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The Fitz Roy Trek – One Of The Best Hikes In Patagonia

The Fitz Roy Trek – One of the Best Hikes in Patagonia

The Fitz Roy trek  in Los Glaciares National Park is one of the best hikes in Patagonia. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981, is located in the Austral Andes of Argentina. The gateway town is El Chalten, about a three hour scenic bus ride from El Calafate – where there is a decent sized airport.

Los Glaciares National Park is best known for its day hikes rather than multi-day backpacking trips, though there is a three day trip that is recommended. There are seven main hikes in the park if you start in El Chalten – but the standout is the hike to the Fitz Roy trek with the hike to Torre a close second.

We started the Fitz Roy trek at the Patagonia Ecodomes

We started the Fitz Roy trek at the Patagonia Ecodomes

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Where we stayed to do the Fitz Roy trek

We had three nights in the El Chalten area planned with a stay booked at the Patagonia Ecodomes – which I highly recommend. We knew we could hike into the park right from the back door of the Ecodomes but actually didn’t appreciate that it was the Fitz Roy trek – one of the two top hikes in Los Glaciares National Park – that was the one available to us.

Our stay at the ecodomes ended up being one of the highlights of our Patagonia trip!

You can see the Fitzroy Towers from the Patagonia Ecodomes

You can see the Fitz Roy Towers from the Patagonia Ecodomes

Los Glaciares National Park is notorious for extraordinarily high winds and crappy weather. We got lucky on the day we did the hike to the Fitz Roy Towers – as it’s considered dangerous when it’s windy and rainy according to the parks people. 

After a leisurely breakfast we got going about 10 AM figuring it would only take us about six hours round-trip to complete the return Fitz Roy trek. It did not. We weren’t back until 6 PM though we did spend at least an hour up at the top soaking in the views and eating our lunch.

There are two ways to do the Fitz Roy trek

All told we figure we hiked 20 kilometres with 610 metres of elevation gain. From the main trailhead in El Chalten the park suggests allowing four hours one way, so eight hours round-trip. That Fitz Roy trek is also 20 kilometres round-trip with 750 metres of elevation gain – so they’re very similar. They do meet up just before the Poincenot Campground.

Leaving from Patagonia Ecodomes to do the Fitz Roy trek

Leaving from Patagonia Ecodomes to do the Fitz Roy Towers hike

The Fitz Roy Towers hike from Patagonia Ecodomes

The first 2.5 hours of hiking is very lovely – with most of it in a pretty forest following a river. The trail is in terrific shape and there’s really no need for heavy leather boots.

As we climbed gradually towards the Poincenot Campground, we did enjoy the spectacular Piedras Blancas viewpoint of both the lake and glacier bearing its name. It was even more beautiful in the late afternoon light.

Entering Los Glaciares National Park to do the the Fitz Roy trek

Entering the park – and there is no entrance fee

Hiking through open woods on the Fitz Roy trek

Lovely walking for several hours through open woods

Oogling a glacier at the Piedras Blancas Viewpoint

Ogling this glacier at the Piedras Blancas Viewpoint

Glacier ice making up the Glaciar Piedras Blancas

Close-up of the ice which is so blue especially with the sun at this angle

And then we met the masses

Once we met up with the main trail we ran into the masses of people. The trail we hiked was positively quiet by comparison. From the intersection of the two trails it’s not long before you start climbing.

While it’s only a 1,000 foot climb the steps are big and there’s a lot of stopping and starting to let people pass by. Look back and take in the scenery when that happens.

The start of a 1000 foot climb on the Fitz Roy trek

The start of a 1,000 foot climb

Walking through the basic Poincenot Campsite to get to Laguna de los Tres

Walk through the basic Poincenot Campsite to get to Laguna de los Tres

Scenery on the Fitz Roy trek

Don’t forget to look back to admire the scenery

Lots of people on the way up to see the Fitzroy Towers

Unless the weather is atrocious don’t go expecting solitude

Almost at the ridge line on the hike to the Fitzroy Towers

Almost at the ridge line

Views of the Fitz Roy Towers

Once we got to the top the views were nothing short of jaw-dropping, especially if you make the extra effort and hike up to the knob to the left of the photo below. It’s quite obvious when you’re there. If it’s a high wind day be extremely cautious as these winds could literally knock you over the edge.

Spend some time wandering down by the lake. Peer over – on a low wind day – to the lake below the towers and marvel at the colours you see. 

Hanging out just admiring the incredible view on the Fitz Roy trek

Hanging out just admiring the incredible view – and counting our blessings we got good weather

Hiking beside the lake to get the best view on the Fitz Roy trek

Hiking beside the lake to get the best view of the Fitz Roy Towers

Peering down into the lake beneath the Fitz Roy Towers

John peering down into the lake beneath the Fitz Roy Towers

Beautiful turquoise lake seen on the Fitz Roy trek

If you stay on the ridge you’d never know there was a lake here

The beautiful Laguna de los Tres

Turn slightly to your right and you get this view

Laguna de los Tres is a scenic backdrop

Splendid mountain scenery everywhere you look

This gives you an idea of the sheer number of people that have made the 6 - 8 hour return hike

This gives you an idea of the sheer number of people that have made the 6 – 8 hour return hike

Heading back to the Patagonia Ecodomes via a trail that heads towards Highway RP41 to the north

Once away from the winds of the glacier it felt positively balmy by Patagonian standards

Continuing into the trees on the way back to the Patagonia Ecodomes

Truly exceptional hiking – especially for the effort – reward ratio

Return to the Patagonia Ecodomes with a splendid and colourful mountain backdrop

Full circle and back at the Ecodomes after about 7 hours of hiking

The Fitz Roy trek is very worthwhile though I’d really recommend doing it during a good weather window. The trail is obvious, well-marked and easy to follow. The trail was litter free – which was great to see.  Water bottles can be filled at a river near the Poincenot Campground – and I’d recommend purifying it just to be safe.

Don’t forget the 10 hiking essentials before setting out for the day.

Before you go to Los Glaciares National Park

Before you head to Patagonia be it Chile or Argentina I highly recommend purchasing a guidebook or two. I found it very difficult to get good information online – and some websites didn’t translate from Spanish into English. Lonely Planet’s Argentina guidebook is very useful as is Fodor’s Essential Chile: with Easter Island and Patagonia.

Further reading on Patagonia

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Must Do Hike in Los Glaciares National Park

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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