Laguna de los Tres (Fitz Roy): The Iconic Patagonian Hike in all its Fall Finery

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Early morning view of Fitz Roy from our El Chalén hotel—C.Helbig

On our first morning in El Chaltén, Argentina we woke up to a fiery red Mount Fitz Roy. I was beyond excited. Clear days are few and far between in southern Patagonia. Our guesthouse host recommended we do the Laguna de los Tres hike (also called Cerro Fitz Roy) for the best close-up views of the crown jewel of Patagonia. This hike, located in Los Glaciares National Park, has it all—granite spires, giant glaciers, turquoise lakes and pretty forests that pop with unbelievable colours if you’re lucky enough to be there in fall. Laguna de Los Tres is surprisingly accessible and relatively easy if you’re reasonably fit.  From start to finish, this hike is as stunning as they come.  

There are two approaches to Laguna del los Tres…

One starts at the end of the main street in El Chaltén (purple line on map just above El Chaltén) and is an out and back hike of about 24 km return. The other starts 17 km away, by Hostería El Pilar, on the gravel road to Lago del Desierto (intersection of purple and red lines at the top of map) and is a semi-loop ending back in El Chaltén. We selected the latter. It’s marginally shorter and has a more gradual incline than the one starting in El Chaltén. But the main reason for choosing the El Pilar option is that you get to see even more territory and there’s only minimal retracing of your steps. Most hotels in El Chaltén can arrange shuttle bus transport for hiker drop-off at El Pilar.

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Pick up this free map at Los Glaciares National Park Visitor Center

Plan on an 8-10 hour day…

We hiked slowly, took hundreds of photos and spent about 45 minutes hanging out at Laguna de los Tres. Altogether, it took us 9 hours, not including the bus ride from El Chaltén to El Pilar. The terrain is easy going except for the last 2 km. This hike is totally doable as a day hike, but some people camp at Poincenot to break up the hike or to get an early start for sunrise at Laguna de los Tres.

It’s a gorgeous, easy walk from El Pilar to Poincenot campground…

This section follows the Rio Blanco through a beautiful lenga forest (southern beech) that was ablaze in colour. I can’t imagine a nicer time to visit than early April. We barely noticed the gradual uphill gradient as views opened up to spectacular Glaciar Piedras Blancas and the Fitz Roy range framed in crimsons and golds .

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Wide, easy trail through lenga forest—C.Helbig

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Perhaps my favourite photo from our Laguna de los Tres hike—C.Helbig

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One of many views to Glaciar Piedras Blancas—C.Helbig

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Close-up of Glaciar Piedras Blancas—C.Helbig

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Dramatic Aguja Poincenot—C.Helbig

Recharge and take in the view around Poincenot…

The trail from El Pilar intersects with the one coming from El Chaltén just before the Poincenot campground. It’s a lovely area of low lying ñire shrubs with unimpeded views. Take a close look at the photo two down and you’ll see the trail snaking up the mid-distance hill on the final approach to Laguna de los Tres.

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Intersection of trails coming from El Pilar and El Chaltén —C.Helbig

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An easy stretch before the final leg, up and over the mid-distance ridge—C.Helbig

The final steep section to Laguna de los Tres is not that bad…

The elevation gain of the entire hike is 750 m (perhaps a little less using the El Pilar route), but the majority of it (400 m) comes during the last two km from Poincenot to Laguna de los Tres.  The really steep section, starting at the Rio Blanco basecamp (used by mountaineers) lasts only 500 m. The rocky path is jagged and uneven with some high steps, and there’s a bit of frustrating scree near the end. However, the anticipation of what lies just ahead, and the marvellous views looking forward and back made this section far less daunting than we had expected.

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The views back make it less of a grunt—C. Helbig

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Almost there…just over the crest—C.Helbig

It’s all worth it when you reach the crest…

Before us lay shimmering Laguna de los Tres, named for the three granite peaks that tower above it—Mt. Fitz Roy (3405 m), Aguja Poincenot (3002 m), and Saint-Exupéry (2558 m). The setting is beyond dramatic and becomes even more so if you venture along the short path to the left of Laguna de los Tres that leads to Laguna Sucia.

