Laguna de Los Tres Hike: The Most Iconic Trek in Patagonia
Laguna de Los Tres is one of the most iconic hikes in Patagonia, and the best trek you can do from El Chalten in Argentina. This hike is also known as Fitz Roy Trek because the path will lead you through spectacular scenery to the classic viewpoint of Mount Fitz Roy towering above the lake. Read our guide on how to hike Laguna de Los Tres trek, where to find the trailhead, how difficult is the hike, where to stay, and what to pack.
When we crossed borders from Chile to Argentina on foot and emerged one evening in El Chalten, a small town serving as a base for several most iconic hikes in Patagonia, we could not hide our excitement anymore.
We were finally in the destination from where we could reach Laguna de Los Tres, which is every outdoor enthusiast's and photographer's dream. Although the region of Patagonia boasts with a large number of highlights, trek to this lake is considered the must-do activity because the mountainous scenery is absolutely stunning.
We cannot say this one-day hike was the best one we've ever done in Patagonia, simply because we've trekked so many of them and nature in this part of the world is unbelievable, but for sure Laguna de Los Tres is high on our list.
Laguna de Los Tres means in English Lake of the Three, and the number three represents here three peaks towering above the lagoon - the highest Mount Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, and Mount Poincenot.
Read our guide on how to hike Laguna de Los Tres trek, how to get from El Chalten to the trailhead, what to pack, safety tips and where to stay in El Chalten before doing this excellent and rewarding hike.
LAGUNA DE LOS TRES TRAILHEAD
Finding trailhead to Laguna de Los Tres couldn't be easier. The trek starts at the north end of the urban area of El Chalten, you only need to follow Avenida San Martin (or other hikers), until you reach the parking lot on your left. Walk through the parking lot, and at the end, you will see a gate and information board announcing the start of the trek. Getting to the trailhead can take you anything between a couple of minutes to half an hour, depending on where your hotel in El Chalten is located.
We started the hike here, got to Laguna de Los Tres, on the way back visited Piedras Blancas Glacier Viewpoint, and returned the same way back.
Another option, usually popular among organized tours, is to drive 14 kilometers from El Chalten to Hosteria El Pilar (you need to hitchhike without own transport) and here start the trek via Piedras Blancas to Mount Fitz Roy and on the way back walk to El Chalten via the official trail, so you won't see the same landscape twice.
LAGUNA DE LOS TRES HIKE
From the parking lot, the trek started quite steeply up, and it was pretty exhausting for us not only because we walked Laguna Torre hike the day before, but because we wanted to get away from a large group of older hikers.
The first ascent lasted about an hour, but in the end, we were rewarded by a splendid view of De las Vueltas river sneaking through the valley.
From this mirador the path continued up, but not that steeply, we walked on a narrow path partially hidden in the forest, until we reached a fork where we could decide to turn right and walk through the Mirador del Fitz Roy or turn left and go via Laguna Capri.
Generally, it does not matter which option you'll take as you can walk the other side on the way back, but if the weather is pleasant, we would go via the viewpoint first as the situation can change any time, and it might be the only time you’ll get the chance see the iconic Fitz Roy.
After we enjoyed panoramic views, the path continued down and soon became flat, which was a welcoming change.
The path was now winding through the low thicket, along Del Salto Stream, and later we emerged in an open valley and walked a very scenic section where we had to go across wetlands, so from time to time it was necessary to cross wooden boardwalks. At the end of this part, we found the campground in the woods, where we had a snack as we had the most challenging one-kilometer long section ahead of us.
On this last kilometer, we gained 400 meters and had to walk the rocky trail - watch every your step as it is easy to lose balance here.
Finally, after approximately 45 minutes we reached the end of the trail and were rewarded with stunning views of the lake and three towering peaks behind.
We had a quick lunch and as it was getting windier, we walked down to the lake's shore and continued to the left, until we reached another breathtaking viewpoint from where it was possible to see not only Laguna de Los Tres, but also Laguna Sucia - honestly, before doing this trek we had no idea we can see two lakes here.
