The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the W Trek in Patagonia: Full Itinerary, How to Self Book, Cost Breakdown & More!
March 28, 2023.
Hiking the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park is an incredible experience that will reward you with endless views and memories that will last a lifetime. You will see jagged mountain peaks, aqua blue lakes, waterfalls, glaciers and more as you take the journey. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see giant condor birds and make new friends as you stay at the inns along the way.
I found the W Trek to be incredibly rewarding and definitely worth the effort, planning and costs. The trek is also perfect for those who are newer to backpacking but are experienced day hikers. Trekking during the day with inns to stay overnight is the perfect combination!
This blog includes a W Trek itinerary and covers everything you need to know to book the W Trek self guided, pack for the W Trek and be prepared. This is based on my experience visiting over New Year’s in December 2022 and January 2023.
Table of Contents
Overview of the w trek, when to hike the w trek, hiking the w trek self guided vs with a guide, how to self book the w trek, how to book the lodging for the w trek, booking an entry ticket to torres del paine national park, booking transportation between puerto natales and torres del paine national park, w trek planning checklist (for self booking), tips and important things to know before hiking the w trek, w trek itinerary: east to west, day one of the w trek, day two of the w trek, day three of the w trek, day four of the w trek, day five of the w trek, how should you end the w trek, how much does it cost to hike the w trek, ways to save money on the w trek, what to pack for the w trek, other ways to see torres del paine national park, faqs about the w trek, final thoughts.
- Located in Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
- 50 miles/80 km
- Typically done in 4 Nights, 5 Days
- The highest elevation is at the Base of Towers, 2,788 feet above sea level
The W Trek refers to a multi-day hike that is shaped like the letter W. This area is unique because there are several inns along the trek where you can spend the night. You can choose between hostel-style lodging, have them provide you a tent at the campgrounds or bring your own tent. Each inn serves food, has restrooms and showers and even offers wifi for an additional fee.
The W Trek is about 50 miles and is typically done in 5 days and 4 nights. There are very few technically challenging sections of the trail, but there are long days with steep climbs. If you have experience hiking 10+ miles in a day in mountainous areas and feel that you can do that for a few days in a row, then you will be set up for success.
Because of the amenities offered, this is a great trip to do if you’re new to backpacking or if you just prefer to stay in a bed instead of a tent. If you stay in the refugios and purchase their full room and board package, you will not have to carry all of your food, water and sleeping equipment. The lighter you can pack for the trek, the more comfortable you’ll be.
While the hike itself is not overly difficult, dealing with the unpredictable weather is the toughest part. I experienced really high winds during my trek. Bad wind is common and it’s not uncommon to experience heavy rain, fog or even snow. You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared with the good layers and keep your expectations low in case it’s too foggy to see some of the best views along the trail.
For a shorter version of this blog, check out my top 30 tips for hiking the W trek!
You will most likely hike the W Trek in the summertime for the Southern Hemisphere (winter in the Northern Hemisphere). The W Trek is typically open to hiking self-guided from October to the end of April, and you’ll likely have the best weather from November to March. I hiked the trek over New Years (December and January), which was really special!
If you would like to hike in the park during the winter months, you can do so with a guide.
There are several companies that offer guides if you’re not comfortable hiking the W Trek on your own. This can be a great option for some!
However, I think a guide is unnecessary, as the trail is well marked and easy to follow. It all depends on your comfort level, abilities and budget.
If you are looking for a guide, some companies that offer services include Swoop Patagonia, Tangol Tours, Chile Nativo and many more.
Many people assume you have to go through a third party company to book the W Trek. A third party would certainly be a little bit easier, but if you prefer to do it all yourself, I’m going to tell you exactly how!
Two separate companies own the various lodges in Torres Del Paine National Park: Vertice Travel and Las Torres Patagonia (previously called Fantastico Sur).
For this itinerary, you will book with Las Torres Patagonia for the first two nights at Los Cuernos and El Chileno, and Vertice Travel for the second two nights at Paine Grande and Refugio Grey.
You can book directly with each company on their websites.
To book El Chileno and Los Cuernos, start on the Las Torres website . Choose to book the ‘shelters’ and then make reservations at the Central Refuge and the Chilean Refuge. Upon booking, you can select to add on full room and board (breakfast, packed lunch and dinner) or any combination of only dinners, only breakfast, etc.
To book Paine Grande and Refuio Gray, start on the Vertice Travel website. Under accommodations, make reservations at ‘Refuge & Camping Paine Grande’ and ‘Shelter & Camping Gray.’ When you book, you will select that you’re doing the W Circuit and be able to book both lodges at once, along with the full room and board.
If you have any dietary restrictions, be sure to request that when booking. If you don’t see the option, send an email to their customer service to confirm. I am a vegetarian and all of the inns were very accommodating!
I booked my trip for December/January in May and June. In 2022, the reservations for Las Torres went on sale well before the reservations for Vertice Travel. So, I booked half of the trek and then waited until the Vertice released their openings. Keep an eye on their social media platforms and/or send an email to their customer service to stay up to date.
After your lodging and transportation is squared away, it is very important to book an entry ticket into the national park. I did this a week or two ahead of time.
To buy your ticket, go to aspticket.cl and select ‘buy or reserve.’ You will then select the correct park, which is listed as ‘Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Venta)’ in Spanish. From there, you will input your entry and exit dates in and out of the park.
You will then need to fill out a variety of information, such as your birthdate and passport number, where you are staying each night of the trek, if you are traveling with a guide and more.
