One of the most well-known mountains in South America is Mount Fitz Roy. This mountain is an emblem of Patagonia and I was thrilled to check hiking Fitz Roy off my bucket list. It should be on everyone’s list for backpacking Patagonia.
At 3,375 m, the jagged peaks create one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth. Every year, the famous Fitz Roy draws huge crowds of trekkers to its slopes.
Even though its a bit of a climb, the trail is manageable enough for novices. It is still attractive for seasoned trekkers. In this guide you will find everything you need to know about hiking Fitz Roy.
Fitz Roy Trek - Know Before You Go
Where Is Mount Fitz Roy?
Also known as Cerro Chalten, Mount Fitz Roy is located on the border between Argentina and Chile. It is near the village of con the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. El Chaltén is a tiny village on the edge of Los Glaciares National Park.
The Fitz Roy trek is situated in the Los Glaciares National Park near the southern tip of South America. The park itself is located 112 km north of Puerto Natales and 312 km north of Punta Arenas.
How To Get To El Chaltén
The closest airport to El Chaltén is El Calafate. There are several direct flights each day from Buenos Airies to El Calafate. Aerolineas Argentina offers reasonable rates on this route starting from $350 return.
If you are making a stop in El Calafate, it is worth visiting the famous Perito Moreno Glacier.
From El Calafate, the cheapest way to get to El Chaltén is by bus. The ride is about 2.5 hours and costs around $35- $45. If you have the budget for it, you can rent a car and drive yourself to El Chalten.
Accommodation in El Chaltén
El Chaltén is a charming little village but can get busy over Patagonia’s peak trekking season (November-March). At this time, you will find it difficult to get a hostel room.
There are plenty of campsites which cost $10-$20 dollars per night. I rolled into town without any pre-bookings and managed to find a spot to pitch my tent.
Fair warning, campsites in El Chalten are fairly packed. If you are looking for something more peaceful, I recommend staying at one of the sites on the road to Laguna Del Desierto. This will only really work if you have your own vehicle as these sites are a few kilometers from town.
Food And Restaurants In El Chaltén
There are a few grocery stores in El Chaltén where you will be able to buy snacks and supplies. I found Supermercado El Chalten had the widest range, good fresh produce, and the best prices.
Grocery prices in El Chaltén are high compared to the rest of Argentina. If you are on a tight budget, it would be better to stock up at the supermarket in El Calafate.
El Chalten is a tourist mecca and you will find plenty of restaurants to choose from.
There are also some great bars and craft breweries to enjoy a cold beer after a long day of trekking. La Cervaceria was my favorite for their selection of craft beers and is also a good spot to meet fellow travellers.
Mount Fitz Roy Hike
When you hear about the Fitz Roy trek, people are usually talking about the trail that takes you to the Fitz Roy viewpoint. You hike to the base of the mountain where you get an epic view.
Here we go into more detail about your options for trekking Fitz Roy.
Have People Climbed Fitz Roy To The Top?
The mountain was first climbed by French alpinists Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone in 1952. It remains to this day, one of the most difficult ascents on the planet.
Only exceptionally skilled mountaineers climb the peaks to the top. This is not really an option for everyday tourists.
How Long Is The Fitz Roy Hike?
You have two options for hiking Fitz Roy. You can either do the trail as a leisurely 3-4 day trek or as a full day hike.
The trek is considered an easy multi-day hike and only a basic level of fitness is required. The trails are well-defined and there are ranger stations dotted along the path. All this means that the Fitz Roy is an ideal option for inexperienced trekkers.
Fitz Roy Hike Elevation
The total elevation gain on the Fitz Roy hike is 864m or 2835ft. There is no altitude sickness risks as the elevation of the trek stays fairly regular throughout.
Hiking Fitz Roy- Your Options
Fitz Roy Day Hike
It is completely possible to hike Fitz Roy in a single day. This and other Patagonian treks can be done unguided.
The trail from El Chalten to the lookout point and back is 21km/ 13 miles (10.5km/ 6.5 miles each way).
I’d suggest leaving between 6 and 7 am to avoid the crowds and get back before the hottest part of the day.
