South America Single Day Hike

14 Best Single-Day Hikes In South America For Nature Lovers!

South America is the ultimate trekking playground. The Andes runs from north to south and cuts through seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. This means you have endless opportunities to find single day hikes. Here’s a list of the 14 best single-day hikes in South America that everyone needs to complete.

Contents

The Best Single-Day Hikes In Colombia

1. Tayrona National Park - Santa Marta, Colombia

Tayrona Map Edited

Tayrona National Park, a protected area on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is known for its stunning natural beauty, rugged coastline, white sandy beaches, and lush tropical forests.

 

It is one of the most celebrated national parks in Colombia and is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in the country.

 

The park has several hiking trails that lead through the forest to various beaches, including the popular Cabo San Juan.

 

Tayrona National Park is also rich in biodiversity, including over many species of birds, monkeys, sloths, lizards, and jaguars; which you will likely come across whilst trekking.

 

Once you reach Cabo San Juan beach, most hikers take some time to relax and cool off in the sea.

 

Then you have a few options for returning; you can either camp the night on the beach, take a speedboat back to Taganga or hike back the way you came.

 

I would personally recommend the speedboat as it’s much quicker and you get to see more of the beautiful coastline.

You can reach Tayrona National Park from two towns: Palomino or Santa Marta.

 

For more on these two places, including the best hostels to stay in and what activities to do whilst you are there, head to the post below:

 

 

Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta (Colombia)

2. El Chiflon And La Chorrera Waterfall - Bogota

The Andean Jungles outside of Bogota are perfect for trekking. 

 

Parque Aventura La Chorrera Bogotá is just outside of the city centre and the perfect way to escape the city.

 

You can go trekking in the park and visit two amazing waterfalls –  El Chiflón and La Chorrera.

 

La Chorrera, a 1,936-foot wall of cascading water, is Colombia’s largest waterfall. 

 

This top rated tour includes transport to and from the park. 

For more great ideas for days out from Colombia’s capital city, head to the post below:

 

 

La Chorrera Waterfall, Bogota (Colombia)

The Best Single-Day Hikes In Ecuador

3. Laguna Cuicocha - Otavalo, Ecuador

  • Where: Otavalo, Ecuador
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 12.4km
  • Estimated Time: 4-5 hours
  • Highest Elevation: 3246m
  • Elevation gain: 635m
  • Route Type: Loop
  • All Trails – Laguna Cuicocha

Otavalo is home to one of my favourite hikes in Ecuador – a loop trail around the stunning crater lake know as Laguna Cuicocha.

 

It’s a great place to get your first taste of Andean countryside and to test out your hiking ability at higher altitude.

 

Laguna Cuicocha, which translates to Lake of Guinea Pigs, was given this name due to the shape of the two islands that can be seen in the middle of the lake.

 

The lake sits at 3,246 metres (10,650 ft), the loop around Laguna Cuicocha is 14km and should take between 4-5 hours for most people, even beginner hikers.

 

This is a moderate hike and beginner hikers can easily complete this trek.

 

Whilst the elevation is high and altitude sickness may be a concern for some, the trail is well marked and easy to follow, and the total gain in elevation over the whole loop is around 600m.

For more information on this hike and how to get to Otavalo, check out the post below:

 

 

Laguna Cuicocha (Otavalo)

4. Waterfall Sanctuary - Mindo, Ecuador

  • Where: Mindo, Ecuador
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 3-4 hours total (including stops at each waterfall)
  • Length: 4.2km in total
  • Highest Elevation: 1485m
  • Elevation gain: 292m
  • All Trails – Waterfall Sanctuary Trek

Hidden in the misty cloud forests of Mindo is a winding hiking path that takes you to seven beautiful waterfalls.

 

This path is known as the ‘waterfall sanctuary’ and is a popular day out from Mindo for eco-tourism and hiking.

 

Trekking through the cloud forest is a wonderful experience, and whilst you wont have epic views compared to some of the other single-day hikes on this list, you’ll be fully immersed in nature.

 

Each of the seven waterfalls is different, with a couple having plunge pools that you can go swimming in if you want.

 

In addition to the waterfalls, the sanctuary is also home to a variety of plant and animal species, including hundreds of species of birds such as toucans and hummingbirds which you may see whilst hiking if you are lucky!

