Hiking

The ultimate Patagonia trekking guide | 25 best trails and essential tips

Home to the granite peaks of Torres Del Paine, the wild vistas of the Carretera Austral and the colossal glaciers of the Icefields, Patagonia is a hiker's haven at the end of the world.

The southernmost inhabited region on the planet, Patagonia is a vast wilderness with unrivalled landscapes that stretches across Chile and Argentina. Hiking enthusiasts can explore its scenery via a multitude of trails, from the classics of Torres Del Paine and Mount Fitz Roy to various lesser-known, offbeat paths. In this Patagonia trekking guide we pick out 25 of the best hikes in the region and explain everything you need to know before your outdoors adventure.

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Patagonia trekking: planning and preparation

Best time to visit Patagonia for trekking

The trekking season in Patagonia lasts generally from around October to April, with the high summer season in December–February.

But as you may expect, the climate gets colder the further south you go – and as it’s such a huge place with a diverse geography, the conditions vary by location. In the northernmost parts of the region you can get out on the trail comfortably in September and May, but in the far south it will be harsher and more wintry at these times.

During the peak summer season, the most popular spots such as Torres Del Paine and El Calafate can get a little crowded. The ‘shoulder seasons’ in October–November and March–April are a pleasant middle ground, with mostly decent weather but fewer trekkers and tourists around.

Whenever you choose to visit Patagonia, you cannot guarantee that the weather will comply with your plans. Even in summer, gale-force winds and heavy rain can occur, so you need to pack appropriately. Which brings me on to…

What to pack for hiking in Patagonia

The diverse terrain and unpredictable weather conditions in Patagonia mean you need to have good-quality gear for hiking. For an exhaustive guide, our complete Patagonia packing list covers all of the essentials for the trekking season.

First and foremost, you should bring a quality pair of hiking boots. The best type and brand may depend on whether you are planning to do shorter or longer hikes, and what else you intend to do on your travels. Our guide to the best hiking boots gives a complete lowdown.

A suitable and resilient backpack is also essential for a Patagonia trip. Again, the type and size that’s best for you will depend on the nature and length of the treks you’re planning. Check out our guide to the best backpacks and daypacks for ideas.

A waterproof and windproof jacket is paramount for protecting yourself against the elements. You don’t know wind until you’ve experienced it in Patagonia! A 3-in-1 hiking jacket is a great option because it gives flexibility for different conditions. You can wear the inner fleece, outer shell or both together as the situation dictates. We use North Face Triclimate and Jack Wolfskin 3-in-1s, and you can browse more options on Amazon.

If you plan to do any multi-day hiking that involves camping, you may want to bring your own tent. Hiring one can be expensive and it isn’t always an option. Just like your jacket, a tent needs to be wind resistant and highly waterproof for Patagonia. Our Urberg tunnel tent has worked a treat and we’ve used it for hiking trips all over the world – plus it was quite a bit cheaper than brands of similar quality. See Amazon for more options.

In addition to these core essentials, you should also bring:

  • Trekking poles
  • Gloves and beanie
  • Hiking socks
  • Plenty of lightweight t-shirts
  • Sun protection
  • Camera
  • Sleeping bag, silk liner and mat (if planning to camp)

Patagonia hiking insurance

Before travelling to Patagonia you should strongly consider investing in insurance, especially if you plan to do any hiking. Many of the trails are remote, and it can be extremely expensive to cover emergency recovery and medical care if you get injured.

World Nomads is our recommended insurer for hiking in Patagonia. They provide secure and flexible policies along with excellent customer service. We’ve always found their team a pleasure to deal with, and this goes a long way in your moment of need.

What’s more, they also provide specialist hiking insurance which is designed for trekking in places like Torres Del Paine. You can get started with a quote using the tool below.

The cost of hiking in Patagonia + budget tips

Patagonia is among the most expensive regions in South America for general travel, but some savvy planning and inside knowledge, a hiking trip doesn’t need to break the bank.

You can read a full breakdown of our own Patagonia trip costs to get a general idea of what you can expect to pay for transport, accommodation, food and trekking activities.

Here are our top tips:

  • The most popular national parks, such as Torres Del Paine and Tierra Del Fuego, charge entrance fees for trekking. If you are on a tight budget, you could consider alternatives where there are little or no fees, such as El Chaltén.
  • Some of the treks we highlight in this article can only be done, or are best to be done, with an experienced guide. To keep costs down you could avoid these and focus on easier, self-guided treks.
  • If you visit Patagonia outside of the high trekking season you can often benefit from cheaper rates on accommodation, tours and entrance fees.
  • Bring your own gear to avoid the high retail costs in Patagonia. If you do need any clothes, gear or supplies, make a stop at Punta Arenas and head to Zona Franca, a tax-free zone with the cheapest prices in the region.
  • All ATMs in Argentina and most in Chile charge for withdrawals. If you can’t avoid these fees, then withdraw the maximum to limit how often you will incur them.
  • Keep your accommodation costs down by camping and staying in hostels.

