Hiking To Laguna De Los Tres
Laguna de Los Tres is a small glacial lake in the heart of the Argentinian Andes. Its beauty; though stunning; pales in comparison to what lies above. What I had waited six years for and traveled thousands of miles to see.
It was late January and peak season in Argentina’s adventure capital; El Chalten. My brother, his girlfriend, and I were traveling through Patagonia for the month and had been told by some travelers we met in Santiago, that the hikes surrounding this sleepy little town were not to be missed.
We arrived on the evening bus around 8 pm and had not booked any accommodations. After hours of searching and being turned down, we finally had to settle for the cheapest hotel with an available room. At $115 USD a night, it obliterated my daily budget and is the most I’ve spent on a place to sleep EVER!
Travel Tip: Don’t be like us and travel to El Chaltén during peak season without a reservation. Even though half of the buildings in town are hostels; they fill up fast. Here are some tools I usually use to find a cheap place to crash.
Still reeling from our heavily priced twin beds the night before; we prepped our bags, stashed our remaining gear at the hotel, and hit the trail. Our first hike in Argentina’s adventure capital was to be Laguna de Los Tres. We planned to do a two-day trek through the valley; camping at the Poincenot campground; and hoped to catch an epic sunset over Laguna de Los Tres.
The Hike To Laguna De Los Tres
The hike to Laguna de Los Tres is one of the easiest hikes you will probably ever attempt; with heavily worn trail and signs abundant. Except for the last hour up to the lake, the trail is flat and full of impressive views.
The hike begins at the very North end of town just off of route 23. A small ranger igloo sitting just past a sign reading “Sendro al Fitz Roy” (path to Fitz Roy), will mark the entrance to Los Glaciares National Park. And the best part; there is no fee to enter.
Laguna de Los Tres Trailhead
Travel App: Check-out my favorite offline map apps that make hiking around Patagonia and finding trailheads super easy.
The trail swiftly leads you up and away from the valley floor past some attention-grabbing boulders to your first viewpoint of the hike; Río de Las Vueltas.
Now That’s A Nice Rock
Mirador Río De Las Vueltas
Travel Tip: The Río de Las Vueltas viewpoint sits atop a ridge overlooking the valley that bottle-necks the wind straight towards you. I recommend battening down anything you don’t want to lose.
After the viewpoint, the trail will lead you back into the trees and out of the first valley. Your next stop will be a calm lake with an amazing view and campground.
Laguna Capri Campgrounds
Laguna Capri is a great place to stop for lunch or to just sit by the crystal clear water and enjoy the scenery. The Campgrounds are also a great place to set up a tent or hammock for the night. But, if you plan on hiking all the way to the Laguna de Los Tres basecamp, then an hour or two should do.
Good News: Both The Capri and Poincenot campgrounds are completely FREE! That’s right free. And don’t worry about not having a spot; there is plenty of room to go around.
Don’t worry about not making it to the poincenot campground in time. It is only about an hour and a half away from Laguna Capri, so take your time.
Hiking on from Laguna Capri, the trail boasts some of the most iconic views in Patagonia. Don’t forget to hike down to the Chorillo del Salto river as you make your way through the valley. You don’t want to miss one of the best photo opportunities of the hike.
Mount Fitz Roy River View
After you finally snap the perfect photo and maybe dip your feet in the frigid glacial river; it’s time to head off to the final part of the trail. A swampy area in the lowlands of the valley with some halved tree trunks resting inches above a marsh.
Hovering Above The Marsh
Make sure to practice your balancing skills before attempting to cross the planks. I won’t name any names, but one of us lost our balance and went in ankle deep.
Don’t get to worked up about it though, that tree line in the background is the Poincenot campground and a great spot to dry out your muddy socks and shoes.
The Poincenot Campgrounds
Nestled deep in a dark forest of old twisty pine; just below Laguna de Los Tres; is the Poincenot Campgrounds. Most travelers who plan on camping along the Mount Fitz Roy trail to see the sun go down or the early morning sunrise over Laguna de Los Tres; choose Poincenot.
The Eerily Dark Forest
Warning: Watch out for falling trees while camping at Poincenot. Your best bet would be to pack up before 9 in the morning to avoid the almost 100 mph winds that whip through the trees.
The final stretch of the trek up to Laguna de Los Tres is no doubt the hardest. Steep switchbacks carry you up and out of the valley over loose, wet, slippery rock (watch your step).
From this point on, I would recommend you be in decent physical condition. Otherwise, things could get a bit hairy.
The Tough Trail Ahead
If you are planning to see the sunset or sunrise at Laguna de Los Tres, then I would give yourself at least an hour to climb from Poincenot to the top. We set off at 6:30 pm and arrived around 7:45 pm; which ended up being plenty of time as the sun doesn’t set until 10:30 pm in the summer months.
Although the hike up is grueling; it is packed full of stunning views. None more so than once you finally crest the last hill.
Laguna De Los Tres
Surrounded by fields of broken rock, overshadowed by possibly the most infamous mountain in all of Patagonia; Fitz Roy; Laguna de Los Tres is indeed a sight to behold. The vibrant turquoise water almost appearing fake as the wind rippled patterns across the surface.
Laguna De Los Tres
My brother and I had been waiting six years to see Fitz Roy; ever since we’d watched the movie 180 Degrees South. There was a lot of build-up to the finally getting there, and even though the clouds weren’t being too cooperative, it’s a moment that I know we’ll never forget.
The hike back down is more relaxed but still just as dangerous if you don’t watch your footing. It shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to get back to basecamp.
Back To Basecamp
Depending on your schedule and energy levels you might decide that your adventure meter has room for one more excursion (that’s how we felt). If that’s the case, then you’re in luck. Just a few hours West lie a set of peaks and glacial lake akin to Fitz Roy.
Hiking to Laguna Torre and the accompanying peak Cerro Torre is the perfect way to prolong your stay in one of South America’s best national parks.
What To Pack?
The packing list for the hike to Laguna de Los Tres is pretty straightforward. The only extra piece of advice that I could give is that there is a NO fire policy in Los Glaciares National Park; which means no traditional cooking over the open flame. Not to worry; there are plenty of bakeries in town that sell pre-made sandwiches and a few supermarkets that you can buy basic ingredients to make your own.
The list below is a basic rundown of gear that covers almost any two to three-day hike, but if you want to see all of the gear that I use to stay on the road and be ready for any adventure; then check out my digital nomad backpacking checklist.
- Hiking Shoes
- Camp Sandals
- Hiking Pants
- Down Jacket
- Rain Jacket
- Shirts (3)
- Underwear (2)
- Socks (2)
- Sleeping Bag
- Extra Batteries
- Camp Towel
- First Aid Kit
- Bag Rain Cover
And that’s pretty much it. Now all that is left to do is go out and enjoy one of the best hiking spots in the world. I always love hearing about other traveler’s experiences in the places I’ve been, so if you find yourself in El Chalten one day let me know how it goes.
Also if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below, and I ‘ll try to answer them as best I can.