For more information on the Mindo Waterfall hike, head to the complete guide below:

 

 

waterall and ladder in Mindo

5. Pichincha Volcano - Quito, Ecuador

  • Where: Quito, Ecuador
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 5-6 hours
  • Length: 10km
  • Highest Elevation: 4784m
  • Elevation gain: 1000+m
  • All Trails – Pichincha Volcano

Pichincha is an active stratovolcano overlooking Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.

 

The volcanos highest peak, Guagua Pichincha stands at 4,784 meters (15,695 feet) above sea level.

 

Quito’s cable car (Teleférico) will take you from 3,000m at the edge of the city, all the way up to 3,495m to the summit of Volcano Pichincha. 

 

At the top is where the trek will start, and you can expect beautiful views of the city and volcanoes surrounding Quito.

 

You can often see Cotopaxi Volcano in the distance on a clear day if you are lucky!

 

This trek takes roughly 5-6 hours (10km in total) and the altitude makes it tough, so come prepared and make sure you’ve spent a couple of days in Quito before to acclimatise. 

For more information on things to do in Quito including the Pichincha hike, head to the complete guide below:

 

 

Volcano Pichincha Hiking Trail in Quito, Ecuador

6. Cotopaxi Volcano - Cotopaxi, Ecuador

  • Where: Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours total
  • Elevation gain: 300m
  • Highest Elevation: 4800m
  • All Trails – Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the most beautiful sights in Ecuador –  with its perfect cone shape covered in a snow-capped peak swirling with clouds.

 

The hike to Cotopaxi Glacier is short but tough, taking you to 4800m above sea level.

 

You’ll start the day driving towards Cotopaxi Volcano in a 4×4 jeep, winding your way up its slopes until you reach the parking area at 4500m elevation and 300 meters down from the shelter.

 

From the parking spot you will then trek up to the shelter.

 

The incline is steep, and the path is loose gravel and rocks. Whilst you aren’t going far, the steep incline, altitude and lack of oxygen make it even harder.

 

To hike should take anywhere between 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on how fit you are.

 

Once you reach the shelter, take a break, and have a sit down with a nice warm drink and some chocolate

For more information on how to book your stay here and also visit Cotopaxi Glacier, head to the post below:

 

 

Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

Preparing for your first trip to South America? 

Here are 31 FAQ’s to help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime: 

7. Laguna Quilotoa - Ecuador

  • Where: Quilotoa, Ecuador
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Estimated Time: 4-5 hours
  • Length: 10.3km
  • Elevation gain: 799m
  • Highest Elevation: 3913m
  • All Trails – Laguna Quilotoa

The Quilotoa Crater is a water-filled volcanic caldera located in the Central Andes Mountains of Ecuador.

 

It is part of the Quilotoa Loop, a popular hiking route that takes 3 days where you trek through deep valleys and stay at a different indigenous village each night.

 

The crater was formed by the collapse of a volcano approximately 800 years ago, and is now filled with turquoise-blue water, creating a striking contrast with dark earthy colours of the surrounding volcanic landscape.

 

Backpackers who don’t have the time to do a multi-day hike can just do the single-day option instead which is the circular loop around the crater.

 

Hiking around the crater takes around 4-5 hours and you will reach several vantage points on the trek where be treated to views of the lake, the surrounding verdant countryside and stunning mountain landscapes.

For more information on how to complete a single day hiker at the Quilotoa Crater, head to the post below:

 

 

Quilotoa Crater, Ecuador

Travel Freely With The Lightest Bottle I've Found

I always take the HydroFlask Trail Series with me when I travel to South America.

 

It’s 20% lighter than their other bottles and my back appreciates it when I’m on a long hike!

 

It’s also durable, easy to clean and keeps drinks cold for 24 hours!

The Best Single-Day Hikes In Peru

7. Rainbow Mountain - Peru

  • Where: Cusco, Peru
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
  • Length: 10km
  • Elevation gain: 496m
  • Highest Elevation: 5200m
  • All Trails – Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain is set high in the Andes at a breath-taking 5,200m, making this one of the most challenging treks in Peru.

 

The Andes in this region of Peru are incredibly unique and unlike anything you’ve seen before.

 

The Rainbow Mountain hike is difficult in terms of altitude, not so much in terms of distance and elevation. You will be spending the whole time at an altitude of over 5,000m on this trek.

