Fitz Roy, Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre from El Chalten
21.2 miles / 4,361 ft elevation
3 days / 2 nights in backcountry campgrounds
Season: November - march
Step into another world while on this 3-day scenic Patagonia backpacking loop in Los Glaciares National Park passing by the famous Mount Fitz Roy vista, Laguna De Los Tres and Laguna Torre vista. Prepare for some of the most breathtaking views, abundance of plant and wildlife, and everything from snowy blizzards to sunny beaches. This loop is self-guided and does not require advanced permits. Hiking season for this trek spans the Patagonia summer months of November - March.
This loop can be hiked either counterclockwise, going first to Fitz Roy and then Laguna Torre, or clockwise. Either way is absolutely suitable. We hiked the loop counterclockwise which we enjoyed because you hike more of the elevation earlier in the trek. If hiking in this direction, the hike begins at the north end of town, at the end of San Martin road next to the ranger post. You can find directions to the trailhead at the bottom of the page. You will know you have started the trail once you pass the "Senda al Fitz Roy" sign at the trailhead.
The hike to the campground at the base of the Fitz Roy vista, Poincenot, is approximately 5 miles. On the way to the campground, the trail splits and you have the option of going right to a Fitz Roy lookout or left down to Laguna Capri campground. Both trails lead back to the main trail towards Poincenot. We opted to take the trail to Fitz Roy lookout, although when we arrived it was currently completed covered in cloud cover so we could not see the peaks at all.
The arrival to Poincenot campground is clearly marked. The camping area is designated without specific camp sites; all sites are first-come, first-serve. We recommend finding a spot that is both relatively private AND sheltered by the wind from tree and plant cover. To do this, it is usually advisable to arrive at the campsite earlier in the day to snag the better spots. A spot with wind cover is important because the wind tends to be rather strong especially at night.
The Poincenot campground is the "staging" area for the climb to the Mount Fitz Roy vista. The trail from the campground to the vista is only about one mile long, but covers 1,500 feet of elevation, so you don't want to be carrying your full backpacking pack with you. We opted to brave the trail early in the morning the follow day hoping to catch the mountain range at sunrise, which can be spectacular. Instead, we were met with a blizzard on the mountain and no view of the peaks. We made it to the top but turned around shortly after.
WEATHER WARNING: The weather changes EXTREMELY RAPIDLY in Patagonia, going from sunny blue skies to blizzards in less than an hour. It is critical to bring the appropriate gear to keep warm, you can see more of our specific recommendations in Preparation section below. In addition, we recommend that you do not hike from Poincenot up to the Fitz Roy vista if it is snowing or if there is a snow cloud on top of the outlook. Instead, wait for the weather to clear and ascend at that time. The signs also do specifically advise that no one climb to the vista under poor conditions.
Once we descended the outlook, the snow began to clear revealing amazing snow-dusted scenery.
From Poincenot, pack up and continue the trek south towards D'Agostini campground which is just under 7 miles of relatively flat hiking. Once we left the campground, the weather cleared and we were finally given a good view of Fitz Roy.
Continue south along the twin Madre E Hija ("Mother and Daughter") lakes which offer spectacular views and opportunities to take a scenic rest break.
We decided to briefly descend to the shore of the "Madre" or first lake where we took a dip in the amazingly clear crisp cool water and relaxed on the warm white sand beach. It was hard to believe we had been in a blizzard just a few hours earlier in the day.
Continuing further south-west and following the signs, you reach D'Agostini campground which is less than half a mile from Laguna Torre. Similar to Poincenot, the campsite is first-come, first-serve with the lucky early arrivers able to snag a spot right along the river. Once you have set up your camp, head to Laguna Torre for a great sunset spot. Laguna Torre is spectacular affording views of Fitz Roy in the distance and a glacier feeding in to and breaking off into the lake creating icebergs.
On the third day, it's a relatively easy downhill 5 mile hike back to El Chalten. Just make sure you get up early enough to catch your bus or ride if you don't plan on staying in El Chalten again for the night. For more preparation tips, see the section below.
