ARGENTINA – Hiking in Patagonia: Laguna Torre trail in a day and Lago del Desierto

ARGENTINA - Hiking in Patagonia: Laguna Torre trail in a day and Lago del Desierto

Every year I visit Argentina for business and I always try to fit in a few days of leisure. I didn’t visit Patagonia before and I wanted to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and other parts of the Glacier National Park. El Chaltén lies within the park just over 200 kilometers from El Calafate; before you arrive to El Chaltén you’ll have this beautiful view on Lake Viedma (see photo below). El Chaltén is famous for its day hikes to Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy. If you hike those two trails you will have a good impression of this part of the park. I did both and now I will share with you my experience during the hike to Cerro Torre or Laguna Torre. I already covered the Fitz Roy Trail Hike before and I’ll also show you Lago del Desierto which I visited by car. Enjoy this beautiful Patagonian hike with me.

Laguna Torre Trail Hike

The Laguna Torre or Cerro Torre hike starts just outside El Chaltén and is also the end point of the trail. El Chaltén was founded in 1985 to settle a dispute between Argentina and Chile. Today it mainly caters to tourists who come for the beautiful hiking trails the area is rich of. I like to make a hike once in a while but I’m not a person that goes camping so I stayed at the Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel & Spa. I love luxury after an active day! It takes up to 6-8 hours in total to cover the 20 kilometers depending on the speed you walk and the amount of time at the Laguna Torre. Make sure to bring water for a 4-5 hour hike as, although it’s said there is, I didn’t see any drinkable water streams before you walk the last part along the river. Now, let’s start hiking!

The total elevation gain to reach the glacier lake is only 250 meters and the first 200 meters come quite quickly after the start of the trail. I walked for probably just 30 minutes before the biggest part uphill started. After hiking 1.5-2 hours I arrived at some great look out point. You can see the river down in the valley on the left. At that point, I realized that I should have taken more water as the small streams that I was told were there to fill up weren’t that clear or non-existent. I continued towards Laguna Torre which was another 2-hour hike. In a distance, I could already see Cerro Torre mountain; the end of the hike.

The landscape during the Laguna Torre hike changes all the time. I walked through dense forest, open fields, and a kind of forest with dead trees. It was a clear day which is quite unique and the second part of the hike was mostly flat and easy to hike. It was early October, just the start of the season, so it was quiet and many vegetation didn’t turn green yet. After a while the trail enters the glacier valley which is a short descent.

About 40 minutes of dense forest the trail runs close along the gushing glacier river. Finally, I could fill up my water bottles as this was the first water I came across. Just before the trail deviated from the river I filled up again, so that I would have enough for the short walk towards the end: Laguna Torre. The photo below of the river is a gigapixel panorama photo (but here I use only a thumbnail); something I’m experimenting with. I’ll do a manual on how to shoot those later!

The day before while hiking the Fitz Roy Trail I learned that if you see a 10-minute climb that doesn’t mean you’re there. At the end of the Laguna Torre trail; that last 10-minute climb is the end. When I reached the top I had my first view on Laguna Torre and close-up of Cerro Terre behind it. What a beauty; it was well worth the hike! I walked to the shore of the lake to have lunch which Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel & Spa prepared for me. A delicious sandwich and a piccolo bottle of champagne! What a luxury. After an hour, I decided it was time to return as I didn’t want to walk uphill on the right side of the lake anyway. The 10 kilometers back went much quicker as the way to the lake; but that’s also because I didn’t make many photo stops on the way back.

Drive to Lago del Desierto

After a delicious dinner at Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel & Spa I went to bed early as the next day I had a morning left to drive to Lago del Desierto. It’s best to drive a high clearance car but after my dangerous off-road adventure in Cordoba a year earlier the road to Lago del Desierto was a piece of cake in a small car. The weather wasn’t that nice as the day before and it was a bit raining too. I arrived at Lago del Desierto after a 90-minute drive which was pretty quick as the hotel staff said it would be up to 3 hours.

The drive back to El Chaltén from Lago del Desierto was better as it stopped raining and the sky was clearing a bit. I did drive back in 2 hours though as I made photo stops on the way back. You’ll pass some waterfalls, blue glacier streams and beautiful mountain scenery. It was a half day well spend!

When I arrived back in El Chaltén it was time to get my luggage and drive back to El Calafate to catch my flight to Buenos Aires. It was the end of my Patagonia trip. I had a great time with three nights in El Calafate and three nights in El Chaltén. The highlight was the Fitz Roy Hike and the Patagonian Glacier Lake Gastronomy Tour but the hike to Laguno Torre is also worth a day. I hope to return one day to this part of Argentina or maybe visit the other side of the mountains in Chile. The Glacier National Park in Argentina is however something I suggest everyone to put on their Argentina itinerary, it’s nature at its best.

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Did you visit Patagonia and did you hike the Laguna Torre trail too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Laguna Torre Hike

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

GPS Track Laguna Torre Hike

During my trips I make GPS tracks (sometimes they do not show, click download to open in Google maps). Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips.

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