11 Best One-Day Hikes in Patagonia
Are you looking for the best one-day hikes in Patagonia? We've got you covered. Not every traveler can commit for multi-day treks, so we've put together a list of the most rewarding one-day hikes in both Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia.
Patagonia is a world-class hiking destination.
After over a month of traveling in Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, we feel that any other introduction to this post about the best one-day hikes would be an understatement. We believe that every avid trekker and outdoor enthusiast must be driven to visit this remote part of the world because it is hard to resist to mountainous jagged peaks, sprawling forests, pristine glacial lakes, and enormous glaciers.
Simply put, Patagonia is stunningly beautiful place on Earth, and higher prices altogether with harsh climate and therefore short hiking season makes from this region one of the most sought-after and dreamed about travel destinations.
Before you travel to Patagonia, you should know that the region is vast and remote, to say the least, and planning the trip well-in-advance is essential.
When we were creating our Patagonia itinerary, we decided to do a road trip along Carretera Austral in Chile, and then we crossed borders between Villa O'Higgins to El Chalten in Argentina and carried on by bus via Torres del Paine in Chile only to cross borders to Argentina again to see the world's southernmost point in the world.
Here we've put together a list of the best one-day hikes we did in Patagonia in the north-to-south order.
#1 VOLCANO EL CHAITEN IN PUMALIN NATIONAL PARK
After the all-night spent on a ferry which brought us safely from Puerto Montt to Chaiten, the beginning of Carretera Austral, we could not wait to start our Patagonian adventure.
We think chances are you've never heard about a small village Chaiten in Chile or maybe even about Pumalin National Park.
Yes, it is not the most heavily visited park in Patagonia, and if you have only a short time to explore this part of the world you can probably give it a miss, but we truly enjoyed it here. Actually, we enjoyed it so much that one of the hikes in Pumalin National Park (we did two), trek named simply Volcano El Chaiten made it to our list of the best one-day hikes.
The hike to Chaiten Volcano is quite unusual because the volcano erupted ten years ago, destroyed the original village, and even during our visit we could clearly see the damage on trees and soil as the forest hasn't yet recovered. The hike to the volcano is not somehow long but leads uphill all the time.
On the other hand, you will be rewarded by vistas of lakes, the sea in distance, flora, and of course, multi-colored volcano crater.
We think that Pumalin NP is a must-include in every Carretera Austral itinerary.
#2 HANGING GLACIER IN QUEULAT NATIONAL PARK
Queulat National Park near a small village Puyuhuapi hides one of the most photogenic places in Patagonia, the Hanging Glacier.
The glacier is one of the must-visit places in the area, and thanks to the easy accessibility, it is not a secret anymore.
The trail leading from the parking lot to the viewpoint over the glacier is called Sendero Ventisquero Colgante, and it should take you approximately 2.5 hours to finish it. The trail which can be often muddy climbs through the forest with limited views, but once you get to the viewing platform, we know you will surely stand there in awe as we did.
The hanging glacier is breathtaking, especially when the sun shines and reveal the light blue carves in the ice. Melting water runs down the glacier and creates waterfalls, while the omnipresent cracking sound of the ice completes the awe-inspiring atmosphere.
#3 LAGUNA CERRO CASTILLO
One of the most beautiful day hikes we did along Carretera Austral was undoubtedly the trek to stunningly blue lake shimmering under the rocky peak of Cerro Castillo.
Laguna Cerro Castillo is a part of a multi-day hike, so it is almost a miracle that this place is reachable on a day trip from a small village Villa Cerro Castillo nestled under the hill. The out-and-back trek is moderately difficult but offers fantastic scenery from the very beginning. As we climbed, we could see a river snaking through the valley, many lakes, and mountains in the distance. If you have enough time and a tent, you can sleep near the lagoon and wait for an amazing sunset and sunrise.
This hike can be done as a loop, but we decided to climb only a bit higher to get views of the other side of the valley, and then returned the same way back. You can sleep either in Villa Cerro Castillo which is only a stone's throw from the trailhead, or you can travel from the biggest city in the area Coyhaique, it only requires a bit of planning, but there are more accommodation options.
