The Fitz Roy area of Los Glaciares national park in Argentinian Patagonia is one of the most popular hiking areas in South America. Visitors come from all over the world to view the granite towers and visit glacial lakes. But just outside the park boundaries are many other hiking and camping opportunities that are just as spectacular – and often much more peaceful. Laguna del Diablo is one such place.
On the northern edge of the park, past the popular El Pilar lodge along the road to Laguna del Desierto, is a small private nature reserve with trails suitable for day walks. For a minimal entrance fee visitors can trek to Laguna Azul (less than an hour), Loma del Diablo (full day, but closed when I visited) or Laguna del Diablo and Cagliero glacier.
The Laguna del Diablo trek is very easy – almost entirely flat, following the noisy Rio del Diablo to Laguna del Diablo and the Cagliero glacier that feeds it. The first hour and a half pass through peaceful lenga and ñires forest that offers protection from the wind and sun (if you are lucky enough to have sun!). Across the river, Cerro 30 Aniversario peeks through the trees and you might even get a view of the north side of Fitz Roy if the sky is clear.
The final 30 minutes of the trail leaves the protection of the forest, crosses a branch of the river over a small wooden bridge, and continues on flat ground between the two rivers. Here the trail is much more exposed to the strong winds coming off the mountains and you can experience any sort of weather – at one point while I stopped to put on sun screen, it started snowing!
The trail also gets a bit boggy in places (especially after the wet season) but should be easily passable. One thing I learnt here is to not necessarily trust the advice given at the office – I was told the trail was impassable because it was too water logged, but in reality there were just a few big puddles that could easily be walked through or around.
Finally, the trail reaches Laguna del Diablo after about two hours of walking. Glaciar Cagliero sits ominously on the opposite side of the lake, though unfortunately it is not possible to cross the river to get a better view. All around, snow capped mountains provided a stunning backdrop, while on the river were groups of ducks that apparently live only in fast-flowing water such as the Rio del Diablo.