Ruta 40 to El Chalten
The roads leading to El Chalten offer endless picturesque Patagonia landscapes. The two hour drive along iconic Ruta 40 and Ruta 23 from El Calafate was just as enjoyable as our time in El Chalten itself.
La Leona Hotel on Ruta 40
We drove Ruta 40 along the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino and then Rio La Leona. We passed a series of odd rock formations with symmetrical striations in the hillside that stood out against the otherwise flat plains of the Patagonian steppe. I learned this was a petrified forest. Before turning onto Ruta 23, we stopped at La Leona Hotel, once a hiding place for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Inside the La Leona Hotel outpost (not really a hotel) we got coffee and checked out the tiny museum in the back that held a small collection of dinosaur fossils, antique fox traps and other curiosities from the area. Old preserved “Wanted” posters of Butch Cassidy hung on the walls. Outside La Leona Hotel we took a moment to check out the sign post with distances from major cities around the world to appreciate just how far we were from home.
Lago Viedma and Ruta 23
We got back in the van and drove on. As Lago Argentino disappeared behind us, Lago Viedma came into view. Our driver noticed some foxes at the side of the road and stopped so we could take photos. In the very far distance we could make out the Viedma glacier, the longest glacier in Argentina, as well as the Fitz Roy mountain range.
We turned onto Ruta 23 and drove along Lago Viedma. The driver pointed out erratic boulders along the road, evidence of the glacial activity 10,000 years ago when glaciers once formed these valleys.
As we drove down Ruta 23 the iconic Patagonia skyline came into view. This epic skyline includes the two famous granite spires of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy as well as five other jagged mountain peaks within their ranges. In the cloudless sky, the view couldn’t have been better. We were excited to be in this remote section of the world and couldn’t believe all we’d just seen simply on the road to El Chalten.