Hiking in the Argentine Lake District: the basics

Hiking opportunities in the Argentine Lake District are divided between two national parks: Nahuel Huapi and Lanín, accessed from the gateway towns of Bariloche and San Martín de los Andres respectively. Stretching a distance of nearly 400km north to south, the hiking trails here feel almost endless.

  • Nahuel Huapi National Park surrounds the enormous lake of the same name. It's forest-clad mountains are ideal for short day walks, or just can opt for more challenging multi-day hikes, through valley and along high mountain ridges, either camping or sleeping in one of the many refugios dotted throughout the park 
  • The centrepiece of Lanín National Park is the magnificent Lanín Volcano - towering over any of its neighbours at 3,728m. As well as the challenging summit hike, the whole park houses lush forests of monkey puzzle trees and a series of beautiful lakes and other volcanoes. The park does not have refugios so for multi-day hikes camping is the only option. 
  • If you want to do more than just hike, the Argentine Lake district offers plenty more adventure to build into a multi-activity trip. Swap your boots for a paddle to kayak on one of the many lakes, whitewater raft on a glacial river, or take to the saddle of a mountain bike or horse on an off-road trail.

Types of hiking in the Argentine Lake District

Day hikes from Bariloche

Hiking in the Argentine Lake District

Summiting Cerro Bellavista, Nahuel Huapi NP

There are plenty of day hikes to be had in Nahuel Huapi from your base in Bariloche. One that rewards with extravagant views is the hike to the summit of Cerro Bella Vista. The trail starts at Tambo de Báez near Colonia Suiza, and slowly climbs through lush forest until you break out above the treeline to the long ridge that leads to the top of Bella Vista. The latter part of the ascent is steep, but more than worth it for the views.

An equally excellent day hike starts a short drive from Bariloche along the shore of Lake Mascardi Lake, hiking the valley under the shadow of the mighty Cerro Tronador with its cracking glaciers and cascading waterfalls. This is an easy day hike to allow yourself to be absorbed in the verdant landscapes of this region of Argentina.

Day hikes from San Martín de los Andes

Hiking in the Argentine Lake District

One of the most rewarding days hikes from San Martin is the ascent of Cerro Falkner, which starts an hours' scenic drive from the town. The initial hike is through dense forest, until you emerge from the trees to be greeted by stunning mountain views. On reaching the summit of Falkner, these views open up 60 degrees, taking in Cerro Tronador in the south and distant Lanín Volcano to the north.

Lanín National Park has more volcanoes than just the one that give it its name. Achen Niyeu Volcano makes a great day hike, as the trail takes you a great diversity of landscapes. You trek from the beach of Laguna Verde through lush forests and then up into the black sand of a mountain desert. On reaching the volcano, there is a demanding 45-minute ascent takes you to the edge of the crater, from where panoramic views include mighty Lanín Volcano and its expansive glacier. Elsewhere in the park, Lake Huechulafquen is the trail head for many other treks, including short hikes from Puerto Canoa.

Multi-day hikes

Crossing a waterfall on the trek, Nahuel Huapi National Park, Bariloche, Argentina

Crossing a waterfall on the trek

For those looking for more of a challenge, there are a number of superb multi-day hikes to be had in the Argentine Lake District.

In Nahuel Huapi National Park, a four day/three night hut to hut trek has you traversing rocky slopes, hiking from exposed ridges into deep valley and along deep blue lagoons, as you visit peaks including Cerro Navidad and the Turista Peak on Cerro López. Accommodation is in refugios, and the rough terrain makes it a good idea to hire a porter.

A shorter but wilder two day trip is the Paso de las Nubes, which has you hiking up in the clouds from Pampa Linda right up in the Andes around Cerro Tronador hard against the Chilean border. Crossing the 1335m pass on this trek affords you one of the most perfect panoramas in the Lake District. Crampons are provided for glacier walking on this hike. 

One of best ways to experience Lanín National Park , is on a four day/three night wild camping trek that starts with a boat ride across Lake Lolog to a trailhead leading up the Auquinco Valley, fording streams and hiking through remote forest. Mountain passes with views of Lanín lead across the ash-field of Achen Niyeu Volcano to its crater, and then down to the araucaria trees around Laguna Verde and the open pastures around Lake Paimún. The final leg of the trek skirts the slopes of Lanín itself through more forest to a hanging glacier.

Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

The refugios of the Nahuel Huapi are older and more rustic than the refugios of Torres del Paine - they tell tales of hardened climbers and magnificent feats of engineering just to get the structures in place.

Volcano Hikes

Hiking in the Argentine Lake District

Tackling the snowy-capped summit of Lanín Volcano is the biggest natural high the Argentine Lake District can offer. On this two-day ascent, you'll spend camp overnight at 2400m, before setting off before dawn to reach the peak in time for a truly breath taking sunrise and then descending to reach the trail head in the mid-afternoon. This is not a technical climb, but you need a good level of physical fitness to tackle Lanín and the last section requires the use of crampons and an ice axe: your guide will give full instruction, and the first day includes ice walking practice.

Swoop Says background image

Sally Dodge says

I first hiked up to the Otto Meiling Refugio in 2010; I can remember as if it was yesterday, as I popped out above the tree line, higher than the peaks around, the feeling of being totally surrounded by the Andes - that view and feeling has been hard to beat in all the years I've spent hiking in the Patagonian Andes since.

Swoop Expert

FAQs about Hiking in the Argentine Lake District

  • When is the best time to hike in the Argentine Lake District?

    The Argentine Lake District is a year-round destination, but the best time for hiking is generally November through to May, with warm to hot days (though there is always the chance of rainfall). If you're travelling in June to September, expect snow on the mountains and higher altitude trails trails to be closed: be ready to strap on your skis instead!

  • Are the hiking trails in the Argentine Lake District well-marked?

    In general trails are well marked, with good signposting at the trailhead and well-worn tracks to follow once you're on the way. On the longer multi-day hikes, trails can sometimes be harder to follow, so it's best to be accompanied by a guide. As well as showing the way, their explanations of the landscape, flora and fauna and culture of the region adds to the hiking experience..

  • How much hiking experience do I need?

    There are trails for all abilities in the Argentine Lake District from short walks to longer and more strenuous multi-day hikes: we'll help pick out the best ones for you. The Lanín Volcano hike is non-technical but requires a good level of fitness; instructions on the use of crampon and ice-axe technique are given at the start of the hike.

  • How do I get to the Argentine Lake District from Buenos Aires?

    The Argentine Lake District's main hub at Bariloche has around 15 flights a day to Buenos Aires, taking around 2hrs. There are also several flights a week between Argentina's capital and San Martín de los Andes. 

  • Can I combine the Argentine Lake District with Los Glaciares National Park?

    Yes. Between December and February there are three flights a week between from Bariloche and El Calafate, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, making it easy to add the Lake District to time in southern Patagonia. At other times of year, you'll have to connect via Buenos Aires. 

  • Can I get to the Argentine Lake District from Chile?

    Yes. There are direct buses between Bariloche and Puerto Varas in the southern Chilean Lake District (7hrs), and between San Martín de los Andes and Pucón in the northern Chilean Lake Distric (5hrs). If you want to make a day trip of it, try the spectacular Cruce Andino route, which takes a series of ferries along the lakes to cross the Andes by boat between Puerto Varas and Bariloche. 

You may also be interested in...

Hiking in Patagonia

Patagonia offers a huge range of day hikes and multi-day treks through a variety of spectacular landscapes. As well as the famous National Parks of Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares, there's also remote Tierra del Fuego, The Chilean Lake District in the north and miles of lesser-known trails across the region.


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