The Laguna de Los Tres hike, also commonly referred as Sendero al Fitz Roy or just the Fitz Roy hike, is arguably one of the best day hikes in the world.
Located in Los Glaciares National Park of Patagonia, the hike begins in the small town of El Chalten, Argentina. Over the course of 21 km / 13 miles, the trail takes you to some of the most scenic viewpoints of the Fitz Roy mountain range you can ask for.
This guide will go over everything you need to know about taking part of the Laguna de Los Tres trail. By the end of reading through you will be well on your way to taking on the hike for yourself.
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1) Hike Background & Overview
To start off, below are some all-important details regarding the Laguna de Los Tres hike. These should give you a much better understanding of what the hike entails.
Laguna de Los Tres / Sendero al Fitz Roy
The main name of the trail is “Laguna de Los Tres”, which is the name of the final lake that sits at the base of Monte Fitz Roy (the most iconic mountain in the area).
Many also refer to this trail as the “Sendero al Fitz Roy” hike as you will get constant views of Fitz Roy and its surrounding mountain range throughout the hike.
However, it is important to note that this trail just goes to Laguna de Los Tres (and not to the Fitz Roy summit). At Laguna de Los Tres you will get unparalleled views of Fitz Roy to enjoy before turning back around.
If you are looking to actually climb to the top of Fitz Roy, that will require an extremely high level of mountain & alpinism skills (and is not what this hiking guide will go over).
Laguna de Los Tres Trailhead
Fitz Roy Parking Lot (49°19’17.9″S 72°53’39.6″W)
The main trailhead is located just on the edge of town in El Chalten. Simply make your way down the main street (San Martin), and towards the parking lot at the end of it.
From here you should see the trailhead and where the path up to Laguna de Los Tres begins. This is an out and back hike (more on that next), so the ending point will be at the same location of trailhead starting point.
El Pilar Alternative Option: Note that there is an alternative starting point to make this more of a one-way hike, instead of an out and back hike. You can begin the hike in El Pilar and end the hike in El Chalten. If you choose this option, you will need to get transport to the El Pilar trailhead.
This guide will be focusing on just the main out and back hike from El Chalten, as that is the trail I took part of.
Out & Back
From the El Chalten parking lot, this will be an out and back hike. This means you will head on the same pathway to Laguna de Los Tres and then back to the trailhead.
There is one section of the hike though where the trail splits into two – one way to a famous Fitz Roy viewpoint and the second way to the Laguna Capri campground.
The two trails meet up with each other soon after though, so you can head in one direction on the way up and then take the other route on the way back down. Check out the map below to see this visually.
How Long is the Laguna de Los Tres Hike
21 km / 13 miles
The total round trip hike length will be just about 21 km / 13 miles, making this one long day out on the trail. You can even make this hike a bit longer (+4 km / +2.5 miles) if you would like to make the out and back turnoff to the Piedras Blancas Glacier viewpoint.
Note: if taking part of the hike from the El Pilar trailhead, the trail will be a similar length and actually would include the Piedras Blancas Glacier viewpoint on the way to Laguna de Los Tres.
+1,103 meters / +3,620 feet
Believe it or not, much of the trail is actually flat. But at the beginning of the hike and at the final push to the lake is where nearly all the elevation gain will come into play.
The toughest section is by far the last 2.4 km / 1.5 miles to the lake from the Poincenot campground, where you will gain around 450 meters / 1,475 feet during that span.
Without a doubt, this is going to be a full day out on the trail. Not only will you be hiking, but you also will be spending time just enjoying the never-ending views that the trail has to offer.
During my time out on the trail, I spent around 3 hours altogether just resting at the various viewpoints (most notably at Laguna de Los Tres).
Laguna de Los Tres Difficulty
For an average hiker out there, the Laguna de Los Tres trail is certainly on the harder end of the spectrum. It is a long trail with much elevation gain, along with some tricky terrain to tackle along the way.
If you are a first time hiker, expect this to be very difficult. For those more seasoned hikers out there, this may feel like just another normal trail.
It really all just depends on your experience and your fitness levels when it comes to the Laguna de Los Tres hike.
The remainder of this guide will go into more details about the hike and how to go about your time on the trail.
Hiking Resources & Checklist
Before heading out for the trails, be sure to read up on some of the hiking resources up on the site. These are here to better prepare you for all types of outdoor adventure.
2) Laguna de Los Tres Map
To better acquaint yourself with the hike, I have included a map of the trail below. There are a few important details to note about the map:
1) The main route is highlighted in red, and is the exact route I took during my time on the trail.
2) You can see that during my hike, I opted for the detour to the Piedras Blancas Glacier viewpoint. This is optional and does not need to be included on your route.
