Patagonia offers some of the world’s breathtaking hikes. Most die-hard adventurers will cite the Torres del Paine W trek as the ultimate Patagonian trail – however, there is a lesser known route that’s a strong contender for the title. In a remote corner of Los Glaciares National Park, the Huemul Circuit offers explorers an incredible encounter with the Patagonian wilderness. Including an opportunity to see a 360-degree panorama of the entire park, the views on the Huemul Circuit are nothing short of spectacular. In this article, we walk you through the trek in brief, breaking down what you need to know to embark on one of Patagonia most challenging hikes.
Is the Huemul Circuit right for you?
One thing to bear in mind is that the Huemul Circuit is for experienced hikers. The route takes around four days and is 40 miles long. Unlike some other multi-day routes in Patagonia, the Huemul doesn’t feature any refugios. Therefore, you’ll need to carry all your equipment and camping gear. On top of your usual checklist, you’ll also need to bring some specialist equipment to negotiate river crossings. Park rangers will be able to advise you on what you need, most of which you can rent in the nearby town of El Chaltén.
Furthermore, one of the reasons that the trail is lesser known is that some parts are unmarked. Therefore, you’ll need to have experience navigating. As a result, it is compulsory to register with the park rangers before setting off. It costs nothing, but if you’re caught without a permit you will be liable for a $100 fine. The rangers operate this system so that if you don’t make it back by your estimated finish date, they send out a search and rescue team.
Day 1: El Chaltén to the Toro Valley
So – if you think that you’ve got what it takes to trek the Huemul Circuit, then here’s what you can expect. On the first day, you’ll set off from El Chaltén towards the Toro Valley. Considering it’s one of the most challenging hikes in Patagonia, the first day is deceptively gentle. After an eazy uphill walk, you’ll hit the Pampa de Las Carretas, a large open grassland. After a walk through a forest with spectacular views of Lago Viedma, you’ll arrive in Toro Valley. Here, you can enjoy views of the hanging glacier on Mount Huemul.
Day 2: The Southern Patagonia Icefield
After an easy first day, the hike immediately kicks up a gear at the beginning of the second day. The hike begins with a half hour walk towards the Túnel River – which you’ll need to wade across to continue the hike. Next is a fairly challenging ascent towards the Paso del Viento, where you can take in a stunning view of the Southern Patagonian Icefield. After enjoying the sights, you can begin your descent to the next camping ground.
Day 3: The Viedma Glacier
On the third day, you’ll continue to circle Mount Huemul heading towards the Viedma Glacier viewpoint. Here, you’ll be able to see an incredible view of one of the largest glaciers in Argentina. The hike continues down a rocky trail towards Bahía Cabo de Hornos, which is on Lake Viedma. In the bay, you’ll be able to admire the icebergs that have calved from the enormous glacier.
Day 4: Bahía Túnel and return to El Chaltén
On the final day you’ll trek across the steppe towards Bahía Túnel. The path is a little hilly, but not hugely challenging. However, there are couple of streams you’ll need to cross. Finally, you’ll wade through Río Túnel fore arrive at Puerto de Bahía Túnel where you’ll finish your hike. Here, you can arrange for a car to take you back to the town of El Chaltén.
Hiking the Huemul Circuit: The trek of a lifetime
The Huemul Circuit is undoubtedly one of Patagonia’s best hikes. Although the weather in Patagonia is always unpredictable, we strongly recommend that go in summer (November – March). Domestic flights between El Calafate and Buenos Aires operate daily. From here, you can rent a car or take the bus to El Chaltén. Therefore, if you’re an experienced hiker that’s looking to tick off what is arguably one of the best trails in the world, then look no further than the Huemul Circuit. With stunning views of huge glaciers, shimmering lakes, and pristine forests, the hike is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.