Patagonia, the promised land of adventures, hikes and treks for all adventure and nature lovers. Encompassing the large southernmost tip of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile, with the Andes Mountains as its separator. Both the countries have their unique addition of flora and fauna to this region, making it a hiker’s paradise. Trekking up volcanoes, discovering granite pinnacles of Paine and Fitz Roy are some popular activities here. You can either choose to have multi day expeditions or opt for day hikes. In this post we will talk about trekking in Patagonia, about the landscapes, preference of trekking, lodging etc.
As of most popular hiking destinations, Patagonia too shares its unique weather unpredictability. Therefore, you must be prepared for the potential rough weather and trekking conditions. So we figured it would be better to include some safety tips just to make sure that you enjoy the most of what Patagonia has to offer.
Treks in Chilean Patagonia
Cerro Castillo Circuit is undoubtedly a great place to start trekking in the Chilean Patagonia. The exact location is Reserva Cerro Castillo, Aysen Region (Coyhaique Region), Chile. And it takes up to 4 days to completely explore the entire circuit. We chose this because it is a good alternative to the always crowded Torres del Paine National Park. These regions are popular for icebergs, mountains, grasslands and other fauna.
The climate can be somewhat extreme in Autumn and Winter, so make sure to carry the appropriate travel wear. There is a chance of snowfall at high altitudes, therefore it is advised to hike during the summer. There are only campsites and no refuges, so previous trekking experience is highly desirable. But this circuit is exceptional for a few reasons. It is closer to Carretera Austral which is the most scenic road in Patagonia. Also you get to enjoy the glamour of beauty of Mt. Cerro Castillo as you trek the quiet trail.
If you are going to Torres del Paine National Park which is called the Patagonia’s Crown Jewel, the W trek is the best place to start. This journey requires about 4 days and encompasses beautiful mountain ranges and sceneries. There are several starting points such as Grey Glacier and Paine Grande refuge. Grey Glacier is a part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Fields, and the W Trek is the best way to have an overview of how giant it is. You will come across Paine Grande(the park’s highest peak), Los Cuernos (granite peaks) and some of the most exotic lakes in Patagonia.
Base Las Torres and Refugio Los Cuernos are the other most popular hikes in this region. The treks are moderately difficult and may take up to eight hours to finish. You can enjoy some of Patagonia’s best viewpoints, experience the diverse landscapes, and the W Trek is available all year around if you are experienced enough. Just keep in mind that trails may be crowded especially in peak season. Plus, you need to book refuges and campsites within months before setting off.
Treks in Argentinian Patagonia
Kick off the Argentinian Patagonia region with El Chaltén of Los Glaciares National Park. Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre are the two most famous treks with a moderate level of difficulty. This hike takes about 2-4 days to complete. El Chaltén is Argentina’s hiking capital that it boasts to the world and its mountain range includes some of the world’s most recognized peaks. Cerro Torre (10200ft) and Mt. Fitzroy (11200ft) are an obsession for climbers around the world.
The hike to “Laguna Los Tres” to reach Mt. Fitzroy’s viewpoint is steep for about an hour and a half, yet views are completely rewarding. You can start hiking from El Chalten without paying any entrance fee and trails are very well marked and indicated with signs so that you won’t get lost. Just like Torres del Paine National Park, the region can be very windy (from November to February) but note that this unstable weather makes the experience even more unforgettable.
Also on an additional note, it is good to know that Argentina is home to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia – a truly mesmerizing place to explore, and one that’s home to even more hikes. Five miles north of town, Martial Glacier overlooks the bay; hiking is very popular on its flanks as well as skiing in the colder months. You can experience plenty of marine life and small islands.
The Argentinian Patagonia region is attractive because of a few reasons. It is home to some of Patagonia’s most iconic peaks, the trails and signposts are well-marked and of course the beauty of the viewpoints. As usual some trails are likely to be crowded during peak seasons plus the weather can be very windy.
Preparation for Trekking in Patagonia
Okay, so the first rule is that you must be physically active. Although you are in for an unforgettable experience in your life. It is not the typical everyday hiking experience. Experts say that it is best to undertake regular cardio exercises months before you go trekking. These include but not limited to biking, running, swimming.
The hiking boots must be comfortable and possibly waterproof. Also being lightweight and having a good grip is must. And you must be accustomed to them. Always best to spend time wearing in a pair than buying new ones. If you want to know about some of the best waterproof hiking shoes, check our post on the Teva Omnium and New Balance hiking shoes.
Also, you need to add the following to the travel wear list because of the constantly changing weather. Hike in shorts and short-sleeve shirt is okay, but always have a packable down jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf. Having hiking poles can especially pay off at mountain tops when the wind gets rough.
Respect the rules, only camp and cook in the respected protected areas, alert park rangers if you see anything unusual, start hiking early as there is a lot to see, know your strengths and weaknesses, and always help a fellow hiker in need. Remember that the campsites are elementary.
Water from the rivers is drinkable and It’s great to pack food with little or no packaging. And finally, the golden rule of all is to make sure your treks leave no trace and only carry back memories and pictures. we hope that this guide of Trekking in Patagonia was both educative and informative.
I am Ashen, currently an undergraduate international student in China. Having travelled to quite a few countries(Asian and European) both solo and with family and now covering destinations in China by myself, I am a full time outdoor enthusiast spending time on adventure activities.