3) Highlighted in yellow is the route you can take in from El Pilar in order to make this a one way hike. After getting transport to El Pilar, you can set off on the trail, pass by the Piedras Blancas Glacier viewpoint, visit Laguna de Los Tres, and then head back to the El Chalten trailhead.
4) Also pinpointed down on the map are just a few of the various viewpoints you will get to enjoy along the way. There are plenty more though all throughout the hike.
5) Lastly, you can also see the amount of exploring I did while at Laguna de Los Tres. I did not just go to the lakeside. I ended up heading up to additional viewpoints to get grander views of the surrounding landscape. I will speak about all of these later on.
3) Route Overview
The Laguna de Los Tres hike can be broken down in a few different sections. This should give you a better idea of the trail in general before diving into details about each one.
- El Chalten Trailhead to Mirador Rio de las Vueltas (0.7 km / 0.4 miles)
- Mirador Rio de las Vueltas to Mirador del Fitz Roy (2.7 km / 1.7 miles)
- Mirador del Fitz Roy to Campamento Poincenot (4.5 km / 2.8 miles)
- Campamento Poincenot to Laguna de Los Tres (2.4 km / 1.5 miles)
- Laguna de Los Tres to Laguna Capri* (6.7 km / 4.2 miles)
- Laguna Capri to El Chalten Trailhead (3.7 km / 2.3 miles)
* After visiting Laguna de Los Tres, you have the option to visit the Mirador del Glaciar Piedras (+4 km / +2.5 miles round trip)
4) Laguna de Los Tres & Fitz Roy Hike
This next section will go through the Laguna de Los Tres / Sendero al Fitz Roy hike as I talk through the various sections of the hike mentioned above.
Trailhead to Mirador Rio de las Vueltas
After getting yourself to the parking lot, head to the far end of it, where you will find the trailhead. After passing through the large “Sendero al Fitz Roy” hiking sign, you will find a trail map sign that lays out the overview of the route.
Just after starting, there will be an intersection – to the right is the route to the Chorrillo del Salto waterfall and to the left will be the route to Laguna de Los Tres.
Stay to the left here as you begin to gain some elevation as you head away from El Chalten. Just 0.7 km / 0.4 miles from the trailhead you will reach the first highlight of the hike – Mirador Rio de las Vueltas.
At Mirador Río de las Vueltas you will get a beautiful view of the winding glacier river surrounded by the Patagonian landscape.
You can spend some time enjoying the view and taking some photos, before getting back on the trail and onwards to the next section of the hike.
Mirador Río de las Vueltas to Mirador del Fitz Roy
After leaving behind the viewpoint, the trail continues in and out of the forest as you continue to gain some more elevation.
You will get your first glimpse of Mount Fitz Roy over the hillside – just one of many views you will get throughout the day.
The trail will then soon flatten out as you now will have limited elevation gain until the tail end of the hike. It is a pleasant walk as you get some nice views from time to time, before arriving at an intersection.
Here is where you will have a choice between visiting Mirador del Fitz Roy or Laguna Capri. But remember, you will have the option to visit one on the way up and the other on the way down.
I would recommend heading to the right towards Mirador del Fitz Roy first. This is because you will be walking towards the mountain range and will have the view out in front of you.
Just 10 minutes after the intersection you will reach the Mirador del Fitz Roy. The beautiful Fitz Roy massif will be standing tall among the rest.
These include mountains such as Aguja Guillaumet, Aguja Mermoz, Cerro Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot, Aguja Rafael Juarez, Aguja Saint-Exupery and Aguja de l’S.
It is just a wonderful place to just sit back and enjoy the view.
Mirador del Fitz Roy to Campamento Poincenot
For the next 4.5 km / 2.8 miles, you will have a nice, flat trail to follow as you continuously get some beautiful views of Fitz Roy.
After leaving the mirador, enjoy those views before heading back into the forest for a short while. Note that you also have the option here to visit Laguna Capri, but I would recommend just doing so on the way back.
Once out of the forest, the views will be pretty remarkable as the landscape opens up and you have the Fitz Roy mountain range out in front of you.
There will be a few hiking signs here making sure you are heading in the correct direction.
You will find yourself hiking along a river, over some sturdy wooden planks, and then onto the Poincenot campsite.
Campamento Poincenot to Laguna de Los Tres
Once past the forest campsite, cross over the Rio Blanco, and get ready for the hardest portion of the hike.
You will reach a warning sign that will mention the difficulty of the trail, the terrain, and the elevation gain. From this point, it should take around an hour to reach the Laguna de Los Tres.
Be very slow and careful as you make your way up to the lake. While the trail leading up to this point is pretty well maintained, this climb has some pretty uneven and steep terrain.
Take as many breaks as you need during the hike up and take in the view out behind you of the lakes, greenery and rivers that make up the landscape.
Soon enough the massive Fitz Roy massif will begin peaking up out in front of you.
