This guide tells you everything you need to know about the Fitz Roy day hike to Laguna de Los Tres.
You may not recognize Mt. Fitz Roy by its name, but you must have heard of the clothing brand Patagonia. The Patagonia logo is actually an outline of Mt. Fitz Roy in Argentina. Mt. Fitz Roy is the tallest mountain in the Argentine Patagonia, boarding Chile and Argentina near the town of El Chalten and it’s one of the most technically difficult for mountaineering.
As mentioned in my previous post of Day Hike to Mirador Last Torres in Torres del Paine, Patagonia is a region that spans over both Chile and Argentina in the southern tip of the South America continent. The Chilean part is famous for the Torres del Paine National Park (the W Trek or O Trek) whereas the Argentine Patagonia is famous for hiking near El Chalten as well as Glacier Perito Moreno near El Calafate (more on that in a later post).
There are several day hikes (and multi-day trek) you can do in Argentine Patagonia but since we didn’t have the luxury to spend weeks and weeks there, we decided to do some of the most famous day hikes including the Mt. Fitz Roy (Laguna de Los Tres) hike.
Things To Know Before Your Patagonia Trip
- Best time to trek in Patagonia: December – March (Summer in the Southern Hemisphere)
- Weather in Patagonia is unpredictable and extremely windy, although it’s less windy in Argentina than in Chile (we had amazing weather in Argentina late November)
- The Mt. Fitz Roy day hike is long and steep (~8-9 hours round trip), so prepare food and water
- Dress in layers because of the unpredictable weather
- Porta Potties along the way at camp sites, bring your own toilet paper
- Camp sites available (there are 2 on this hike)
- Bring wide angle lens, you will need it for Mt. Fitz Roy!!
- Bring hiking sticks, you will thank yourself later
How To Get To El Chalten and the Laguna de Los Tres Trail Head
The Fitz Roy (Laguna de Los Tres) hike is located in the Los Glaciares National Park and El Chalten is a small town located in the middle of this national park. Laguna de Los Tres hike and the Laguna Cerro hike (separate post on that) are the best El Chalten hikes in that region.
El Chalten is pretty much in the middle of no where, to get there the easiest way is to take a bus. There are several different bus routes to El Chalten but the most popular one would be from the town of El Calafate, located 3 hours away. Why is El Calafate important? It’s a much bigger town and it has an airport (see below).
We took a double decker bus with the company Chaltentravel first thing in the morning. Make sure to book your tickets online. Pro Tip: Book your bus tickets as early as possible so you can get the first row on top. The ticket will also give you your assigned seats and we sat right in the front on the second level so we had an amazing view of the drive.
We visited their booking office in El Calafate 2 days before and was able to ask them to pick us up from our hotel. If they don’t pick you up from your hotel, take a taxi to the El Calafate bus terminal to catch this bus.
If El Chalten is your first stop on your Patagonia adventure, you can fly into El Calafate in Argentina. There is no airport in El Chalten since it’s extremely small. There are several direct flights from Buenos Aires to El Calafate everyday. After you land in El Calafate, you will need to catch the bus to El Chalten, 3 hours away.
Some people rent a car from El Calafate. It’s good if you would like a flexible schedule but it’s not very cheap to do so. The one benefit of driving your own car is that the route from El Calafate to El Chalten is extremely beautiful and famous (Ruta 40). With a car you will be able to stop and take photos.
If you are a Patagonia backpacker on a strict budget, you can bike from El Calafate to El Chalten on Ruta 40. We actually saw some people do that on bicycles/motorcycles. I’m not sure how long it takes though.
Once you are in El Chalten, the trail head to Fitz Roy is at the end of Avenida San Martín, end of the El Chalten town. There is a car park there so you can park your vehicle there.
Where To Stay For the Fitz Roy Laguna de Los Tres hike
There are generally two options for accommodation for the Fitz Roy hike: camping or hostels and hotels.
