Views of the stunning rock needle of Cerro Torre are the highlight of this 18km round-trip hike. If you have good weather – ie little wind – and clear skies, make this hike (three hours one way) a priority, since the toothy Cerro Torre is the most difficult local peak to see on normal blustery days.
There are two trail options that later merge. One starts at the northwestern edge of El Chaltén. From a signpost on Av San Martín, head west on Eduardo Brenner and then right to find the signposted start of the track. The Laguna Torre track winds up westward around large boulders on slopes covered with typical Patagonian dry-land plants, then leads southwest past a wet meadow to a junction with a trail coming in from the left after 35 to 45 minutes.
Starting from the southern end of El Chaltén, follow Lago del Desierto west past the edge of town, then drop to the riverbed, passing a tiny hydroelectric installation. At a signpost the route climbs away from the river and leads on through scattered lenga and ñire woodland (a small, deciduous southern beech species), with the odd wire fence to step over, before merging with a more prominent (signposted) path coming in from the right.
Continue up past a rounded bluff to the Mirador Laguna Torre, a crest with the first clear view up the valley to the extraordinary 3128m rock spire of Cerro Torre, above a sprawling mass of intersecting glaciers.
The trail dips gently through stands of lenga, before cutting across open scrubby river flats and old revegetated moraines to reach a signposted junction with the Sendero Madre e Hija, a shortcut to Campamento Poincenot, 50 to 90 minutes on. Continuing upvalley, bear left at another signposted fork and climb over a forested embankment to cross a small alluvial plain, following the fast-flowing glacial waters of the Río Fitz Roy. You’ll arrive at Campamento De Agostini (formerly Bridwell) after a further 30 to 40 minutes. This free campground (with pit toilet) gets busy; it serves as a base camp for Cerro Torre climbers. The only other nearby camping is in a pleasant grove of riverside lengas below Cerro Solo.
Follow the trail along the lake’s north side for about an hour to Mirador Maestri (no camping).