Laguna de Los Tres
Once you reach the high point of the hike, you will be welcomed to views of Laguna de Los Tres down below and the Fitz Roy mountain range up above.
Before heading down to the lake, you can carefully walk along the hillside to get some great elevated views. This really gives you a chance to see the full uninterrupted panorama view of the lake and mountains.
Once you have had enough time up top, follow the path to the lakeside. You can walk along the water’s edge before finding a spot to relax at.
Spend some time resting, enjoying the view, having some lunch, and taking some photos.
Next up is another viewpoint located on the left side of the lake up on a small hill. This hill is located between Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Sucia.
I loved this spot as it offers views of the two lakes together with Fitz Roy hovering up above. Most people don’t even realize there is a view here, but definitely be sure to add it to your hike!
Laguna de Los Tres to Laguna Capri
It is now time to head on back to the trailhead. The first part of the hike down will entail the steep descent back to the Poincenot campground. While the hike up may be strenuous, the hike down will also require patience and caution.
When you make it past the campground, you will come across some hiking signs that you would have encountered on the way up.
Here you will have the option to take part of an out and back hike to Mirador del Glaciar Piedras. This will end up being 2 km / 1.3 miles in each direction.
If you are up for it, the trail will take you to a few different viewpoints of the beautiful Glaciar Piedras.
While these views will be from a farther distance, it is still a great add on to the trail. In addition to the glacier views, you will also get some additional angled views of the Fitz Roy mountain range.
Whether or not you head to the Mirador del Glaciar Piedras, you will then continue along the initial trail that you hiked in on.
After some easy hiking, you will reach the intersection, where you can decide to head to Laguna Capri.
Stay to the right here, following the signs to Laguna Capri. From the lakeside, enjoy the view of Fitz Roy and the surrounding landscape. Here you will also find a campground for those that want to spend additional nights on the trail.
Laguna Capri to Trailhead
Finish up the hike heading back to the trailhead. After leaving the lake, you will meet back at the Laguna Capri / Mirador del Fitz Roy intersection from the beginning of the hike.
It is then a steady downhill hike, walking past the Mirador Rio de las Vueltas and then onwards to El Chalten.
Once back at the trailhead, you can then head back to your hotel to rest up after a long and memorable hiking experience.
5) Getting to El Chalten
In order to take part of the hike you must make your way to El Chalten. El Chalten is a small town within the Los Glaciares National Park of Patagonian Argentina.
Surrounding the town, you will find some of the most beautiful peaks, lakes & views in Patagonia. Since El Chalten was essentially built to cater to the surrounding landscape, you will be able to walk right from town to the various trailheads (including this hike).
There are two main ways to get yourself to El Chalten – either by bus or by rental car.
Since El Chalten does not have an airport, you most likely will be coming in by bus from El Calafate (home to the closest airport). You can reach El Calafate by plane from major cities like Buenos Aires. The bus ride from El Calafate is relatively quick, taking around 3 hours between the two towns.
There are multiple busses a day, serviced by several companies. Feel free to look through Busbud to see options across many of the companies.
Some of these busses stop at both the bus terminal and the airport. You can take a look on the site for the latest schedules and fares for your journey,
A one way ticket will cost somewhere around $20-$25 USD.
Renting a car in Patagonia is also a great option for those that want more flexibility. You can make more of a road trip out of it, visiting several places all along the way.
Depending on where you plan on going, some of the drives may be quite long. However, you will be surrounded by some stunning natural landscapes all around, making the drive a highlight within itself.
Feel free to take a look at Rentalcars.com that has options across several different car rental companies.
6) Where to Stay in El Chalten
El Chalten is home to many different hotels and lodges for visitors. Essentially, everything will be within walking distance from one another. Hotels, restaurants, shops, supermarkets, and the trailheads, are all located within the same general vicinity.
These hotels will sell out during peak season, so be sure to book your accommodation as soon as you know your dates.
Below are some of my top recommendations based on budget for your trip to El Chalten:
Note: El Chalten receives its WiFi connection via a radio connection from El Calafate. This means that you should not expect strong WiFi for most of your visit. Phone signals did not work as well, so be prepared to have limited access to Internet during your time there.
Check out this guide to the best El Chalten hikes to consider during a visit to Patagonia
7) Laguna de Los Tres Weather
From a time of year perspective, the most realistic timeframe to enjoy hiking in Patagonia will be during the southern hemisphere’s summer period. From the months of December to March you will have the best chance to have the most suitable hiking conditions in general.
I visited El Chalten at the end of January / beginning of February. Even though it was the prime time to visit, the weather was very inconsistent throughout my time there. One day would be clear and sunny while the next day would be completely clouded over with snowfall.
When it comes to the Sendero al Fitz Roy, the main highlight is to get to see the Fitz Roy mountain range throughout the duration of the trail.