The trail begins at the edge of town, at the end of San Martin Street. There’s a big parking lot with a sign that says ‘Sendero el Fitz Roy’. From here you wind your way upslope. You get some good views of the town from the top.
The trail passes by Laguna Capri which is also a campsite. This is a good spot for a snack or a swim. That’s if you can brave the cold water!
After Laguna Capri, the trail flattens out and it is an easy walk. After a few more kilometers, you will reach a forest and the Poincenot campground.
Shortly after passing the campsite, you get to the base of the final slope. You will know you are at this final ascent because there are signs warning that you need to be in good physical condition to complete this climb.
The final ascent is only 800m or so but it is no joke. You will be trekking almost straight up on a gravel path. There is also very little shade along this stretch which makes it even more challenging. When the Fitz Roy trail is busy, a queue forms all the way up and down.
Hang in there!
Once you reach the top, you will know the effort was worth it. As you come over the top of the slope, sparkling blue Laguna De Los Tres.
There is a trail that continues to the left of Los Tres, upslope to a hidden laguna which is the main lookout point. Not everybody, including myself at the time knows about the continued pathway. It’s well worth it if you can summon the extra energy.
After spending some time at the top, you return to El Chalten the same way.
Hiking Fitz Roy (3-4 Day Option)
The Fitz Roy trek is generally around 30km in length and takes 1-3 days to complete depending on how much walking you wish to do each day.
If you book a 3-4 day Fitz Roy Trek tour or choose to do an extended version yourself, this is what each day will look like:
Day 1: Spend the night in El Chalten
You will likely spend the first night in a hostel or campground in El Chalten. Buy any last-minute supplies and get a good night's sleep before your trek.
Day 2: El Chalten - Laguno de Los Tres
Today is the beginning of your hike as you trek to Laguna Los Tres all the while getting stunning views of Mount Fitz Roy.
The trail begins by winding its way to Laguna Capri where you pass the lake’s northern corner.
From there you follow the path uphill to Blanco River, passing Poicenot – the mountaineering camp. From the camp, it’s a short, steep trail up to one of the park’s most famous locations, Laguna de Los Tres.
The famed turquoise-blue lagoon sits idyllically below the granite spires of Fitz Roy and makes for a photographer's dream! You have lunch here then head back down the trail to Poicenot where you camp overnight.
Day 3: Cerro Fitzroy, Laguna de los Tres
Day three is not too long so feel free to set off a bit later. Begin by hiking along the Fitzroy trail up to Rio Blanco.
Here is the climbers’ base camp where mountaineers begin their epic climb.
From this vantage point, you’ll be as close to Mount Fitz Roy as you can get without climbing it. You’ll be able to stare straight up at the towering spires that rise over 1500 meters above the surrounding glaciers.
After having lunch at the base camp you then descend back down to Poincenot Camp where you stay overnight once again.
Day 4: Cerro Torre to El Chaltén
Take a nice breakfast before exploring the trail around Laguna Capri as you head to Lagoons Madre within the stunning Hija Valley.
After having a long lunch, take the trail down to the Fitzroy River Valley where join the Cerro Torre Trail.
Once on the trail, you trek to Laguna Torre which sits below the famous Cerro Torre group. This looks like something out of a postcard!
Finally, head back to El Chaltén where your trek ends.
Recommended Route Map
The best map we have found for the Fitz Roy Trek is the Monte Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre: Trekking-Mountaineering and Lago Del Desierto: Trekking – Travel Map.
The map provides a compressive satellite relief, contour lines, shelters, timed trails, camping and inns.
How to Prepare for Fitz Roy Trek
When is the best time to trek Fitz Roy?
The Fitz Roy Trek can be hiked all year round, however, certain seasons offer different things depending on what you are after. Below we have summarised each.
Whilst the landscape is one of rugged beauty, the weather is just as rugged with high winds and frequent storms. Make sure you bring the necessary gear to deal with this.
Fitz Roy In Spring – September to November
This is a great time of year to visit the park if you want warm, clear weather but without the crowds. Although not quite as warm as the summer months, the skies are often clear and you’ll get stunning views across the park. This is also the best season to see flowering flora in the region and witness the breeding season of wildlife.