Patagonia hiking tours

Organised hiking tour packages remove the hassle of making your own travel arrangements in Patagonia. Although they’re a more expensive option than navigating the region yourself, tours are a great way to go if you are happy to spend a little more and you are unsure about trekking unguided.

G Adventures has been our go-to adventure tour provider after we had an outstanding experience on their Inca Trail hike in Peru. They offer a range of hiking experience packages in Patagonia.  The following are the most popular:

  • Patagonia hiking – 9 days, beginning and ending in Buenos Aires. Includes classic hikes around El Chaltén and El Calafate, plus other activities such as rafting and a guided tour of Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Hike Patagonia in depth – 14 days, beginning and ending in Buenos Aires. Includes the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park, plus hikes around El Chaltén and El Calafate.

You can browse more G Adventures hiking packages in Patagonia here.

A few final tips for trekking in Patagonia

Before we get stuck into the details of the best hikes in Patagonia, these are our final considerations for planning your trip:

  • If you plan to attempt multi-day hiking trails in Patagonia, make sure you train appropriately beforehand. Our guide to preparing for the Torres Del Paine W Trek gives an overview that can be applied to other trails.
  • Try and book your accommodation and transport arrangements in advance whenever possible.
  • At the same time, it’s also a good idea to allow some flexibility with your dates at each location you visit. As the weather in Patagonia can be unpredictable, sometimes you may need to allow a day or two for bad weather to clear before you can get on the trail.
  • The natural water in Patagonia’s national parks is fine for drinking, and amazingly refreshing. You may want to bring some water purification tablets for any cases where you’re unsure.
  • Pack light food when self-catering on treks. Bring some zip-lock bags and decant tinned food into them – this cuts down on unnecessary weight. Powdered milk is also excellent for breakfast and hot drinks.
  • Many hikes in Patagonia explore remote places where there is little connectivity or nearby medical assistance. Before beginning a remote trail, tell people where you are going – friends at home, people at your accommodation, park rangers etc.
  • Learning a few Spanish phrases before your trip will make it a lot easier to communicate as you travel around Patagonia. The Google Translate app is useful to have on your phone for any moments of confusion.
  • Get the maps.me app and then download maps of Patagonia inside the app. The maps work offline and can be very helpful with navigating trails.

Best hikes in Patagonia: the far south

The southern extreme of Patagonia marks the end of civilisation on our planet. Ushuaia on the Argentina side is the world’s southernmost city, while the island of Navarino on the Chile side is the southernmost permanently inhabited land.

These bleak but beautiful lands are adorned with some of the region’s most dramatic and desolate scenery. From Tierra Del Fuego National Park to the southern Chilean islands, the far south of Patagonia can be explored by a variety of trails from short hikes to multi-day wilderness treks.

If you plan to base yourself in Ushuaia, check out our guide to things to do in the city and see booking.com for the best accommodation options.

1.  Glaciar Martial (half day)

Glaciar Martial Ushuaia Lisa
The return hike to Glaciar Martial near Ushuaia gives high-up views of the Beagle Channel and city below
  • Distance: 7 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: moderate

This simple ascent-descent trail near Ushuaia is easily accessible and a great option if you have a day to spare. It also works well as a training walk if you’re planning longer treks. From the crest of the glacier you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and Beagle Channel far below.

The trailhead is located roughly 7 kilometres by road north-west of the city – some people even choose to walk up to it. The first section follows an uphill path to a chairlift station, which is used only during the skiing season. After this point, you continue ascending along an open path to the base of the glacier. To continue any further you would need special equipment and a guide, which come included if you book a Glaciar Martial guided trekking tour.

It’s about 7 kilometres from the trailhead to the glacier and back, with an elevation gain of nearly 500 metres on the way up at a steady incline. We completed it in about 3–4 hours. When you’ve finished, reward yourself with a hot drink and a cake at La Cabaña Casa de Té, a cosy tea house by the trailhead car park.

Suggested nearby accommodation: Cumbres Del Martial, a quaint mountain lodge by the trailhead.

2.  Laguna Esmeralda (1 day)

Laguna Esmeralda Tierra Del Fuego
The green waters of Laguna Esmeralda. Photo by Rob Oo, distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license
  • Distance: 10 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: easy–moderate

Laguna Esmeralda is an alternative day hike within close proximity of Ushuaia. Although it doesn’t climb as high as the Glacier Martial trail, it is still challenging in places, featuring sections of wild terrain. It can get very muddy, so wear protective hiking boots.

After meandering through the ancient lenga forests and valleys of Tierra Del Fuego, you will arrive at the pristine green waters of the ‘Emerald Lagoon’. The view from the shore encapsulates the rugged surrounding mountains and Albino Glacier.

It is possible to book a guided trek to Laguna Esmeralda from Ushuaia, which includes transfers, guide, lunch and equipment (trekking poles are a must for this one!). Alternatively, to hike independently, you can take a minibus shuttle from the city for about $10 US dollars. The trailhead is located about 18 kilometres north-east of the city along the Ruta 3.

