Peaceful. Serene. Trancelike.
Just the rush of water falling 20m, splashing onto the rocks. I had the whole waterfall to myself.
Have I mentioned that I LOVE waterfalls? I adore the combination of white, blue and green coming together seamlessly to paint a picture of nature at its purest.
After a disappointing climb towards Laguna de los Tres aka Fitz Roy, that is what I needed.
My knees were still hurting. Yet, I did not want to waste a day at El Chalten (hostels are expensive here!)
The trail to Chorrillo del Salto is touted to be an easy 1 hour hike. It makes the perfect half-day trip for those who arrive in the afternoon, short of time or like me, needs a break from long, arduous trek.
And there are MANY long, arduous treks in Patagonia.
At only 5km from El Chalten, you can ride a bicycle, rent a car or simply walk there like I did. Knowing it is a short trek, I woke up without an alarm, lazed in bed and had a filling breakfast before setting off. Ah, such is life.
The trailheads to Laguna de los Tres and Chorrillo del Salto are located at the northern end of town. Clearly marked signs point you towards the right direction.
Now here is where it might get confusing for hikers.
The big sign with the words ‘Chorrillo del Salto’ pointed right at the fork, so naturally I took the right path. Not 5min in, a French couple came towards me, in the opposite direction. It’s still morning, they couldn’t have gone there and returned so soon!
They suggested to check out the left path instead because they felt something was amiss. Indeed, when we turned back there was a small sign – shadowed by the big one - indicating the waterfalls’ path for pedestrians (peatonal). I then realized the big sign is for vehicles.
The path started narrow, alongside a hill. It’s an easy and smooth hardened mud path. No problem for healthy knees.
After around 10min, down a set of stairs, the path leads to the road – the one for vehicles. For the next 30-40 min, you’d be walking on this unpaved road which follows the course of a flowing river. This river flows into Rio de las Vueltas (the Winding River), at the bottom of a wide valley.
Next, walk past the Bicisenda (bike trail) exclusively for cyclists. And a good way to avoid the heavy traffic during peak season.
To the left, an opening marks the way for the last stretch towards the waterfall. This gravel path is surrounded by lenga and ñire trees.
It’s probably the gravel path, or that I’ve walked for almost an hour, that my left knee started hurting again. It hurt badly, but the rush of the waterfall crashing pulled me forward. I was close.
Just keep going.
Walking past a well-marked parking area, I realized this was the first time I was up close with autumn-coloured trees. Sure, I’ve seen them at Torres del Paine and the trek towards Fitz Roy, but they were always from a distance.
I never knew they look this captivating up close. I slowed down and admired this natural beauty, being full present in the moment. Travelling reminds us to slow down and appreciate the things around us.
Having seen the Iguazu Falls, this waterfall, to be honest, is not impressive. It’s just a thin strip of water flowing down the mountains. But it makes for a relaxing day trip. And the colours of the surroundings, at least in autumn, mesmerized me.
It’s been said that this waterfall completely freezes over in cold winters. Local ice climbers even use it for climbing practice!
There you go! An easy and relaxing hike to Chorrillo del Salto, the waterfall neglected in favour of the more popular treks.
In El Chalten, I stayed at the huge hostel Rancho Grande. It is a hostel that is easy to meet people, since most go there to do the same few treks. I ran into my roommate while hiking Fitz Roy, and another one later in El Calafate. There is a 24 hr restaurant in the hostel that is open to the public. With that said, food is expensive in the town, even in supermarkets. If you're in town, be sure to try the apple pie from the restaurant. It's SO good I had it twice. Check them out here!
And now, it's your turn.