 

The hike to the viewpoint of Rainbow Mountain is a short distance (just under 500m in elevation), but it still takes around 2 hours.

 

Being so high means there is very little oxygen to breathe and the final 50m of the hike had me heaving for breath.

 

However, once I had reached the top and my lungs had settled now, there was no better feeling of achievement.

 

Rainbow Mountain will be a challenging trek for many, but it is 100% the effort once you reach the top.

For more information on hiking Rainbow Mountain, head to the post below:

 

 

Rainbow Mountain (Peru)

8. Laguna Humantay - Peru

  • Where: Cusco, Peru
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours
  • Length: 6.4km
  • Elevation gain: 442m
  • Highest Elevation: 4263m
  • All Trails – Laguna Humantay

Laguna Humantay is a high-altitude lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

 

It’s a popular single day hike but is also included as part of the famous 5-day Salkantay Trek.

 

The lake is known for its stunning turquoise-blue colour, which is created by the minerals and sediment carried into the lake by the surrounding glaciers.

 

This is a tough hike due to how steep it is.

 

You’ll be going straight up, taking big steps to push yourself up over the stone laden trail.

 

I found this trek much harder than Rainbow Mountain as it’s a solid hour of moving at a solid pace up a steep incline. But the stunning scenery and rewarding views of the lake make it well worth the effort.

If you are interested in visiting Laguna Humantay on the epic 5-day Salkantay trek, head to the post below for all the information you need to help you decide:

 

 

Laguna Humantay, Peru

9. Laguna 69 - Huaraz, Peru

  • Where: Huaraz, Peru
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 5-6 hours
  • Length: 13.8km
  • Elevation gain: 583m
  • Highest Elevation: 3423m
  • All Trails – Laguna 69

Framed by a dramatic skyline of glaciers, the city of Huaraz offers an alternative to the traditional Peruvian tourist circuit. 

 

The Cordillera Blanca, or “White Range,” is part of the Andes Mountain Range and is home to 722 glaciers and the tallest mountain in Peru – Huascaran.

 

It is known as the hiking capital of Peru and the options for trekking into the mountains are limitless.

 

One of the best single day hikes in the region is the Laguna 69 trek – a trek to a beautiful alpine lake situated at an elevation of approximately 4,600 meters above sea level.

 

This trail makes its way through a series of valleys and mountain passes, an once you reach highest point of the trek you’ll be treated with breath-taking views of the crystal-clear, turquoise-blue lake.

See how you can fit a trip to Huaraz in with a wider Peru itinerary:

 

 

Laguna 69, Huaraz (Peru)

The Best Single-Day Hikes In Bolivia

10. Condoriri - Bolivia

  • Where: La Paz, Bolivia
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours
  • Length: 8km
  • Elevation gain: 232m
  • Highest Elevation: 4400m
  • All Trails – Condoriri Base Trail

The Condoriri base camp hike is a popular trekking route located in the Cordillera Real mountain range just outside of La Paz, Bolivia.

 

The hike takes its name from the Condoriri massif, a series of jagged peaks that resemble the wings of a condor in flight.

 

This single day trek is excellent for adventurers wanting to get outside of La Paz and into the mountains without worrying about camping.

 

The hike begins at an altitude of 4,400m rising to the turquoise Chiar Khota Lake (4,600m), before another trek upwards to see ‘Mt Condor and the other 11 peaks.

 

If it’s a clear day, you’ll also get incredible views of La Paz and even Lake Titicaca if you are lucky.

You can book with a tour company to take you from La Paz into the mountains to start this trek. For more information on best tour companies and other great things to do in La Paz, head to the posts below:

 

 

Condoriri Hike, La Paz (Bolivia)

The Best Single-Day Hikes In Argentina

11. Aconcagua - Argentina

Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere.

 

Visiting this national park is a must if you are a lover of epic scenery and hiking.

 

The mountain is a few hours’ drive outside of Mendoza and its summit stands at 6,959 meters above sea level.

 

It is a popular destination for hikers from around the world and is often considered to be one of the Seven Summits (the highest peaks on each of the seven continents).

 

Most backpackers won’t be looking to summit the actual mountain though as it takes up to 20 days, but a single day trek in the park is still a great experience that will provide beautiful views of the Andes.