#4 LAGUNAS ALTAS TRAIL IN PATAGONIA NATIONAL PARK
Hands down could be there a better idea how to name a national park in the heart of Chilean Patagonia than simply Patagonia National Park?
One of the newest national parks in Patagonia offers raw beauty, pristine and rough landscape including wast grasslands, snow-capped mountains, rivers and lakes.
Not many pages have been written about Patagonia National Park, and that's why we were determined to explore it on own. There are not that many trails yet, so we chose Lagunas Altas Trail, we modified it a bit, and this hike turned out to be one of the best great outdoors experiences we've ever had.
We walked across grasslands, around small lakes to one of the most rewarding vistas in this part of Patagonia, and did not meet a single person for the whole 30 kilometers!
#5 ALTAVISTA TRAIL IN VILLA O'HIGGINS
If you'll make it to Villa O'Higgins via Carretera Austral, you'll get to a point from where you literally cannot go any further, as the road ends here. Thanks to the remoteness and a fact, that most of the tourists who travel around Patagonia by rental cars must cross borders to Argentina elsewhere, is the atmosphere in the village incredibly peaceful, one would say even romantic.
Nature around Villa O'Higgins is untouched and you will barely meet here any people, not only because there are not that many of them, but also because there are many tourist paths near the village, so travelers easily disperse, and meet only later in the evening in a hostel.
Our favorite hike in Villa O'Higgins was Altavista Trail, but as the village is surrounded by glaciers, you cannot make a wrong decision because every trail leads to a spectacular viewpoint.
#6 VILLA O'HIGGINS TO EL CHALTEN
If you are looking for the best one-day hike in Patagonia which despite its beauty is almost abandoned, we are not afraid to say that you've just found it.
The hike from Villa O'Higgins to El Chalten is a one day trek via no man's land between Chile and Argentina. Only a handful of people from the total number of visitors of Chile and Argentina cross the border between those two countries here, and this is what make's it unique.
Nowadays, it is still harder to find an exceptional place without crowds, and when looking back, we realize that this day was like walking in a fairytale. If you decide to do this one-day hike on own, it requires a bit of planning, but our guide on how to cross the borders should help you out. When we were trekking in Patagonia almost every other day, we found out it is quite easy to get used to the beauty around, but this hike put our standards yet on another level.
Also, when doing this trek, you can see the famous Fitz Roy Mountain from the opposite side!
It is possible to extend this trip and enjoy the landscape around the borders for a little bit longer you only need to carry own tent.
#7 LAGUNA DE LOS TRES NEAR EL CHALTEN
When we crossed borders to Argentina, mountains did not become smaller or lakes less blue.
Rather the opposite. One late evening we emerged in El Chalten, Argentina's hiking capital, and knew we must be ready the next day for one of the most iconic hikes in the area, Laguna de Los Tres.
There is probably not a more recognizable mountain peak in Patagonia than Fitz Roy, towering above Laguna de Los Tres.
The characteristically shaped mount Fitz Roy is towering above stunningly blue waters of Laguna de Los Tres, and this trip is undoubtedly worth your time. Be prepared that there is not a single person arriving in El Chalten without intention to hike to the lagoon, so the trail can be a bit crowded, especially when the season is in full swing.
But we don't blame anyone who wants to see Fitz Roy with own eyes, because it is truly exceptional. The hike is not hard, leads up and down except for the last approximately an hour long strenuous section which climbs straight up. If you want to see a spectacular sunrise at Laguna de Los Tres, you can camp overnight in the campground approximately an hour walk away from the top, and start early in the morning to beat the crowds.
When returning back to El Chalten from the viewpoint, you can take a short two kilometers side trip to Glacier Piedras Blancas, the trek with this worthwhile extension is then almost 30 kilometers long though.
#8 CERRO TORRE & LAGUNA TORRE NEAR EL CHALTEN
It was one of the easier hikes in Patagonia when it comes to elevation, but it was quite long. The weather was not cooperating with us that day, and although we waited forever for the clouds to clear, we could not see the classic spikes of Cerro Torre, but the lagoon did not disappoint.