The wind was so strong now that after half an hour we decided to go back, as it also seemed that it might start raining any time soon (luckily it did not in the end).
On the way back we side trekked to Piedras Blancas Glacier, and then returned the same way back to El Chalten.
Our Tip: If you want to spend more time in the national park, you can combine Laguna de Los Tres hike with another famous hike in the area, Laguna Torre. You need to turn at the junction Sendero Lagunas Madre e Hija.
CAMPGROUND ALONG THE TRAIL
One of the most popular campgrounds in Los Glaciares National Park in Poincenot campground working on first come first served bases.
It is a basic camp only an hour walk from Laguna de Los Tres (here we must say that the last hour is the most grueling one), so it is often used by hikers who want to see either sunset or sunrise on the lake's shore. In case you want to spend the night in Patagonian wilderness, you need to have camping equipment, which you can either buy or rent in El Chalten.
SIDE TRIP TO PIEDRAS BLANCAS GLACIER VIEWPOINT
On the way back from Laguna de Los Tres, we decided to make a short side trip to the viewpoint of Piedras Blancas Glacier, and thanks to it we walked almost 30 kilometers that day.
To be honest, we were not sure if it was worth it (this was also the reason why we decided to go there only on the way back), but now we can say that if you have enough energy, this is the thing you should not miss, as the view of the glacier was absolutely breathtaking.
The viewpoint is approximately 2 kilometers from the junction, and you will get there on an almost flat path in approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
We still think it is better to do this side trek on your way back - not only you will see how you feel but it is also better to visit the main highlight of the trek first (especially when the weather is pleasant) because clouds can roll over the peaks anytime and hide them for the day.
If you started your hike at Hosteria El Pilar, you will walk around the glacier automatically.
LAGUNA DE LOS TRES HIKE DIFFICULTY
Considering that the hike to the classic viewpoint is so famous and so many people walk the trail from El Chalten, Laguna de Los Tres is surprisingly not that easy as most of you might think.
The hike is 25 kilometers long (add another 4 kilometers if you decide on doing Piedras Las Blancas extension), and it takes anything between eight to ten hours to finish, depending on your level of fitness. You will gain 700 meters on 12.5 kilometers, and although it does not sound that bad, you can expect quite a difficult climb on the last kilometer.
Generally, we would say that Laguna de Los Tres is moderately difficult and doable for anyone at least a bit used to walk on uneven terrain, but some people without any experience might find the hike long, especially on the way back.
As budget travelers, we really appreciated that we did not have to pay any admission when hiking near El Chalten even though the destination was so beautiful we would not mind making a contribution.
It was a welcoming change because we had to pay a pretty steep admission in most of the national parks along Carretera Austral, and also when visiting Perito Moreno, although it is located in the same national park as Laguna de Los Tres.
CROWDS ALONG LAGUNA DE LOS TRES HIKE
Laguna de Los Tres is a must-do hike when in Patagonia, and you can be sure that most of the travelers you meet in the evening leisurely strolling around El Chalten plan on doing the trek to Mount Fitz Roy the next day.
That's being said you can start early in the morning to beat the crowds (it is not worth it to start late in the afternoon as you will meet everyone returning back).
The hike is extremely popular between December and February when independent travelers, as well as tour buses, arrive in Patagonia, but we did not have a feeling that Laguna de Los Tres suffers from over-tourism (yet).
HIKING LAGUNA DE LOS TRES HIKE INDEPENDENTLY OR WITH A GUIDE
Hike to the Mount Fitz Roy is the most iconic in El Chalten, and we won't exaggerate when we say it is the must-do hike when in Patagonia.
Thanks to its popularity, hundreds of people, experienced hikers, and even total newbies set off from El Chalten to get to the viewpoint of the dark blue lake and magnificent peaks looming behind. That's being said, it is pretty clear that the trail from the town to Laguna de Los Tres is well-marked, there are even signs every kilometer, and we think it is impossible to go off course even when your orientation sense is almost non-existent.
However, those of you who prefer guided tours, or need assistance, there are plenty of options to choose from either online or in El Chalten. You can search for tours here.
