El Chalten offers a very wide range of outdoor activities, trekking, the most popular of them all.
Here we offer a few ideas for your stay here, those places which are a “must” while visiting el chalten.
Remember, trekking is just walking in nature probably wearing boots, carrying a back-pack and enjoying nature.
We also include here a few paid activities, but are worth doing.
For all of your planning activities on the National Park, we recommend visiting the National Park Visitor´s Center, where you will find lots of useful and interesting information about the treks, history, geology, flora and fauna.
Remember while trekking:
First rule: it is all about enjoying yourself. Whenever you start feeling some sort of discomfort (sore knees, friction on your boots, etc) turn back, you still have to get back to town with that bothering you.
Walking times are only referential, it is best to bear in mind how long it took YOU to get there and consider the same time for your return.
Lago del Desierto – Huemul Glacier
Lago del Desierto boat ride including visit to Vespiniani Glacier
A full or half day excursión.
The shuttle will pick you up at the posada or cabins in the morning. Arriving at Lago del Desierto about two hours later. Once you get there, you might choose between a boat trip to Vespiniani glacier look out point or northen tip of Lago del Desierto (bookable in advance or at the spot).
You can also hike up to Huemul Glacier (entrance fee has to be paid since it is private property) and the beautiful 1-hr up-hill walk will take you through a beautiful forest to a tiny turquoise lagoon with a hanging glacer on top of it !
Also you can go around the lake taking the trail that goes to the northern tip by its right bank (5-6 hr, the trails might not be very well marked).
Trekking on Viedma Glacier
Viedma Glacier is the biggest in the National Park was until short ago the only option in el Chalten for walking on a glacier or just taking a boat ride that takes you to its impressive front.
You can visit Viedma Glacier and do a glacier hike or even an ice-climbing day! A shuttle ride covers the 16 kms to Bahia Tunel where all these options depart from.
It is not allowed taking horses on the National Park trails so all horse-back riding excursions take place outside the National Park.
Please ask about available options.
La Leona, petrified forest.
This excellent excursion is organized mostly from El Calafate but at it takes place near La Leona out post just at middle point of the route between El Calafate and El Chalten it can be arranged from either side.
The trip beggins at La Leona (the bus or shuttle leaves from either El Calafate or El Chalten) and from there you take a road for 15 km that leads to private property. The petrified wood is sorrounded by stunning badlands.
By car: you can arrange to meet with the van at La Leona meeting point on your way to or from El Chalten.
A half-day activity recommended for those of you who are willing to try this thrilling activity. You can either hire a private guide or join group of two or three people (check availability). The climbing takes place on the nearby walls and boulders of town so no trekking is required neither previous experience, all of the routes are of low difficulty.
From Fitz Roy El pilar- Piedras blancas look out point -Poincenot base camp – De los tres Lake – Capri Lake – to El Chatlen town
This trail offers the closest and most panoramic views of the Fitz Roy range. The trail might start in the northern part of town (just past a small yellow outpost) at the end of San Martin avenue or with a shuttle that takes you 15 km from town at Hosteria El Pilar.
We recommend taking the trail starting at El Pilar, like that you make like a loop and you do not repeat any of the trails and you see different mighty cerro Fitz Roy from different perspectives all the way in and out ! and you come back walking at your own pace into town. This option turns out to be a bit shorter and you come to see Glacier Piedras Blancas and the beautiful northern face of Fitz Roy.
Starting at El Pilar Hosteria, after two hours of an ondulating and nice trail you get to the Piedras Blancas Glacier view point, where you can also see its beautiful lagoon. The trail continues for another 40 minutes and reaches Poincenot Base camp (campsite for trekkers).
You will cross Piedras Blancas river and pass through Rio Blanco (campsite mostly for climbers) to go on to a steep and demanding 50-60 minutes walk trail that takes to stunning De los tres lake. The view from there is just amazing and the closest you can get to Fitz Roy view point. The walk is really worth it.