Suggested nearby accommodation: Hotel Canal Beagle, a comfortable hotel located close to the minivan shuttle and tourist information centre, or Hostel Torre Al Sur, a homely budget hostel with good self-catering facilities for hiking.

3.  Bahía and Río Lapataia, Tierra Del Fuego (1 day)

Alex and Lisa Tierra Del Fuego National Park
The trail along the shores of Bahía Lapataia is one of many easy hikes in Tierra Del Fuego National Park
  • Distance: 8-kilometre shore hike with options for shorter trails afterwards
  • Difficulty: easy

Ushuaia stands on the doorstep of Tierra Del Fuego National Park, a protected area that encompasses some of Patagonia’s most outstanding wild beauty. From the city you can take a minibus shuttle that drops off at the park’s entrance or the Alakush Visitor Center, the starting point for various trails.

We decided to begin at the entrance and hike the 8-kilometre coastal path along Bahía Lapataia from Correo Del Fin Del Mundo. The trail passes through forestland, every now and again emerging onto the coastline with gorgeous views out onto the Beagle Channel.

The Alakush Visitor Centre is a short distance from the end of the coastal trail. You can grab some lunch here before exploring some shorter hikes in the afternoon. Mirador Bahia Lapataia, the Black Lagoon and Mirador Lago Acigami are all easy, short walks giving different perspectives of the park’s natural habitat.

4.  Sierra Valdivieso (4 days)

View of Laguna Mariposa on the Sierra Valdivieso trail
View of Laguna Mariposa on the Sierra Valdivieso trail. Photo by Petr Meissner, distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license.
  • Distance: 50 kilometres
  • Difficulty: moderate–hard

A remote path that explores wilderness of southernmost Argentina, the Sierra Valdivieso circuit loops through peaks and forests between Ushuaia and the giant Lago Fagnano. This is a challenging trail that veers off the beaten path, traversing difficult, loose terrains and featuring steep climbs along the way. As such, it’s one for experienced hikers only.

The route passes among the stunning Sierra Valdivieso mountain range and the Carabajal Valley, weaving past a series of lagoons. The toughest section is a hike over the Beban Pass, an ascent of some 600 metres elevation gain on a rocky incline.

One of the quietest hikes in Patagonia, it’s possible you will not encounter anyone else on the trail, so if you’re equal to the challenge, the Sierra Valdivieso circuit is a great way to witness the region’s untouched beauty and wildlife. For more info, check out this in-depth account by two experienced hikers who completed the route independently.

5.  Cabo Froward (4–6 days)

Cape Froward, Chile
Cape Froward, the southern tip of Americas mainland. Photo by Serge Ouachée, distributed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
  • Distance: 80 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: hard

Across the border in Chile, this is another challenging trek on wild, lesser-trodden paths. The long return hike culminates at Cabo Froward, the southernmost mainland point of the Americas. The trailhead is near the village of San Juan, about an hour’s drive south of Punta Arenas, the largest city in Chilean Patagonia. It’s possible to get a bus from Punta Arenas to San Juan, but it operates only a few days of the week, and many people choose to hitchhike instead (it’s very safe in this part of the world).

The obstacles along the hike include tough river crossings that can only be done at low tide, tiresome sections of spongy moss, and slippery rocks to clamber across. Wild camping is the only overnight option, and the weather can be intense. However, the reward for enduring these hardships is to experience some of the remotest landscapes in the Americas, and witness wildlife such as penguins and dolphins along the shore.

The route hugs the coastline closely, veering inland occasionally for river crossings and to avoid impassable headland. At the very end, the trail’s only ascent (300 metres) leads up to a large cross monument that marks Cabo Froward. It is not wise to try this trek alone; hike in a group at the very least, and ideally with a guide (check with tour agencies in Punta Arenas).

6.  Dientes de Navarino (4-6 days)

Dientes de Navarino Chile
Dientes de Navarino is the world’s southernmost major trek. Photo by Janitoalevic, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license
  • Distance: 53 kilometres
  • Difficulty: moderate

Believed to be the world’s most southerly major trek, the Dientes de Navarino trail is one of Patagonia’s most beautiful hikes. Looping from the town of Puerto Williams on the Chilean island of Navarino, the trail features breathtaking scenes of Cape Horn, jagged mountain peaks (the ‘Teeth of Navarino’), valleys and archipelagos from elevated viewpoints.

While this is an isolated trail, it is well marked and covers manageable terrain, so it’s fine to hike independently. Due to the island’s remoteness it is a path that very few tread, with only a few hundred people completing the trail each year. Several tour companies offer guided hikes if you would prefer to be accompanied.

You can reach Puerto Williams by plane or boat from Punta Arenas, or via a speedboat and shuttle van from Ushuaia. The trail starts and ends in the town (clockwise is the optimal direction). Due to the extreme latitude, the best time to hike Dientes de Navarino is in summer, between December and February.

