Piedras Blancas {El Chaltén}

Piedras Blancas {El Chaltén}

Piedras Blancas {El Chaltén}

  • Distance – 20 km round trip (10 km one way)
  • Elevation – 700 meters
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Trailhead Location – North parking lot of El Chaltén (trailhead for Laguna de los Tres)

While researching adventures and hiking in Patagonia, something that was never exactly clear to me is how unpredictable the weather is and how often it is squalling and you are unable to see the beautiful things you came to see.

Perhaps I just didn’t want to listen, living in hopeful ignorance.

The mix of mountains, small land mass, ocean air currents, and other things which I just don’t understand create more weather than this woman can comprehend. What this means for you, dear traveling hiker, is that when you show up to hike your mountain in Patagonia, you might have impossibly wet and windy weather and you may have nothing to see.

Of our three days in El Chaltén, two of them were so stormy that we were unable to see the jagged peaks of Cerro Torre and the jaw dropping views of Fitz Roy.

Interestingly enough, it can be storming in the valley where the jagged peaks are, but around the town and on the other trails, it was dry with an occasional rain shower.

Viewpoint of Fitz Roy
There are some amazing mountains behind those clouds … I promise! Oh, and it is WINDY!

On our first day of hiking, we started out from town to hike up to the base of Fitz Roy, but due to an incredible storm in that valley, we re-routed ourselves on the path to a viewpoint of Piedras Blancas, which ended up to be a beautiful hike with a few fleeting views of the base of Fitz Roy.

The other thing that I found interesting is there really are no fabulous trail books with detailed descriptions of hikes, at least that I could find and purchase in Canada prior to leaving on our trip.

Luckily, all the main hikes in the area start from the town of El Chaltén and you don’t need a car. If you get there by bus, there is world class hiking right at your doorstep – Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy, and many other hikes are literally on your doorstep no matter where you are in the village of hostels and restaurants.

For a list of all the hikes with general descriptions, the El Chaltén town website is very helpful. And the map below is very clear and also representative of the hikes in the area.

el chalten hiking map
A clear and detailed map of all the hikes that you can do out of El Chaltén!

How to hike Piedras Blancas.

Walk to the north end of town and take the trail that heads north out of the parking lot. There is going to be a lot of people hiking from here as it is how you hike to Laguna Capri and Laguna de los Tres (the main destinations to see Fitz Roy).

The wind is likely to be incredible, so ensure you have a windproof coat and your hat is securely fastened to your head.

hiking to piedras blancas
I opted to not wear a hat as the wind nearly took me away! It look a lot of effort to stay on this rock!

The first few kilometres are walking through the trees with some elevation gain and switchbacks until you come to a ridge with a jaw-dropping view of the valley.

Make sure to stop and take pictures.

You will come to a fork in the trail and your two options are Laguna Capri or a viewpoint for Fitz Roy – both rejoin to the main trail. If it is impossible to see Fitz Roy, I suggest checking out Laguna Capri, a nice mountain lake. If there is even a slight change that the wind might move the clouds or the mountains will stop producing clouds, take the trail for the Fitz Roy viewpoint.

  • On a clear day, there are incredible views of Fitz Roy.

On most days, you can see small snippets of the base or clouds. Patience and time is required to see everything you want to see in this area!

The junction to Fit Roy or Piedras Blancas
Keep going straight and you will find the glacier!

Continue on the trail, which now has a few more gentle climbs or is mostly flat, through a valley and meadow to the junction for Laguna de los Tres. Do not take the trail for the Laguna de los Tres – continue on the main trail for a few more easy kilometres through the meadow and forest until you reach a clearing with wonderful views of the majestic glacier.

On a clear day, Fitz Roy would be standing in the background, but when we were there, all there was to see was a storm.

I highly recommend adding this small offshoot trail and view of the glacier onto a day of hiking Laguna de los Tres!

Once you’ve gotten your fill, turn around and go back the way you came.

If you are an experienced hiker, this hike shouldn’t be a problem.

With only 700 meters of elevation gain (according to my Garmin), it makes for a gentle hike with incredible views. It took us four hours of moving time and nearly 6 hours all together. Even with the weather, there are still so many gorgeous viewpoints that it requires you to take your time.

Due to weather complications, I give this hike 6 out of 10 stars.

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