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Best Treks and Hikes in Patagonia

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Incredible vistas, glaciers and mountains; stunning rainforests and windswept steppes; and a few volcanoes - that’s just some of the highlights that Patagonia will present you with. Straddling Chile and Argentina, and divided by the Andes running in the middle, the region offers one of the top hiking and trekking destinations in the world. Torres del Paine National Park in the Chilean side and El Chalten on the Argentinean side of Patagonia have a plethora of treks and hikes, of varying length, duration and difficulty.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A HIKE OR TREK IN PATAGONIA

  • Make an honest assessment of your fitness. Remember, the duration and difficulty of a trek or hike and your fitness level go hand in hand.
  • Decide if you are prepared to camp out in the wilderness or do you want to stick to routes where base camps are provided? If you cannot do without comfort, seek for routes that offer proper lodgings every evening.
  • Find treks/hikes that are suitable for your level of experience - you’ll find everything from half-day hikes, to week-long treks, and you can, of course, choose to go off the beaten path too.
  • Also, consider your budget. It plays a big role in the length of the trek, and whether you stay in luxurious lodges or basic camps.
  • Last but not least, make a sound decision on whether you want an experienced guide by your side or if you want to conquer a trek or hike on your own. A local guide is highly recommended for some of the treks while others can be done solo. 

While Torres del Paine treks is probably the most famous treks in all of Patagonia and for a good reason, it isn’t all Patagonia has to offer. Yet, it is on the top of many a trekker’s bucket list, so check out our guide to Torres del Paine’s Terrific Three Treks for a detailed information. There is the more popular Torres del Paine W Trek, and the more difficult but well worth Full or O Circuit Trek to choose from. For those looking for something outside of the mundane, we are availing you with our picks of treks and hikes in Patagonia (in no particular order) that are worth experiencing. Make your pick:

1. Villa O’Higgins to El Chaltén Trek

El Chalten Patagonia, Argentina
El Chalten village in the Argentinian side of Patagonia

For those who don’t mind leaving modern comforts every evening and connect with the wilderness of Patagonia, the trek from Chile’s Carretara Austral’s southern end, Villa O’Higgins, to El Chalten on the Argentinean side will prove to be perfect. This trek takes you from the sleepy town of Villa O’Higgins in Chile to El Chaltén in Argentina. En route you discover some of the most remote places on Earth, glaciers and an overall stunning landscape.

This trek actually starts with a couple of hours’ boat ride from Villa O’Higgins (where you can camp at El Mosco). The boat takes you across Lago O’Higgins with a visit to the O’Higgins Glacier en route. Candelario Mansilla, a small farm at the edge of the Lago O’Higgins, is the resting place for the day. The Candelario Mansilla offers both a campground and guesthouse. The next morning, when available the owner uses his horses or jeep to help transport your bags to the Chilean border. From there you trek through forests into Argentina and Lake Fitzroy to El Chaltén.

Highlights

  • You’ll see some of the most beautiful sights here including Lago O’Higgins and its glacier, and the gorgeous Lake Fitzroy.
  • There aren’t many tourists in this route, allowing you to enjoy the wilderness all by yourself!

Lowlights

  • Being able to speak basic Spanish is needed, as any local you meet along this route don’t speak much English.
  • The forest before Lake Fitzroy can be very muddy, making walking a very difficult feat.

Trek Facts 

  • Trek Difficulty: Fairly demanding
  • Trek Duration: 2 days for 130km
  • Remoteness: Remote. While you’ll meet people at Villa O’Higgins, Candelario Mansilla and at the border, you’re out in the wilderness in between - it’s you and nature; no villages in sight.
  • Maximum Altitude: around 700 meters
  • Accommodation Type: Lodge and/or Camping
  • Best Season: November – April
  • Transport to/from Trek: From Cochrane to Villa O’Higgins you can take a bus (a couple of times a week) or a ferry (a couple of times a day). At the end, reaching Lake Fitzroy, you either catch a boat across the lake and then hitchhike/take a bus, to El Chaltén, or hike another 15km and catch a bus/hitchhike
  • Permits Required: None. However, you need to get your passport stamped in and out at border posts during the trek.
  • Risk of Altitude Sickness: No
  • Physical Fitness Level Required: Good

2. The Huemul Circuit Trek

The Huemul Circuit in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares of Argentine Patagonia is one of the most scenic and by far most difficult treks you’ll come across. Stunning glaciers, lakes and mountain tops will take your breath away. However, you’ll climb up steep slopes and slide down even steeper slopes, as well as rappel yourself across rivers. You’ll find that the difficulty puts many people off, so if you enjoy not meeting too many other trekkers, now you know why. Seeing the sunrise by a glacial lake as icebergs float by, or enjoying a starry sky by yourself at night will be memories that last a lifetime.

