Patagonia’s most famous icon, Laguna de Los Tres, stands as the closest point to Mount Fitz Roy, standing tall at 864 m. What’s it like hiking from an Argentinian village towards the foot of Mount Chalten in Patagonia? Laura Godoy shares her experience of going up 410m with her husband and 7-year old son. Let’s explore the town of Chalten and the wonderful hike with them.

We’d been longing to explore the charming town of Chalten for years together. But we had been waiting for little Juani to be old enough to join us.

Chalten is as cute as it’s charming. One doesn’t need a car to explore this cozy and wonderful settlement and can cover all of it on foot within an hour. It’s a 20-kilometers long path of beautiful views, with the Laguna de Los tres being the main attraction- which also happens to be the closest panoramic point to the Fitz Roy peak.

The Laguna de Los Tres is a moderate-level hike that takes about 8-9 hours for a round trek (5.5 km), depending on your rhythm. The difficulty level is medium, although access to this viewpoint is possible all year round. But, it is always better to check the condition of the trails at the Visitors’ Centre located just before the entrance to the tourist village.

The Hiking trail

We started out from the trailhead at the El Pilar Inn, 17 km (10 miles) from Chaltén where the Eléctrico river flows into De las Vueltas river. We walked through a forest of lengas, a typical Patagonian tree, with the Blanco River to our right for the first hour. It was a pleasant walk to the
Piedras Blancas Viewpoint and its panoramic view of the Piedras Blancas glacier where we allowed ourselves a short stop.

A half-hour later, we came to a signposted crossroad: here, the path coming from El Pilar Inn joins another way that starts in Chalten town. This means you could also opt to hike directly from town instead of driving to El Pilar, but bear in mind that the Chalten route is 2 hours longer, and during the first hour of the trek, the slope is quite steep.

Right after the paths merged, we arrived at Poincenot camp. The camp is just an authorized area for camping, with no services other than a “toilet” (which is just a small hut with a deep hole). This is the only “bathroom” during the entire trail other than “going the natural route.

We stopped near the camp to enjoy our lunch. Food is something you must arrange in advance. Usually all hotels/lodges offer picnic box lunches, or you can buy something in town, but there are no food options available during the trek. Don’t forget to bring plenty of liquids too!

Approaching the mythical walls of Fitz Roy Mount

After a well-deserved rest, we set out again at a steady pace along the trail (for a few more hours of walking!). The final stretch was the most demanding because over the last 400 meters (1312 ft) to the lake, the trail becomes steeper and more arduous. However, the breathtaking
surroundings and seeing the distance we had traveled from above added the necessary strength to our legs to make the final push to our objective.

Nature at its best

We knew this trek would be a challenge for all of us, particularly for our little Juani, just seven years old at the time. But at each step, we would discover some new surprise: rocks of different shapes, sizes, and colours, leafy trees with their gnarled roots clinging to the slopes, huge mountain peaks, and even some patches of snow. The combination created a permanent stimulus, encouraging us to push on and reach our goal!

The trail ends at the old Moraine ridge with an extraordinary view of the lagoon and De Los Tres Glacier. This is the closest view of the granite wall of Mt. Fitz Roy and the peaks around it. After contemplating this fantastic landscape for a while, it was time to start back. Luckily the way back is downhill, but we had to pay a lot of attention at first because the slope and the gravel make the surface slippery.

Where the paths split, this time we chose the trail that goes to town. We came upon the calm waters of Laguna Capri and stopped there for a couple of minutes to say a silent goodbye to the wonderful wilderness.

We continued walking without stops, past the Mirador Río de las Vueltas panoramic viewpoint, until we reached the trail’s end, where San Martin Avenue begins, and the first light of Chalten village appears leaving behind our adventures to the Fitz Roy.

We experienced this trail as an encapsulated representation of our life: full of adventures, beautiful, sometimes difficult, but possible if we are together as a family.