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El Chaltén is Argentina's national trekking capital and home to some very good hiking guides who'll take you out for an afternoon stroll, a full-day trek, or even a multiday hiking expedition. The best can be found at Mountaineering Patagonia, whose office is at E. Brenner 88 (tel. 02962/493915; www.mountaineeringpatagonia.com). Also try Manuel Quiroga, at El Chaltén Mountain Guides (no phone; www.ecmg.com.ar). They also can arrange more-challenging mountaineering objectives, such as climbs of local peaks, multiday treks to Paso Marconi, and weeklong traverses of the majestic Southern Ice Field.

Although the trails here are generally very well marked, a local guide will help you to have a much more enjoyable experience. Guides will help you understand the natural history, learn about amazing mountaineering feats that took place in the area, and ensure safety. If you're planning to hike in the park, you'll want to pick up a copy of Zagier & Urruty's trekking map, Monte FitzRoy & Cerro Torre, available at most bookstores and tourist shops in El Calafate and El Chaltén. You'll also need to register at the park service office at the entrance to El Chaltén. The best thing about hiking in El Chaltén is that almost all trails start and end in the town itself, meaning you can return each evening for a hot shower, a nice meal, and a good bed. Two standard half-day hikes leave from town: Laguna Capri, which offers a marvelous view of FitzRoy, and the Laguna Torre Lookout. For full-day hikes, the best are Laguna Torre and Laguna de los Tres. Trails here run from easy to difficult, and they take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours to complete.

Trails in the El Chaltén Area -- The El Chaltén area of Los Glaciares National Park has incredible trails for hikers, not to mention imposing challenges for alpinists and mountaineers. The beauty of this area, besides the stunning scenery, is that the valleys are long and don't require too much uphill or downhill hiking, and you can make it back to town each night to a warm shower and good dinner. While overnight camping trips are available, El Chaltén excels in its proximity to day-hike trail heads. Unlike the Torres del Paine hikes, which generally require a few nights of camping, all of the main highlights here can be seen in a few day hikes.

What makes hiking in El Chaltén so good is the varied terrain and the relatively little climbing required to get amazing views. These hikes all leave from town and run from easy to difficult. They'll each allow you to see the famous spires from many angles. The times given are estimates for the average walker from El Chaltén.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.