Behind every iconic Patagonia photo—epic vistas of sky-high peaks, surreal cloud formations, and bright turquoise glacial lakes—is usually a hiker and unpredictable weather. Of course, that is what makes Patagonia so incredible! As much as I anticipated reaching the apex of our hikes to gaze upon the amazing peaks I came so far to see, it was the weather that really made me feel like I was in the land that Bruce Chatwin wrote about in his book In Patagonia more than 40 years ago. My experience of hiking in Patagonia with my husband included sun, rain, snow (yes, snow!), and wind. Our hikes brought us through forests, along rivers, and over rocky terrain and sandy trails. Here are some of my favorite photos from my trip as well as some thoughts on hiking in Patagonia’s weather. As the old saying goes: there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment.
Laguna de Los Tres, Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Our first hike was to the mountain that matches the logo on the Patagonia clothing we wore. The squiggly line of Patagonia’s logo traces the profile of Mt. Fitz Roy, arguably the most iconic peak in the region—and a magnet for mountaineers, climbers, photographers, and wildlife enthusiasts. It rises over El Chalten, a quaint yet bustling mountain town, where we spend several days on our In Patagonia and Great Hikes and Estancias of Patagonia trips. In true WT style, we head away from the crowds and stay at a charming inn, Hosteria El Pilar, that is only large enough to accommodate our group.
The day we set out for Laguna de Los Tres, the sky was thick with clouds and offered only small glimpses of the mountains. We hike directly from our inn and walk through beech forests that slowly ascend above the river, with views to the Piedras Blancas and Marconi glaciers.
We continue past the Campamento Poincenot and then it’s up, up, up from there—more than 1,000 feet elevation gain in less than a mile! Because of the weather, we never saw the peak of Fitz Roy and birdlife was scarce on the trail. However, just when we thought this would be a wildlife-free hike, we walked right by a falcon-like caracara perched on a rock, overlooking the valley! We finished our day relaxing by the fire at Hosteria El Pilar.
Laguna Torre, Los Glaciares National Park
The following day unfurled with blue skies overhead and a light breeze as we set out for our second big hike of the trip. Unlike yesterday’s hike, this one is relatively flat—also known as “Patagonia flat.”
Yes, the beginning of the hike heads uphill, and there are various points on the trail that have a sudden ascent or descent, but for the most part, it’s flat. Also unlike the Laguna de Los Tres trail, this one follows the Fitz Roy River canyon, passing meadows, large beech trees, and ends with a small “Patagonia flat” walk to Laguna Torre.
If the weather is clear, you can see the glacier flow and the needle-like peaks of Cerro Torre.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park
A day’s trip from El Calafate brings our group to Perito Moreno Glacier. My husband and I booked a glacier-trekking tour apart from the group trip on this day and headed to the northern side of the glacier by boat, where we donned crampons on the ice.
This allowed us a different perspective and gave us a chance to get up close to this icy realm. We even enjoyed a cocktail with glacier ice!
All the paths to Perito Moreno Glacier are elevated wooden walkways that tier off in different directions, so you can fully enjoy the panoramas of one of the last advancing glaciers on Earth!
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Crossing into Chile brought new landscapes and new adventures. I’ll be honest, during the five days we explored Torres del Paine, it only rained on us once—when we were riding in the van on our way to the airport.
In Chilean Patagonia, the trailheads are much further apart than in El Chalten. In most places, you can’t expect to walk out of your hotel and have endless hiking options, but the advantage is that you’re likely to have trails with hardly anyone else around, as long as you know where to go.
If you hike to the base of the Paine Towers, a classic trail that leads through the Valle Ascencio (Ascencio River Valley) to the base of the three massive Paine Towers that form the central Paine Massif, you can expect to see more hikers as well as horses on the trail, but this hike is still a fantastic feat worth the crowds and long ascent.
We get an early start from our lodge and take our time up the last section of the moraine to the lake, where (if the weather is on our side) we will have clear views of the iconic towers rising from the green-blue lake.
What to pack on the trails
Our team of leaders are experts on all things Patagonia and will be a great resource on what to pack every day. All you have to worry about is enjoying the hikes and the adventurous weather! For each of our Patagonia adventures, you’ll find pre-departure notes that include a list of recommended gear and clothing. We hiked in wind, rain, and snow, but that never took away from the adventure or the awe-inspiring panoramas of Patagonia.
—Text and photos by WT writer Kirstina Bolton Motamedi.