11 Breathtaking Hikes in Patagonia

Patagonia hikes

The Patagonia region is a mecca for hiking, with world-class trails available for those seeking panoramic vistas, jaw-dropping landscapes, rare sightings of shy critters like vicuñas or condors, and beyond. 

Shared between Argentina and Chile, the area is a must-visit in your lifetime, and this guide will introduce you to a shortlist of the most spectacular hikes in Patagonia. From short day hikes to multi-day circuits like the W Circuit, and more off-the-beaten-path fun, get ready for an amazing trip to one of the world’s most special natural places. 

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11 Best Hikes in Patagonia

1. W Trek 

  • Duration: 4-5 days, 80km/50mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Country: Chile
Torres del paine views
The W Trek is one of the best hikes in Patagonia.

The W Trek is one of the most popular hikes in all of South America, as well as the most famous trek in Torres del Paine National Park, so it’s a no-brainer that it’s a top contender on many a hiking bucket list. 

Taking about 4-5 days to complete, the W Trek is the ideal way to cover the must-sees in the park in a more condensed time period than the 9-day O Trek option – with the stunning views of the iconic granite peaks, Grey Glacier, and Lago Pehoé among its highlights. 

As already mentioned, this is a tremendously popular trek. This has distinct positive aspects: the trails are well-marked, making the hike doable for most novice hikers, as well as making self-guided trekking largely possible during the summer months. 

Increased amenities mean that there are a few fully-equipped campsites and refugios available to book as well. Of course, you’ll save money by bringing your own gear, and there are even a few free campsites for those eagle-eyed advance planners. 

However, this popularity means there are also a few less-positive things to keep in mind: for one, it’s essential to plan. Namely, you must purchase your park entry ticket online in advance, book campsites as early as possible (they fill up quickly), and prepare yourself for crowded trail conditions, especially in the day-hike areas.

It’s always good to remember that the area is notorious for unpredictable weather and strong winds, so it’s important to be prepared with layers and hearty snacks year-round. You may want to hire a guide regardless, but it’s definitely necessary during the non-summer months. 

Contrary to popular belief, the trek is open and doable in the winter months, with the area often carpeted in fluffy, lovely snow. However, the conditions get much more challenging and the weather can be a bit frightening so perhaps it’s not a good fit for everyone.

2. O Circuit 

  • Duration: 8-10 days, 120km/75mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Difficult
  • Country: Chile
Torres del Paine National Park
The O Circuit is a much longer trek around Torres del Paine National Park.

For those seeking more time in the area than they can get on the W Trek, there is a less popular and longer version of this trek called the O Circuit. Rather than a quick-and-dirty visit to the area’s hotspots offered on the W Trek, the O Circuit is often called the Full Circuit because it also allows you to see lesser-known highlights, like the John Gardner Pass, the Dickson Glacier, and the Los Perros Glacier, in addition to everything you’ll see on the W Trek. 

Encompassing the entirety of the Paine Massif, it’s critical to keep in mind that this trek is much more challenging and less developed than the other hiking options inside the park. The terrain changes frequently, and the infrastructure is much less advanced beyond the W Trek portions. 

This is a fabulous opportunity to see the more real and rugged corners of the park, and truly a paradise for more serious hikers, but there are far fewer accommodation options and ranger stations. 

While it’s theoretically possible to do the O Circuit self-guided, the remoteness of some areas may make having a knowledgeable guide more comforting, and sturdy hiking boots and poles are absolutely necessary, as is ensuring you have enough food and layers packed. 

Note that the O Circuit is only doable from October to March, and closes entirely on April 1st. Unfortunately, conditions make it impossible to complete in the winter season. 

3. Mirador Las Torres

  • Duration: 1 day, 17km/11mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Country: Chile
4_Surise at the Base of Torres 2
The iconic towers are a must-see attraction.

Conversely, if the W Trek or O Circuit seem like they’d be just a bit too much for you, or if perhaps you’re in a time crunch with only one day to spare, never fear – there’s another way to see the iconic towers on a day trip. 

Mirador Las Torres is a fairly intense, full-day hike, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most exquisite hikes in all of Patagonia, culminating in a lookout point (mirador) offering breathtaking views of the famous towers looming over a stunning turquoise lake. If it wasn’t right in front of you, you’d think it was photoshopped!

Keep in mind that the trail is primarily uphill, and there’s a good chance you’ll face the winds typical of the region as you ascend. Despite this, the hike is incredibly rewarding throughout, as you’ll encounter stunning views of pristine waterfalls, forests, and mountains prior to the gem awaiting you at the end. The final part of the trek is exceptionally steep, so be sure to conserve some energy for that last portion.  