Camping: There are many different camp sites in Argentine Patagonia near El Chalten. You have to bring your own tent and cooking supplies. There are 2 camp sites along the hike to Laguna de Los Tres: Campamento Poincenot and Campamento Laguna Capri (by the lake). Camps are an extremely good choices for backpackers. We even saw some families camp near Laguna Capri. You can also drink the water from lakes/streams since there is no pollution in Patagonia.
Hostels, Apartments & Hotels: Most people who do day treks to the surrounding mountains stay in the town of El Chalten. This is an extremely small town but there are a lot of apartments, hotels and hostels in this town. I personally stayed at Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel & Spa which was really nice and convenient. There are also several nice restaurants and bars in El Chalten. My favorite restaurant in El Chalten is La Tapera. Food was amazing and service was good; we actually ate there both nights when we were in El Chalten.
El Chalten Argentina Day Hike: Laguna de Los Tres
Length: 20.4km (12.7 miles) round trip, 8-9 hours
Difficulty: Difficult because it’s long and a lot of uphills
Laguna de Los Tres Overview
The Fitz Roy trek is a long and strenuous hike with an amazing view at the end. The hike starts off steep but levels out until the last hour where you gain 400m of elevation. The best part of the hike is that you get amazing view for most parts of the hike and the view at the end is unparalleled. Just make sure to bring plenty of water and food and your hiking poles (for the last part).
Kilometer 0-3: 80% Uphill
The start of this hike was completely an uphill battle. The start was quite steep but it becomes less steep (but still uphill) after the first km. But you do come across nice views of the valley. There is also a marker at the end of each kilometer so you know your progress.
After about 2.5 kilometer on the hike it eventually starts to flatten out.
Kilometer 3-5: Flat In The Woods
You will come across a view point to see the Fitz Roy the first time on this hike aaround Kilometer 3. There is a sign that interprets the whole landscape right in front of you. There is a porta potty at the view point so be sure to use it because you won’t get to see another one for a while.
After that you continue to hike in the woods and you will come across the sign below where there is a split. It really doesn’t matter which way you go because both are easy and flat and you can always take the other route coming back. At about 5km mark the 2 paths converges.
Kilometer 5-6: Continue In The Woods
Continue the hike in the woods covered in shades and it’s a really easy km because it’s flat with some downhill. At the end of the kilometer you will come to an open area with another spectacular view of Mt. Fitz Roy.
Kilometer 6-7: Flat Hike With Amazing View
For half of the Fitz Roy hike, you actually walk on very flat ground with beautiful view. Once you exit the forest, you will be hiking near all the shorter trees (uncovered) towards Fitz Roy Mountain.
Kilometer 7-8: Change of Scenery
After seemingly forever towards the Fitz Roy Mountain, you will end up in a nice flat and open path with different views.
Kilometer 8-9: Camping Site
You enter the woods again just when you’ve had enough of the uncovered trail with the sun blazing down on you (it was really hot and sunny when we were there with no wind). This time you will reach the camping site Poincenot. There is a portable bathroom here so make sure to use it. It’s also a good idea to take a break here because after this it’s straight uphill for one hour with no shades.
Kilometer 9-10: Steep Uphill Till The End
Once you’re all rest up, leave the campsite and cross an open area before you reach the start of the steep hike.
You will start seeing warning signs everywhere on how steep and strenuous this last part is and people with heart conditions are advised to take caution. This last part of the hike is an elevation of 400m so you can imagine how steep it gets.
Just when you think you’ve reached the top of the hill, you will come across another small hill with an open steep area full of small pebbles (very slippery). This is the last steep part then you are greeted with the most amazing view (I personally think it’s even more spectacular than Torres del Paine because Mt. Fitz Roy is just SO big).
This hike, although very long, is one of my favorite hikes in Patagonia. Partially because we had beautiful weather and partially because of the view along the hike. Comparing it to Mirador Las Torres in Torres del Paine, I would rank this hike much higher in terms of enjoyableness. The view of both places were amazing though!
If you only have time for 1 hike near El Chalten, definitely do this hike. If you have more time, then consider doing the Cerro Torre hike, which is much easier and shorter.