When you complete the form, you will pay the fee ($49 USD per person at this writing) and receive an email with a QR code. Make sure you have this QR code saved offline (and/or printed) for when you arrive at the park! The rangers will scan it upon arrival and there is not reliable cell reception.
The cheapest and easiest way to get between Puerto Natales and Torres Del Paine National Park is by bus! There are a few different bus companies that run multiple daily trips between the city and the park.
I booked my tickets a week or two in advance with Bus-Sur, and I used busbud.com for easy booking. For the beginning of the trek, I recommend leaving Puerto Natales as early as you can (mine left at 6:45AM).
Keep in mind that you will be starting and ending at different places inside the national park.
For the beginning of the W Trek, book a ticket from Puerto Natales (Rodoviario) to Terminal Laguna Amarga . For the ending of the W Trek, book a ticket from Pudeto (Catamaran Paine Grande) to Puerto Natales (Rodoviario). I recommend an afternoon or evening time for the end of the trek, my bus left Pudeto at 2PM.
The bus rides will take about two hours and there are some great views along the way. Be sure to print out your bus tickets ahead of time and arrive a little early.
If you’re booking everything yourself, here is a quick checklist to make sure you have everything you need before setting out!
- Los Cuernos
- Paine Grande
- Refugio Grey
- National Park Entrance Ticket
- A morning ride from Puerto Natales to Laguna Amarga to start the trek
- An afternoon or evening ride from Pudeto to Puerto Natales to end the trek
- (Optional) A glacier trek or glacier kayaking from Refugio Grey (book with Bigfoot Patagonia)
- (Optional) The catamaran ride on Grey Lake
- Expect all kinds of weather, especially high winds. Wind is very common in the area and can be really intense. Also know that it’s possible fog will sock in some of the most epic views. Keep your expectations low just in case.
- You can drop off your heaviest gear at parts of the trail! Bring a day pack and drop your packs at El Chileno and Camp Italiano before ascending up the most difficult parts of the trail.
- The towers will be crowded but the rest of the trails won't be. But overall, the W trek is not the best for solitude and you will often see other people around. It’s a good social hike because you can meet people every night at the inns.
- The elevation of this region is relatively low (2,788 feet is the highest point on the W Trek), so you shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the altitude.
- Each inn on the trek has drinking water, food and alcohol for sale, plus wifi for purchase and more. You will not exactly be roughing it on this journey! That being said, you should bring a water filter just in case you’re sensitive to the water or want to make sure you can fill up at streams on the way.
- Download the map of the trail on All Trails to follow along with your progress throughout the trail.
For a full list of tips for hiking the W Trek, check out my top 30 W Trek tips !
I hiked the W Trek from East to West. You can also hike it in the opposite direction, but hiking it east to west tends to be more common. I liked hiking it from east to west because I got the most difficult portions out of the way early. It was also fun to end the trek with a gorgeous catamaran ride across Lake Pehoe!
Below is my full itinerary for hiking the W Circuit! I hiked 50 miles over 4 nights and 5 days total.
- Take the bus from Puerto Natales, hike to the Base of the Towers, stay at El Chileno
- 9.9 miles, 3,000 feet of elevation gain
The best way to get to Torres Del Paine National Park is by taking a bus from Puerto Natales. The bus ride will take about 2 hours to reach the main entrance of the park (Laguna Amarga), which is where you’ll be exiting the bus for this itinerary.
When you arrive, you will need to exit the bus and have a ranger scan your entry ticket. You should have your ticket saved offline ahead of time and ready to show from your phone.
There was a bit of a language barrier for us here, as none of the instructions were given in English. How it worked was that everyone got off to get their ticket scanned here, whether you were getting off here or not. After they scanned our tickets, we went back to the bus to collect our backpacks.
From there, you will take a smaller shuttle bus to get to the start of the W Trek. This bus costs an extra fee of 4000 Chilean pesos per person in cash. It was a quick, 10 minute bus ride to reach the Torres Del Paine Welcome Center, where you will officially begin your trek! The welcome center has packed lunches, hiking poles and other items if you have forgotten something.
I calculated the day one milage to be 9.9 miles with just over 3000 feet of elevation gain. In terms of steepness, it was definitely the hardest day of the trek for me.
As you begin the trail, you’ll start with a short and flat walk back to Hotel Las Torres Patagonia. This is where most people stay to do a day hike up the Towers, and some people stay here for the first night of the W trek. It’s an option, but I definitely recommend staying in El Chileno instead if possible!
The trail is flat at first but you will quickly begin to gain elevation. A little under 2 miles from Hotel Las Torres, you’ll come to the first fork in the trail. Stay to the right as you continue up into the Windy Pass.
This portion of the trail gets a bit steep and there is a chance you’ll experience high winds. Luckily, there are some amazing views whenever you stop to take a break. Two miles from the hotel, you’ll reach a high point and then need to descend to reach El Chileno. El Chileno is located right next to the river and the perfect place to stop for lunch.
You can use the cubbies inside of El Chileno to drop off your heaviest gear before continuing up to the Towers. Depending on the time of day, I don’t recommend spending too long on a break at El Chileno. At some point in the afternoon, the park rangers will stop letting anyone hike up to the Towers, so be sure to stay on schedule.
Since you will be staying at El Chileno tonight, go ahead and check in when you pass through. Your room will probably not be ready, but you can let them know you're there and be assigned a time for dinner.
The hike to the Towers gets quite steep for the last 0.7 miles. There is a bit of rock scrambling and a lot of dusty areas if conditions are dry. Be sure to watch your step and take your time. This is also a popular day hike so you’ll likely encounter crowds and need to spend a lot of time stepping aside for other hikers.