Fitz Roy In Summer – December to March
This is the high season. Although the trails are at their capacity now, the weather is also at its warmest and you’ll enjoy mostly clear days on your trek. If you’re the active type, then summer is also the period when you can horse ride, kayak, and mountain bike in the area.
Fitz Roy In Fall – March to June
Our favorite season. The landscape comes alive with color and the trails start to empty out as days become colder. The wind is often ferocious, but the beautiful views are worth it!
Fitz Roy In Winter – June to August
Although the majority of refugios are closed during this period, this season has the benefit of being the quietest. There will be very few other visitors and you’ll have many of the trails to yourself. This is the coldest period be prepared for very chilly nights and high winds.
How much does the Fitz Roy hike cost?
The cost of a Fitz Roy Trek varies depending on when you book flights, when you trek (out of season tends to be a little cheaper), and whether to trek with a local or western trekking agency or independently.
You should budget for the following key expenses:
- Visa, Vaccinations, Insurance etc:~$300-$500
- Equipment (buying and hiring):~$500-$800 – camping gear can be rented at the park entrance for $200.
- Return flights to El Calafate: ~$350-500
- Tour Agency: ~$500 for a cheap local agency to ~$2,000 for a pricey Western trekking agency. You could do an independent trek for less than $200 as many of the campsites are free. You will need to book early though. This price includes food, park entrance, and camping. Food can be purchased from refugios throughout the park, however, it is very expensive.
- Tips: ~$10-20
- Misc (additional food, unplanned travel/hotels etc): $50
Total cost for a Fitz roy trek (including all of the above): $2,000 – $4,000
Are permits required for the Fitz Roy Trek?
No, permits are not required to enter Los Glaciares National Park.
How difficult is Fitz Roy Hike?
The Fitz Roy Trek is not considered to be a difficult trek. The trail length is relatively short and the elevation remains fairly steady.
The trek is the ideal starting point for inexperienced trekkers and only a basic level of fitness is required to complete it. Saying that there is the occasional steep section and if you do the multi-day Fitz Roy trek then each day you will be walking for a good 3-4 hours.
Is altitude sickness a risk on the Fitz Roy Trek?
There is almost no risk of altitude sickness on the Fitz Roy Trek. The trail doesn't comes close to the altitude needed to bring on altitude sickness.
See our detailed article on altitude sickness for more details.
What gear do I need for the Fitz Roy Trek? (Fitz Roy packing list)
Trekking the Fitzroy trail requires a certain amount of essential pieces of trekking clothing and equipment. The Fitzroy Trek is often completed as a multi-day trek that travels through a number of landscapes.
Many pieces of equipment can be rented in El Chalten, but we recommend bringing the most important pieces of gear with you, this includes:
- Hiking shoes. I love a good/ multi-functional set of trail runners. Salomon Speedcross are always a solid bet. I'd suggest going up half a size for wider feet.
- Its worth investing in a good small backpack for day hikes. 20L capacity like this from This Osprey one are perfect for fitting snacks, a waterbottle and an extra jacket. If you are carrying around more equipment, you may want a 40/50l backpack.
- A Sleeping bag that withstands at least -9 degrees Celcius.The TETON Sports Leef is a good buy. Alternatively, rent a bag but bring your own Sleeping Bag Liner
- Trekking poles- A basic, affordable pair like these are more than good enough.
- A waterproof hiking tent (If you plan on camping). At 2.5kg, This one from Forceatt isn't too heavy to carry
To help you plan and prepare for your trek we have written a detailed hiking gear list.
What kind of insurance do I need for the Fitz Roy trek?
Trekking insurance is always a must. Although unlikely, accidents do happen and can cost a lot of money. You should consider the cost of rescue from remote destinations. It is also a great idea to take out travel insurance for other related risks of travel such as loss of baggage, stolen gear, delays, and damaged equipment. See World Nomads for a quote.
The one guide book that stands above all others is Los Glaciares National Park Travel & Trekking Guide: Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, Patagonian Ice Cap, Patagonia, Calafate, Chalten by Colin Henderson.
Other guide books available include Fodor’s Chile: with Easter Island & Patagonia (Travel Guide), and Backpacking in Chile: Travel Guide & Trekking Guide for Independent Travelers.