Maps & GPX
With the GPX route downloaded on your phone, you can follow your location against the trail, even in airplane mode or when you have no service. To learn more about GPX files and how to use them, see the GPX 101 page.
You can download the GPX file using the following link --> GPX FILE DOWNLOAD
Preparation & Pro Tips
- Campsite reservations/permits - As of the date of this posting no reservations or permits are required for this backpacking trip. Check online to verify prior to doing the hike in case the laws are changed on this subject.
- Book your flight into El Calafate - The closest airport to fly into is El Calafate airport (FTE). From this airport, it is a short cab ride into the backpackers paradise of El Calafate. El Calafate is relatively large, with many hotels, restaurants, a large grocery store, and some small gear stores. Don't expect to be able to buy the majority of your gear here however, you will want to bring it. There are no large outdoor stores, the primary gear items sold are gas cannisters for stoves, knives, and the like
- Book accommodations for before and after the hike (if applicable) - There are two places you can stay prior to and after your hike if you don't want to come and go directly from the airport; in El Chalten, which is the town at the base of the trailhead, or El Calafate by the airport. The two towns are about 130 miles apart, or a 3 hour drive. We opted to fly into El Calafate early, and hop on the bus right away to stay in El Chalten that night prior to the hike. We stayed at Hosteria El Paraiso in El Chalten which you can book online, has relatively large rooms, free breakfast in the morning, and allowed us to store a couple of items while on our hike. After our hike, we decided to take the bus back to El Calafate and spend the night there before flying out the next day. We stayed at Esplendor El Calafate which is a good spot if you want to splurge a little post-hike. The hotel includes great views, a pool and spa, and free breakfast, and is walking distance from the main downtown strip area.
- Getting from El Calafate to El Chalten - To get to El Chalten, you can either take a taxi or a bus. We took a bus and it worked out well. You can find the bus stands at the Bus Terminal in town which is walking distance from the grocery store and most of the hotels. There are dozens of bus company stalls in this terminal for you to choose from. We did not buy tickets in advance and were able to secure bus tickets to El Chalten upon arrival. You can also make reservations for these buses in advance from some of the companies. The buses are large and clean and include bathrooms and a storage area for your backpacks, so we would recommend this method of transportation.
- Cold weather considerations - Even in the height of "summer" Patagonia can get COLD, especially at night. Make sure you bring: 1) lots and lots of layers, 2) a very warm pair of gloves and warm hat, 3) extra hand warmers - these were absolutely key for us on this hike, 4) wear water proof boots, 5) bring your tent rainfly and instead of staking it away from the tent pull the fly in as close to the tent as possible at night to conserve warmth, 6) bring extra clothes in case you get wet, and 7) bring lots of food to turn into warm liquids, such as dry soups and tea to make to warm you up. There is an abundance of fresh water on the hike so you don't have to worry about that aspect of the trip.
- Plan and pack your gear - See our Gear Checklist section for a comprehensive gear checklist and some tips and favorite items of ours.
- Food considerations - If you have specific food that you like to have on your trip, bring that food with you on the plane. The grocery store is well stocked but you won't see many of the brands that you find at home. If you do choose to buy food at the grocery store, we recommend you taste it prior to bringing it with you backpacking. We bought some food that we ended up not eating which ended up being excess weight. The grocery store in El Calafate is cheaper and has more selection than the one in El Chalten.
- Perito Moreno Glacier - If you have an extra half day, take the time to make a quick trip to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, which is spectacular. This impressive glacier is 3 miles wide and 240 feet high, and the glacier calves regularly into the water accompanied by great thunderous noise and large waves. You can take a bus from the Bus Terminal or grab a cab for the one hour drive to the glacier. We ended up taking a cab early in the morning prior to the arrival of all the tour buses and we had the glacier all to ourselves for about an hour which I would highly recommend. Further, if you have more time to spend, consider a kayaking trip around the glacier which was recommended to us, but we didn't have the time.
If taking the counterclockwise route, the trail towards Mount Fitz Roy begins right next to the Los Glaciares National Park post at the end of San Martin road in El Chalten. Click on the directions icon to pull up custom directions in Google Maps.