But the crowds and steep scrambling are worth it. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view face to face with Lago Torres and the three Towers. The towers; Torres d'Agostini, Torres Central and Torres Monzino, are the most iconic sight in Torres Del Paine National Park, and certainly could be considered among the best views in the world. On a clear day, the towers stand tall as a backdrop to the bright turquoise lake below.
After enjoying the towers, make your way down to El Chileno for your first dinner of the trek. While El Chileno had my least favorite food of the W trek inns, I loved the atmosphere. Before or after dinner, you can hang out outside where there are picnic tables overlooking the river. Dinner at El Chileno is served at long tables and offers a great chance to get to know fellow hikers.
The rooms inside El Chileno were pretty basic. My room slept 6 people over 3 bunk beds (but there were only 4 of us for this night). There were shared bathrooms divided by gender down the hall. Overall, El Chileno is nothing fancy but I had no complaints.
- Hike from El Chileno to Los Cuernos
- 8.2 miles, 1,174 feet of elevation gain
On day two of the W trek, you’ll hike from El Chileno to Los Cuernos. In this itinerary, this day is tied for the easiest. The day will begin uphill as you hike out of the valley where El Chileno sits, but then it will be mostly downhill the rest of the day.
This trail includes many fantastic views of Nordenskjöld Lake. The lake is a brilliant aqua green color and there are some beautiful viewpoints.
This is the day where I saw a large hoard of condor birds flying up above and sitting on nearby cliffs. Condor birds are the largest flying birds in the world and they’re fascinating to watch!
Los Cuernos is owned by the same company as El Chileno and has a similar vibe. I actually was here on New Year’s Eve, so we were served a special meal. They also threw a NYE party for the staff (that we were invited to as well). I’m not sure what it’s like on other nights, but the atmosphere was lively and celebratory. This meant it was loud and hard to sleep, so you may want to bring along ear plugs.
Los Cuernos also offers private cabins that sleep 2 people, so try to book one of these if you prefer things a bit quieter.
- Hike from Los Cuernos to Paine Grande and into the French Valley on the way
- 16.4 miles, 3,102 feet of elevation gain
Day three is the longest day of the W Trek. You will hike up into the French Valley, the center of the ‘W,’ to reach Mirador Britannica. Then you will continue onto the third inn of the trip, Paine Grande.
If you do the entire trail, it will be about 16.4 miles and 3,102 feet of elevation gain. I turned back early due to high winds and fog on this day, so I only went about 13 miles.
The trail starts out relatively flat and easy until you reach Camp Italiano. If you have a very windy day like I did, watch out for the beach areas. The beaches are very exposed and the wind almost knocked us over at one point.
When you reach Camp Italiano, there are some outdoor shelves where you can drop off your heaviest gear. There was also a whiteboard here that had information on what time the viewpoints would close for the day and a warning about the high winds.
The hike up into the French Valley is steep at times, but felt more gradual than the hike to the Towers. You will go in and out of forest areas and viewpoints. Even if you just go part of the way, there are some fantastic views where you can admire the surrounding mountains and look for waterfalls, avalanches and glaciers in the distance.
There are four main viewpoints along the way. When I reached the second one, Mirador Valle de Frances, the wind was extremely strong, so many people turned around here. We went a little bit further, but decided to turn around before making it to the third.
After returning to Camp Italiano to pick up your gear, it will be about 5 more miles to reach your inn for the night. It’s mostly downhill and relatively easy. However, the wind was very intense for me and made the miles feel quite long.
There was one suspension bridge crossing that felt particularly daunting, as the wind was shaking the bridge all over the place while we crossed over a river canyon.
You will also pass an area of wildfire damage. Unfortunately, there have been multiple cases of fires started from the mistake of tourists in the park, so please make sure to follow the rules. Open fires are strictly prohibited and camp stoves are only allowed to be used in designated areas.
After this long day, it’s a great feeling to reach Paine Grande. This inn feels nicer than the first two inns, as it’s newer and larger. However, what you gain in newness means that there is less of the great community feeling you get from the smaller inns.
The rooms here are equipped with two bunk beds and more comfortable bedding than Los Cuernos and El Chileno. They also have real lockers if you want to lock up any valuables. Dinner is served buffet style and there is a bar upstairs as well.
- Hike from Paine Grande to Refugio Grey. Optionally, hike up to the suspension bridges and a view of Grey Glacier.
- 6.9 miles, 1,319 feet of elevation gain
- Second hike is 5 miles with 1,014 feet of elevation gain
On day four, you’ll hike to the final inn of the trip, Refugio Grey. You also have the option to hike an additional few miles to see some suspension bridges and close up views of the Grey Glacier, which I highly recommend doing.
The first trail between the two inns is 6.9 miles with 1,319 feet of elevation gain. While it isn’t difficult, this was the windiest area of my trek. The wind made it difficult to move forward at times and definitely slowed us down.
However, the trail has some fantastic views of Grey Lake and about halfway through you’ll start to see the Grey Glacier in the distance. The trail has multiple ups and downs, so you’ll have a nice variety.
At one point about 2 miles from the inn, there is a short portion of the trail where you’ll have to climb down a rock scramble that can be slick. It’s very doable if you have some hiking experience, but I found this to be one of the most technical portions of the entire W Trek.
When you reach the Refugio Grey, there are a few excursions and additional trails you can choose from if you’re up to it. First, you have the option to kayak next to the glacier or go on a guided glacier trek. These activities cost extra and you should reserve them in advance if possible. We reserved the kayaking excursion, but unfortunately it was too windy for us to go out. It had been too windy to kayak for a couple weeks, so keep in mind that this cancellation is very common.
