Part 1: Approximately 2 kilometers before the Laguna/Lago del Desierto dock, you’ll encounter a small wooden footbridge, which serves as the trail head for this hike. The single-track trail begins by wrapping its way along the lake shore, giving a good glimpse of what is to come for the day. At the beginning of the trail there are several small stream crossings before climbing a ridge line across what was once a glacial moraine. Hikers will find metal arrows marking the trail at points of possible confusion.
Around 6.5 – 7 Km in, after a long climb, the trail arrives at a rocky vista with a breathtaking view of Mt.. Fitz Roy and Laguna/Lago del Desierto. This stop serves as a good place for an early lunch break. Next, the trail gradually descends rolling hills returning to the shores of the Lagoon. After hiking on the rocky shoreline for a few hundred meters, the trail opens up, passing through a small field to the Argentine border crossing station. Day hikers can head back along the same trail or opt to return by the ferry, when operating, for a fee. For those crossing to Chile, you will need to process your paperwork here and be able to access your personal identification, passports, visas, and other relevant paperwork.
Part 2: Continuing north to Candelario Mansilla, the trail heads uphill for 5 Km, where you’ll actually leave Argentina and unofficially, enter Chile. The welcome signs marking your departure/entry are a great spot for photos! The trail widens into a road and most hikers decide to hitch a ride across the 17 Km which remain before the Chilean Guard station for the fee of around CH$5.000, per person.
This shuttle (pick-up truck) only runs on days that the L/M. Quetru crosses O’Higgins/San Martin Lake. Check schedules on-line to arrange your plans. At the Argentine guard station, ask one of the guards to radio the shuttle so you can coordinate your timing with their routine. Bikers, save your money; the single lane road is easy going as it’s all downhill to the guard station. Riding on the small airstrip is not allowed; instead, take the path just to the right of the airstrip.
Pack clothing for warmth, rain, and wind, and extra, in case of bad weather, which often comes in quickly and unexpectedly. Hike in shoes that are well broken in and can handle multiple terrains. Be sure to pack extra water and food. Care for the environment and show respect for the wildlife and flora.
Activity Type: Through-hike crossing the border from Argentina to Chile or day hike from El Chaltén.
Sector: Laguna/Lago del Desierto
Starting Point: El Chaltén
Ending Point: Candelario Mansilla or El Chaltén
Considerations: This hike crosses the 17 Km span of Laguna/Lago del Desierto, offering a more active and economical alternative for crossing Laguna/Lago del Desierto. However, when operating, visitors have the alternative to pay and travel via the Argentine ferry, El Huemul. Take a transfer service from El Chaltén to the southern tip of Laguna/Lago del Desierto, unless you are REALLY hard core about hiking (34 Km). For day hikers, arrange a return transfer as well. The trail is hard to maneuver with a bike loaded with gear. Distance bikers should remove pedals and push in some sections. We suggest carrying your gear in a backpack, hiring a porter service or, when in operation, you can send your bike along ahead on the ferry, El Huemul, for a fee.
Distance: 34 Km if you are crossing all the way to Candelario Mansilla. For day-hikers, 21 Km, out and back, with the Argentine border post as the turn-around point.
Duration: 10 - 14 hours.
Seasonality: November to March
Difficulty: Easy; however, plan for a long day and coordinate your plans with the hours and availability of transfers, daylight, and boats.