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One of the most beautiful day hikes in Patagonia is Mount Fitz Roy in El Chaltén, Argentina. While the hike is challenging, it’s also a lot of fun and very rewarding. The views from Laguna de los Tres at the base of Fitz Roy reminded me of the views from Las Torres in Torres del Paine. If you only have one day to hike in Patagonia, this is the hike you’ll want to do. Follow our guide to hiking Mount Fitz Roy in El Chaltén to learn exactly what to expect.
Overview of hiking Mount Fitz Roy
Mount Fitz Roy is a mountain in Patagonia near El Chaltén, Argentina. The mountain is 11,020 feet tall and was first climbed by French alpinists in 1952. For non-mountaineers like us, hiking Mount Fitz Roy means hiking to Laguna de los Tres at the base of Mount Fitz Roy. The highest altitude you’ll experience on this hike is 3,842 feet.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, let’s have a birds-eye look at the mountain:
As you can see, the trailhead to Fitz Roy (El Sendero al Fitz Roy) is located about one kilometer north of El Chaltén center. From the trailhead, the distance to your destination, Laguna de los Tres, is about 10.6 km (6.6 miles). Thus, the total distance from the center of El Chaltén to Laguna de los Tres is about 23.2 km (14.4 miles). The average time for completing this hike is about eight hours.
Alternatively, you can take a shuttle or taxi from El Chaltén to Hostería El Pilar. There is another trail that starts here, and it is easier than the one that starts from El Chaltén. You won’t be shaving off any distance on this trail, but you will get much flatter terrain for the first few kilometers. Hostería El Pilar is located about 14 kilometers north of El Chaltén center, and many hotels in El Chaltén can arrange transportation for you.
If you have camping gear with you, you can camp overnight at one of the three campsites listed below. The best way to extend this hike into an overnight hike is to combine it with the Sendero al Cerro Torre (Cerro Torre trail). I recommend tackling the Fitz Roy trail first, and then moving over to the Cerro Torre trail. Fitz Roy is quite a bit more challenging than Cerro Torre, so you’ll want to get that one out of the way first while your body is still feeling fresh.
There are two campsites along the Fitz Roy trail and one campsite along the Cerro Torre trail. All campsites are first come first serve, so you don’t need to make a reservation in advance. Here are the three campsites you can choose from:
- Campamiento Capri – located next to Lake Capri on the Fitz Roy trail
- Campamiento Poincenot – located within a few kilometers of Laguna de los Tres on the Fitz Roy trail
- Campamiento D’Agostini – located near the end of the Cerro Torre trail
Keep in mind that all three campsites are very basic campsites. That means there are no facilities other than maybe one toilet. There are no showers, cafes, shops, refugios, or personnel on site.
Fitz Roy Trail Stats:
Trailhead Address: M4H4+97 El Chaltén, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
Total distance from Trailhead: 21.2 km (13.2 miles)
Lowest Elevation: 1,344 feet
Highest Elevation: 3,842 feet
Ascent: 2,650 feet
Essential daypack items for hiking Mount Fitz Roy
Even though the hike to Fitz Roy can be completed in one day, you’ll still want to make sure you are well prepared. Here are some essential items I recommend bringing in your daypack:
- Rain gear – the weather in Patagonia is constantly changing, so you never know when you’ll experience a downpour
- Lunch – buy a sandwich from Panadería Que Rika or another cafe on the way to the trailhead
- Snacks (optional)
- Water bottle – you can refill your bottle at any of the streams along the trail, so there’s no need to carry multiple bottles
- First aid kit with bandaids, athletic tape, and any medication you regularly take or think you might need, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
Hiking poles can be extremely helpful on the last kilometer of this hike. If you are used to using hiking poles, definitely bring them on this hike. I personally do not prefer to use hiking poles and was also fine without them.
Getting to the trailhead for Mount Fitz Roy
The main road in El Chaltén is called San Martín. Walk north on San Martín away from the bus station for about one kilometer until the road ends. You’ll see a parking lot on your left and a sign for Sendero al Fitz Roy ahead.
What to expect when hiking Mount Fitz Roy
The first part of the hike to the base of Mount Fitz Roy is quite steep. During your initial ascent, you’ll be able to catch views of Las Vueltas river and the valley on your right, which are beautiful on a clear day.
After the first couple of kilometers, the trail flattens out until the final kilometer. You’ll come to a fork in the road, where you can go left toward Laguna Capri or right toward Mirador del Fitz Roy. I recommend picking one trail for the way up and taking the other trail down, so you can see the views from both trails. If you are camping overnight at Campsite Capri, you’ll want to take the trail on the left to Laguna Capri.
We had excellent weather in the morning when we left and were able to get a clear view of Fitz Roy from Laguna Capri. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the base of Fitz Roy, the clouds had rolled in, and the views we glimpsed earlier on in our hike disappeared.
The last kilometer to Laguna de los Tres
The last kilometer to Laguna de los Tres is by far the most difficult. Most of the trail consists of large rocks situated at a 45 degree incline. Toward the top, the rocks transition into loose gravel, and this is where it really helps to have hiking poles so you don’t slide down the mountain. On average, it takes about one hour to hike the last kilometer.
Don’t forget to turn around and look back when you stop to take breaks. While the views at Laguna de los Tres are the best, the views along the entire trail are incredible.
Once you reach the top, take in the views and find a nice rock to plop down on. If it’s not too crowded, take advantage of the opportunity to snap some photos.
Take a rest and have your lunch. You’ll likely be pretty hungry by now. Also, throw on some extra layers because your body will start to cool off fast once you stop moving.
Pro tip: If you’re a beer lover like me, bring a beer to reward yourself with when you reach the top! Beer tastes best in front of a glacier!
After fueling up, hike down to the lake for some incredible photo ops. There is a large rock in the lake where you’ll likely see a lot of hikers taking photos. Make sure you get your own before leaving (and try not to fall into the lake in the process!)
The hike back to El Chaltén should be pretty straightforward. Remember to take the opposite side of the loop around Laguna Capri or Mirador del Fitz Roy on your way back so you get some new views.
Hopefully this guide to hiking Mount Fitz Roy in El Chaltén was useful for you. We tried to cover all the bases to hiking Fitz Roy, but let us know in the comments if you have any additional questions.
Want to explore more of Patagonia? Then you might interested in reading these posts:
- Guide to Hiking Cerro Torre in El Chaltén
- Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Torres del Paine W Trek
- Comprehensive Guide to Planning Your Torres del Paine W Trek
- Where to Stay, Eat, and Drink in Puerto Natales, Chile
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