Additionally, you can take a hike up to see some incredible suspension bridges and a view of the Gray Glacier. This trail is about 5 miles with a little over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. It is part of the O Circuit, so you’ll likely see hikers on the O coming the other way.
There are three suspension bridges you can hike to, but I only went to the first two.
The second bridge is especially magnificent. It is quite long and dangles 100’s of feet in the air over a large valley. On one side, you get a fantastic view of the glacier. On the opposite side, you can see a tall waterfall coming down from the mountains. I don’t recommend this if you’re afraid of heights, but it’s a really neat experience if heights don’t bother you.
If you aren’t up for the longer trail, there is also a viewpoint very close to the Grey Inn (a half mile) where you can get a nice view of the glacier.
After an additional hike, an excursion or some rest, enjoy your final dinner of the W Trek. I thought that Refugio Gray had some of the best food for dinner on the trip!
- Hike from Refugio Grey to Paine Grande, take the catamaran across Pehoe Lake, take a bus back to Puerto Natales.
- 6.9 miles, 1,208 feet of elevation gain
On your final day on the W Circuit, hike back to Paine Grande to catch the Grande Catamaran. This is the same trail that you did on day four in the opposite direction, but you’ll have about 100 less feet of elevation gain. When you reach Paine Grande, line up to take the catamaran to Peduto.
There are actually catamarans from both Refugio Grey and Paine Grande, and they go different places. I was confused about this, so I’m going to explain the difference and the pros and cons of each.
For the least amount of hiking, you can end your trek from Refugio Gray and take the catamaran across Lago Grey. This journey will take about an hour and costs $75 one way. It will take you to Hotel Lago Grey.
Pros of the Lago Grey Catamaran
- Less hiking! You get to leave from your final lodge via a beautiful boat ride.
Cons of the Lago Grey Catamaran
- It’s about 3 times the cost of the Lake Pehoe Catamaran.
- We were told that this boat is much more susceptible to delays and cancellations due to wind.
- It will bring you to the Lago Grey Hotel, which has fewer transportation options to get you back to Puerto Natales. You may need to stay at the hotel and arrange private transportation.
- This boat is not first come first serve like the Lake Pehoe Catamaran. You should make a reservation before your trek because it is likely to sell out.
For the reasons listed above, most hikers return from the trek via the Lake Pehoe Catamaran. The boat ride takes about 25 minutes and runs a few times a day. Check for the most up to date schedule at Paine Grande.
You cannot make a reservation for the Lake Pehoe boat. You’ll need to wait in line by the dock and board first come, first served. You also need to make sure you have cash - the boat requires $30 USD or $25 Chilean pesos per person, each way. During peak season, they take cash in US dollars or Euros as an alternative to Chilean Pesos.
The boat is quite large so you shouldn’t worry if there is a long line to board. Also note that even though there is a schedule, the boats do not always run on time.
The boat also has stunning views! If it’s a clear day, you’ll get a new perspective of the park and see incredible mountain peaks as you ride through turquoise colored water.
When you reach Pudeto, take a bus ride back to Puerto Natales to end your time in Torres Del Paine National park. There is a small cafe to wait in before your bus ride. You should make sure that you have reserved a bus ticket ahead of time.
I took the second ferry of the day back from Paine Grande (it was scheduled for 11 but ended up being closer to 12) and then waited about 2 hours in the cafe for my 2 PM bus ride. The cafe sold lunch items, coffee, beer and more. There is also a one mile waterfall trail you can enjoy if you have the energy!
When you reach Puerto Natales, celebrate your hard work with a delicious meal, a pisco sour and a nice hotel stay. I loved eating at Cafe Artimana, Cafe Kaiken and La Guanaca Pizza.
In December/January 2022/2023, we paid $872 per person to hike the W Trek. This included 4 nights of lodging, full room and board, the bus tickets to and from the park, the ferry at the end and the entry ticket into the national park. We had to pay about $37 extra for a special New Year’s Eve Dinner, so you can subtract that if you’re not going over Christmas or New Years!
Here is the cost breakdown:
Night 1: El Chileno - $125 per person for the bed with sheets, $88 per person for the food
Night 2: Los Cuernos - $125 per person for the bed with sheets, $124 per person for the food (This was New Years Eve so the food cost extra - they did something special!)
Night 3: Paine Grande - $92 per person for the bed with sheets, $61 per person for the food
Night 4: Gray - $92 per person for the bed with sheets, $61 per person for the food
Ferry to return from Paine Grande and end the trek: $30 per person (cash only)
Bus Tickets on Bus Sur between Puerto Natales and the national park: $10 per person each way. There is also a shuttle between the entry to the park to the actual start of the trek that cost $5 per person (chilean pesos only)
Entry ticket into Torres Del Paine National Park: $49 per person
You also have the option to pay extra for wifi, alcohol or extra food at all of the inns. They all take credit cards.
Prices are subject to change, these were the prices for the 2022 - 2023 season.
This does not include flights into Puerto Natales to start and end your trip. This can vary a lot based on where you’re flying from! Note that it is very likely to need to connect through Santiago first.
There are definitely ways to cut out some of the costs!
- You can camp instead of staying inside the inns. The inns all offer options to rent out tents so you don’t have to carry your own. Or you will pay the least if you carry your own.
- You can bring your own food instead of paying for full room and board. I would recommend bringing your own breakfast and lunch items and only paying for dinner if this is something you’re considering. I did not love the breakfast service because on some days, I wanted to leave earlier than breakfast was being offered.
