Elongated Lago del Desierto, 37 kilometers north of El Chaltén , is a scenic end-of-the-road destination with hiking trails, boat excursions, and even a challenging border crossing to the remote Chilean settlement of Villa O’Higgins .
From the lake’s south end, a short trail winds west through dense southern beech forest to a vista point and the hanging glacier at Laguna Huemul. A longer route follows the eastern shore to the border, a 20-kilometer trek over relatively gentle terrain; some 200 people per year now cross the border in a place that was once such a bone of contention that, decades ago, a Chilean Carabinero even lost his life in a firefight with Argentine soldiers.
Despite objections by a handful of extreme Chilean nationalists, the matter is resolved, the border is peaceable, and determined hikers or even mountain bikers can readily reach Villa O’Higgins. Before attempting it, though, verify the latest details with the Argentine Gendarmería (Border Patrol) in El Chaltén.
From El Chaltén, Las Lengas (San Martín s/n, tel. 02962/493023) minibuses go to Lago del Desierto (US$8 pp) at 7 and 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. Hitching is feasible but vehicles are few and often full. The Viedma 1 carries passengers to the lake’s north end and back (US$20 pp).