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Our first glimpse of Laguna de los Tres—C.Helbig

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Taking a break at Laguna de los Tres

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Laguna Sucia on the left and Laguna de los Tres on the right—C.Helbig

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Amazing view down to Laguna Sucia—C.Helbig

There’s nothing anticlimactic about the return to El Chaltén…

It was tough to drag ourselves from Laguna de los Tres but we knew we had at least a 4 hour hike back to El Chaltén. On many hikes it tends to be all about the destination, but I can honestly say I enjoyed every step of this hike. The section from Poincenot to Laguna Capri is especially pretty with meadows criss-crossed by little streams and ponds. We were awed by Laguna Capri and vowed we’d return another day (we did—it makes a perfect short hike from El Chaltén). Near the end, the approach into town is amazing, especially at the Rio de las Vueltas viewpoint

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Coming down from Laguna de los Tres—C. Helbig

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No shortage of Fitz Roy views on the way down—C.Helbig

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Laguna Capri makes a great destination in its own right—C.Helbig

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Rio de las Vueltas viewpoint—C.Helbig

And there’s beer and good food and a warm bed at the end….

We made it back to El Chaltén at about 7pm. The trailhead dumps hikers right onto the town’s main street. We were a tad confused about the location of our guesthouse so we stumbled into La Cerveceria, a cute microbrewery, to ask for directions. Several refreshing beers and a massive lasagne later we headed back to our guesthouse, just a block away. Does it get any better?

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Perfect ending to a great hike

To read more about what makes El Chaltén the perfect base for day hikes in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, please read my post: El Chaltén, Argentina: The Day Hiking Capital of Patagonia.

Categories: Activities, Argentina, Hiking, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 29 Comments

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29 thoughts on “Laguna de los Tres (Fitz Roy): The Iconic Patagonian Hike in all its Fall Finery

  1. Spectacular scenery and photos!! Makes me want to go there tomorrow!!
    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a landscape! Wonderful pictures! I already have a lot of books on Patagonia … Hope to get there some time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The shards and the blue of the laguna… mesmerising sights, Caroline. They are unreal. And then those autumnal reds! Phew.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brian Foster

    You always capture beautiful landscapes ( and sea when there) with amazing shots and involving discussions. You guys certainly have energy and stamina.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on FitandFunNow.com.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mike Hohmann

    The weather and colors were/are amazing, Caroline. Your stars were aligned, you were lucky… you name it. But what a trip. The hiking doesn’t seem to be difficult -distance or elevation-wise. The accommodations look very good, and the microbrewery, La Cerveceria, only a block away definitely is worth bonus points -especially after being out on the trail for 8-10 hours! I bet you slept well that night!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your assessment is right on Mike. From my pre-trip research I expected the hikes to be more difficult but that turned out not to be the case. The elevation gain was very manageable and it’s also nice for sea level people like me that this area is not high to begin with (elevation of El Chalten is only 400 m/1300 ft). Mind you, there are plenty of extremely challenging peaks to climb that don’t appear on the national park’s tourist map! Yes, I slept wonderfully!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jackie

    Wow! So beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I honestly cannot believe this is the hike we took! My eyes were popping right out of my head as I read this. I’m sending it to my kids and husband so they can marvel (cry?), too, at what we missed during our 10-hour slog in the rain and fog. Seriously, your photos are spectacular, and I’m so happy you got such a great day and views. April – OK, that’s when we will go back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, my heart breaks for you! I can’t imagine enduring the rain and fog for 10 hours, and how gruelling it must have been doing that last steep section in crappy conditions. Good for you guys for actually going the whole way. At least you got your exercise. I’m not sure April is any more reliable or whether we were just lucky!

      Liked by 1 person

    • lexklein’s son

      This is unrecognizable from when we did this hike. Literally all I remember is cold rain and being sore.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. What a perfect day. And I love your photos. We were lucky enough to arrive on a clear sunny day and dumped our bags and headed straight out on the trail from El Chalten. We didn’t go very far, but far enough for some fabulous views of Fitz Roy. What a place Patagonia is!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alison, I’m so glad you mentioned the fact that you really don’t need to go very far on the trail to get to splendid scenery, including those Fitz Roy views. It’s true that you need to seize any clear moments in Patagonia! Thanks, it was a perfect day!
      Cheers, Caroline PS: I see you’ve just posted on Japan. I look forward to reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Caroline, your posts like this one make me year to take a trip like this. The beauty!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great trip it looks like! I’ve planned my trip there for Nov to July. Thanks for getting me excited!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: El Chaltén, Argentina: The Day Hiking Capital of Patagonia | Writes of Passage

  13. ostendnomadography

    I really miss Argentina with seeing this great blogpost… . Great pictures, nicely written stories. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

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