Starting at Alakush Visitor’s Center

The Facts

How to get there

  • Sendero Cerro Guanaco is part of the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, which is located roughly 12km from Ushuaia.
  • There are daily and regular buses leaving from the visitor’s center in Ushuaia. It might also be possible that your hostel can organize a pick up for you.
  • We just started walking from our hostel and eventually ended up hitchhiking the final few kilometers to the entrance with one of the park rangers 🙂
  • Inside the park are a few bus stations you can use to get back into town.

Short Outline of Hike

  • Important note: This is the kind of trail that you definitely need to check the weather for!
  • Cerro Guanaco is 973m high
  • Distance: 10.5km (round trip)
  • Duration: 6h, including a break of about 1h total, enjoying views and a coffee break on the way down
  • Elevation gain and loss on way back: roughly 1,000m each as you start at sea level
  • Check out this link for general info about Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego.
  • You can find information on current ticket prices here.
  • We stayed a couple nights in the park and did a few trails. I can recommend this as there are a few trails and smaller treks to check out.
  • You can get a stamp for your passport for free at the visitor’s center 🙂
  • This is a very well marked trek, including distance numbers.
  • You have to start the trail before 12pm. For safety reasons, the rangers want you to check in and out at the Alakush Visitor’s center. When checking in, you’ll get a little sheet of paper. When returning you can throw this into the mailbox on the outside of the building.
  • Basically the trail can be divided into 4 different “sections”, each roughly a kilometer long: forest + crossing the tree line, rocky section + a set out big grass/mud field which can get VERY muddy + the final section goes up along the side of the little mountain ridge and is mainly gravel and sharp rocks.
  • For the final kilometer up to the top, the path gets quite narrow.
  • There are toilets and a restaurant at the Alakush visitor’s center. But keep in mind that it closes around 6pm (closing time when we were there).

Grading

Following is my personal grading of the hike including some key points. If you have no idea what the SB scale, have a quick look here.

The overall grade regarding difficulty is SB-4.6. The grade is made up of the following categories:

Category A – General – SB-7

  • Distance: 10.5km round trip, duration: 6h, elevation gain/loss: 1,000m one direction
  • For each way, that is a distance of 5.25km with an elevation gain/loss of 1,000m.

Category B – Terrain – SB-5

As mentioned above, the terrain is diverse. When we did the trail in mid March, it was raining on and off.
The first part of the trek leads above forest ground. Between the 2 and 3km mark, there was a really muddy section due to rain on the days prior and the trekking day itself. We somehow tried to work our way around the mud as it was quite deep. I found myself hanging from tree branches with my backpack slightly dipping into the mud a couple times.
The last bit up to the top is a narrow gravel path along sharp rocks. Beautiful to look at but exhausting to walk on. It felt like 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

Category C – Weather – SB-5

It was pretty windy that day. We didn’t feel much of the wind during the first parts of the trail. As soon as we reached the set out parts, it became very windy. At the top, we had to be extra careful to not get caught by wind and fall over the cliffs. On the way up, the wind was coming at us and basically pushing us into the opposite direction. Made the hike up all the more challenging.
There were clouds all day with rain on and off. Originally we wanted to take a coffee break at the top to enjoy the views. We delayed the break as it was just too windy. It also started raining just before we reached the top.
Temperature were quite cool. We did the hike in mid March, which is beginning of fall on the Southern Hemisphere.

Category D – Special Conditions – SB-2

As this was just a day hike, our backpacks weren’t too heavy. They didn’t necessarily have the size of a standard day pack either though. We intended to have a longer break at the top and packed a bit of cooking stuff. We also packed a few more clothes as we had no idea what the weather would turn into.
Other than that no special conditions for this trek.

Category E – Individual Conditions – SB-4

We were well prepared with enough food, etc. But we were also a bit exhausted from the hike into the park and to our camping spot on the day before.
Our fitness was OK but not superb. This was our first real hike in Patagonia. Weather wise it had no mercy on us. Wind, wind, wind, rain and rain 😉

The Story behind the hike

Sendero Cerro Guanaco (English: Cerro Guanaco Trail) is located within the Tierra del Fuego National Park at the Southern tip of Argentina. My hiking buddy and I spent a few consecutive days in the park, taking our time to discover all it has to offer.

The trek up to the top of Cerro Guanaco was part of our park exploration tour. It was the first trek in my, back then still kind of young, hiking career that actually challenged me. Not only due to the trek itself but also due to the weather conditions we were facing that day.

We had our camp at one of the campgrounds between the Alakush Visitor’s Center and “el fin del mundo”, which is the end of Ruta 3. Argentina’s highway 3 is the most Southern established road and ends within the park. “El fin del mundo” is Spanish for “the end of the world”.

On the day we set out to do the Cerro Guanaco trail, we first head for the visitor’s center to warm up a bit before we start trekking. From the center it’s a little more than a kilometer to the official start of the Cerro Guanaco Trail. If you wish, you can combine this hike with the Hito XXIV Trail. That’s a trek that follows along the bank of Lake Acigami, all the way to the international border of Argentina and Chile.

There’ll be a sign on the trail that shows you when to turn right and leave the trail towards the border. From here it goes up and up, baby 😉

The whole trail is rather steep but full of little adventures, such as a few river crossings, big fields of knee deep mud. This depends on the weather conditions during your visit though. I considered the muddy parts to be loads of fun as it challenges you to puzzle your way around rather than just blindly following a given path.

The path is well-marked, even including distance signs. We were a bit confused passing the first marker as it wasn’t clear to us if it was the distance already walked from the start or the distance left to the top. One of the reasons for this confusion was our personal perception. There’s a marker every one kilometer. When we saw the 3km marker, we felt like we’ve already walked 3km rather than only 1km. The few hikers we met on the trail had similar thoughts.
Told you, it was a bit more of a challenge for me back then 🙂 I wonder, how it would be walking this trail again with today’s level of experience….

Pretty cool about this specific trail is the diversity, given the rather low elevation. It feels like you’re leveling your way up through the path. Starting with a steep forest bit, but protected from the wind. All the way through mysteriously looking trees that seem to want to confuse you off the path. Across a mud field and, finally, to the beginning of the last level up to the top.

This one really got me. We had somewhat strong winds. On the way up, we were completely set out to these winds that (of course) were blowing into the opposite direction that we were going 😉

Our initial plan was to have a nice coffee break on the summit to enjoy the views. The weather became worse and worse the closer we came to the top. The wind soon was accompanied by rain. Plus we were busy trying to keep our balance instead of being blown off the mountain range. Still enjoyed our views for a while and then headed back down. We had our coffee break in a short “good” weather window a bit later.

Even with pretty madly looking clouds we had awesome views on the top. We could see as far as Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel and even parts of Antarctica. Nah, just kidding, we couldn’t see that far 😛