If you’re planning to visit Ushuaia, a few days of hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park need to be on your itinerary! I mean, this park is about as epic as it gets. You are basically hiking at the end of the world, in the middle of the subantarctic forest, looking out over the Beagle Channel, and the chill in the air is a reminder that the next stop is Antarctica!
Tierra del Fuego National Park is Argentina‘s southernmost park and it offers trails for hikers of all levels. Whether you’re looking for a light stroll that’s under 1 kilometre, a longer day hike with some elevation gain, or a more challenging overnight trek across a mountain pass, this park has something for you.
The hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park is nothing short of spectacular. You’ll be treated to dramatic landscapes featuring snowcapped mountains, forests, lakes, lagoons, peat bogs and pebbly beaches. Not to mention the ever-changing weather; drizzle, fog or shine, the view in front of you is constantly changing. That’s part of the charm of the place – you just never know what you’re going to get hiking at the end of the world!
Getting to Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego National Park is located 12 kilometres west of Ushuaia, so getting there is fairly easy and you have a few different options to choose from.
The Ushuaia Bus Terminal is located on the corner of Maipu and Juana Genoveva and it’s where the shuttles to Tierra del Fuego National Park depart from. The bus terminal is currently nothing more than a large parking lot where the buses pull in to pick-up and drop-off passengers, so don’t be alarmed by the lack of a building. Once you get to the bus terminal, you’ll notice a small booth advertising transfers to the national park, as well as other attractions in the outskirts of Ushuaia.
Two blocks over from the bus terminal, on the corner of Maipu and Comodoro Augusto Laserre, you’ll find a taxi rank where there’s never a shortage of taxis. It’ll cost a bit more than the shuttle, but you can go anytime and they’ll drive you right to the park entrance.
Entrance fee to Tierra del Fuego National Park
You will have to pay an entrance fee to visit Tierra del Fuego National Park.
The fee for national parks in Argentina varies depending on whether you’re a provincial, national, or international visitor.
The fee for foreigners at the current exchange rate is $8 USD for the day. You can view the list of fees here.
You can pay with cash, debit or credit card (VISA or Mastercard), but it’s best to always have some cash on you in case the system is down.
Tips for hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park
The weather in this part of the world is very unpredictable and you can experience all 4 seasons in the span of an hour. Bring a waterproof jacket, dress in layers, and wear a good pair of waterproof hiking shoes.The best time to hike in Tierra del Fuego is between November and March. This would be late spring to late summer in the southern hemisphere, so you’ll be getting the nicest weather.Some sections of the park are only operational from October to April due to snowfall, so if you visit in the off-season, you’ll have to plan your hikes accordingly.You will have to register with the park rangers if you are planning to hike some of the longer and more challenging trails (more on that below).If you don’t want to carry food around on your day hike, you can plan to eat at the cafeteria in the Alakush Visitor Centre, which is located inside the park.
Long hiking trails in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Senda Pampa Alta
This is the first hiking trail you’ll encounter when you enter the park and it leads you up the mountain for scenic views of the Beagle Channel and Valley of the River Pipo. If you start this trail from Ruta 3 (the dirt road that runs through the park), you’ll be hiking a shorter version of the trail which runs 3.7 kilometres in length. However, if you wish to do the full hiking trail, you’ll want to start from Ensenada Zaratiegui, which is where the port and camp site are located. If you’re taking the shuttle, you would get off at Zaratiegui Bay, which is the first stop in the national park.
Difficulty: MediumLength: 4.9 kilometres one wayTime: 1 hour to the lookout point
This coastal trail is my favourite hiking spot in Tierra del Fuego National Park. As the name suggests, this particular trail follows the shoreline, and you encounter numerous coves and secret beaches along the way – that means lots of rest stops and picnic spots to choose from. This trail runs from Zaratiegui Bay to Alakush, so you can get dropped off at either stop and hike in either direction. I did it from Zaratiegui Bay to Alakush since then you have a cafe waiting for you at the very end. This is a fairly flat trail, but you do encounter a bit of elevation once you get closer to Alakush.
Difficulty: MediumLength: 8 kilometres one wayTime: 3-4 hours
Senda Hito XXIV
This trail starts behind Alakush and it follows the shores of Lake Acigami heading northwest to the border with Chile. It’s an hour and a half each way and you do have to return the same way you came.
Difficulty: MediumLength: 3.5 kilometres one wayTime: 3 hours
This is a more challenging hike and you are required to register with the park rangers before you head up the mountain. The first portion of the trail is the same as the previous one that goes to the Argentina-Chile border, but then the Cerro Guanaco trail splits up and you go to the right. It’s a steep trail that’s not recommended on a windy day, but if the sun smiles upon you, the rewards are magnificent vistas of the cordillera.
