When you think of mountainous terrain, impressive beauty and a wildly dramatic environment, what comes to mind? Does Patagonia ring a bell? Patagonia can be a bit of an intimidating place to have on your itinerary, with advanced treks that can last for days and extreme weather. But what better place to start than El Chalten Hiking: the top trekking destination worldwide and an excellent starting point for hikers of all levels.
Located in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, the name in the original language means “smoking mountain.” Ideal for people who enjoy being active, El Chalten Hiking gives you a range of options from short, 30-minute walks, to trekking expeditions lasting several days, all of them offering amazing views of the stunning surroundings.
Besides some specific ice walks, rock climbing or unusually long expeditions, there’s really no previous training needed. We do recommend, however, including some walking in your daily routine before your trip. Chalten offers marvelous day hikes in the Glaciers National Park, and we’re giving you the options without much of a climb that can be done in half a day. Remember to wear comfy walking sneakers, good windproof/waterproof layers and bring your camera with lots of space in your memory card!
This is the longest of all the beginner walks (2 hours one way). The trail to Laguna Capri is an easy introduction to trekking in Patagonia, with the first hour being quite steep. Thirty minutes in, you will already be arriving to the viewpoint of the Valley of the River, the Ñire forest slowly accompanying you more and more. A sign along the path will show you the fork in the road leading to Lake Capri (to the left) or to Fitz Roy (to the right). From the Lake, you’ll get to see astonishing views of Fitz Roy and its surrounding peaks. Only an extra 15 minutes towards Fitz Roy will earn you a natural viewpoint of the Piedras Blancas (White Rocks) glacier.
Vulture & Eagle Viewpoints.
This is a new walk created in 2004 and takes only 1 hour (one way) to a natural viewpoint that overlooks the town, as it’s the shortest walk from it. Here is where you’ll get an amazing, panoramic view of Mt. Adela, Torre and Fitz Roy on the horizon, overlooking the Valley of the River. The walk lives up to its name as you can often see vultures and eagles gliding to and from the valley. If you want to do some additional walking, you can also visit a natural balcony where you can admire the Viedma Lake.
Start from El Chalten, cross the bridge over the Fitz Roy River and walk until you find the start of the path in the National Park offices. From there, you’ll come across a very well-marked path (“Las Aguilas”) climbing up to the viewpoint, which brings you to another natural balcony after just fifteen extra minutes of walking.
Viewpoint of Margarita Waterfall.
This is a super accessible, year ‘round walk that also approaches the valley and takes you to a viewpoint with panoramic sights to the west. It displays the serpent valley of the river Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and Adela, and as a bonus, it will only take you 40 minutes one way!
Start on the path towards Torre Lake, which, after a slight climb, will deepen into forest and eventually reach a natural viewpoint of a cliff over the river. Ahead of you, on the other side of the river, you will see the Margarita Waterfall. If you have time, we recommend walking on the path for an hour more to reach the Cerro Torre Viewpoint: one of the two best viewpoints in the area.
Chorrillo del Salto
This walk can also be done in car or by bike: another very easy and 1 hour (2.4 miles) one-way walk that goes through the forest before reaching a 65-foot beautiful waterfall. Under good conditions, you can access this walk all year ‘round. We especially recommend this walk for people who don’t have much time or who are just spending a few hours in Chalten.
Cañadon del Rio de las Vueltas
This is a short, 40-minute walk one-way, just over three-and-a-half miles from Chalten. On this walk, you will get a wide, panoramic of all the mountains in the Glaciers National Park. Take note that the last entrance to El Cañadon doesn’t have any protective fences, so be very careful not to get too close to the edge. This viewpoint is excellent for getting great shots when the sky is clear. You might even see some low-gliding vultures over the river.
Written by Patricia Wissar