The next day we decided to drive up to El Chalten to see Mt. Fitz Roy and to go for a hike. The drive was pretty straightforward and the road was paved the whole way and it probably took us a bit longer than two and a half hours to get there. The traffic was pretty much non-existent; we were maybe expecting to see a few more cars and buses doing the drive since El Chalten was relatively close to El Calafate and it was peak of the travel season. We did, however, see a number of bike tourers. Now riding across Patagonia would certainly be a hell of an adventure, but unless your idea of a great bike ride involves high winds and long stretches of flat and empty roads it would also be a hell of a slog. We also couldn’t quite figure out where these guys were staying at night — with the distances between towns they would have to be camping out pretty much just by the side of the road for nights on end.
As we neared El Chalten we came across our first stunning view of Fitz Roy, nearby Cerro Torre was shrouded in clouds, as it would stay the entire day. A bit further down the road we came into El Chalten, which is tucked into a river valley below the mountains — “tucked” in enough so that you didn’t have a view of the stunning nearby mountains from in town. We stopped at the park visitor center which is right at the entrance to town. They were helpful and suggested “Mirador Fitz Roy” as a good day hike. After lunch at a a low key cafe in town we drove over to the Fitz Roy trail head and started up the trail.
The weather during the hike was possibly the best that we had the whole time in Patagonia: sunny, warm, and not windy. After talking to someone on the trail who had been backpacking in the rain for the past couple days it confirmed that these sorts of days weren’t terribly common there. The trail gained probably about a thousand feet over a couple miles, then reached a broad valley with Fitz Roy as the backdrop. Right upon reaching the valley is the “Mirador Fitz Roy”, but the great view continues as you progress up the trail. We probably continued on the trail for another mile or so; with the great weather and the long day we pretty much had to force ourselves to turn around and head back to the car.
- Here’s a road map of the route, it really is a pretty easy drive.
- And here’s a trail map for the El Chalten area. El Chalten did seems like probably the best location for day hikes that we saw in Patagonia. However, as is the case for the rest of Patagonia, don’t expect the weather to necessarily cooperate.