Hiking this trail with clear skies vs. having the mountain range covered with clouds will be two completely different types of experiences. While it is always hard to count on the Patagonian weather, try and save this hike for the best weather forecasted day of your trip.
Also note that this is a long hike, so it is possible that the weather changes throughout your time on the trail. Clear skies can turn to clouds and rain, which can then turn back into clear skies. You sometimes just never know with that Patagonian weather.
Weather forecasting is tough enough in mountainous regions, but even tougher in a place like Patagonia. The locals were keen on using Windguru as their best source of truth when it came to weather forecasts.
Here is a link to the free version of Windguru for Fitz Roy (the mountain itself). Upgrading to the paid version will give you more insight and features.
What you are looking for here is low wind speeds, low % of cloud cover, and no precipitation.
8) What to Bring
Hiking in Patagonia is all about layers and proper footwear. Since the weather can turn very quickly, you will want to be prepared for all types of conditions.
In general, I found layering to be the upmost important part of a trip. On all day hikes in Patagonia, I brought along the following layers:
→ Hiking Shorts
→ Hiking Pants
→ Short Sleeve Shirt
→ Long Sleeve Shirt / Sun Hoodie
→ Mid Layer Fleece
→ Puff Jacket
→ Packable Rain Jacket
While layers are important so will be your footwear. You want to be sure to bring appropriate waterproof hiking shoes along with solid hiking socks as well.
Additional day hike recommendations include:
→ Hiking Backpack & Rain cover
→ Water Bottle & Nutrition
→ Portable Charger
→ Hat & Sunglasses
→ Sunscreen & Bug Spray
Be sure to check out the Hiking Packing List guide I put together that will go through all of it and more.
9) Avoiding the Crowds
Without a doubt, the Laguna de Los Tres hike is the most popular hike in El Chalten. People travel from all around the world to take part of the hike and take in those mountain views.
Due to this, the trail certainly can get crowded during the peak summer months. In addition, many will also wait until the weather forecasts allows to take part of the hike. This means that those better weather window days will have even more people out on the trail.
There are two main ways to avoid those crowds on the trail:
Early Wake Up
Avoiding the crowds though is certainly doable. All you need to do is set your alarm for a very early hour. During those summer months, the sun can rise anytime between 5:30AM – 7:00AM.
I would recommend heading out soon after sunrise to take advantage of the lower number people on the trails.
During my time out there, I starting around 30 minutes past sunrise and barely came across another hiker until I reached the lake.
A second way to avoid the crowds is to opt for an overnight experience (more on that next). One way to do this is to spend a night at the Poincenot campsite and then wake up early for sunrise.
If you hike out to the Poincenot campsite later in the day (taking advantage of the long summer daylight), you should have fewer people walking up (but you may have more people walking down past you).
The next morning, you can wake up for sunrise at Laguna de Los Tres. While there may be a good amount of people doing the same, there is a chance you get to enjoy the lake itself with very few people if you continue to stay past sunrise.
10) Multi Day Hikes
Instead of just doing a day hike, you also have the opportunity to do a multi day hike. This may entail just visiting Laguna de Los Tres or also adding in an additional highlight such as Laguna Torre.
Here are a few different options to consider if you would like to take part of an overnight experience:
2 Day Option – Laguna de Los Tres
Day 1: Hike to Poincenot campsite
Day 2: Hike to Laguna de Los Tres for sunrise & return to trailhead
2 Day Option – Laguna de Los Tres & Laguna Torre
Day 1: Hike to Laguna de Los Tres and stay overnight at Poincenot campsite
Day 2: Hike to Laguna Torre and return to Laguna Torre trailhead (also located in town)
You can book this as a guided tour option as well
3 Day Option – Laguna de Los Tres & Laguna Torre
Day 1: Hike to Poincenot campsite
Day 2: Hike to Laguna de Los Tres for sunrise & return to De Agostini campsite (near Laguna Torre)
Day 3: Hike to Laguna Torre and return to Laguna Torre trailhead
Those are just three of the options out there, but there are certainly other overnight possibilities to consider as well.
Learn more about the Laguna Torre hike if you are interested in taking part of it
11) Independent Trek vs Guided Trek
Depending on your comfort levels, you may also want to consider whether to hike this trail independently or with a guide.
Since this trail is well signposted and maintained (except for the last push to the lake), most people should not have trouble getting themselves to and from Laguna de Los Tres.
However, for those that have limited hiking experience and want to have someone by their side, having a guided trek is certainly an option as well.
You can find several guide companies in town that can take you on a hike up or you can simply book a guided tour ahead of time. Note that you may want to wait closer to your dates before booking to be certain that the weather will cooperate.
By now you should have a much better sense of what the Laguna de Los Tres / Sendero al Fitz Roy hike is all about. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below.
Also, don’t forget to check out some other Patagonia itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!