Hiking to Laguna Torre is, quite simply, a must when in Patagonia.
The hike to Laguna Torre is one of the best in Patagonia and can be easily enjoyed when visiting El Chalten, Argentina’s trekking capital. If you plan to visit Argentina, Patagonia should be in your itinerary and you should include the hike to Laguna Torre among your activities.
The hike to Laguna Torre is a moderate one, with little ascent and gorgeous scenery along the way. It goes to a beautiful glacier-fed lake that sits at the base of Cerro Torre. Much like the hike that goes to Laguna de Los Tres, at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy, it is a must for nature and mountain lovers visiting this part of Argentina.
Check out my post “A Guide To Hiking Around Fitz Roy, In El Chalten.”
In this post, I highlight everything you should know to prepare for your hike to Laguna Torre and make the most of it, by sharing a lot of tips and useful information. Before getting to the juicy bits, however, I’d like to share some background information about Cerro Torre.
Some Background Information On Cerro Torre
Cerro Torre, at the base of which you’ll find Laguna Torre, is hardly the highest mountain in the world (it only reaches 3128 meters), but it easily qualifies as one of the most beautiful ones; not to mention, one of the most difficult ones to conquer with its almost completely vertical walls.
The mountain is located at the border between Chile and Argentina, and it wasn’t until 1959 that Italian mountaineer Cesare Maestri finally managed to conquer its peak – though this conquest was highly controversial and there were allegations that he had hoaxed the news.
Nowadays, much like the rest of Patagonia, Cerro Torre is thought to be a climbers paradise. However, some recent incidents that caused the death of a few climbers are a reminder of how unpredictably dangerous this and the neighboring peaks can be.
The good news is that, although climbing Cerro Torre can be a real challenge, it is possible to hike all the way to its base to admire it in all its beauty from Laguna Torre.
Hiking To Laguna Torre
There is little doubt that hiking is one of the main reasons to visit Patagonia, and that the trail that goes to Laguna Torre has all it takes to be one of the best hikes in the region: incredible views throughout the way; a moderate but steady ascent; a final push to reach the best viewpoint.
Check out my post “Hiking In Patagonia: 16 Incredible Trails.”
There are two starting points for the trail to Laguna Torre, both of them right at the back entrance of El Chalten. After about 10 minutes walk they converge into a single trail, which is very well marked and easy to follow, and you’ll hardly need a map (though you can pick one at your hotel or at the information center).
The initial part of the trail is a 2 km rather steep ascent. After that, you will get to the first viewpoint right by Cascada Margarida. That’s when you’ll get a first great view of Cerro Torre in the distance. On a clear day, the views are simply magnificent.
Once you pass Cascada Margarida, the ascent is little and the hike becomes much easier.
It takes another hour and a half to get to Laguna Torre. As you walk there, you will have Rio Fitz Roy roaring on your left, its water cloudy from the sediments it carries from Laguna Torre and its glacier.
As you reach the lake, the views of Cerro Torre and the glacier are incredible. You can opt to stop here, or, if you want even better views, venture along the trail that leads to Mirador Maestri. This is the hardest part of the hike, with a trail that is narrow and with steep drop on one side; on very rocky, uneven terrain. Adding to the challenge there’s the fact that this part of the trail can be difficult to follow for lack of clear signs. Having said so, when you actually make it to Mirador Maestri the views of the glacier are simply incredible.
You will have to hike back to El Chalten along the same trail.
The sights on the way to Laguna Torre are splendid, and you’ll almost constantly have Cerro Torre in full view on a clear day.
Once you get to the actual lake, the view is impressive. The lake isn’t blue like that of Laguna de Los Tres, but the glacier is stunning and if you pay attention you will hear it cracking, much like it happens to Perito Moreno Glacier.
For more information about Perito Moreno, check out my post “A Complete Guide To Perito Moreno Glacier.”
The lagoon is a perfect lunch spot, but if you want a real treat, push yourself all the way to Mirador Maestri, where you can sit and rest for a while in awe of the magnificent glacier.
What to expect when hiking to Laguna Torre
As for all trails in Patagonia, the one that goes to Laguna Torre is very well marked and easy to follow and the terrain good for the most part.
The only difficult part is the initial 2 km ascent and the final ascent to Mirador Maestri, which is on very uneven terrain. Only venture on that final bit of the trail if you are confident with your step, because it is very easy to lose your balance on the often moving rocks.
The way back to El Chalten is on the same trail. It takes pretty much the same amount of time to walk back down to the village.
TIP: The one to Laguna Torre is one of the most popular hikes in Patagonia and chances are that you will meet quite a few people along the way and at the lagoon. However, you won’t ever feel it is a crowded trail – especially if you start nice and early.