Nearby accommodation: Hotel Fio Fio, a homely hotel in the centre of Puerto Williams, or Dientes de Navarino Hostel, a good budget accommodation option in the town.


Best hikes in Patagonia: Torres Del Paine

Torres Del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is home to the region’s most famous hiking trails. At the heart of the park is a stunning massif of granite towers, surrounded by picture-perfect lakes and grassy plains. The South Patagonian Ice Field stretches into the west end of the park.

Two classic multi-day trails – the W Trek and the O Circuit – encompass the park’s most iconic features, such as Grey Glacier and Base Las Torres. There are also many more shorter, well marked trails that explore its beautiful landscapes. In addition to the hikes detailed below, you can find more in our article on Torres Del Paine day hikes.

Also check out our articles on 8 stunning places to stay in Torres Del Paine and the best hostels in Puerto Natales to find your ideal base for hiking.

7.  W Trek (3-5 days)

The Torres Del Paine W Trek is the crown jewel of Patagonia trekking trails
The Torres Del Paine W Trek is the crown jewel of Patagonia trekking trails
  • Distance: 80 kilometres
  • Difficulty: moderate-hard

The W Trek in Torres Del Paine is a world classic hike. Its name derives from the shape its path carves on the map, curving from west to east (or vice-versa) with an inward section in the middle to form a W. Three major landmarks demarcate each prong: the granite towers of Las Torres on the east, Grey Glacier on the west, and Mirador Británico at the top of the French Valley in the middle.

One of the most popular hikes in Patagonia, the path is clearly marked and there are several well managed campsites along the trail. It typically takes four days to complete (we did it in four days and four nights), but you can stretch it out longer for a more leisurely pace.

Our ultimate guide to the Torres Del Paine W Trek explains everything you need to know about the trail, including how to prepare, where to stay, transport, cost, route options and more. If you prefer to take a guided trek, G Adventures provides a full W Trek package with friendly, experienced guides.

8.  O Circuit (6–10 days)

The Torres Del Paine O Circuit includes the northern loop of the park beyond Grey Glacier
The Torres Del Paine O Circuit includes the northern loop of the park beyond Grey Glacier
  • Distance: 120 kilometres
  • Difficulty: moderate–hard

More seasoned hikers can extend the W Trek to incorporate a full loop of the park. In addition to the sights of the W Trek, the O Circuit features the lesser-trodden northern section of the park, where wildlife can be found in more abundance among uninterrupted views across the Patagonian steppe.

The ideal starting point for the O Circuit is Hotel Las Torres on the east side of the park, which is also a convenient place to stay for a night before and after. If trekking clockwise, the trail continues past Grey Glacier on the west, over spectacular suspension bridges and up Paso John Gardner, a tough but beautiful section. The route then traces the sweeping valley of Rio Los Perros before curving back down to Las Torres.

The extended distance and trying weather conditions can make this a difficult hike. On a guided O Trek with G Adventures you can benefit from having meals prepared, less stuff to carry, and, of course, a team of guides.

9.  Base Las Torres (1 day)

Base Las Torres is one of the best hikes in Patagonia
Low-hanging mist prevented us from seeing the granite towers, but the green lagoon was still beautiful to see!
  • Distance: 18 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: moderate–hard

The famous image of the towers of Las Torres across a perfect green lagoon is at the eastern prong of the W Trek, and it can also be reached in a day hike beginning at Hotel Las Torres.

From the hotel, the first few kilometres of the route climb into a valley above a gurgling river. After passing Refugio Chileno, you follow the river bank a little further before walking through peaceful forestland. Finally, the hike culminates in a steep climb over loose rocky ground to Mirador Las Torres.

The timings can be tight to make the full return in one day including transport from Puerto Natales, so you could book a night in a hotel or consider a Base Las Torres guided trek.

10.  Grey Glacier and the suspension bridges (1 or 2 days)

Grey Glacier Torres Del Paine National Park Chile
The face of Grey Glacier stands 6 kilometres wide on the western side of Torres Del Paine
  • Distance: 24 or 30 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: easy–moderate

On the west side of the park, the path to Grey Glacier is another classic part of the W Trek and O Circuit that can be done alternatively as a day hike. From the base of Refugio and Camping Paine Grande, a simple and well marked path runs up alongside the scenic shore of Lago Grey, all the way to the face of the impressive Glacier.

The trek to the glacier, although a fairly long one, is one of the most gentle sections of path in the park. For more experienced hikers, there is the option to continue up past the Glacier, where you will encounter two successive suspension bridges with mesmerising views out onto the ice field. A full return hike to the second bridge covers 30 kilometres, doable in a day but no easy feat.

Refugio and Camping Paine Grande is easy to access from Puerto Natales via a bus transfer and a ferry from Pudeto. To break up the hike, you could book a night at Paine Grande or Refugio Grey, or alternatively take a guided trek to Grey Glacier with transfers included.

