In Patagonia, the desolate, wind-swept steppe gives way to jagged, snow-covered peaks. The stunning scenery, combined with an abundance of glaciers and lakes makes for a spectacular hiking destination. Patagonia is home to El Chaltén, a small town at the foot of the mountains known at the hiking capital of Argentina.
It is a well-deserved name, as a plethora of excellent trails depart directly from the town into Parque Nacional de los Glaciares. While you are in El Chalten, you can’t miss Lago de los Tres, a small lake set at the base of imposing Mount Fitz Roy (the inspiration for the outdoor company Patagonia’s brand). The 12.5 km trek begins at a trailhead at the north end of town. The well-maintained trail takes you up relatively gradually, providing views along the way of the mountains. The last few kilometers of the trail are very challenging, but the view at the top is well worth the climb.
It would be impossible to talk about hiking in Patagonia without mentioning the W-Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Although located across the border in Chile, Torres del Paine is a classic Patagonian destination. The W-Circuit is a five to seven day loop that allows hikers to see the most magnificent parts of Torres del Paine, and is considered one of the best treks in the world. Refugios along the way can provide hot meals and lodging, although many hikers choose to camp. Make sure to book any refugios you plan to use well in advance, as they can fill up during high season.
If you do not have enough time to do the whole W, be sure to hike up to Mirador de los Torres, a lookout that provides up close views of the huge towers for which the park is named. The hike begins at near Laguna Amarga at Hotel Las Torres and will take about four or five hours to reach the lookout. Refugio Chileno and Campamento Torres are both along the way if you prefer a two-day trek. Don’t forget your wind jacket- Torres del Paine is known for having wild windy days.
Additionally, when planning a trip to Patagonia, it is important to remember that it is a massive region. Make sure to give yourself enough time to comfortably visit all of your destinations!
By Noelle Smith