- A backpack that will fit your needs for carrying your things for 5 days and 4 nights. I carried a 40L backpack and thought it was the perfect size.
- A small day pack to carry the essentials for the times you can leave your bigger pack behind.
- A water bladder or water bottle.
- A water filter (We only filled up on water from the inns, which have drinkable water. But it’s good to have a water filter just in case. It depends on your comfort level and sensitivity.)
- Snacks! I did not need any extra food than what was provided from the full room and board, but it’s always good to have some options if there are items in the packed lunches that you don’t like.
- Hiking essentials including a first aid kit , knife, emergency shelter, headlamp and sun protection.
- Your passport, printed out tickets and confirmations, cash and credit card.
- Rain gear. Rain is common on the trek, make sure you have a good rain coat and a rain cover for your backpack.
- Layers. It might get cold, so I recommend bringing a warm hat and gloves.
- Sturdy hiking boots .
- Hiking socks and the clothing you’ll need for 5 days and 4 nights. Avoid cotton and bring items that are moisture wicking.
- Small towel for showering .
- Toiletries such as soap, moisturizer, toothbrush and whatever else you need.
- A second, lightweight pair of shoes to wear around the inns.
- A phone charger and portable battery.
- A buff to help protect against the dust on windy days.
- Insect repellent . I did not encounter mosquitoes, but I’ve heard during certain times of year they can be bad.
- A kula cloth to use instead of toilet paper.
- Trekking poles .
- Ear plugs if noise would bother you in the inns.
For a more detailed packing list for the W Trek, check out my W Trek packing guide !
There are certainly many other things to do in Torres Del Paine National Park besides the W Trek!
If you’re up for a more challenging adventure, consider the O-Trek, which is approximately 68 miles and takes 6-10 days.
If hiking for 5 or more days isn’t your thing (or you have less time) but you want to see some of the park, consider some day hikes.
Day Hike Options Include:
- Mirador Las Torres, the most iconic view in the park, is often done as a day hike. Stay at the Hotel Las Torres and the trail will be about 12.5 miles.
- Take the catamaran from Hotel Grey and hike up to the suspension bridges for a view of Glacier Gray. The hike from Refugio Grey is about 5 miles.
- Hike to the Salto Grande from Pudeto, the trail is 0.9 miles.
- Hike to the Rio Pingo waterfall from Hotel Grey, the trail is 5.3 miles.
There are many more day hike options, these are just a few! You can also go horseback riding, fly fishing or biking or a variety of other activities.
How difficult is the W Trek?
The trail itself is not difficult on the W Trek. It is well marked and there are just a couple areas of rock scrambling. However, the difficult part is hiking a long distance every day and carrying heavy packs. You should be used to hiking 10+ miles on a day hike and carrying a heavy bag.
Can you hike the W Trek solo?
While I did not hike the W Trek solo, I would be very comfortable doing so. I thought that the trail was well marked and felt very safe. With the shared dorms and communal dinners, it’s really easy to meet other hikers and make friends along the way.
Would you recommend the W Trek or doing day hikes?
My experience on the W Trek was one I will never forget and I think it is very much worth doing! If you have the time, I highly recommend doing the entire W trek instead of just day hikes.
Is the water safe to drink in Torres Del Paine National Park?
The water tends to be safe to drink from the water sources at the inns. Some hikers also drink water directly from streams, but I’ve heard mixed reviews and that is not something I would recommend. I recommend bringing a water filter just in case, but it all depends on your comfort level and sensitivity.
Are there mosquitoes on the W Trek?
I did not encounter mosquitoes on the W trek, but I’ve heard that others have during certain months when it is rainy and warm. Bring insect repellent just in case.
What is the hardest part of the W Trek?
I thought the hike to the Base of the Towers was the hardest part of the trek. It’s a long day with a steep climb.
What kind of wildlife will you see on the W Trek?
I saw very little wildlife on the trek, but I did see several condor birds! There are gauchos (llamas) in Torres Del Paine National Park, but it’s rare to see them on this trail. You will likely see them along the roads driving in and out of the parks instead.
Other animals that live in the park but are rare to see are pumas, huemul deer and foxes. There are no bears in Torres Del Paine, so there is no need to carry bear spray.
If you have dreamed about a trip to Patagonia, I hope this guide will help you make it a reality! The W trek and a visit to Torres Del Paine National Park a bucket list experience that you’ll remember for years to come.
If you’re flying all the way to Patagonia, I recommend more adventures than just the W Trek. After the trek, I drove into Argentina to continue my trip. Check out my 2 week Patagonia itinerary and my guide to renting a car in Patagonia to continue planning!
For more Patagonia guides, check out these blogs:
- The Ultimate 2 Week Itinerary for a Patagonia Road Trip
- A Guide to Renting a Car and Driving in Patagonia
- 30 Tips for Hiking the W Trek
- A Detailed Packing List for the W Trek
Thanks for Reading!
Save to Pinterest!
How to Spend a Long Weekend in Savannah: 3 Day Itinerary
The Best Things To Do in Cuyahoga Valley: Ohio's Only National Park
Let's stay in touch!
Join the Lost with Lydia email list to get monthly travel guides and tips!
You also may like
30 Tips for Hiking the W Trek in Patagonia (Self-Guided)
A Detailed W Trek Packing List: The Ultimate Patagonia Hike
Hiking The W Trek In Patagonia: A Self-Guided Itinerary
- 23 Jan 2022
- By Dan & John
You can choose your own adventure when it comes to trekking in Chile, but if you like to plan ahead, here’s our tried-and-tested 5-day, east-to-west, self-guided itinerary for hiking the W Trek Patagonia .