If you have enough energy, walk around the lagoon to the right, and carry on for another approximately two kilometers to get a better view of the glacier.
#9 MIRADOR LAS TORRES IN TORRES DEL PAINE national park
Same as El Chalten in Argentina has the Fitz Roy, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile has the iconic Towers alias the hike to Mirador Las Torres.
Trekking to the Mirador is one of the most classic routes in this national park, but there are dozens of trails in case you are looking for an off the beaten path. This one-day hike is moderately difficult but worth every single step. Three sharp spike-like peaks are towering above green-blue lagoon - you would have troubles to find a more obviously photogenic spot in Patagonia.
To see the Towers during sunrise, you must make a reservation in Refugio Chileno as soon as the quota is open, spaces fill up quickly.
#10 GLACIER GREY IN TORRES DEL PAINE national park
Our favorite one-day hike in Torres del Paine was the less famous trek in the park leading to the viewpoint overlooking Grey Glacier.
This section is part of the popular multi-day W trek, so if you were not able to book your spot in advance, you still can see one of the most beautiful parts of this world-known hike. There is only one way how you can reach the trailhead of Glacier Grey trek - by boat across Pehoe Lake, which is also a marvelous part of the experience.
This hike is rewarding all the way to the viewpoint, as you can see mountains, lakes with icebergs and glaciers, the only problem is that you need to walk fast to catch the return ferry.
#11 CERRO GUANACO TRAIL IN TIERRA DEL FUEGO NATIONAL PARK
Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city is not only a point from where wealthy people leave for once in a lifetime adventure to Antarctica.
Despite the fact, that we at first did not plan to travel to Ushuaia at all, Cerro Guanaco in Tierra del Fuego quickly became one of the best hikes we've done in Patagonia, and as this place was the last we wanted to see in Argentina and Patagonia overall, we couldn't imagine a better way how to say goodbye to this part of this world.
Tierra del Fuego National Park offers several hiking trails, and Cerro Guanaco is the toughest one, but if you are looking for something easier, it won't be a problem.
That's being said if you are at least moderately fit, you should work your way up for the spectacular views.
THE BEST TIME TO HIKE IN PATAGONIA
Weather in Patagonia is very unpredictable and sunny day can change into a rainy one in a span of a couple of minutes.
No matter what time of the year you plan on trekking in Patagonia, there is one rule: you need to be cautious all the time, and always be ready for every situation. You will be in the mountains, often in remote places without reception, so never underestimate the power of nature.
Generally, the best time to hike in Patagonia, no matter if you plan on sleeping in lodges or camping, is during summer, early fall and late spring, let's say from late October to late April.
Although the word summer can evoke high temperatures and blue skies, it can still be quite cold in Patagonia, especially at nights. It can rain any time of the year in the mountains, but your best chance to hike in dry conditions is in February. In the summer, you can expect strong winds here.
When experienced and well-equipped you can do some trekking in Patagonia even in the winter, but some trails might be closed, plus there are chances of avalanches and snow storms, so do not overrate your strengths.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ONE-DAY HIKES IN PATAGONIA
We've written an in-depth Patagonia packing list about what to pack when planning on traveling to Patagonia, but if we should pick ultimate things you need to pack for one-day hikes in this area, we would have chosen the following items.
Hiking Boots for Him & for Her | Wearing quality and waterproof hiking boots will make your hikes much easier as your feet will stay dry for the most of the day, and the correct boots will prevent blister.
Daypack for Him & for Her | When hiking in Patagonia, you need to pack not only snack and water, but also rain poncho and extra layers of clothes to stay warm, so opt for a backpack with a good back support and waist strap.
Hiking Poles | We used hiking poles in Nepal for the first time a few years ago, and since then we never set off to the mountains without them - our knees thank us every day.
Water Bottle | Patagonia was the only place in South America where we drank water from the streems and taps. Pack water bottle so you won't need to by single use plastic bottles.
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Going on a road trip is fun, and rental car is a great way to explore the country.
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