TIP: If you visit Patagonia in the summer months, you’ll be relieved to find out that days are very long and you have plenty of time to hike to Laguna Torre and back. Having said so, I recommend an early start (8:30 am is perfect timing!) so that you can avoid the largest crowds and that you can plan a longer break to admire the views once you get to the lake.
Fact checking for your hike to Laguna Torre
Like all other hiking trails in Patagonia, the one to Laguna Torre is free to access.
Overall walking distance: 10.6 km to the base of Laguna Torre one way, to which you can add the little over 1 km to the Mirador Maestri, one way. The overall length is thus between 21 and 24 km, there and back.
Overall walking time: between 6 and 7 hours, depending on the amount of stops and on whether you also hike to Mirador Maestri.
Food and drinks: You should carry enough food and water for the duration your hike to Laguna Torre. You can refill your water bottle at the river – water is supposedly safe to drink but carry a water filter just in case.
Camping: Not far from the lake, the De Agostini campsite is a good place to camp overnight if you like the idea of waking up early to see the sunrise over the peaks – but keep in mind nights can be very chilly and though the camping does provide some shelter against the wind, this is very strong! Make sure to be properly equipped.
Toilets: There are no toilets along the trail to Laguna Torre. At about half way you will see a sign that points to a toilet, but it’s just a well hidden bush where everyone goes with no real toilet facilities. Make sure not to leave any toilet paper behind you.
Garbage disposal: there are no garbage bins on the way to Laguna Torre and – in fact – on any of the trails in Patagonia. The trails and the surrounding areas are, however, pristine. Make sure to take a small garbage bag to dispose of your trash and bring it back with you to El Chalten, where you can dispose of it appropriately.
Pets: Dogs or other animals are not allowed on the trail, as it is part of Los Glaciares National Park.
Practical Information For Your Hike To Laguna Torre
Hiking to Laguna Torre independently
The hike to Laguna Torre can definitely be done independently. The trail is easy to follow with no major challenge. By all means, however, I do not advise you to hike alone, as there is no phone signal at all along the trail, should you run into an emergency.
Check out my post “11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone Is Actually A Bad Idea.”
Guided hikes to Laguna Torre
If you prefer, you can also join a guided group hike. Several depart daily from El Chalten. Here is a selection of the best day hikes:
- El Chalten group trekking to Laguna Torre
- Full day trek of Cerro Torre
- Laguna Torre day trip from El Chalten
And these are some good multi-day hiking tours:
- 2-day hiking tour of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from El Chalten – a great option if you want to do both hikes.
- 2-day Chalten adventure: Laguna de Los Tres, Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre
Guided hiking tours of Patagonia that include hikes to Laguna Torre
If you aren’t a master of organization and are short on time, you may want to leave the organization bits to the experts and just book a good multi-day guided group tour to Patagonia that includes accommodation, transportation and all activities, and which will ensure you have a guide to help you navigate the trails.
These are some of the best tours available that include hikes to Laguna Torre:
- Patagonia Hiking: this is the perfect tour for active travelers who love nature. It lasts 9 days and has stops at El Calafate and at El Chalten, to hike Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
- Argentina Multisport: the best tour for adventure lovers, as it includes rafting, cycling, and trekking around El Chalten.
- Hike Patagonia In Depth: the best option for those who want to get as close as possible to the mountains, with some nights of camping. No better way to experience Patagonia.
- Best of Patagonia: a 13 days tour to all of Patagonia’s landmarks.
- 6 Day tour of Patagonia: a good option if you have limited time to spend in this part of the world.
- Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego: a great hiking tour that also goes to the end of the world, between Argentina and Chile. You’ll be hiking Perito Moreno, Laguna Torre and even Laguna Esmeralda.
The best time to hike to Laguna Torre
The best time to hike in Patagonia is in the late spring and summer months, between October and April. However, please be advised that the weather is very unpredictable in this part of the world, and be prepared for wind, rain and even snow at any time. I was actually very lucky and enjoyed sunny, warm weather when I visited in mid February. If you are not on a tight schedule, plan to spend a few days in El Chalten so that you can wait for the perfect day to hike to Laguna Torre.
Planning to travel to Patagonia? Make sure to read my post “30 Things You Should Consider Before Traveling To Patagonia.”
Essential items to wear and carry on a hike to Laguna Torre
You have to be properly equipped when hiking to Laguna Torre – much like you have to be for any other hike, anywhere in the world. I won’t ever tire of stressing the importance of a good pair of hiking boots that hold your ankle and keep your feet dry (I had to abandon mine in Ushuaia after a very muddy and wet hike to Laguna Esmeralda, when I realized they were not waterproof anymore).
