Fitz Roy, located on the Argentine side of Patagonia in El Chalten, is the most picturesque peak in Patagonia. It is the main reason visitors come to El Chalten, some just to see it from different viewpoints around town, others to hike up as close to it as possible and a few to climb it. Hiking Laguna de Los Tres trail is one of the ways to get close to Fitz Roy.
Laguna de Los Tres is one of the most popular hikes in El Chalten and Patagonia. It offers the best views of Fitz Roy and can be hiked as out-and-back or as a loop. It is a very crowded hike but not to be missed as the views are the most stunning in the world.
We visited Argentina in 2019 and only spent one cloudy day in El Chalten needles to say we did not get to see Fitz Roy. Since then it has been on our bucket list to come back and see it. I cannot put into words how happy we were to be able to see it this time, and even this time around we only had one clear day, before it hid behind the clouds again.
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General Laguna de Los Tres Information
There are a few different options for where to start this hike.
The most common and popular way is at the north end of El Chalten (end of Avenida San Martin), Sendero al Fitz Roy. There is a sign and a parking lot here. This is a trailhead to Laguna de Los Tres via Laguna Capri.
Another trailhead is 14 km (about 8.7 mi) north, driving on a dirt road. The official trailhead is at Hosteria El Pilar via Piedras Blancas Glacier Viewpoint. You can organize a shuttle to pick you up, starting at one trailhead and finishing at the other, making this a loop. Or you can go out and back from either trailhead.
Since we were staying at Estancia Bonanza it was easier for us to start at Eco Domes. They allow guests from the Estancia to park in their parking lot for free and this trail connects with the Hosteria El Pilar trail.
Our original plan was to hike up the El Pilar trail, return via Sendero al Fitz Roy, and get the shuttle back to Estancia, making this a loop hike. However, after seeing how crowded the Sendero al Fitz Roy was we decided to come back the same way and avoid the crowds. We have previously hiked up to Laguna Capri and didn’t feel bad missing it this time.
Laguna de Los Tres Trail Details
Trailhead: At the north edge of the town Sendero al Fitz Roy or Hosteria El Pilar
Distance: Sendero al Fitz Roy out-and-back – 13.8 miles, El Pilar out-and-back – 12.21 miles
Elevation: Sendero al Fitz Roy out-and-back – 3448 ft., El Pilar out-and-back – 3248 ft.
Facilities: At the trailhead and in the park right before the final ascend
Parking: Available at both trailheads
Trail markings: White posts with a yellow tip or a yellow square nailed to a tree.
Hiking Laguna de Los Tres Via El Pilar
After parking, at Eco Domes, we checked in at the registration to make sure they knew that we parked there and will be back at the end of the day. Shortly after we started our hike. The morning was mostly clear but cold and windy.
For the first 1.2 miles, we were completely alone on the hike. The beginning of the hike is through the forest with a gradual incline, a very enjoyable hike indeed. After 1.2 miles is where the trail connected with the national park, and we started seeing more hikers.
At approximately 2.8 miles and 960 ft of elevation gain, is where the official Piedras Blancas Glacier viewpoint is, but its beauty reveals itself much earlier in the hike. The beautiful views of the glacier are another reason we decided to come back the same way, as the views on the other trail are not as exciting.
The gradual climb continues through the forest, and then the trail comes to an open area before it goes back into the forest.
The two trails (Sendero al Fitz Roy and Hosteria El Pilar trail) come together at 4.25 miles and 1200 ft of elevation. The trail gets crowded here. Shortly after the two trails become one there is a campsite available on a first come first serve basis. Poincenot campground is used by hikers who want to watch sunset or sunrise at the Laguna de Los Tres. Or the climbers.
After the campground, you will come across a short bridge over the Rio Blanco. This is where most people stop to have a snack and maybe take some of the layers off as the climb over loose rock and tree roots starts. You will be out of the tree line and completely exposed to the sun (bring sunscreen) at this point.
On this hike, we saw a lot of people that were not exactly prepared for this type of intensity on the hike – over 2000 ft of elevation gain in approximately 1.2 miles. Having enough water and food, as well as proper footwear and clothing is crucial for an enjoyable hike.
Once at the top the view just makes you speechless or at least it did us. The beauty is unmatched. We have been on a lot of hikes and have seen some amazing views, but Fitz is in a category of its own. Take your time here, especially if it’s a clear day, it does not happen too often.
If you continue walking left, around the Laguna de Los Tres you will eventually walk around the hill and see hidden Laguna Sucia. You can also climb the hill and enjoy the view of Fitz Roy and the Lagunas on one side, and the panoramic view of El Chalten on the other.
Whichever trail you choose for the descent, it will be steep, painful on the knees, and crowded for the first 1.2 miles. Once the two trails separate, specifically the El Pilar trail, the crowds disappear and the descent is not as steep. It was actually a very pleasant hike back for us. We were the only ones on the trail and with the sun higher up in the sky the colors of the granite peaks and the glacier was completely different than earlier in the morning.
Tips for the Best Experience To See Fitz Roy
Laguna de Los Tres is a very crowded trail, not everyone is familiar with the basic hiking etiquette. Knowing this before starting helps you prepare mentally.
Leave No Trace. Pack out what you bring into the park.
Wear hiking shoes. The trail is rocky, it can also be muddy or dry and dusty depending on the weather and proper footwear is crucial.
Hiking poles were crucial for us. They help with steep and slippery descend and save the knees on the way down.
Sun protection is a must. Once out of the tree line, there is little to no shade and it is important to have sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and other clothing as needed to protect you.
Water and snacks. Bring enough water and food for the entire hike, there is no water filling stations along the way.
Layer your clothing. The most important clothing for any Patagonia hiking is wind and waterproof jacket and then layering underneath. Wind can be brutal.
If planning to do this trail as a loop you can book your transportation with Transporte Luni, some accommodations offer shuttle service, or you can hitchhike.
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