by Go Getter Stevie Anna
The Alaska of the south, Patagonia’s backyard is sure to please any outdoor lover or adventure seeker. With opposing seasons to the northern hemisphere, Patagonia’s perfect for those looking to escape winter with killer backpacking, climbing, kayaking and more.
Narrowing the list to four was difficult while Patagonia is filled with unforgettable trails, some marked and others not.
Given your time frame and schedule, these are the must-do’s for exploring the backcountry of Patagonia:
Laguna de los Tres: The icon of Patagonia, Cerro Fitz Roy’s skyline traces through ones mind when imagining the south. Etched into one of my most unforgettable memories, Laguna de los Tres is a must-do for any traveler finding themselves down south. Rated as moderate, this hike can typically be done in 5 hours.
Hikers also have the option of adding on the Cerro Torre trek (Laguna Torre) in conjunction with Laguna de los Tres to make for an 8+ hour loop back to El Chalten.
The trail is is moderate util the last hour which is a series of more vertical switchbacks leading up to one of Patagonia’s most incredible views. The Fitz Roy skyline towers above a pristine glacial lagoon just below.
This trek can also be done in a few days if desired while there are many free camp sites in the area.
Torres del Paine: Mention the word Patagonia to anyone and Torres del Paine is sure to come up. Though most of Chile’s Patagonia is land-locked by glaciers and fjords, this #1 destination both for hikers and spectators is relatively accessible from Argentina (El Calafate) or Chile (Puerto Natales).
The Circuit Trail is the classic of Torres del Paine offering 360 views that include the southern ice field, granite towers, wild guanaco and even flamingos.
The Circuit (a.k.a. ‘O’) is typically done in 8 days with an average of hiking 6 hours per day. You can haul your own camping gear or book some of the mountain huts and yurts that are available throughout the trek which are equipped with food.
There are also a number of free campsites:
– Campamento Torres (reservations needed)
– Campamento Paso
– Campamento Las Carretas
– Campamento Italiano (reservation needed)
Not feeling up to such a big trek? While it might include more foot traffic, you can check out the shorter version called the “W” which still includes many parts of the “O” circuit.
A perfect hike to wind down the busy day, the trek to Cerro Torre’s mouth-dropping beauty is just a 3 hour hike from the center of El Chalten, Argentina.
Grab your camera and catch thelight dancing off the snow covered summit and glacial lagoon just below. Many hikers use this hike as a short day hike, but others will add this onto the Laguna de los Tres trek up to Fitz Roy for a full-day hike (averaging around 8 hours).
You don’t have to be a serious climber to absolutely fall in love with Frey, a backcountry lover’s paradise.
This year-round destination has a mountain refugio (refuge) equipped with beds and food which include fresh-baked pizzas and beer, not to mention the friendly refugio keepers.
Other hikers and climbers tend to use the free camping dispersed all along Frey’s lagoon which also include full bathrooms for use.
The approach to Frey is approximately 4 hours from the base of Cerro Catedral, the ski center. You also have an option to take the chair lift up and do a rocky traverse over and back down to Refugio Frey, an option available when the winds are calm.
Once you’ve arrived to Frey, you have the option of tagging on multiple of hikes that work in conjunction with the areas other refugees such as Laguna Negra, Lopez and more.
The weather in Patagonia can be a challenge. Surrounded by both the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, heavy winds throw any possibility of weather your way. Always have a set of warm, wind-proof and water proof gear with you along with a solid supply of water and food when heading into the backcountry.
Immersing yourself into Patagonia’s backcountry is a great way of getting the layout of the land, but don’t miss the area’s friendly culture. Swap stories with locals while sharing some of their traditional yerba mate and ‘buena onda’.