It's time to venture off the edge of the map to discover the epic mountains and views of the Dientes Trek.
South America is a mecca for some of the most cultural, scenic, and adventurous treks on the planet, such as the W Trek in Torres del Paine and the Inca Trail. But there’s one trek you’ve probably never heard of, and you should definitely add it to your travel list.
Prepare to sink your teeth into the Dientes Trek.
This “southernmost trek in the world” test of endurance in the heart of a vast and rugged island at the end of the world is growing in popularity, and for good reason. Not only does it boast of all the amazing scenery Patagonia is renowned for, but its anonymity gives it exactly what true explorers want: untamed nature far from the distractions of civilization; a new trail that’s untrammelled by the shoes of a million travelers who’ve come before and sullied the atmosphere of isolation.
Over the course of six days, take a bite out of the rocky valleys, virgin forests, pure rivers and lakes, and the jagged spine of the Dientes Massif on a trek that invigorates the mind and body, goes beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary, and presents itself with a wild spirit that stands tall as the Dientes themselves, ready to be recognized as one of the great treks of South America.
What to know:
Where: Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego, Chile.
Distance: 53.3 km (33 miles)
Time: 6 days/5 nights is the recommended amount of time to truly enjoy the trek, but some people choose to do it in 5 days/4 nights. Some people choose to extend it to 7 days.
Difficulty: Demanding - best for experienced trekkers. This trek tests your stamina and calls for long days of rough hiking on uneven terrain in virtually untouched territory. But the landscape and solitude makes the struggle well worth it.
When to go: Mid-December to mid-March. This falls during Patagonian summer, but the weather can still be unpredictable, with strong possibilities of high winds, rain, and chilly temperatures.
Where to stay: Puerto Williams is the starting and ending point, where there are hotels and lodgings, but during the trek itself, as the trek is still undeveloped and lacks refugios, tent camping is the only accommodation.
Navarino Island hangs from the tip of South America, the last chunk of rock before the nautical-lore-drenched waters of Cape Horn. Starting from Puerto Williams (where the trek also ends), the trails winds in a haphazard circle into the interior of the island.
Although the sky-scraping peaks of the massif are quick to draw the eye, be sure to turn your gaze to the ground to become acquainted with the hardy trees, shrubs, and other vegetation that defy the chilly temperatures and punishing winds to take root and survive. Thanks to the abundance of water and moisture here, you’ll also encounter Tierra del Fuego’s miniature treasure trove of world-famous mosses, liverworts, and lichens. For wildlife, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see one of the beavers who’ve set up shop in some of the island’s rivers and ponds.
Looking skyward, the toothed peaks (hence the name, as “dientes” means “teeth” in Spanish) of the massif make for a striking skyline, with grand names and outlines like Mount Codrington, Mount Lindenmayer, and the indented spires of the Dientes de Navarino themselves.
As the trail climbs higher among the craggy peaks, Tierra del Fuego’s legendary waterways will be seen, including the Beagle Channel, Nassau Bay, and the seas and islands of Cape Horn, as well as numerous lakes, rivers, and swamps among the mountains along the way. At the trek’s summit, accessible through the rapidly-ascending Virginia Pass, Tierra del Fuego’s oceans, channels, forests, mountains, and the towns of Ushuaia and Puerto Williams are all laid out before you. It’s a breathtaking sight from the top of the world.
What you see on a day-to-day basis depends on your pace and the amount of days you plan on taking to complete the trek, but on our 6 day trip, here’s a layout of what you’ll see each day.
History of the Dientes Trek:
One of the main reasons the Dientes Trek is just now starting to gain recognition is that it’s still a relatively new path. The route was first established in the early 1990s by Clem Lindenmayer, an Australian climber and writer for the popular travel guide series Lonely Planet.
As it so happens, the Dientes Trek and Lonely Planet go way back, with the trek holding the ultimate Lonely Planet pedigree. In addition to having founded the trek, the mountains Cerro Clem and Mount Lindenmayer bear Lindenmayer’s name. The mountains were christened by the Chilean Ministry of Natural Resources in 2001, which was also when the route was marked with its 38 official numbered trail markers.
Adding to its list of Lonely Planet accolades, the Dientes Trek is also glowing endorsed as the “best trek in South America” by Carolyn McCarthy in the Lonely Planet “Trekking in the Patagonian Andes - 32 Great Treks” guide.
Is your interest piqued? Join us on the Dientes Trek for an extraordinary experience in a lost world that few have ever seen.