In the park’s most northerly sector, the Fitz Roy range has vertical spires to match Torres del Paine , but even if you’re not one of the world’s top technical climbers, the trails from the village of El Chaltén  to the base of summits such as Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre make some of the Southern Hemisphere’s most enthralling hiking. It’s even possible to traverse the southern Patagonian ice fields, but visitors seeking a more sedate outdoor experience will find a handful of former sheep estancias, onetime wool producers that have reinvented themselves as tourist accommodations.
From a signposted trailhead at El Chaltén ’s north end, just south of the basic Camping Madsen, the Sendero Laguna Torre is an 11-kilometer track gaining 200 meters in elevation as it winds through southern beech forests to the climbers’ base camp for Cerro Torre; figure about 3–3.5 hours. At the lake, in clear weather, there are extraordinary views of Cerro Torre’s 3,102-meter summit, crowned by the so-called “mushroom” of snow and ice that technical climbers must surmount. The Italian Cesare Maestri claimed that he and Austria’s Toni Egger reached the summit in 1959 (Egger died in an avalanche, taking the expedition’s camera with him), but Italian Casimiro Ferrari made the first undisputed ascent in 1974.
From the Madsen pack station, the more demanding Sendero Río Blanco rises steeply at the outset before leveling out through boggy beech forest and continuing to the Fitz Roy base camp, a total climb of 350 meters in 10 kilometers. About midway to Río Blanco, a signed lateral leads south to backcountry campsites at Laguna Capri.
From Río Blanco, the vertiginous zigzag trail ascends 400 meters in only 2.5 kilometers to Laguna de los Tres, a glacial tarn whose name commemorates three Frenchmen, René Ferlet, Lionel Terray, and Guido Magnone, who reached Fitz Roy’s summit in 1952. Truly a top-of-the-world experience, Laguna de los Tres offers some of Patagonia’s finest Andean panoramas.
From the Río Blanco campground (reserved for climbers), a northbound trail follows the river’s west bank north to Laguna Piedras Blancas, whose namesake glacier constantly calves small icebergs into the lake. The trail continues north to the Río Eléctrico, beyond the park boundaries, where a westbound trail climbs the river to Piedra del Fraile and a possible circuit of the Campo de Hielo Sur, suitable only for experienced snow-and-ice trekkers. At the Río Eléctrico, it’s possible to rejoin the road from El Chaltén  to Lago del Desierto .
Another worthwhile hike, with some of the area’s finest panoramas, is the four-hour climb to Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, a 500-meter gain that yields spectacular views to the north. The trail starts conveniently at the park visitor center.