SSuggestions for a trip to Chaltén
There are several trails to choose from, two of which are unmissable, almost must do: Laguna Torre, to see the Cerro Torre mountain range, and Laguna de los Tres, to see the Cerro Fitz Roy mountain range. To do both a stay of at least one night, ideally two, in El Chaltén is recommended.
An unbeatable centre for hiking, climbing and adventure sports, you could also easily spend a week here immersed in the mountains.
How you time your arrival and departure and which walks you do depend on the length time you plan to spend in the area. A popular choice is leaving El Calafate early in the morning, arriving in El Chaltén around noon. As soon as you've completed the National Parks orientation you can start the Laguna Torre trail (6 to 7 hours, easy walk), then spend the night in the town on you return. The next morning leaving early you can do the traditional walk to Laguna de los Tres (7 to 8 hours round trip, medium difficulty) and be back in time to take the 6pm bus to El Calafate. With this option, you only spend one night in El Chaltén.
The town offers a wide variety of accommodation options in a range of categories. There is also a broad range of restaurants offering something for everyone, from the simple, with typical local dishes to the gourmet, with a fusion of international styles and regional ingredients.
If your time is limited you can leave El Calafate in late afternoon, around 6pm or 6:30pm after doing the classic Perito Moreno Glacier tour, arriving in El Chaltén around 10 pm. After spending the night in this small town you can start out very early the next day to make the most of the walk and the scenery before departing again in the late afternoon.
If the weather is good it is best to do the Laguna Torre trail first for the best chance of seeing Cerro Torre, whose summit is rarely completely free of clouds. In general the summit of Cerro Fitz Roy is visible more often and longer.
An interesting option for getting to Laguna de los Tres while seeing the Fitz Roy Range from different perspectives, is to travel by vehicle from El Chaltén to Hostería El Pilar. Starting from here the trail approaches Fitz Roy from the other side, following the Blanco River through a beautiful forest with several natural lookouts showing the Range from a different angle and affording a view of the Piedras Blancas Glacier. After 2 hours the trail joins the main trail to the Laguna de los Tres lookout. On the way back, instead of retracing your steps keep on the main trail all the way back to town. There are transfers to Hostería El Pilar, daily in the morning and afternoon.
Whenever you set out on a walk be sure you have a map of the area, appropriate footwear, protective clothing in case of sudden changes in the weather (remember you are in the mountains), some food and water. Plan your walk according to the hours of daylight and stick to the established paths.
Another interesting option for a clear day is to take the trail to Pliegue Tumbado. From here you can see the entire Torre Valley and the entire Fitz Roy Range. Check the route duration and degree of difficulty with the Park Ranger at the start of the trail.
If you plan on camping overnight the Park Rangers can give you advice about restrictions, weather conditions and trail times.
For those who wish to spend several days inside the Park, combining the 2 classic trails with some lesser known trails, a worthwhile alternative starts on private property to the north of the Park then joins up with the trail to one of the biggest attractions in the Park: Laguna de los Tres. This circuit can be 3 days/2 nights or 4 days/3 nights, depending on the time available. For the shorter option, take a transfer to Hostería El Pilar and start on the trail to Lago del Desierto. After 1 km, at the bridge over the Eléctrico River, follow the left bank of the river (don't cross it), through private land bordering the Park, to the Piedra del Fraile campsite (+/- 2 hours, easy walking). Here there are small cabins and camp sites for overnight stays. This is the starting point for several trails in the Valle Del Río Eléctrico. One option is the trail to Pollone, medium difficulty, +/-6 hours there and back. A second, more difficult, option is the ascent to Paso del Cuadrado, +/- 7 - 8 hours from Piedra del Fraile. For a more relaxed option, you can take a short walk to Lago Eléctrico through a pretty glacial valley and along the shore.
The Cerro Huemul circuit has recently become popular. To the south of the main trails, a little further down the Cerro Torre Valley, this circuit is for experienced hikers. Although not technically difficult the trail is more isolated, there is less infrastructure at the camp sites, and when the weather is bad the area is very windy. The circuit takes 4 days. Check availability and register with the Park Rangers before you set out. Under no circumstances should you go on your own without registering as you might remain unaided for a long time in the event of an accident.