Highlights

  • You’ll get to see the Southern Patagonian Ice Field which is a big WOW factor!
  • If you’re lucky you’ll see a condor or two.
  • The stunning sights of Lago Viedma, the Viedma Glacier and Mount Huemul and its hanging glacier, Cerro Solo, are also part of the trek.

Lowlights

  • There is an almost vertical descent at one point and you’ll climb about 1,000 meters up a gravel trail. Without walking sticks the trek is going to be more strenuous than it already is.
  • You will also need to cross the Paso del Viento, meaning Windy Pass, at 1550 meters and there’s a reason the pass has the name it has - the winds can be strong.
  • You will need a harness and carabiner to rappel across the rivers, which can be rented from shops in the area before you start the trek. Consider bringing a guide as the trek does come with its share of difficulties.

Trek Facts

  • Trek Difficulty: Very demanding
  • Trek Duration: 4 days
  • Remoteness: Very remote. It is complete wilderness through and through.
  • Maximum Altitude: Approx. 1550m
  • Accommodation Type: Camping
  • Best Season: October - April
  • Transport to/from Trek: You start in El Chaltén and walk from there, then at the end of the trek you take a bus or hitch-hike.
  • Permits Required: No, but there is an entry fee to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and you need to register with the ranger so that in case you go missing they can send a search and rescue.
  • Risk of Altitude Sickness: No
  • Physical Fitness Level Required: Very good

3. Mount Fitz Roy Hike

Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia
Mount Fitz Roy is reflected in a pool of water

Located in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, this is a relatively easy hike from El Chaltén in Argentine Patagonia to the base of Mount Fitz Roy, where you’re greeted with the beauty of the mountain tops and a lagoon.

Highlights

  • The Mount Fitz Roy base is a stunning sight with its various peaks sticking up into the sky.
  • The bright blue lagoon, Laguna de los Tres and its famed beauty will greet you.
  • If you go to the small hill to the left of Laguna de los Tres, you’ll be able to see Laguna Sucia too.

Lowlights

  • You need to cross several small rivers.
  • The last hour or so of the hike (before turning back again, that is) is up a steep slope. Wear proper hiking boots and bring walking poles to ensure you don’t fall and, also, to lessen the strain on your knees.

Hike Facts

  • Hike Difficulty: Fairly demanding
  • Hike Duration: 26km stretch lasts for about 8 hours
  • Remoteness: Not Remote
  • Maximum Altitude: 1203m
  • Accommodation Type: Hostel or camping in El Chaltén
  • Best Season: October-April and November- February
  • Transport to/from Hike: Walking to and back from Mount Fitz Roy
  • Permits Required: None. However, there is an entry fee to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and you need to register with the ranger so that in case you go missing they can send a search and rescue.
  • Risk of Altitude Sickness: No
  • Physical Fitness Level Required: Good

4. The Cerro Castillo Circuit Trek

Cerro Castillo in Patagonia
Cerro Castillo as seen during the trek

This trek in Chilean Patagonia is remote and offers stunning views of mountains, forests and glaciers - some even prefer it to the Torres del Paine treks. If you can handle rain and snow, then this is a trek worth exploring.

Highlights

  • Laguna Cerro Castillo.
  • The El Peñon mountain pass and the stunning rock formations all round!
  • Castle Peak and Laguna la Paloma are also sights worth the difficult trek.
  • If you’re lucky you’ll see a Huemul deer (the symbol of Chile).

Lowlights

  • The weather often turns bad, offering snow and rain.
  • Expect loose stones on the trek, so be careful.
  • It’s not an easy place to get to, since it is in the middle of nowhere. You’ll need to ask locals for the start of the trek; if traveling alone you need to be able to speak some Spanish. As with most treks, you can hire local guides! It is highly recommended.