4. Piedra del Aguila, Futaleufú

  • Duration: 3-5 hours, 12km/8mi
  • Best Time to Go: Year-round
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Country: Chile
Whitewater rafting
Whitewater rafting is a popular thing to do in Futaleufú.

In the northern section of the Chilean side of Patagonia lies Futaleufú, an area primarily famous for its world-class whitewater rafting, with a really neat trail awaiting those seeking something a bit less well-known. 

A virtue of its geography is that the town is nestled in a serene river valley surrounded by unspoiled mountains. Here, you’ll find the Sendero Piedra del Aguila, an easy 12-kilometer hike along a gently sloping gravel road. This trail requires minimal prep or gear, just a bottle of water, layers, and snacks or a packed lunch if you tend to get peckish while hiking. 

The trailhead is located a few kilometers from the town and culminates at Piedra del Aguila, or Eagle’s Rock: a prominent rock formation stretching over 100 feet tall with sweeping views of the valley and the two pristine lakes below. 

While it may not be the most rugged, famous, or well known of Patagonian landscapes, it’s a fabulous kick-off hike in the Carretera Austral region, perfect for those road-tripping through and looking for an easy hike to get their bearings or stretch their legs. 

Note that spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit, as the wildflowers are in full bloom, but fall foliage is pretty spectacular around here, too. However, keep in mind that if you’re looking to do any whitewater rafting while you’re in the area, the ideal time to do so is from November through March.

5. Huemul Circuit 

  • Duration: 4-6 days, 70km/43mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer (January/February)
  • Difficulty Level: Difficult
  • Country: Argentina
El Chalten
Rent gear from one of the outdoor shops in El Chaltén.

We’ll start by saying that the Huemul Circuit is not for the faint of heart – however, those intrepid enough to embark on this trek will be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views in all of Patagonia. Nothing can quite beat the thrill of exploring the remote backcountry of Argentina, with glaciers, glacial lakes, and stunning panoramas everywhere you look. 

Perhaps the highlight is the view from the hike’s highest point at Paso del Viento, with glittery expanses of ice stretching over the Southern Patagonian Ice Field as far as the eye can see, and indeed, very few eyes see it in its full splendor, due to the rigor of the circuit. 

While only 4-6 days in length, the days are intense and strenuous, as hikers will need to traverse two rivers (often requiring the use of zip lines), and navigate poorly-marked or barely-there trails and unpredictable wind and weather conditions even in summer. Needless to say, the circuit is impassable in winter. 

Satellite phones and significant map-reading experience are recommended and it’s likely in your best interests to hire a guide. Relatedly, safety equipment is absolutely crucial here. Not only must you register for a hiking permit at the Centro de Informes Ceferino Fonzo prior to departing, but you also must show that you have in your possession at least a harness, safety line, carabiners, and rope to the park rangers you register with. You can bring your own or rent gear from one of the shops in El Chaltén. 

6. Cerro Castillo Traverse

  • Duration: 4-5 days, 50km/30mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer (January-March)
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate to difficult
  • Country: Chile
A Day Hike to Cerro Castillo Laguna, Chilean Patagonia
Cerro Castillo is often overlooked by visitors to Patagonia.

One of Chile’s newer national parks, Cerro Castillo, boasts an off-the-radar circuit many are whispering rivals Torres del Paine, without the crowds. The Cerro Castillo Traverse (also called the Travesia Las Horquetas, the park entrance where the trek kicks off from) has much of the same scenery as other portions of Patagonia. 

From gleaming ice fields to mountain passes, snowy peaks, and massive glaciers, Cerro Castillo also has a series of jagged peaks reminiscent of the Torres themselves – the most famous of which is castle-shaped Cerro Castillo, the namesake of the park. 

This trek is a great option for those who only have time to stay in the northern part of the Carretera Austral or the Aysén Patagonia region, or for those seeking something moderate to difficult without the crowds.

While possible to do self-guided, it’s really only recommended for those with significant backcountry hiking experience, and registration with park rangers is mandatory, as well as a 29,000CLP ($35USD) park fee. 

You’ll have to bring your own tent, gear, etc., and be prepared for strong winds even in summer, particularly in the Paso El Peñon area. There are designated campsites approximately every 10 kilometers, and the park has a strict leave-no-trace policy. 

Also read: Hiking to Cerro Castillo Lagoon.

7. Laguna de los Tres and/or Mount Fitz Roy

  • Duration: 1-2 days, 24km/15mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Country: Argentina
Laguna de los Tres
Laguna de los Tres is a popular trek but we can see why!

Often considered the most scenic day hike around the Argentine hiking capital El Chaltén, the flip side is that the Laguna de los Tres hike is also one of the more heavily-trafficked and challenging ones out there. 

Luckily, you have options: you can do the hike in one (admittedly long) day, or split it into two, with camping options available at the free Poincenot campground that marks the spot of the last ascent to the Mirador. The next day you can choose to continue onto the Mount Fitz Roy trek, or return to El Chaltén. 

