Hiking the Iconic Fitz Roy Trail
Mount Fitz Roy is one of Patagonia’s classic images. Once you’ve seen this staggeringly beautiful mountain, the memory of it will stay with you always. It is THAT beautiful. I’d done zero research prior to hiking Fitz Roy, & though I’d done many hikes by this point: I was still blown away. You have views for the ENTIRE hike ~ & I’ll tell you later how to do a different route than the typical tourist, that allows you to see the backside of Fitz Roy, including a stunning glacier. So without further ado, let’s go hiking the iconic Fitz Roy Trail in El Chalten!
Note that the hike to Mount Fitz Roy is also known as the hike to “Laguna de los Tres,” which is the name of the crystal-clear turquoise lake that sits right at the base of Fitz Roy (pictured above).
Let’s Head to Patagonia!
Map of El Chalten & Fitz Roy
Mount Fitz Roy
Fitz Roy Trailhead
Hosteria Pilar (Alternate Start)
Fitz Roy Hiking Info
- Mount Fitz Roy Trailhead: I’ve marked the Fitz Roy trailhead on the map above. But it’s easy to find ~ simply walk down the main avenue in town, & it basically dead-ends at the trailhead.
- Alternate Starting Point: Ask your hotel for a shuttle to “Hosteria Pilar.” This is how I hiked Fitz Roy ~ & it makes for a more interesting day (with FAR less people!). You’ll hike up the back side of Fitz Roy, & see the beautiful Piedra Blancas Glacier. Basically, you’ll hike in a big circle, with different views all day long ~ instead of doing the traditional out-and-back. It’s also a slightly easier ascent, which gives you more energy for the daunting last kilometer of the hike!
- Trail Distance: 22-26 kilometers (depending where you start)
- How Long it Takes to Hike: 6-10 hours (it took me exactly 6 hours, starting at Hosteria Pilar, at a fast pace)
- How Long it Takes to Hike the Final Kilometer: 48 minutes minimum! (I timed it!) This is by far the hardest part of the trail: it’s steep, wet, & crowded with people. It’s extremely challenging, & may be an issue for people with knee problems. Nearly everyone I passed on the trail (90%) were using walking sticks.
- Free Campgrounds on Fitz Roy Trail: 1) Campamento Poincenot (closest to top, near final kilometer), & 2) Campamento Capri (4 km from the trail head, on shore of Laguna Capri). For more info, click here.
- How is Wi-Fi in El Chalten? In a word: TERRIBLE!!! By far, this is the worst Wi-Fi I experienced anywhere in Argentina ~ even at nice hotels! SO SLOW.
- Where to Stay in El Chalten: The nicest hotels to stay at in El Chalten are Chalten Suites Hotel, Hotel Destino Sur (very close to trail head), & Don los Cerros Boutique Hotel & Spa. Mediocre accommodations in El Chalten tend to be over-priced & mediocre ~ so my advice is to go either low-end or high-end here. There are plenty of great hostels in El Chalten. Another option is to actually stay at Hosteria Pilar, which is a hotel itself, & will put you right at the start of the trail.
Hiking the Iconic Fitz Roy Trail
Okay, so let's talk about hiking the iconic Fitz Roy trail itself. I started from Hosteria Pilar (find on map above). A shuttle picked me up at my hotel around 9AM, & we landed at Pilar around 9:30AM. Reasons to start at Hosteria Pilar: 1) There are fewer people on the trail, 2) It's a slightly easier ascent in the beginning, & 3) You'll be doing a loop, not an out-and-back ~ meaning you'll see new scenery all day long. Personally, I loved this route & highly recommend it.
No matter which route you choose, trail routes are VERY well-marked; it would be hard to get lost here. On the traditional route, they even show "Kilometer Markers," which gives you an idea of your progress along the way. The map below was my guide, & clearly shows the two routes up to Fitz Roy (both in orange).
Photos below show the route starting at Hosteria Pilar, which as you can see from the map, takes you on a massive, circular route along this entire mountain range. You'll start out in the forest with some gentle ascents, making your way up towards Mirador Piedras Blancas: with a straight-shot view of the Piedras Blancas Glacier, & views of Fitz Roy behind. It is STUNNING.
After the Mirador, you'll continue climbing up into the forest (with a few steep switch-backs), until you reach a large, open meadow with staggering views of Fitz Roy. (No photos do the view justice). At the end of the meadow, you'll find a sign that says "El Chalten" to the left, & "Laguna de los Tres/Fitz Roy" to the right. You'll pass right through Campamento Poincenot (shaded by trees) on your way to Laguna de los Tres, one of two free campgrounds on the Fitz Roy Trail. Then, you'll cross a small stream before you reach the daunting final kilometer of the Fitz Roy hike.
The final kilometer took me exactly 48 minutes to climb: I know because I timed it! I'm a pretty fast hiker, & was only passed by a few super fit guys. You're basically climbing straight up the side of a rocky mountain: it's steep, fairly narrow (with sharp drop-offs), & it's often wet, with water streaming down the rocks. Wear sturdy, slip-resistant shoes. I didn't take any photos on the way up because, frankly, I was just trying to concentrate on breathing! It's lovely, though.
And then, after what seems like a longgggg time....you'll be at the top of Fitz Roy!
Once you've enjoyed your time at the top (most people stay up there between 30 minutes to an hour), it's time to head back down the same, slippery rock slope. I found that going down takes just about as long as going up! It's still crowded, & most people are using caution & trying not to slip or fall. So take it easy on the way down...
And then, once you reach the stream & Camp Poincenot, you've got a very pleasant, still stunningly beautiful 9 kilometers back to El Chalten. I probably enjoyed this part of the hike most. There are massive views of Fitz Roy from beautiful meadows, & when I descended, for whatever reason, it wasn't very crowded ~ which makes any hike more enjoyable. The only choice you need to make on the way down is if you want to go by Laguna Capri, or veer to the left for another Mirador. I opted for Laguna Capri, which is where the other Fitz Roy campground lies.
After Laguna Capri, you'll head back into the forest & begin the main descent back to El Chalten. Your views aren't towards Fitz Roy here, but you'll have beautiful views over the valley. From start to finish, Mount Fitz Roy is the most beautiful hike I did in Patagonia, hands-down.
Hiking the Iconic Fitz Roy Trail
And that's a wrap on hiking the iconic Fitz Roy Trail in El Chalten! Did you hike this trail when you were in Patagonia, or do you have questions for a future trip?? Just let me know in the comments below!
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