Trek Facts

  • Trek Difficulty: Very Demanding
  • Trek Duration: 62km (about 3-4 days)
  • Remoteness: Very Remote
  • Maximum Altitude: 1676m at the El Peñon pass (the actual Cerro Castillo peak is 2675m)
  • Accommodation Type: Camping
  • Best Season: December - March. Although the trek is possible in other seasons, the weather can get very bad. So, stick with summer, if you want to be on the safe side.
  • Transport to/from Trek: You need to go 60 miles south from the city of Coyhaique to Horquetas Grandes, which is where the circuit of the Cerro Castillo officially starts. Although public transportation is available, it is unreliable. Chances are that you will need to arrange for a car.
  • Permits Required: No, but there is an entry fee.
  • Risk Altitude Sickness: No
  • Physical Fitness Level Required: Very good

For itineraries, maps and other detailed information, read on to Cerro Castillo Trek.

5. Las Pumas Hike

As the name of the trail suggests, this trail in the Torres del Paine National Park is popular for Puma sightings. However, you will need to be on a tour specifically designed to track Pumas. If puma sighting is not your main agenda then the trail offers stunning vistas of the national park and the three rock towers - Los Torres. This hike is actually on private land - it belongs to the Hotel Las Torres, so if you stay with them, they even offer horses to help you part of the way!

Highlights

  • At the end of the hike you’ll have a beautiful view of the lagoon and the towers of Torres del Paine. The view in this angle is a rare sight!
  • If you are very lucky, you will see a Puma too.

Lowlights

  • The trek is a continuous uphill, then another continuous downhill, and so on. Using horses for part of the hike, or bringing walking sticks should salvage your knees.
  • Expect heavy winds.

Hike Facts

  • Hike Difficulty: Fairly demanding. It’s a short hike, but it is strenuous.
  • Hike Duration: One day
  • Remoteness: Not Remote
  • Maximum Altitude: N/A
  • Accommodation Type: Camping, Hotel, and Refugio
  • Best Season: October - April
  • Transport to/from Hike: Walk from Hotel Las Torres, or use horses for part of the way
  • Permits Required: Entry to Torres del Paine National Park - also have a chat with Hotel Las Torres as it’s on their land.
  • Altitude Sickness: No
  • Physical Fitness Level Required: Good

6. Dientes de Navarino Trek

Dientes de Navarino Trek in Chile
A trekker enjoys the stunning vista Dientes de Navarino has to offer

Of the many treks and hikes available in Patagonia, Dientes de Navarino trek is probably the least heard of and the most difficult. The trail that snakes through the Dientes de Navarino mountain range, which literally translates to Teeth of Navarino because of the jagged pinnacles that look like teeth, allows trekkers to see some of the most spectacular scenery in South America. The incredibly beautiful trek is also grueling, inviting very few challengers.

Highlights

  • The very demanding trek doesn’t see a lot of trekkers, meaning most of the scenic vista is all yours.
  • The pure, untapped nature that unfolds is breath taking.
  • Although remote and unheard of, tours for this trek are available.

Lowlights

  • While the trek is difficult, getting to the start of the trek – Puerto Williams, is a feat on its own.
  • The weather is unpredictable, and goes from sun to snow overnight.

Trek Facts

  • Trek Difficulty: Very Demanding.
  • Trek Duration: 4 days
  • Remoteness: Very Remote. You won’t see any sign of civilization throughout it.
  • Maximum Altitude: 859m
  • Accommodation Type: Camping is your only option on this trek.
  • Best Season: December and March
  • Transport to/from Trek: You can fly or take a boat to/from Puerto Williams to/from Punto Arenas.
  • Permit Required: No, but you must register your trekking plans at the local police station before you head off for safety reasons.
  • Risk of Altitude Sickness: No
  • Physical Fitness Level Required: Very Good
Best Treks and Hikes in Patagonia Map
Map for best treks and hikes in Patagonia

Safety Considerations

Apart from some shorter day hikes (and even then), anywhere you go in Patagonia tends to involve a certain level of risk due to strong winds, climbing steep, often rocky, hills/mountains and the possibility of encountering rain and snow. Do check up on the best time to visit Patagonia before planning your tour. Always bring walking sticks and first aid kits, wear comfortable and waterproof clothes, and proper hiking shoes.For more information on suitable trekking gears, read our guide to equipments needed when trekking. Inform someone of where you are whenever possible. Even though many tracks are marked, bring maps and GPS.

Patagonia is beautiful and there are many opportunities to be completely alone in the wilderness. If you yearn for adventure and don’t mind a bit of snow, it’s a place well-worth visiting. For those who want to have a wholesome experience of Patagonia in limited time, check out our Best Of Patagonia 9-Day Adventure! Read on to Patagonia Tour Highlights and Travel Tips for more information on the region.

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