The trail is super well-marked and popular, starting right in the center of town in El Chaltén and meandering through beech-filled woods past the serene Laguna Capri, and up the mountainside to the Mirador Piedras Blancas. Here, you’ll get some of the best views of Mount Fitz Roy out there, framed over the Laguna de los Tres, for which the hike is named. 

While largely moderate in nature, the last ascent after the Poincenot Campground is quite challenging. You’ll see a sign advising that only those confident in their hiking abilities should continue, as there is significant rock scramble and steep, uneven terrain. 

Good hiking boots with strong tread are essential, but otherwise, the hike is not super difficult and is easy to do self-guided due to the crowded nature of the area. On that note, keep in mind that visitors to the area peak between December and February, and you may find yourself having to wait in line to make the final ascent – a bit of a bummer, but a necessary evil for that final vista. Consider leaving El Chaltén at dawn to make it up with the first group of visitors. 

If Laguna de los Tres doesn’t quite satiate your desire to get up close to Mount Fitz Roy, consider tacking on another day and continuing the trek. The trail is largely flat and not too challenging, though those seeking to scale the mountain itself will need a whole different set of procedures. Needless to say, not for anyone under expert level! 

As you continue from the Laguna de los Tres, you’ll continue to see a variety of spectacular natural phenomena, such as Laguna Madre, Laguna Hija, Laguna Nieta glacial lagoons, and, of course, Mount Fitz Roy itself. 

8. Volcán Chaitén, Pumalín National Park

  • Duration: 3-5 hours, 5km/3mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Country: Chile

Not to be confused with El Chaltén, the trekking town in Argentina, Volcán Chaitén is a great opportunity to add a volcano trek to your Patagonia itinerary. Located in the northern part of Chilean Patagonia, the path to the crater is a fantastic day hike and offers a different scenery to other attractions in the region. 

While the trail itself is quite short, the hike is still considered moderate in difficulty due to its steepness and uneven conditions. As you ascend to the crater of the volcano, you’ll have to sidestep many boulders and small chunks of obsidian and pumice stones, making hiking poles a good accessory to have. 

Interestingly enough, all these rocks you’re scrambling over are there because they were forcibly hurled out of the volcano when it erupted. As you get closer to the top, you’ll also see charred tree trunks that are remnants of the same eruption. 

The trail is very well-marked, making it an easy self-guided hike if you are driving your own car. The only downside is that the trailhead is located around 25 kilometers from the closest town with no public transit to get there. 

If you’re not comfortable hitchhiking, joining a guided tour or driving yourself is your best option. The volcano is still considered active, so keep an eye out for smoke coming from its crater, which adds a spooky element to your surroundings.

9. Refugio Otto Meiling Trail

  • Duration: 7-10 hours or overnight, 14km/8.5mi
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Country: Argentina
Nahuel Huapi NP
The Refugio Otto Meiling Trail sits in Nahuel Huapi National Park.

Nestled in Argentina’s ephemeral Nahuel Huapi National Park in northern Patagonia, you’ll find the Refugio Otto Meiling Trail, named after the Argentine mountaineer who established the refuge where the trail culminates. 

Considered one of the must-do hikes near quaint Bariloche, your journey starts at the base of Mount Tronador in Pampa Linda, a few hours’ drive or shuttle ride from town. As you hike up to the refuge, you’ll see stunning views of glaciers, mountains, and the Castaño Overo River, as well as sightings of local wildlife like condors, eagles, and foxes, all with imposing Mount Tronador looming in the background. 

While this is definitely doable in a day for those staying in or near Nahuel Huapi, consider staying overnight at the refuge. They don’t take reservations, so you can just show up. They have space for about 60 to sleep there each night for about $20USD/night. 

This gives you the chance to relax, get to know the area better, have a hot meal, and drink some fresh water. The next day, you can head back down to Pampa Linda, taking any non-organic trash back down with you.

Keep in mind that to do any hiking in Nahuel Huapi you need to fill out an online registration form, completed no more than 48 hours before you’re intending to trek, or in person when you get to the park entrance if you’ve forgotten. Similarly to the rest of the region, be sure to check in with the rangers about weather conditions or closures.  

10. Lago del Desierto Border Crossing

  • Duration: 6-8 hours, 20km/12.5mi one-way, includes border crossing
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Country: Argentina to Chile
YouTube video

It’s not often that you can hike between the borders of two countries and be surrounded by breathtaking scenery while you do it, but the Lago del Desierto trek is a really cool opportunity to do just that. 

Connecting Villa O’Higgins, Chile to El Chaltén, Argentina, you can do the route in either direction, but most of it is only passable on foot. Most people start at Lago del Desierto in Argentina, where you can either take the ferry across to the northern side of the lake or tack on an extra 10 kilometers or so to your total time on foot before climbing up into the mountains towards the Chilean border. 