*This post was originally published on 29 May 2018 and has been updated for the 2021-22 trekking season.
Torres del Paine National Park is a place so epic and otherworldly, its name is often spoken with a kind of hushed reverence. This vast and dramatic stretch of Chilean Patagonia is home to some of the most mind-blowingly beautiful scenery on Earth, and hiking the W trek is one of the greatest ways to immerse in it.
This is Patagonian hiking at its very best, but how you trek the W trail is entirely up to you. You can be guided or do the w trek self guided (in the warmer months anyway). You can stay in lodges and enjoy a cooked meal and a warm bed. You can carry your own gear and pitch your tent in one of the campsites along the way, or carry no gear and book a tent and sleeping bag at each site. You can camp and carry all your food, or camp and add a meal package to your booking.
We opted to camp but rather than carry all the gear, we arranged in advance for a pitched tent and sleeping bags to be waiting for us each day. We packed food for most of the trek and arranged for full board (dinner, breakfast and packed lunch) at our first stay.
Regardless of your sleeping arrangements, if you intend to stay overnight in Torres del Paine National Park, you’ll need a reservation for each night , and you’ll need to have proof of the confirmed booking with you. We’ve written more about this and booking accommodation for the W trail further on.
The direction you hike and the time you take to do the trek is also your call. As occasional hikers with temperamental knees, we opted for the self guided W trek itinerary average: 5 days and 4 nights .
Many argue that hiking west to east, and saving the striking granite Las Torres for the last day is a fitting finale to this incredible hike. We took the opposite view though, starting with the awe-inspiring torres and hiking the W trek east to west so that we could tackle the toughest legs of the trail in the first couple of days, while we still had plenty of energy.
At the end of the day, no matter how you take on the W hike, you’re still trekking one of the most spectacular trails on the planet. And you’ll still get to enjoy the jaw-dropping vista of Las Torres. Twice even, if you’re keen.
Preparing for hiking the W Trek Patagonia
2021-22 Season Update: We aim to check and refresh this post for each trekking high season. As with everywhere though, Covid-19 has significantly impacted travel and tourism in Chile over the past two years and the situation continues to be changeable. While we’ve checked and updated what we can, be sure to visit the links below for the latest information before you travel. > For the latest updates on requirements for travel to Chile, visit the official Chile tourism website . > For information on Torres del Paine National Park access, accommodation, tours, schedules and activities, check out this website . > Torres del Paine National Park is managed by CONAF – visit their website for daily park reports, entry tickets, etc.
The nearest major population centre, and the main jump-off point for a Torres del Paine trek is Puerto Natales, a low-key Patagonian town hugging the shores of the picturesque Última Esperanza Sound.
The drawcard of Torres del Paine’s trails has seen Puerto Natales develop a buzzing trekker scene and you’ll find most of what you need here for hiking into the surrounding landscapes, from sleeping bags and hiking poles to dehydrated camping meals. That said, this is a small and relatively remote town and the local prices reflect it.
Give yourself at least one day in Puerto Natales to get organised, shop for food, hire any gear you need, and sort out your transport to and from the park. Just about everyone staying in Puerto Natales is out and about doing the same thing, so having extra time in town means you can stress less if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the first place you visit.
Whatever else you do, we highly recommend setting aside your first afternoon in Puerto Natales to attend the free ‘3 o’clock talk’ about the W trail, which usually takes place daily during high season at the Erratic Rock Hostel. Everyone is welcome. Check ahead to make sure it’s going ahead on the day you want to visit.
This info-packed session answered just about every question we had about hiking the W, and alerted us to a range of things we hadn’t considered. Do it on your first day so you still have time to arrange all the things you’ll find yourself adding to your to-do list while you’re there.
Tip: A bonus of attending this session is that there’s usually a box of donated goodies left over from trekkers returning from the park – you can trawl this for bits and pieces for your own hike, for example, we picked up a nearly-full fuel canister for our camp stove. We returned the favour at the end of our hike and dropped our own left-over gas canister in the box.
If you’re carrying all your food, the night before the trek, organise your food into daily packages of brekkie, lunch and dinner (pre-bundling your meals saves scrabbling around in your pack for particular items on the trail), then pack all the gear you’ll be taking with you in waterproof bags inside your backpack.
Pack only what you need and leave everything else in storage at your hotel. Your back will thank you for it. Get a good night’s sleep, we’re up early tomorrow.
Day 1 – Puerto Natales to Chileno via Las Torres
Total distance appx. 13.8 kilometres, total time 8 hours overnight camping chileno .
Let’s get trekking! You’ll need to be at Puerto Natales’ main bus terminal early this morning so set your alarm accordingly. All the bus companies making the run to Torres del Paine National Park depart from here and you’ll arrive to a great gathering of sleepy-faced trekkers.
Find your bus and load your pack, then kick back until it’s time to go (our departure time was 7.30am but confirm your departure time with your bus company when you buy your ticket).
Buying your bus ticket for Torres del Paine: Get your bus ticket to and from the park sorted the moment you arrive in Puerto Natales. Don’t leave this until the day you head to the park or you may find the buses already full. There are a handful of bus companies making the daily run to the park. Prices vary but we each paid around CLP15,000 for a return ticket. You can buy your bus ticket from the main bus station in Puerto Natales, or organise it through your hotel or hostel. You’ll select your date of departure, but can keep the return portion of your ticket open-ended to suit your W trek itinerary.
It’s around two hours to Laguna Amarga Ranger Station, the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park; so settle in, this is a perfect excuse to grab some extra sleep before starting the hike.