SAFETY ALONG THE TRAIL
Patagonia is one of the safest regions in South America, and we felt completely safe in the mountains, especially when hiking to such well-known landmarks like Laguna Torre or Laguna de Los Tres, as we were all the time surrounded by other hikers.
It was not overwhelming, but we were never alone on the trail for a long time. We say that for one reason - when hiking from November to April, you should not be worried to get lost or that in case of medical emergency there won't be anyone around to help you out. However, we always think it is much better not to hike alone. Even though you are a solo traveler, it is not hard to ask around if you can join other travelers, or you can ask in your hostel where is a high chance to meet solo backpackers.
When it comes to safety, we think that the most dangerous situation can occur when you underestimate the ever-changing weather and equipment.
There is no cell phone coverage on the trail, so always check the weather forecast for the next day, and even when it looks promising, pack layers and rain poncho to stay warm in case of sudden rain or snowstorm.
Always stay on the designated trail so you won't get lost.
FOOD & DRINKS
Laguna de Los Tres is a full day hike, and there is no place along the way where you could buy snack or water, so you need to pack your own refreshment and carry it all the way to the top.
We always find best to take fruits such as bananas and apples, hard-boiled eggs and nuts for energy. Water from the natural streams was usually drinkable in Patagonia, but there was not an opportunity along the trail to refill water, so carry at least two liters per person.
Do not forget that there are no garbage bins and everything you carry in with you must go back out with you.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DO LAGUNA DE LOS TRES HIKE
Generally, the highest chance for the pleasant weather and undisturbed views of Mount Fitz Roy are between October and April when the hiking season in Patagonia is in full swing, so it is also the time when you will meet crowds on the trail.
On the other hand, temperatures are low in Patagonia in winter (May to September), and there still can be snow on the trail which can make the path impassable. Summer sees higher temperatures, strong winds (which can especially in the afternoon bring clouds so start your hike early), and you can experience rain showers as well, so it is always worth to hike well-equipped.
Probably the absolutely best month, when to hike Laguna de Los Tres, is in April, which is the end of high season, weather should still be stable, and you'll see how leaves are turning yellow and red, which is very photogenic.
WHERE TO STAY IN EL CHALTEN
El Chalten is nicknamed Argentina's hiking capital, so all outdoor lovers flock in the town all year round, but the majority of them from late spring to early autumn between November to April, and during this time it is pretty hard to find a room available in El Chalten, especially when you are traveling on a budget.
We recommend you to book your hotel as soon as you know your travel dates if you do not want to walk desperately around the town for an hour as we did.
Budget | Lo de Guille - Basic but clean hostel offering private rooms, good wifi, and breakfast.
Mid-range | Pudu Lodge - Perfectly located stylish lodge offers well-appointed rooms and cozy dining room.
Luxury | Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montana - Beautiful new hotel with a gym, spa treatments and mountain views from every room is the best you can find in El Chalten when looking for a bit of luxury.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR LAGUNA DE LOS TRES HIKE
You can never know how the weather is going to be in the mountains in Patagonia, and even in the summer from December to February you can experience rain showers, and strong cold winds, so it is worth it to pack extra layers because you never know when you are going to need it.
Here are five essential things you should pack for Laguna de Los Tres hike.
Bandana | Bandana is a great little thing which won't take any space in your backpack, and you can use it as a sun and dust protection.
Hiking Poles | For stability, knee protection and better hiking rhythm, we have only word of praise for hiking poles.
HOW TO GET TO EL CHALTEN
El Chalten is a place which needs to be on every traveler's Patagonia itinerary, and thanks to it there are many frequent buses running between El Calafate (base for visiting Perito Moreno) and other cities much further north along Ruta 40, for example, Bariloche in Argentina's Lake District.
It is better to book your onward ticket as soon as you arrive in El Chalten to make sure you will get your seat and preferable departure time.
When traveling in Argentinian Patagonia, you can rent a car, and comfortably get from one place to another as roads are in good condition. You only need to check with the rental company you can cross borders to Chile in case you want to carry on either to Torres del Paine on the south or Carretera Austral on the north.
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