11.  French Valley (1 or 2 days)

Mirador Británico is the highest lookout point in the French Valley of Torres Del Paine
Mirador Británico is the highest lookout point in the French Valley of Torres Del Paine
  • Distance: 20 or 26 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: moderate–hard

The French Valley lies at the heart of Torres Del Paine National Park and forms the middle prong of the W Trek. The valley runs right through the massif, surrounded by granite towers and snowy peaks. When we trekked through it, we were amazed by the sight and sound of ice crashing down from glacial blocks on the mountains.

This section of the park can also be reached in a day hike from Camping Paine Grande. The first section is an easy path to the shores of Lago Skottsberg, where the horns of Los Cuernos can be seen in full profile across the water. After reaching Campamento Italiano, the path climbs upwards into the valley. At Mirador Francés there is a wonderful vantage point to see around the valley. You can turn back here, or continue up the most challenging section to Mirador Británico, the highest viewpoint in this section.

Similar to Glacier Grey, the French Valley trek is easy to access independently via transfer and ferry to Paine Grande. Alternatively, you can take a guided trek of the French Valley for a return hike to Mirador Francés.


Best hikes in Patagonia: El Chaltén and El Calafate

Just across the border from Torres Del Paine, the towns of El Calafate and El Chaltén are launchpads for exploring the most iconic scenery on the Argentina side of Patagonia.

El Chaltén is a natural playground for hikers, on the doorstep of Los Glaciares National Park and within short distance of the famous peaks of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. In addition to the trails highlighted below, our guide to trekking in El Chaltén goes into more detail on the hikes in the area. Also see our article on camping, refugios and hostels in El Chaltén for budget accommodation.

El Calafate is a popular base for visiting the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier. For more help planning your trip, see our recommendations on things to do in El Calafate and the 5 best hostels in the town.

12.  Laguna de los Tres (1 day with possible overnight stay)

Mount Fitz shimmer orange at sunrise across Laguna de los Tres
Mount Fitz shimmer orange at sunrise across Laguna de los Tres
  • Distance: 24 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: moderate–hard

The jagged peak of Mount Fitz Roy towering across the calm waters of Laguna de los Tres is one of the most photographed images in South America. The view can be reached via a straightforward, well marked trail that begins at the north side of El Chaltén.

The trail is flat for most of the way, but begins and ends with steep climbs. The first uphill leads to the first glimpse of Fitz Roy in the distance, and the final ascent arrives at the Laguna de los Tres mirador. The gentle stretch in between passes through open plains and Patagonian forest, amid the park’s flora and fauna.

The trek is comfortably manageable in a day with an early start, but to see the famous view of Mount Fitz Roy at sunrise, you need to camp overnight at Campamento Poincernot, located in the forest about a kilometre before the final climb.

While this is an easy trail to take self-guided, there is also an option to take a guided day hike.

Nearby accommodation: Patagonia Hostel and Lo De Trivi are both excellent budget options on the north side of El Chaltén. We stayed at both of them either side of our trek, and found the facilities ideal for trekking prep.

13.  Laguna Torre (1 day)

Laguna Torre is a classic, easy day hike from El Chaltén in Argentine Patagonia
Laguna Torre is a classic, easy day hike from El Chaltén in Argentine Patagonia
  • Distance: 18 or 23 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: easy

This easy, classic route is a great hike for people of all trekking abilities. Beginning at the south side of El Chaltén, the path to Laguna Torre is steady and well maintained, with markers every kilometre to track your distance. After a slight hill in the early stages, the peak of Cerro Torre emerges into view and is visible for most of the hike from then onwards.

The trail passes above Rio Fitz Roy, along open plains and through charming forests before arriving at the shore of Laguna Torre. The peak of Cerro Torre is unmistakeable across the water, and in the evening the sun sets behind the mountains (although to see this you’d need an overnight stay at Camping de Agostini). To extend the trail, you can walk a further 2.5 kilometres around the edge of the lake to reach Mirador Maestri for a glimpse of Glaciar Torre alongside the rocky peaks.

Similar to the Laguna de los Tres route, this is an easy trail to hike independently. but there is also the option of a guided trek to Laguna Torre.

14.  Huemul Circuit (4-5 days)

The Huemul Circuit is one of the best hikes in Patagonia
The Huemul Circuit passes above the stunning Viedma Glacier. Photo by Hiroki Ogawa, distributed under a CC BY 3.0 license
  • Distance: 70 kilometres
  • Difficulty: hard

The Huemul Circuit is one of Patagonia’s most challenging multi-day trails, looping from the National Park Visitors’ Centre in El Chaltén deep into Los Glaciares National Park. The trek circumambulates the stunning Cerro Huemul massif and skirts alongside some of the most dramatic sections of the South Patagonian Ice Field.

The trail incorporates two mountain pass ascents, at Paso Del Viento and the Huemul Pass, and a crossing of Rio Túnel by zipline or wading, depending on the conditions. Highlights include sweeping panoramas of the massif, close-up views of the ice fields and a glimpse of the blue-white face of Viedma Glacier.