Getting back to El Chalten:
Coming back from Poincenot base camp you will see there are two trail parts, one (to the left) will lead you back to El Pilar Hosteria and the one that goes on just straight back to El Chalten. The one leading to El Chalten will take you past Capri Lake in about 2.5 hr of enjoyable trek.
Walking time: 9-10 hr. Return
Walking distance : De los tres Lake base camp 12.5 km one way
Torre Lake -De Agostini Base Camp- Maestri look out point
Starting from El Chalten, this trail goes along the Fitz Roy river valley that starts at Laguna Torre. After walking 1.5 hrs you will get to Torre look out point. From here we can still see the Fitz Roy summit as well as the valley and the beautiful Adelas and Torre range.
Following the trail for a 1.5 hr you will arrive at De Agostini basecamp. After the campsite, a 15-minute walk will take us into the lake where we get a beautiful view point of Grande Glacier and Torre range.
For those of you willing to keep on walking, you can go on trekking along the right morraine and get to Maestri view point after half hour (not recommended for extremely windy days).
Walking time: 8-9 hr. Return
Walking distance :
De Agostini base camp 10 km one way
Maestri look out point 14 km one way
Loma del Pliegue Tumbado
La Loma del Pliegue tumbado is one the well kept secret “must” and our favorite!
The view point for up there is awesome (of course on clear days!) and actually a privileged one: 360 degrees of view reaching as far as huge Viedma Lake, Wind pass and of course both ranges, Fitz Roy and Torre.
This trail starts at the Parks Visitors´Center, at the beginning of the trail goes through steppe (watch out on really windy days, unlike the other trekking, it might fell really unprotected from forest!) until we reach a small forest of Nothofagus trees (Lengas). Keep on walking until you get a clear branch out to your right leading you to Loma del Pliegue look out point or summit (extra 30min walk) From both the look out point and summit you can enjoy stunning views from both ranges and specially from Cerro Torre valley. Note that the soil of the last part of the trail is all slate and you can enjoy spotting out fossiles and even petrified wood (remember it is not allowed to take anything from the National Park)
Walking time: 10-11 hr. return
Walking distance : 12 km one way
Piedra del Fraile or Electrico base camp
Piedra del Fraile is on the way to Paso Marconi (one of the passes or entrance points to continental ice shelf). This trails departs from the Electrico river bridge about 16-18 km from El Chalten through Lake of the Dessert route leading north.
From the bridge, the trail goes along the bank of the river, then across the Rio Blanco valley and through a beautiful Nothofagus forest.
After 2.5 hrs you will get to Piedra del Fraile base camp. So far, this is private land so will be probably be charged a passing fee that applies for everybody even locals and guides. Once you go around Piedra del Fraile (a huge rock protecting the camp-site) a completely different landscape and ecosystem awaits with a stunning view of Fitz Roy, the Marconi range, Electrico lake valley. If you fell like walking a bit further you may go as far as the Pollone river, after 1.5 hr walk (we recommend not to cross this river on your own).
Walking time: 5 hr. Return to Piedra del Fraile
8 hr. Return to Pollone river
Chorrillo del Salto
A short easy walk only 4 kms away from El Chalten visiting this 20-mts –high waterfall. Follow the road to Lake of the Desert, after a good one hour walk you will reach the parking place. You can drive or just walk there, it is a very place for a pic nic or just to sit and enjoy this enchanting waterfall.
Mirador de Condores and Aguilas
This two short trails have been designed by Park National rangers. They both depart from the visitors´center. Both trails have an excellent and panoramic view!
Mirador de los Condores (Condores viewpoint)
It provides a panoramic view of the whole town and both Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy range.
Mirador de las Aguilas (Eagles viewpoint)
On the other side will go on to the south with views to Lago Viedma and the inmense steppe! This two short trails are very good for picture-taking at sunrise and sunset and have a great relationship effort-reward! When the sun hits on the granite walls giving an redish and orange light on them.
For all the treks here described there is not need to hire a guide (yes for comercial groups though!) Still we would like to point out that hiring a guide will enrich the walk considerably, just think of all the information history and knowledge of these professionals.