Biking in El Chalten

Although I did not yet travel all of Argentina, it seems quite a good country to do some mountain biking. At the time of writing we’ve only travelled in the south of Argentina, between San Martin de los Andes and Ushuaia, in Patagonia.

El chalten is famous for walking and trekking in the Patagonian mountains, it’s part of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Of course there’s some good mountain biking to do there too, only not on the most popular walking trails. Actually they made a specific mountain bike course with a length of (just) 4km, situated north of the town. It’s situated on the flat lands besides the river, creating a loop similar to what could be expected in the Netherlands in therms of technique, height difference and flora.

So for starters I did this dedicated mtb loop, and then I followed the gravel road to Lago Desierto, although going north you have certainly the wind head on. Local shops offer a mountain bike trip in the opposite direction (south) from the laguna Desierto back to El Calafate, a trip of 30km more or less, but with the guarantee that the wind will always be in your favour. Since it is a gravel road, it is perfect for those cyclists that absolutely love gravelling ;-). Along parts of the gravel road it is possible to follow a single track. Of course I found this much more interesting to ride because it is a less straight trail and it is more protected from the wind because parts of it go trough forest and small meadows. And there is more to see. My kind of cycling I guess. It’s on the east side of the main road, should you go looking for it. Halfway en-route to Lago Desierto there was a sign next to the double bridge, which stated that it was possible to go left and follow a single trail. Because I already covered quite some distance at this point, I decided to keep it in mind and return on another day to do that part.

The other day

So after a day or two we found a place closer to that double bridge; a beautiful wild camp spot along the river with an excellent view on the Mt Fitzroy.

I returned to the sign and followed the trail south. At some point I crossed the boundary of the national park. Since I did not yet encounter hikers, I decided it was worth to follow the trail into the national park and I followed the trail up to Laguna Piedras Blancas, trough an area full of stones and low bushes, crossing a small bridge and then up the slope through a medium dense forest. After all that I was rewarded with a view on the glacier. The few hikers that I encountered were friendly, maybe a bit impressed about “a guy going here with a mountain bike” and were happy to share the trail with me.

Going back down again, I followed a very narrow double track. I found out it was used exclusively by a quad to bring supplies to the Piedra del Fraile Cabin. a very nice track for mountain biking with only a moderate inclination, winding through forest and occasionally following the river. After a few kilometres I reached the cosy cabin and from there it was possible to see the north face of Mount Fitzroy. Not bad for a day riding the trails. From here I followed the same route back home.

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