Although it is possible to hike the trail independently, it’s best to go with a local guide who knows the terrain and conditions. You can book a guided trek in advance here. If you do go unguided – which only the most experienced hikers should attempt – you need to register at the visitors’ centre so they know who is on the trail.

Nearby accommodation: Hosteria Senderos is a highly rated rustic wooden hotel just a few minutes’ walk from the trailhead at visitors’ centre. Its wine bar and fireplace make for a welcome treat after completing the trek.

15.  Perito Moreno Glacier ice hike (1 day)

Ice hikes are a popular way to experience the majesty of Perito Moreno Glacier
Ice hikes are a popular way to experience the majesty of Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Distance: depends on trekking package (4 hours or 1 hour 40 minutes on the ice)
  • Difficulty: easy–moderate

Perito Moreno Glacier is Patagonia’s largest glacier and one of the region’s greatest attractions. Thousands of people visit every year, but most view it from a boat ride or nearby viewing points. For hiking enthusiasts, another, more satisfying option is to get onto the glacier itself for an ice hike.

There are two options for hiking on Perito Moreno Glacier. The cheapest and easiest is a Mini Trekking experience, which includes an hour and 40 minutes on the ice and a boat cruise to the glacier face.

For a longer day out and a more fulfilling hiking experience, the Big Ice Trek spends four whole hours on the glacier, plus three more exploring the nearby forests. A glacier boat cruise is included in this package too.


Best hikes in Patagonia: the Argentine Lake District

In the very northern reaches of Patagonia, the Lake District of Argentina is a hotbed for hiking and other outdoor adventure sports. At its heart is the alpine-esque city of Bariloche and the vast, beautiful Nahuel Huapi National Park.

Bariloche has become a vibrant centre for adventure and exploration over the last century. As its popularity has grown, a plethora of well-kept hiking trails have emerged nearby, from easy walks in ancient forests to more challenging mountain treks.

We highlight some of the best of these trails below. For more help with planning your trip, see our articles on things to do in Bariloche and the best hostels in Bariloche.

16.  Cerro Llao Llao (half day / 1 day)

The summit of Cerro Llao Llao offers one of the most stunning views in Nahuel Huapi National Park
The summit of Cerro Llao Llao offers one of the most stunning views in Nahuel Huapi National Park
  • Distance: 15 kilometre loop hike or 5 kilometre return hike
  • Difficulty: easy

While Cerro Campanaro is the most visited viewpoint in Nahuel Huapi National Park, Cerro Llao Llao offers a beautiful alternative that’s a little bit trickier to reach. Located in dense forest in the Municipal Llao Llao Park section of Nahuel Huapi National Park, this secluded hilltop lookout gives a dreamy perspective of lakes, forested headlands and mountains disappearing into the distance.

The trail starts near Puerto Pañuelo, a port some 25 kilometres west of Bariloche that can be reached via the number 20 bus. From the port, walk west along the Circuito Chico road, and you will soon have the option to turn left onto the Sendero de los Arrayanes trail or right directly towards Cerro Llao Llao.

The direct trail is a 5-kilometre return; but if you take the woodland trail first you can complete a full loop that incorporates more great views at Bahia Llao Llao and Villa Tacul beach. For all the vital details about the hike, check out our full article on the Cerro Llao Llao trail.

17.  Refugio Frey (1/2 days)

The hike to Refugio Frey is one of the most popular trails in Nahuel Huapi National Park
The hike to Refugio Frey is one of the most popular trails in Nahuel Huapi National Park
  • Distance: 21 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: moderate

Cerro Catedral, 15 kilometres south-west of Bariloche, is best known for being home to the biggest ski centre in the southern hemisphere. But when the skiing season is over, the centre at Catedral Alta is repurposed as the pivot point for a stunning return hike up to Refugio Frey on the mountaintop. Awaiting at the summit is a postcard scene of a sleepy lagoon surrounded by jagged rocky peaks.

The trail begins gently for the first four kilometres or so, after which the uphill gradient increases sharply. The total elevation gain is nearly 700 metres, much of which is done in the final couple of kilometres of the path. The climb can be tricky in the shoulder seasons when there is still snow and ice on the path (you can rent gear in Bariloche).

The return hike can be done in about eight hours on a day return, but if you choose to stay overnight midway at the refugio then there’s the extra benefit of enjoying the spectacular starry skies.

Nearby accommodation: Hotel Knapp is located right next to the Cerro Catedral ski complex at the trailhead, and has cheaper rates during trekking season.

18.  Nahual Huapi hut-to-hut hike (4–5 days)

Refugio Cerro Lopez Bariloche
Refugio Cerro Lopez, the final stop of the hut-to-hut hike. Photo by Estany3, distributed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license
  • Distance: 48 kilometres
  • Difficulty: moderate–hard

This lofty multi-day hike traverses the ridges and valleys of Nahuel Huapi National Park, stopping each night at a mountain refugio hut. Beginning with the trail from Catedral Alta ski centre up to Refugio Frey, the path continues on through forests and past quiet lagoons, where you can stop for a swim.