There’s an entrance fee for Torres del Paine, which you can buy online ahead of your visit at aspticket.cl (have the ticket on your mobile or bring a printout). Or pay on arrival at Laguna Amarga.
If you pay at the park, it’s cash only so bring Chilean pesos. At last check, the entry fee for internationals spending more than three days in the park during high season is CLP35,000 (day passes are CLP25,000). Bring some extra pesos for any snacks and drinks you might like to buy along the way.
At Laguna Amarga, hikers split into two groups: those starting their journey here at the eastern end of the park, and those heading to the western starting point at Paine Grande, which involves a further bus trip to Pudeto and a catamaran ride across Lake Pehoé.
If, like us, you’re hiking the W from east to west , your next option is a shuttle bus from the ranger station to Hotel Las Torres and the eastern starting point of the trek. We paid around CLP4,500 each. You can save the money and start your hike from Laguna Amarga, but the shuttle will spare you a dusty 90-minute walk along the gravel road to the hotel.
There’s a toilet at Laguna Amarga, and another where the shuttle drops us off at Hotel Las Torres. This is a good chance to go before setting off into the mountains.
1st Leg: Hotel Las Torres to Chileno (appx. 5 kilometres, around 2 hours)
We’re officially underway on the W trail around 10.30am and from the word go, the views are eye-popping. After a flat kilometre or so, the path starts to climb: get used to it, it’s pretty much uphill from here.
The hike is moderately steep in some spots, until about a kilometre or so from Refugio Chileno (the Chileno lodge and campground), where the trail flattens out a little before descending into the camp.
Despite feeling like our hearts might explode for much of this first stretch, we cover the distance in around two muscle-busting hours, with frequent stops to take in the views and give our racing pulses a break.
Drinking water: There’s no need to lug extra water with you on the Torres del Paine circuit. You’ll pass pristine mountain streams regularly throughout your journey. Bring a water bottle, fill up at nature’s tap and enjoy some of the purest water you’ll ever drink. Just remember to top up well away from the camps and upstream of the trails.
We haul our packs into Chileno around 12.30pm . This refuge and campsite is operated by Las Torres Patagonia (formerly known as Fantástico Sur).
The refuge itself is a nice set-up: a tiered series of camping platforms among the trees; a lodge building with dorms, shared bathrooms and a dining room with big windows looking out on the view. There’s a second building with a check-in office, toilets and hot showers for campers.
The riverside setting at Chileno is truly stunning and the sheer peaks of the three granite torres – our ultimate goal today – rise tantalisingly above the forested mountains ahead.
Unless you’re planning on a return trip to Refugio Central or Hotel Las Torres, Chileno is likely where you’ve booked your first night, so check in now and drop off your big pack.
NOTE: Campamento Torres, the closest campground to Las Torres, has been closed for a couple of years and there’s no indication of when – or if – it will reopen. This campsite is managed by the park agency CONAF – check the website for updates on the campsites CONAF manages in Torres del Paine.
We’ve booked a platform with a tent and sleeping bags at Camping Chileno, and these are ready for us when we arrive, so we drop our bags in our tent, grab our daypacks with snacks, water bottles and cameras, wolf down the lunch we prepared last night, and set out for Las Torres around 1.30pm . Timings here may vary depending on your check-in.
2nd Leg: Chileno to Las Torres (appx. 4.4 kilometres, around 2 hours)
This is without doubt the toughest leg of today, so there’s a huge bonus in not having to tote your full pack up the mountain.
From Chileno, you’ll hike for around three kilometres or so along a meandering path through pretty woodland, across rushing rivers, and through a wonderfully moody stretch of fallen forest that we dub the ‘tree cemetery’. It’s a lovely, moderate walk, and we have no sense of what’s ahead when we reach the sign that tells us ’45 minutes to Mirador Las Torres’.
My notes from this point in our trek simply state: ‘hiking hell starteth here’. Which, ok, is a touch dramatic. But as irregular hikers, this was – even with hindsight – probably the hardest section of the W for us. Maybe you’ll breeze through it; just be ready for it.
Shortly after the sign, the climb to Las Torres begins in earnest. It’s a gritty, rocky terrain of steep, gravelly inclines and large boulders. The panoramas as you climb are absolutely breathtaking, but so is the hike itself. There are moments while we’re in the throes of it, looking up and spotting the tiny trekkers far above, that this stretch feels like it will never end.
It does end though, about an hour later, and the scene that awaits as we round a final boulder and face the towering granite pillars of Las Torres makes every single breath-wrenching step worth it.
It’s buzzing at the top: hikers drape the rocks surrounding the glacier lake, a bushy-tailed Patagonian fox weaves its way between the boulders, there’s even a guy getting his hair cut at the water’s edge (one hairdresser’s quirky approach to memorialising his travels while promoting his business).
We spend some time taking pics before settling onto a boulder of our own to simply take in this awe-inspiring scene. Aim to spend around an hour at Las Torres .
3rd Leg: Las Torres to Chileno (appx. 4.4 kilometres, around 2 hours)
The journey back down from Las Torres is in some respects even more challenging than the climb up. The constant down is tough on knees and the gravel makes the going slippery. We’re beyond grateful for our hiking poles, though we both still manage to pull off some memorable butt slides.
Tip: Hiking poles made all the difference for us when we were trekking in Patagonia. We carried one each, which was ideal as it left us both with a hand free to grab branches and rocks, haul each other up and down, and catch our fall when we slipped. Which was often.