The area between the northern edge of the lake and the border is only accessible on foot, and this is deliciously unspoiled territory, with few people making this trek. However, the trek in and of itself isn’t all that difficult, making it a fun and somewhat out-there choice to complete for various activity levels. 

Logistically, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, it’s very, very important to have all travel documents and identification with you, as you’ll be crossing an international border. It’s also good to have cash in both currencies, as well as plenty of food, camping supplies, and layers. 

If the weather is bad, the ferry from the (rather remote) outpost of Candelario Mancilla near the Chilean border will not take off to Villa O’Higgins. Some travelers report having to wait several days, so patience and supplies are both key!

11. Lagunas Altas

  • Duration: 1-2 days, 23km/14 mi
  • Country: Chile
  • Best Time to Go: Summer
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

A lesser-known day hike comparable in length and difficulty to Laguna de los Tres on the Argentine side is the beguiling Lagunas Altas trek. Maintaining a steady incline up the Cerro Tamaguito, you’ll get stupendous views of Valle Chacabuco and the Jeinimeni Mountains, complete with guanacos and even the occasional puma if you’re extremely fortunate. 

The location of its trailhead right near the entrance of Patagonia National Park makes this arguably one of the more accessible trails in the region, and it’s totally doable in a day – just head over to the Westwind Campsite near the Visitor Center, and you’ll be on your way. Fun fact: Lagunas Altas was actually the first major trail constructed at this national park since it was only just founded in 2018. 

People in Patagonia
Trekking in Patagonia is a bucket list experience!

Hiking in Patagonia FAQs

What’s the best time of year to go hiking in Patagonia? 

The time of year known as ‘austral summer’ is the best time of year for hiking in Patagonia. Austral summer runs from December to February, and many trails are only open at this time of year due to fickle weather conditions. There is also more sunshine and less rain than at other times of year during these months.

How safe is hiking in Patagonia? 

In terms of crime, Patagonia is super safe, and hiking there is also quite safe. However, personal safety precautions are recommended due to very variable weather conditions, as well as keeping plans open and flexible if official guidance doesn’t recommend embarking on a hike or activity due to that day’s conditions or other factors.

Can you hike in Patagonia without a guide? 

There are many trails in Chilean Patagonia that you can do without a guide, provided you have experience with backcountry hiking and navigating. Whether you need a guide in Argentina is heavily dependent on the trail you choose.
While some trails are well-marked, well-trafficked, and overall doable self-guided, it is highly recommended that you hire a guide for the more technical and/or remote treks, like the O Circuit or Huemul Circuit.

Is Patagonia better in Chile or Argentina? 

The Patagonia region as a whole is very diverse and varied, and there are a lot of differences between the Chilean and Argentine sides, as well as the northern and southern portions of the various parks in the region as a whole. 
Ultimately though, you can’t go wrong. Both are heart-stoppingly gorgeous and well worth a visit, each with their share of iconic destinations. 
The Argentine side overall has a bit more tourism infrastructure and is home to sites like the Perito Moreno Glacier. The Chilean side is a bit more rugged and pristine and is home to sites like Torres del Paine. Wherever you go, you will have a marvelous time.

How fit do I need to be to hike in Patagonia? 

There are many trails in Patagonia suitable for all fitness levels, as well as many better suited to experienced hikers. Notably, the region overall is not considered high-altitude, negating the need to build in adjustment days. 
However, if you are embarking on a multi-day trek, it’s good to ensure you’re comfortable carrying whatever you’ll be bringing in your backpack, and conducting lots of advance research into the specifics of the trail you’d like to do is always a smart idea, as well as chatting with rangers and other hikers. 
If you’re a novice, consider going for walks in your area prior to departure, and/or contacting a guide. 

Trekking in Patagonia tops many a bucket list – from that first view of the iconic towers of Torres del Paine to the last ascent of Laguna de los Tres to see Monte Fitz Roy. The region is packed with fabulous hikes, from the well-traveled to the more rustic, and there is something for all activity levels and interests available, whether you’re into glaciers, wildlife, or peace and quiet. 

We hope this guide to our favorite hikes in Patagonia is a good jumping-off point for planning your trip! We’d love to hear about your favorite trails in the comments below. 

Tegan & Alex Bio Pic
Tegan George & Alex McKenzie | Why Not Walk

Tegan and Alex are travel, hiking, and biking enthusiasts currently based in Boston, USA. There is nothing they love more than exploring new places by walking, and they have visited over 30 countries together since they met in 2015. Their love for “walking the world” led them to found Why Not Walk, a travel guide site. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest to start planning your next adventure!

Find them on: Facebook | Instagram

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