After departing Refugio Frey, the trail descends into the Rucaco Valley and over the Brecha Negra pass before reaching the lakeside Refugio San Martin for the night. The third day continues through the Goyes Valley culminating at Refugio Italia overlooking Laguna Negra, before the final day’s trek up to Refugio Cerro Lopez for one of the best views across the national park.

With over 3,000 metres elevation gain over the course of the trail, this is not an easy hike, but it is a highly rewarding one with unrivalled views of the Lake District. The well equipped refugios along the way are famed among the trekking community for their friendly atmosphere.

19.  Cerro Tronador (2 days)

Cerro Tronador Bariloche
Tronador is the highest peak in the Lake District. Photo by Wernerluis, distributed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license
  • Distance: 36 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: moderate

This simple up-and-down return hike ascends to Refugio Otto Meiling, a mountain hut in view of a hanging glacier and the lofty peak of Cerro Tronador. The trail begins and ends in the village of Pampa Linda, about 50 kilometres from Bariloche by bus.

The hike up can be challenging in poor weather conditions, with an elevation gain of around 1,000 metres, and a particularly steep rocky section known as the Caracoles. When you emerge from the forests onto the mountaintop, the views are spectacular. There’s also the option of a short side trek at the end to some cliff-face waterfalls.

Before starting this trail you’ll need to pay a visit to Club Andino in Bariloche, where you can buy bus tickets to Pampa Linda and book accommodation at the refugio. If you don’t get a spot in the refugio, you can choose to camp overnight instead (with an optional donation). You also need to pay a park entrance fee of 400 Argentine pesos (about $7).

20.  Cerro Piltriquitrón, El Bolsón (1 or 2 days)

The peak of Cerro Piltriquitrón towers over the Argentine mountain town of El Bolsón
The peak of Cerro Piltriquitrón towers over the Argentine mountain town of El Bolsón
  • Distance: 11 or 25 kilometre return, depending on starting point
  • Difficulty: moderate (can be tough if there is a lot of snow on the ground)

Nestling in a picturesque valley flanked by Andean peaks, the laid-back, arty mountain town of El Bolsón is about 100 kilometres south of Bariloche. From the town it’s impossible to miss the towering Cerro Piltriquitrón, the highest point overlooking the town. Its summit can be reached via a popular hiking trail that offers wonderful views of El Bolsón in the valley and the snowy Andes beyond.

On the way up the trail you can stop to explore El Bosque Tallado, the ‘Carved Forest’. After a section of trees were destroyed by fire in the 1970s, a group of local artists began a project to revitalise the charred remains through sculpture. Continuing past the forest you will soon reach Refugio de Montaña Cerro Piltriquitrón, a mountain hut at a lookout point that serves food, hot drinks and provides accommodation. From the refugio it’s another 3.5 kilometres to the top for that great view.

Check out our full article on the Cerro Piltriquitrón trail for everything you need to know about hiking it.

Nearby accommodation: El Mirador Hostel is a homely, low-cost accommodation run by a friendly couple, located on the hillside between the town and the trailhead. We chose to hike from the hostel up to the trail, which adds 14 kilometres to the return.


Best hikes in Patagonia: along the Carretera Austral

The Carretera Austral is the common name for Ruta 7, a legendary Chilean highway that stretches over 1,200 kilometres from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. It passes mainly through the Aysén region, a vast and beautiful space in rural Patagonia riddled with rivers, fjords, coves and peaks.

The route provides access to a series of national parks which are now connected by the new Patagonian Route of Parks. This initiative is a partnership between the Chilean government and an American conservation foundation to promote the area’s beauty while protecting it. The route covers 2,800 kilometres of Chilean Patagonia, much of which is on the Carretera Austral.

The national parks along the highway are becoming increasingly accessible, and you can explore their unique landscapes through a variety of hiking trails.

21.  Cerro Castillo (1 day or 4 days)

Mirador Cerro Castillo
The view at Mirador Cerro Castillo. Photo by Romina Uribe, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license
  • Distance: 53 kilometres circuit or 12 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: moderate

Cerro Castillo is a great alternative multi-day hike in Chilean Patagonia that’s much quieter than the likes of Torres Del Paine. It’s a relatively easy circuit that is typically done in four days, wandering among the forests, rivers, mountains and glaciers of the Cerro Castillo Nature Reserve, stopping at well equipped campsites along the way.

The city of Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysén region, is about 65 kilometres by road from the trail’s starting point and is the ideal base. Buses leave Coyhaique at around 9am every morning and drop off at Las Horquetas, where the trek begins. The trail ends in the village of Villa Cerro Castillo, from where you can get a bus back to Coyhaique.

It is now also possible to reach Mirador Cerro Castillo in a day hike via a new emergency route from Villa Cerro Castillo. A 6-kilometre path from the village leads up to the viewpoint, where you can see rocky peaks covered in glacial ice across the azure water of Laguna Cerro Castillo.