Check out my post “A Complete Guide To Hiking Laguna Esmeralda.”
The first thing you need to consider when gearing up to hike to Laguna Torre is that the weather in Patagonia can change dramatically at any given minute. It may well be sunny as you walk out the door, but the wind may start blowing any time and it may start raining (and at times even snowing!). This is to say: you have to be prepared for sudden weather changes.
The list of recommended items to wear and carry for your hike to Laguna Torre is based on my experience.
Here’s a list of basics for the day:
- A good pair of hiking boots, preferably with excellent ankle support and waterproof.
- Waterproof hiking pants. I swear by my new Kuhl Horizn Straight or my Kuhl Weekendr Tight.
- A cotton t-shirt such as Kuhl W S Born Tee – it’s comfortable and lightweight.
- A cozy fleece – I like Kuhl Alska. Do carry an extra one in case the temperature drops.
- A good wind proof jacket. I am a fan of Kuhl Airstorm Rain.
- Either a baseball hat or a beanie, to protect you from the sun and from the wind; and a pair of gloves as it is cold in the morning.
- A good daypack, with easy to reach pockets for water bottle. I like Osprey Daylite Plus.
- A refillable water bottle.
- Sunscreen with high protection factor, as well as lip balm.
- A camera. I use a Nikon D3300 with a 18-105 mm lens. If you are not a photography geek, opt for a good smartphone such as an iPhone X. Take a power bank as well!
- Tissues or toilet paper, and a good antibacterial hand gel.
- Food and water for the duration of the hike, and an extra spare bag to put all your garbage.
For a full list of what to carry on your trip to Patagonia, check out my post “The Perfect Patagonia Packing List.”
Other Useful Information
How to get to El Chalten
El Chalten is the nearest place to reach Laguna Torre. The nearest airport to El Chalten is that of El Calafate. There are direct flights to El Calafate from Buenos Aires and Ushuaia with Aerolinas Argentina. From El Calafate, it is a 3 hours bus ride with gorgeous views of the mountains.
Check out my post “A Complete Guide To El Calafate, Argentina.”
El Chalten is well connected to El Calafate by bus. Rides depart at 8:00 am and 6:00 pm from the terminal on Julio Argentino Roca. During peak season, there is an additional bus departing El Calafate at 1:00 pm. The best companies are Chalten Travel and Caltur. The ride costs around $20 USD one way.
If you’d rather travel independently, you can rent a car directly at El Calafate airport. Check out the prices of car rental here. Keep in mind that the only service station is at La Leona. There you can have a quick bite (though the food is terrible) and use the washrooms.
ATMs in El Chalten
Withdrawing money during peak season can be an issue in El Chalten. Indeed, there are only two ATMs located at the entrance of the village, by the bus terminal, and they regularly run out of cash. Lots of businesses do not accept credit cards. The best option is to make sure to withdraw cash in El Calafate after having carefully revised your budget!
Where to stay and eat in El Chalten
El Chalten has some very good accommodation options and a handful of good restaurants and breweries. Most places close between April and the beginning of October.
These are some of the best places to stay in El Chalten:
- Rancho Grande is a good hostel near the center of El Chalten. It features private rooms, dorms, a cozy yet busy common area, an in-house pub that serves fairly good food and even a travel agency. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Posada y Cabañas El Barranco has rooms as well as bungalows, and it’s very close the town center. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Chalten Suites Hotel has very large rooms. The excellent breakfast is one of its main perks. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Estancia La Quinta is a a lovely place, but only really suitable if you have your own car as it is a good 55 minutes walk to the village. Rooms are plain but the overall atmosphere very cozy. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Almost all restaurants, bars and pubs in El Chalten observe some sort of happy hour and get very busy between 5:00 and 8:00 pm when most people come back from their hikes. These are the best places to eat in town:
- Maffìa is a plain eatery that still makes home made pasta. Sauces are not the way we make them in Italy, but good enough. Prices are fair.
- Ahonikenk makes some of the Argentine staples, including a good Milanesa. Portions are huge and prices fair.
- Curcuma is one of the few options for vegans.
- La Vineria has a great selection of draft beers and wines.
- Cerveceria Artesanal is the best pub in El Chalten.
- Mathilda is a cozy café serving salads, sandwiches and lots of good drinks.
Make sure to read “An Excellent Guide To El Chalten.”
Other useful information
Don’t forget to get a good travel insurance. Click here for good insurance deals.
Have you hiked to Laguna Torre? How was your experience?