Difficulty: HighLength: 4 kilometres one wayTime: 8 hours
Laguna del Caminante
This is considered to be another challenging hike and you do have to confirm weather conditions and register before you set out (part but not all of the trail is set within the boundaries of Tierra del Fuego National Park). The trail runs 25 kilometres from Valle de Andorra to Cañadón de la Oveja and due to its difficulty, it requires a certain level of physical fitness and experience on mountainous terrain (trekking poles are strongly recommended). Camping is permitted in the vicinity of the lagoon.
Difficulty: HighLength: 25 kilometres one wayTime: 10 hours
Short hiking trails in Tierra del Fuego National Park
The Lapataia Bay sector is home to several short hiking trails, so if you don’t have a lot of time or you want to take it easy, this is a good place to start.
You’ll notice I’m not including times for these short trail since many of them link up with each other and there are different ways of combining them. It takes about two hours if you’re looking to do some version of these trails from Lapataia Bay back to Alakush, where the Visitor Centre is located. It’s a bit longer if you detour down some of the side trails, but to give you an idea, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to walk any of these individual trails.
Lapataia Bay is the final shuttle stop in the national park, so if you want to hike here, just stay on the bus until the very end.
Paseo de la Isla – Trail 1
This is a short walk that takes you along the Cormorants’ Archipelago and also along the shores of the Rivers Lapataia and Ovando. It’s a good opportunity to view aquatic birds.
Difficulty: LowLength: 600 metres
Laguna Negra – Trail 2
This name translates to Black Lagoon as it’s a peat bog that’s in the process of being formed. Bogland is the deposit of dead plant material – often mosses, and in most cases, sphagnum moss. There are information boards along this trail that explain the process in even greater detail.
Difficulty: LowLength: 950 metres
Mirador Lapataia – Trail 3
This trail leads up to a viewing deck that overlooks Lapataia Bay. It’s a bit of a steep climb, but it’s very short and well worth the effort. The trail can get a bit busy since day tours offer this as a quick hike, but the groups clear out quickly.
Difficulty: LowLength: 1 kilometre
Del Turbal – Trail 4
This trail runs through the forest and links up with Mirador Lapataia and Castorera, so they can be easily combined. Turbal means ‘peat bog’ and aside from encountering bogland, you can also see some abandoned beaver lodges.
Difficulty: LowLength: 2 kilometres
Castorera – Trail 5
If you want to see beavers in action, this trail is the place to do it! Beavers were brought from Canada to Tierra del Fuego in 1946 with the hopes of kickstarting a fur trade, but that didn’t quite go to plan. It turns out that the beaver had no natural predators, so they reproduced rapidly and put a huge strain on the ecosystem felling trees and flooding forest along the way. In this section of the park, you can see the beavers’ handy work from a high vantage point.
Difficulty: LowLength: 400 meters each way
Senda de la Baliza – Trail 6
This hiking trail is located at the very end of Tierra del Fuego National Park and it runs a kilometre and a half until you reach a restricted part of the nature reserve, which means you have to turn around and hike back the same way you came. Along the way, you get to see an old beaver lodge that is now abandoned, plus there is access to a few pebbly beaches. The start of this trail has a boardwalk that leads you to a viewing point and this portion is wheelchair accessible.
Difficulty: LowLength: 1.5 kilometres each way
Camping in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Camping in Tierra del Fuego National Park is allowed and is free of charge. There are campsites at River Pipo, Ensenada, and Laguna Verde with portable toilets on site. There is an additional campsite at Laguna del Caminante on the Andorra-Oveja trek, but this one does not have any toilets.
Other things to do in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Train to the End of the World
Perhaps the most iconic thing to do on your visit to Tierra del Fuego is to ride the Train to the End of the World.
Also known as the Southern Fuegian Railway, this 500 mm gauge steam train was originally built to serve the prison in Ushuaia, which transported inmates to log in these forests, and then brought the timber back into town.
Today, a small section of the original railway runs as a tourist train, and it’s a pretty informative train journey complete with a historical narration via audio headsets as you travel through the forest.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, I would recommend doing the train ride on a separate day from the hiking, so you don’t feel rushed in the park.
Southernmost post office in the world
One thing you cannot miss when hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park is a visit to the southernmost post office in the world. The tiny post office located at Ensenada Zaratiegui sits 3,070 kilometres from Buenos Aires!
Once upon a time, this post office was a way for wayfaring sailors to send some sign of life home, but today it’s more of a tourist attraction. Visitors from around the world come to get their passport stamped ($3 USD) and send a postcard to loved ones back home.
Just be aware that mail travels slowly in this part of the world. It’ll take about 21 days to arrive,” they told me as I paid for my postage, and sure enough, I beat the postcard back to Canada.
Alakush Visitor Centre
You’ll likely end up at the Alakush Visitors Centre at some point during your hike in Tierra del Fuego National Park since this is where many of the trails start and end.
There’s a large cafeteria where you can get some simply meals – think empanadas, tortilla, milanesas, as well as cakes and medialunas. The cafeteria offers beautiful panoramic views of Río Lapataia and Lago Roca, and it’s a nice place to warm up after a long hike, especially if the weather is not very agreeable.
Have you been hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina?
What was your favourite hike?