Nearby accommodation: Coyhaique has a wide choice of hotels, hostels and cabañas. In Villa Cerro Castillo, Refugio Cerro Castillo is a lovely rustic accommodation with gorgeous mountain views.

22.  Exploradores Glacier (1 day)

Glaciar Exploradores Chile
Exploradores Glacier is an alternative ice hike experience. Photo by Eduardo Schmeda, distributed under a CC BY 2.0 License
  • Distance: 9 kilometres
  • Difficulty: moderate

The lakeside town of Puerto Río Tranquilo, on the southern stretch of the Carretera Austral, is the base for one of Patagonia’s most interesting ice hikes: Exploradores Glacier. A different experience altogether to Perito Moreno Glacier and Grey Glacier, this one involves exploring a network of ice caves and tunnels.

The ice hike is a full-day trip, with a 90-minute drive to reach the glacier, which runs off the slopes of Mount San Valentín , the highest mountain in Chilean Patagonia. After arriving and getting kitted up you can expect to spend around 6–7 hours trekking.

Ice hike packages are available from a variety of tour agencies in Puerto Río Tranquilo, and begin at about $70. Tours include equipment and expert guides.

Nearby accommodation: Cabañas la Estrella is a comfortable lodge in the heart of the town with very reasonable rates.

23.  Pumalín Park waterfall trek (half day)

Pumalin Park waterfall
Pumalín Park is a large nature reserve in Chile. Photo by Bas Wallet, distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license
  • Distance: 6 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: easy

Pumalín Park is one of South America’s largest nature reserves, covering some 715,000 acres of Valdivian rainforest. It is located along the northern stretch of the Carretera Austral, not far south of Puerto Montt, and is part of the new Patagonian Route of Parks.

There are several well maintained trails exploring the park’s forest, lakes and volcanoes. One of the most popular is a short and easy hike to a beautiful waterfall in the thick of rainforest, with a glimpse out across the Huequi Penninsula on the way.

Like many of the park’s trails, it begins at the hub of Caleta Gonzalo and is well signposted. Look for the signs that say sendero cascadas. You can reach Caleta Gonzalo by bus and ferry from Puerto Montt (about 9 hours), or by road from Chaitén (about an hour).

Nearby accommodation: there is basic accommodation in the form of a campsite and cabañas at Caleta Gonzalo. See the Pumalín Park website for information on how to book. For Chaitén, see options on booking.com.

24.  Piedra del Águila, Futaleufú (1 day)

Piedra Del Aguila Futaleufú
Piedra del Águila viewpoint is a short walk from Futaleufú. Photo by Constanza.CH, distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license
  • Distance: 15 kilometres return
  • Difficulty: easy

The remote Chilean town and nature reserve of Futaleufú requires a detour away from the Carretera Austral towards the Argentine border.  The town is the start and end point for a scenic hike up to Piedra del Águila, a lookout point with a fabulous panoramic view of the valley and across the border into Argentina.

This trail is easy to access directly from the town, with a small admission fee required (about $1.50). The path leads through the valley of the Espolón river, where you can sometimes see Andean condors in flight. Finally, the trail culminate’s at ‘Eagle’s Rock’ for that stunning valley view.

Nearby accommodation: Hotel El Barranco is a luxurious hotel close to the centre of Futaleufú, while Turismo Rural Los Alpes is an excellent budget guest house in a more rural setting.

25.  Aviles to Jeinimeni trek (3–5 days)

Lago Jeinimeni Patagonia National Park
Lago Jeinimeni in Patagonia National Park. Photo by Mario Otárola Alfaro, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license
  • Distance: 50 kilometres through hike
  • Difficulty: moderate–hard

Patagonia National Park is a relatively new national park in the Aysén region that covers a protected areas of some 200,000 acres, incorporating the Chacabuco Valley and the nature reserves of Lago Jeinimeni and Lago Cochrane. There are a range of day hike trails in the park, which are detailed on the park’s website.

The Aviles to Jeinimeni trek is the park’s only multi-day trail, and it’s one of Patagonia’s most rural and offbeat hikes. The trail encompasses landscapes of steppe and forested valleys, and beautifully peaceful lagoons. It can be done as a through trek in 3–4 days, or a slightly longer return trek to Lago Verde.

This is a long and wild hike in one of Patagonia’s most remote accessible spots. Although it doesn’t involve a huge amount of elevation gain, you will be met with river crossings and sections of thick forest, and the route is not always clearly marked. As such, it’s a trail best suited for experienced hikers. Notify the park’s visitor centre before you get started.

Nearby accommodation: the town of Chile Chico has various options for lodging. Hostería de la Patagonia is a top-rated high-end hotel, while Hotel Ventura is a good budget option.


Looking for more hiking adventures in South America? Check out our ultimate Peru trekking guide featuring 35 of the country’s very best trails.

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atagonia is home to some of the world's top hiking spots. Our Patagonia trekking guide details the very best trails and all you need to know before you go. #patagonia #patagoniahiking #torresdelpaine #patagoniatrekking #patagoniahikes

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