Sunday, 13 January 2013

Laguna del Diablo and Glaciar Cagliero - Patagonia, Argentina

Time: 4 hours (round trip)
Distance: 12km (round trip)
People seen: 0
Difficulty: Easy
Trip photos: Flickr

View from the Laguna del Diablo trail

The Fitz Roy area of Los Glaciares national park in Argentinian Patagonia is one of the most popular areas in South America. Visitors come from all over the world to view the granite towers and visit glacial lakes. But just outside the park boundaries are many other hiking and camping opportunities that are just as spectacular - and often much more peaceful. Laguna del Diablo is one such place.

On the northern edge of the park, past the popular El Pilar lodge along the road to Laguna del Desierto, is a small private nature reserve with trails suitable for day walks. For a minimal entrance fee visitors can trek to Laguna Azul (less than an hour), Loma del Diablo (full day, but closed when I visited) or Laguna del Diablo.

The Laguna del Diablo trek is very easy - almost entirely flat, following the noisy Rio del Diablo to Laguna del Diablo and the Cagliero glacier that feeds it. The first hour and a half pass through peaceful lenga and ñires forest that offers protection from the wind and sun (if you are lucky enough to have sun!). Across the river, Cerro 30 Aniversario peeks through the trees and you might even get a view of the north side of Fitz Roy if the sky is clear.

Views of Fitz Roy through the clouds
Following the Rio del Diablo, with the glacier in the distance
The final 30 minutes of the trail leaves the protection of the forest, crosses a branch of the river over a small wooden bridge, and continues on flat ground between the two rivers. Here you are much more exposed to the strong winds coming off the mountains and can expect any sort of weather - I had to stop to put sun screen on while it was snowing...

The trail also gets a bit boggy in places (especially after the wet season) but should be easily be passable. One thing I learnt here is not to necessarily trust the advice given at the office - I was told the trail was impassable because it was too water logged, but in reality there were just a few big puddles that could easily be walked through or around.
Glaciar Cagliero and Laguna del Diablo
Finally, the trail reaches Laguna del Diablo after about two hours of walking. Glaciar Cagliero sits ominously on the opposite side of the lake, though unfortunately it is not possible to cross the river to get a better view. Around you, snow capped mountains provide a stunning backdrop. On the river you might see groups of ducks that apparently live only in fast-flowing water such as the Rio del Diablo. 

The walk back to the trail head is just as easy as the walk out, along the same trail. You can view a 360 degree panorama of the lake and the glacier here:


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