by Lauren Torregrossa
Patagonia is truly an outdoor lover’s paradise. Spread across southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia boasts a vast landscape of mountains and glaciers that are almost too beautiful to be real. Take a look at a picture of the Perito Moreno Glacier or the majestic Torres del Paine, and you may start believing the White Walkers from Game of Thrones actually exist!
Perito Moreno Glacier
Photograph by Lauren Torregrossa
When my fiancé, Preston, and I started researching Patagonia in early 2018, we decided we needed to become hardcore campers to get the best experience. We bought our backpacks, sleeping bags, and thermals in preparation for the infamous multi-day W trek at Torres del Paine. We were ready to rough it up in Patagonia!
Then we remembered we were from Texas, and it was going to be the beginning of spring when we got there (October). Back home this means near-perfect weather. In Patagonia, it means freezing temperatures, whipping winds, rain, and snow. We love the outdoors, but there’s nothing more rewarding than sipping a hot cup of coffee in a heated cafe after a full day trekking through the mountains!
After further consideration, we opted for the day hike to the base of the towers at Torres del Paine instead. In addition, we used the extra days that opened up by not doing the W trek to explore the Argentinian side of Patagonia. While we didn’t see everything Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park had to offer, we did enjoy Patagonia’s most famous attractions without trekking for multiple days in Patagonia’s erratic weather system.
If you also prefer to pass out in a warm bed after an exhausting day of hiking, this guide is for you! Below you will find a list of the best day hikes that will lead you to the most magnificent sites in Patagonia. Put on your hiking boots, grab your camera, and get ready to witness the most gorgeous scenery you’ll see in your life!
At the 8 kilometer mark, you’ll see a scary sign that basically says, “you better be in good shape for this part or you’ll fall off the mountain.”
Day Hike 1: Torres del Paine
Location: Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
Trail: Base Las Torres
Distance: 18 KM (11.2 Miles)
Torres del Paine is a bucket list destination for outdoor enthusiasts all over the world. It’s one of the most amazing natural wonders on the planet! The trek to the base of the towers is long, but it’s the most rewarding option for a day hiker who just wants to experience the best view in Patagonia. A hiker of average fitness can get to the base of the towers in about 3.5 hours. Assuming you want to spend time to take photos and enjoy the scenery for an hour or two, you should be able to complete the trek in 8 to 9 hours.
Expert Tip: Book a two-night stay in Puerto Natales, which is two hours away from Torres del Paine National Park. Take a 7:00am bus from the Puerto Natales bus station to Torres del Paine to give yourself enough time to finish the trek to the base of the towers. The last shuttle leaves the Estancia Cerro Paine Welcome Center, the starting point for the Base Las Torres trek, at 7:15pm.
Fun Fact: Torres del Paine was originally called “Cleopatra’s Needles” by Lady Florence Dixie in her book Across Patagonia, published in 1880.
Monte Fitz Roy
Photograph by Lauren Terragrossa
Day Hike 2: Monte Fitz Roy
Location: Los Glaciares National Park, El Chaltén, Argentina
Trail: Laguna de los Tres
Distance: 20 KM (12.4 Miles)
While Torres del Paine gives you a fairytale-like reward at the end of the trek, the Laguna de los Tres trail to the base of Monte Fitz Roy is breathtakingly beautiful from start to finish. Less than halfway through the trek you’ll come across the pristine Laguna Capri, which will arguably give you the best vantage point for a scenic photo of Fitz Roy. The Piedras Blancas glacier will also be visible for a large portion of the trek.
You’ll find yourself filled with joy as you realize most of the Laguna de los Tres trail is relatively flat. Don’t get too excited though. The last 2 kilometers will kick your ass!
At the 8 kilometer mark, you’ll see a scary sign that basically says, “you better be in good shape for this part or you’ll fall off the mountain”. Don’t be frightened, but be prepared for a steep ascent up loose rocks and potentially snowy/icy terrain. Go slow and use trekking poles or sticks to keep your balance. If the clumsiest person in the world (me) can get up to Fitz Roy without any issues, so can you!
Expert Tip: Plan to stay in El Chaltén for a few days in case you run into bad weather. Weather in the area changes frequently, and the last thing you want to do is hike to Monte Fitz Roy when it’s completely blocked by clouds.
Fun Fact: The image of Monte Fitz Roy is featured in the logo for the Patagonia clothing brand.
Bonus: Perito Moreno Glacier
Location: Los Glaciares National Park, El Calafate, Argentina
Difficulty: Extremely Easy
Great news! You don’t have to do a long, strenuous hike to admire the gargantuan Perito Moreno glacier. Perito Moreno is on this list as a bonus because you can’t go to Patagonia without seeing this mind-blowing ice structure. All you need to do is hop on a bus from El Calafate to get to this natural masterpiece.
The easiest, most cost efficient way to see the Perito Moreno glacier is to view it from the 5km of intertwined balconies. You can take a boat out to the glacier or pre-book an ice trek in town if you are craving more!
Expert Tip: Visit the glacier on a sunny afternoon. You are likely to encounter smaller crowds and witness more ice calving later in the day when temperatures are warmer.
Fun Fact: Unlike other glaciers, Perito Moreno is actually growing in size!
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