Hiking Argentina – Valle de Olum y Laguna Bélgica – Ushuaia

Having exhausted the main day hikes out of Ushuaia (well, except for the Martial Glacier, which didn’t seem too interesting) and not being terribly keen to pay to enter the Tierra del Fuego National Park again (I’d already done the best hike in the park – Cerro Guanaco – in 2016), I needed one more day-hike to fill in my time in the far south of Argentina.

Fortunately, I overheard another girl in the dorm room talking about a hike she’d done with some local friends-of-a-friend to the Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica, and decided I’d see if I could find the trail on Wikiloc.  I love Wikiloc, and it didn’t let me down – there were actually two GPS trails available!  I downloaded both to Maps.Me and put the word out around the hostel about my plan.

Wikiloc map for the trail to Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Wikiloc is a great place to look for GPS coordinates for different hiking trails

I must have done a reasonable job as a guide and hiking companion to the Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier because Matthias decided to join me again.  The irony was – he was from Belgium – but I didn’t tell him beforehand that our destination was Laguna Bélgica (Belgian Lake) 🙂

Fortunately, the trail began directly opposite the carpark for Laguna Esmeralda, so we caught the transfer out there (for a change, there were actually 3 of us waiting at 9am!) and started hiking through the Lenga forest. 

Yellow dots marked the start of the trail to the Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

The first part of the trail was very easy, marked with yellow dots, and passed through Lenga forest. Matthias leading the way

The trail was obvious (well, once we’d walked through someone’s property) and we followed the yellow dots and worn path along the river, marveling at just how much damage beavers are doing in this part of the world!

Beaver damage - Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Evidence for beavers is everywhere in the Valle de Olum. It is impressive just how big an area they can destroy – and it is total destruction!

The hike through the forest was not terribly steep, and without too much effort we reached the top of the tree-line and the “beaver dam”.

Beaver Dam - Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Exploring the Beaver Dam in the Valle de Olum. Matthias is walking over the beaver dam wall in the image at the bottom

At this point, the yellow markers we’d been following disappeared and so we switched to following the Wikiloc GPS trail on Maps.Me for a while.

the way to the Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Laguna Bélgica is up there somewhere! It turns out it was almost at the top and over to the left

The climb got steeper at this point and we eventually came across a new set of markers … stone cairns.  These were very easy to spot while we were still hiking through vegetation, but became increasingly challenging to find as we ascended the stony trail to the Olum pass.

Stone Cairns marking the trail Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Yellow markers gave way to stone cairns to mark the route to Laguna Bélgica. They were pretty obvious while we still had vegetation (top) but much harder to spot once we’d reached rock (can you find the cairn in the bottom image?)

The views back into the valley and across to Laguna Esmeralda were incredible

View back into the Valle de Olum - Ushuaia - Argentina

The view back down into the Valle de Olum and across to Laguna Esmeralda. Spectacular!

but it seemed as if Laguna Bélgica was never going to appear!   We were almost to the pass itself, before we finally came upon it – and I told Matthias its name 🙂

Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

A Belgian admiring Laguna Bélgica

We stopped here to explore and have some lunch, and contemplated going all the way to the pass.  But we could only see one cairn, and the way looked even sketchier than what we had already scrambled up, so we decided to head back to ensure we didn’t miss our return transfer to Ushuaia.

Waterfall on the way down from Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Views from our descent from Laguna Bélgica. It was very steep!

It’s amazing how you don’t really get a sense of how steep a trail is until you start to descend it.  We spied a couple of people coming over the pass from Laguna Turquesa (it is in the next valley across) and thought they were absolutely crazy heading down such a steep mountain.  But upon reflection… we had actually just done the same thing.

Recommendation

If you have hiking and navigation experience and want to get away from the “crowds”, the Valle de Olum to Laguna Bélgica is a good trail to do and easy to get to.  You get a bit of everything (Lenga forest, Patagonian vegetation, rocky scree) and some amazing views back down the valley and across to Laguna Esmeralda.  It would have been great to hike the whole way over the pass and back to the road, but unless you can arrange transportation back, that is a little more logistically challenging.

Time: 9:30am – 2pm

Cost: 350ARS for the transfer to the Laguna Esmeralda carpark

 

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