at Laguna de los Tres

Laguna de Los Tres at the base of Fitz Roy Massif.
Laguna de los Tres, at last.

It’s 12:45pm when we reach Laguna de los Tres and fire up our portable camping stove to cook our mac n cheese.

Lunch goes down a treat as we sit and look at the mountains. There are a few other groups of hikers around, but not many. I can imagine how busy this place must be in peak season.

Cooking mac and cheese for lunch at the lookout.
Mark cooks the mac n cheese at the lookout.

We spend an hour resting before we start the hike back to the hostel. We stop to get groceries on our way back to the hostel so we can cook up a hearty meal after a long day of hiking.

But it’s not over yet, tomorrow we’re hiking to Laguna Torre.

Planning a trip to El Chalten and want to know more? Drop a comment, I’m happy to help with your trip planning.

February 15, 2024

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