 

Many tour companies in Mendoza offer guided tours to the park, which includes transportation and a guide. If you want to trek to the Confluencia base camp its around a 14km round trip and a 5–6-hour trek in the park.

For more information on what to do in Mendoza alongside trekking in Aconcagua Provincial Park, head to the posts below:

 

 

Aconcagua National Park, Mendoza (Argentina)

12. Laguna De Los Tres - El Chalten, Argentina

  • Where: El Chatlen, Argentina (Patagonia)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 7-8 hours
  • Length: 22km
  • Elevation gain: 1050m
  • Highest Elevation: 1170m
  • All Trails – Laguna De Los Tres

El Chaltén is a small town located in the southern Patagonian,  known as the “Trekking Capital of Argentina”.

 

From El Chatlen, you have your pick of hikes from single day to multi-day options that take you to some of the best sights in Patagonia.

 

One of the most iconic single day hikes in Argentine Patagonia, is the Laguna de los Tres hike, popular for the sublime panoramic views it offers of Glaciar de Los Tres, Cerro Madsen and Monte Fitz Roy.  

 

The hike begins in the town of El Chaltén and winds through forests, up steep inclines, and past glaciers before arriving at the Laguna de los Tres.

 

The entire hike is roughly 22km, takes around 7-8 hours.

 

You can hike out-and-back to Laguna de Los Tres from El Chaltén in one day, but a popular option is to camp overnight near the lagoon and witness a fantastic sunrise the following morning.

 

The Laguna de los Tres trek is one of the best in Argentina as well as South America, and if you can only do one single day hike in Argentina’s Patagonia, this should be it.

Are you interesting in visiting Patagonia and doing some of these single or multi-day hikes? The extended itinerary below will help you plan the perfect trip:

 

 

Joe at Laguna De Los Tres, El Chalten (Argentina) - Shall We Go Home Travel
Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)
Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)

Is This The Best Backpack For South America?

I love the Osprey Farpoint 50-70L.

 

It’s reasonably priced and perfect for first timers visiting South America.

 

Read more here about why it’s so great or head to the official site below:

13. Refugio Frey - Bariloche, Argentina

  • Where: Bariloche, Argentina (Northern Patagonia)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Route Type: Single trail out and back
  • Estimated Time: 6-7 hours
  • Length: 18.8km
  • Elevation gain: 825m
  • All Trails – Refugio Frey

Bariloche is the lake district of Argentina and one of the most beautiful regions in Patagonia.

 

For hikers seeking a challenging adventure, the hike to Refugio Frey is an excellent choice.

 

This trail takes you through dense forests, rugged terrain, and glacial valleys, and should take between 6-7 hours in total.

 

There are several stops on the way, such as Mirador Lago Guiterrez, where you can take a break and enjoy the breathtaking views of the lakes surrounding Bariloche.

 

After a demanding climb, you’ll arrive at the Refugio Frey, a mountain hut nestled beside the pristine Laguna Toncek

 

You can even have a swim in Laguna Toneck if you fancy it (summer only though as it’s freezing).

For more on why Bariloche is a place you must visit when in Argentina, head to the post below:

 

 

Joe From Shall We Go Home Travel at Refugio Frey (Bariloche)

The Best Single-Day Hikes In Chile

14. Lago Grey - Chile

Trekking in Torres Del Paine National Park is a hikers dream and there are so many single day hikes to choose from.

 

One of my personal favourites is the Lago Grey / Grey Glacier trek.

 

The trek takes its name the large glacial lake located at the southern end of the park. Most people will experience this hike on day one of the famous ‘W’ trek but it can also be done as a single day trek.

 

This is one of the best treks in South America due to the scenery on offer: on one side, the Patagonian mountains and on the other side, the bright blue Lake Gray.

 

Along the way you will be able to catch peaks of Gray Glacier – one of the parks most iconic sights – but it won’t be until the that end  once you reach the viewpoint that you will experience the vastness and beauty of this natural wonder.

 

The glacier is an enormous wall of ice that stretches over 6 kilometers and is a stunning sight to behold.

Do you see everything Patagonia has to offer? This itinerary is the perfect way to do it:

 

 

Joe From 'Shall We Go Home Travel' looking out over the lakes in Torres Del Paine

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