Top Patagonia Hikes: Los Glaciares National Park
Patagonia is a place of wild and dramatic scenery. In the southernmost reaches of the Andes Mountains, low windswept grasslands hold herds of guanacos and dense beech forests shift from the brilliant greens of the southern-hemisphere spring to golden yellows, brilliant oranges, and apple reds in fall. Milky glacial lakes are fed by the blue ice of immense glaciers and condors wheel overhead among towering snow-dusted peaks that pierce the clouds.
Divided between Argentina and Chile, the vast region encompasses arid tablelands, temperate rain forest, massive ice fields, alpine lakes, and conifer forests. With such diverse terrain, many travelers find themselves returning again and again to explore it all.
The best way to experience Patagonia is on foot, immersed in extraordinary landscapes, breathing in the mountain air, and walking through loamy valleys formed by prehistoric ice. Happily, all the best Patagonia hikes are at low altitude and passing through a wide range of ecosystems does not require a multi-day camping adventure. Sections of many of the most iconic treks can be done as day hikes, and longer trails often have shorter options.
In this three-part series, we look at some of the most thrilling and scenic Patagonia hiking trails in the area. The first installment looks at Los Glaciares National Park hiking, in Argentina, where the magnificent spires of Fitz Roy command hikers’ attention, and namesake glaciers beckon a closer look. In part two, we will look at trails in Chile’s Route of Parks, and we’ll dedicate the final post to the many trails of Torres del Paine National Park.
Here is our list of the top Patagonia hiking trails in Los Glaciares National Park.
Huemul Glacier, Estancia Lago del Desierto
An easy alternative for gorgeous glacier, lake, and mountain scenery, this hike affords views of the north face of Mount Chaltén and the valley of the Río de las Vueltas. Climb a well-maintained trail through enchanting lenga beech forest, particularly lovely with colorful fall foliage. Emerge from the forest onto a moraine ridge with expansive views of the river valley, Mount Fitz Roy, Lago del Desierto, and the Cordon del Bosque mountains. Continue along the ridge to Huemel Glacier, feeding into the lagoon below. Watch for the glacier’s namesake deer in the area. Return on the same trail.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: 2 hours
Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park
A true adventure, this Patagonia hike takes you right up on the surface of the glacier to get a close-up look at the mysterious crevasses and glittering ice of the 96-square-mile glacier. A short boat ride across the southern arm of Lake Argentino, known locally as Brazo Rico, takes you to the western edge of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Walk along the southern moraine, parallel to the ice field, getting a feel for its massive size. Crampons are required to walk on the ice, and your guide will brief you on their use before heading into the heart of the glacier. Spend the next 3.5 hours exploring the undulating ice, punctuated by sharp spires, deep cracks, and blue pools against a backdrop of craggy peaks, breaking for lunch with a spectacular view. Return to the pier along a forested trail and cross back over the lake.
Time: 6 hours (3.5 hours on the ice)
Note: A moderate option lasting 2.5 hours (1.5 hours on the ice) is also possible.
Fossil Canyon, Estancia Cristina
The 170-million-year-old Cañadón de los Fósiles holds an immense concentration of marine fossils, including imprints of squid and jellyfish, left behind after the last ice age. The trail to the canyon begins in a valley formed by glacial erosion, with views of Lake Guillermo and the eastern side of the Upsala Glacier, as well as the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Gradually descend into an ochre-hued ravine to explore colorful rock formations and fantastic fossils embedded in the canyon walls. Exiting into the valley, stroll across Patagonian grasslands to return.
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 4–5 hours
Laguna de los Tres & Laguna Capri, Los Glaciares National Park
At the edge of the southern Patagonian icefield, this trail boasts stunning views of the Fitz Roy massif and its agujas (spires). Start off with a steep ascent to a view of the Río de las Vueltas, continuing into the valley. The trail passes in and out of ñire beech forest with mountain views across the valley until you reach a split in the trail. Head right to see gorgeous views of the impressive Pilar Casarotto and the eastern slopes of the Fitz Roy.
Here you have the option of making a loop, returning along the alternate route to the shores of beautiful Laguna Capri before rejoining the main trail for your descent.
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 3–4 hours
Continue on for the full 13-mile experience, rambling across open valley and wetlands outfitted with boardwalks, arriving at Poincenot Camp, where you break for lunch. Cross over the glacial waters of Blanco River to the climbers’ camp, then tackle the steep and rocky slope, following the frontal moraine of the Glaciar de los Tres to the lake. There you are rewarded with phenomenal views of Mount Fitz Roy, glaciers, and surrounding peaks. Descend to Poincenot Camp, where there is the option of a two-mile roundtrip spur to the Piedras Blancas viewpoint, with another breathtaking vista of the lake, glacier, and mountains. Descend, overlooking the wide dry valley, taking the route past Laguna Capri.
Distance: 13 miles
Time: 7–8 hours
* * * * *
To find out more about hiking options in the Los Glaciares region or other destinations in Patagonia, call our travel experts at 888-570-7108.