Travel Guide - Patagonia Travel Tips

By Matt & Jody Pritchard

Please Note: It's been about 4 years since we wrote this guide. Since then it's been viewed a few thousand times, and we have received a lot of positive feedback. Much of the information is still relevant, but we've made no substantial efforts to keep it updated. At the very least, the prices are probably out of whack. Keep this in mind as you plan your trip. We hope you enjoy Patagonia.

TDP Trails Continued

Refugio/Campamento Grey - The refugio and the campsite are located in the same area along the sandy, eastern shore of Lago Grey, near the Grey Glacier. The campground is well protected from the wind and there is a small Almacen (store) that sells limited provisions. Flushing bathrooms are available to campers at this campsite. Showers may be available too, but we weren't ready to look into these yet.

Refugio/Campamento Pehoe - Refugio Pehoe is located a few hundred meters from the shore of Lago Pehoe, at the bottom of the canyon that leads to Lago Grey. Fierce winds pour down the canyon and make this one of the most wind battered areas on the trek. The camping area is dotted with windbreaks that do help with the wind. A community cooking/eating shelter (with picnic tables, gas stoves, and a sink) is attached to the camp store which again provided limited but useful provisions. Showers and flushable toilets are available to campers at this campsite.

Refugio/Campamento Pehoe to Campamento Italiano ( 5.1 mi, 8.2 km) - From Refugio Pehoe, the trail climbs around a bluff to the east. The terrain is relatively tame with some rollers here and there. Views of the Cumbre Prinicipal to your left are impressive. You will pass Lago Skottsberg before approaching Lago Nordenskjold and Campamento Italiano, situated at the base of the Valle Frances.

Campamento Italiano - Italiano is one of the most heavily used camp areas along the trail and it shows - please do everything you can to reduce your impact here. There is no refugio, although at the time of our trip, a small shelter of some sort was being built. The campground has two areas (upper (near the bridge) and lower) with ample spots for tents. No pit toilet was available at the time of our stay. Water is available from the Rio del Frances. Please pack out all of your waste (including toilet paper) from this area. The camp area has a number of curious rodents that will gladly pilfer your food stores, so it is advisable to hang all of your food from a tree.

Campamento Italiano to Campamento Britanico/Valle Frances ( 2.8 mi, 4.5 km one way) - This roundtrip hike up the Valle Frances constitutes the middle "arm" of the W trek. From Campamento Italiano, the trail climbs (sometimes steeply) up the Valle Frances, high along it's eastern flank. The views afforded from this section of trail are incredible, with the Cumbre Principal and massive hanging glaciers to the west and the "backside" of the Cuernos and Torres to the east. Halfway to Campamento Britanico, there is a very obvious mirador (viewpoint). This is as far as we went, because of deeper snow and mud further up the valley. Later in the season, this section of trail should be more passable and deliver even more spectacular views of this very interior portion of the park.

Campamento Italiano to Refugio/Campamento Los Cuernos ( 2.7 mi, 4.3 km) - This is a relatively short, but rugged section of trail that takes you along the northern shore of Lago Nordenskjold. Steep, rocky descents and boggy, wooded sections make this a short, but unexpectedly difficult section of trail, in our opinion. The trail eventually descends all the way to the water's edge, where you will find the inviting Refugio Los Cuernos.

Refugio/Campamento Los Cuernos - This is one of the newest refugios/campsites in the park and we found it very comfortable for two days. Because it is so new, it may not be marked on older maps. Located directly below Los Cuernos, along the northern shore of Lago Nordenskjold, this spot has spectacular views but is often overlooked by people making a long one day trip between Italiano and Torres or Chileno. Showers and nice, clean bathrooms are available to campers.

Refugio/Campamento Los Cuernos to Refugio/Campamento Chileno ( 8.3 mi, 13.3 km) - From Los Cuernos, the trail climbs up and over a small pass before make a short decent to a boggy section of trail. Although it is not well marked on the trail, nor well detailed on the map, there is actually a trail intersection near this boggy section. Stay to the right, and you will descend to Hosteria Las Torres. To the left, you will maintain your elevation and round the corner up and into the valley of the Rio Ascencio. A final climb and decent will put you at Refugio/Campamento Chileno

Refugio/Campamento Chileno - This is a small but comfortable campsite along the Rio Ascencio. It is about halfway between Hosteria Las Torres and the base of the Torres del Paine. Flushable toilets and showers are available to campers.

Refugio/Campamento Chileno to Base of Torres del Paine ( 2.5 mi, 4.0 km one way) - This hike is worth the effort. From Chileno, the hike wanders along the shore of the Rio Ascencio, gradually climbing higher and higher until you arrive at Campamento Torres. From here, the trail goes straight up. Scrambling up the boulder field is pretty tough, and takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Follow the orange splashes of paint that mark the way.

Refugio/Campamento Chileno to Hosteria Las Torres ( 3.0 mi, 4.8 km) - We tacked this onto our roundtrip to the base of Las Torres and made one big day out of it. From Chileno, the trail backtracks up and down along the Rio Ascencio, passing the intersection with the trail to Los Cuernos. From the intersection, the trail begins to descend steeply, as you pass the countless hordes of people making the long, roundtrip hike from Hosteria Las Torres to the base of the Torres del Paine. The trail continues to descend and eventually crosses the Rio Ascencio before taking you onto the grounds of Hosteria Las Torres.

Hosteria Las Torres to Guarderia Laguna Armaga - Hosteria Las Torres runs a daily shuttle between the hotel and the Guardaria Laguna Armaga (pick-up spot for most buses back to Puerto Natales). A free pass is available for this shuttle if you have paid to stay at either Campamento Los Cuernos or Campamento Chileno (look for the transfer on your receipt). The shuttle leaves at 2:30 and saves you from having to hike 7km along a dusty and none too interesting dirt road.

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

A few hours over the border from Puerto Natales lies another parkland that has equally impressive natural wonders and a rich history. Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is the flagship of Argentina's National Park system. Large portions of the park are off limits to hikers, so for most visitors, their travels will center around the Perito Moreno area and/or the Fitz Roy area. The former is a glacial wonderland, where organized bus tours from El Calafate give visitors stunning views of the Perito Moreno Glacier and Lago Argentino. The Fitz Roy sector of the park has, as its focal point, the Fitz Roy massif, a collection of granite spires and needles whose storied past is only trumped by its majesty and awe-inspiring profile. Like Torres del Paine, no trip to Southern Patagonia would be complete without a trip to this wonderful parkland.

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