After our most recent hike, Rebecca and I stumbled out of the forest sore, wet, muddy, swollen, scratched, and frustrated by the erosion we saw. There are many ways to hike the Dientes de Navarino. Some people do it in as little as 2 days, but we chose to take our time, taking 5 days to soak in the views, the silence, and the beauty.
South of Ushuaia, the town that’s known as the “end of the world,” is Isla Navarino, a small Chilean island that lays claim to the southernmost trail in the world: Dientes de Navarino. This 53 km circuit is notorious for high winds, wildly variable weather conditions, challenging ascents, steep descents, and rough terrain. The trail is minimally maintained and marked.
This trail is a rare wild backcountry adventure– we only saw other hikers once in five days. For us, it was a bit of a challenge, mostly because the trail is heavily eroded on certain sections, which should probably be rerouted or closed off soon. That being said, this is not really a trail so much as a general route that will carry you over cliff faces, steep fields of loose rock, climbing up waterfalls, and through plenty of mud. It is incredibly beautiful and a nice opportunity to slip away into the backcountry– a very refreshing change from the crowded trails of Torres del Paine and El Chalten. Be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions: in 5 days we experienced driving wind, rain, hail, and snow, some elusive moments of sunshine, and temperatures that varied between -3*C and 18*C.
If you’re thinking about hiking this trail, here’s our advice:
-Bring gaiters, consider hiking in rubber boots, or bring an extra pair of hiking shoes. We’d recommend hiking with a few extra pairs of wool socks compared to what you normally use.
-Memorize motivational songs to sing while hiking for hours through mud. We highly recommend “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (that Mulan classic).
-Wild dogs are purported to roam the island, but we didn’t see signs of any on the trail, nor did we have any problems with animals.
-Water sources are clean and readily available; we did not filter our water.
-We recommend bringing Trekking in the Patagonian Andes (Lonely Planet, make sure you get the most recent version) and Rutas Patrimoniales’ guide, which we found at a copy shop in Ushuaia, and has photos and GPS coordinates. We found both to be useful, as they each contain different but key information. We recommend going further than the guides say on Day 3 to reduce the length of Day 4, which has a strenuous ascent and descent.
-Bring extra food, in case you need to wait out bad weather.
-I carried a 40*F men’s sleeping bag (which is equal to a 50*F women’s bag), which was not nearly warm enough, even with my silk liner. I slept in all my layers and used a hot water bottle and was still cold. Rebecca carried a 10*F women’s bag and even she appreciated a hot water bottle.
-There’s a lot of daylight here in summertime, which makes it easy to find campsites before dark, but allow yourself more time than you need. We had two days that the guide said would take 4 1/2 hours that actually took us 8 hours because of poor trail conditions, difficult route finding, and our need to constantly take snack breaks (we’re secretly hobbits).
-If you want fresh produce on the trail, you’ll have better luck purchasing it at the beginning of the week in Puerto Williams. By the end of the week, not much is left here. Simon y Simon is a good supermercado in town.
-Sarah & Rebecca