It takes us around two hours to get back to Chileno; we have time to shower, buy a couple of well-earned beers and watch the sunset burn the tips of Las Torres molten gold.
It was cloudy the entire time we were up at the base of the towers, so watching the sun shine on them now is a bit of a kicker, but if there’s one thing you’ll learn quickly hiking the W Patagonia, it’s that the weather doesn’t give a rats what you think.
Preparing for Patagonian weather: If there’s one constant about the weather in Patagonia, it’s that there’s nothing constant about it. We were particularly lucky on our five days in Torres del Paine, but you should be ready for four seasons in a day. Layer up, have a rain jacket handy, and wear quick-dry clothes. Skip a rain cover for your bag though. While we never experienced the legendary winds that tear through the park from time to time, we heard plenty of stories of pack covers being whipped off suddenly and disappearing into the wilds. Expect to get rained on, and pack your gear in bag liners or waterproof bags inside your backpack instead.
We’ve opted for the full board meal package at Camping Chileno, and there are two sittings for dinner and breakfast. You choose your times when you check in.
Our later dinner sitting is at 8.15pm and we join a host of other hikers in the dining room for a surprisingly tasty and filling three-course meal full of protein and carbs. We’re absolutely wrecked by the end of dinner though, and we’re tucked up in our sleeping bags by 9.30pm.
Sunrise at Las Torres: When we originally planned our itinerary for hiking the W, we had every intention of doing a second trek to Las Torres for sunrise on Day 2. In late March, this would have entailed getting back on the track up the mountain by 5.30am. As we climbed into our sleeping bags that first night though, we decided to pull the pin: we were just too tired, and we were also a little wary of making the tricky climb again in the dark. It was a tough call at the time, and it didn’t help when we poked our heads out of our tent the next morning to see the torres erupting with golden light above the silhouetted foreground. As we watched though, the clouds rolled in and soon enough the peaks were shrouded in mist. There’s no accounting for Patagonian weather, or how your body may feel after a long day of hiking. The best you can do is plan, and be flexible on the day.
Day 2 – Chileno to Francés
Total distance appx. 18 kilometres, total time 6 hours 45 minutes overnight at camping francés.
Sunrise is around 8am when we do the W trek in late March, and as we haven’t made the dawn hike to Las Torres, we take our time getting going on the morning of Day 2.
Breakfast is part of our full board package at Camping Chileno; we pack up our gear and head to the dining room at 8.30am for a hearty starter of cereal, toast, scrambled eggs, cheese, coffee and juice.
1st Leg: Chileno to Los Cuernos (appx. 15 kilometres, around 4.5 hours)
We’re on the trail by 9.15am , heading back towards Hotel Las Torres. We won’t be going all the way to the hotel though as there’s a shortcut off to the right around half-an-hour after leaving Chileno. The shortcut is signposted and takes you along a mostly downward sloping path surrounded by undulating hills and lake views.
We reach the end of the shortcut and rejoin the main W route around 11am . At some point after this though, we veer off on what feels like a secondary trail that takes us through what can only be described as the Patagonian Swamps of Mordor.
We can still glimpse the Nordernskjöld Lake off to left, and we know the official trail travels alongside it. To this day, we’re unsure if we did actually go off piste (though the number of bootprints in the mud suggests not).
Eventually though, we seem to be back on track according to the map, just a little muddier for the experience (and even more grateful for our depth guage hiking poles).
The next stretch travels up and down through very pretty lakeside country, with the occasional steep section, before passing down into the valley at Los Cuernos. We arrive at Refugio Los Cuernos around 1.45pm .
You could stop at any point along the stretch to Los Cuernos for a lunch break; we stop just past the lodge and find a nice rock with a view. Our lunch has been provided by Refugio Chileno as part of yesterday’s full board meal package and includes a sandwich, an orange, a granola bar, chocolate and trail mix.
We chill for around 45 minutes and then set off around 2.30pm for Camping Francés , where we’ll be staying tonight.
2nd Leg: Los Cuernos to Francés (appx. 3 kilometres, around 1.5 hours)
The trail to the Francés campground is up and down and rubbly, with some steep sections, and a pretty pebbly beach crossing. Today’s walk has been positively sedate compared to yesterday’s heart-starter climbs, but never fear, a leg-burning rise awaits just before the descent into the camp.
We arrive at Camping Francés around 4.00pm . The campground here is run by Las Torres Patagonia (Fantástico Sur).
The tent platforms are clustered between the trees and there’s a good shower and toilet block a short walk from the campsite. There’s also a shop with camping basics.
We’ve pre-arranged a tent and sleeping bags at Camping Francés, and by 5.15pm we’re checked in, set up on our platform, dinner is on the camp stove, and we have a hot Milo in hand.
Sunset is close to 8pm in late March, and having survived our second day on the W trail, we’re zipped up in our sleeping bags soon after.
Day 3: Francés to Paine Grande via Francés Valley
Total distance appx. 20.3 kilometres, total time 9 hours overnight at camping paine grande .
Despite our fatigue, neither of us sleeps particularly well on our second night and we’re both groggy when the alarm goes off at 7am.
Our restlessness is partly due to the strange soundtrack that has accompanied us throughout the night: sharp cracking sounds like distant shot gun blasts and deep, thunderous rumbles. It’s not until we set out on the trail through the Francés Valley today though, that the source of the unnerving noises becomes obvious.
We’re off to a slow start, and after a breakfast of muesli with milk and coffee, we pack and get on the trail by 8.30am . Today is our longest day hiking the W and with hindsight, we would make a point of starting earlier.
1st Leg: Francés to Italiano Ranger Station (appx. 2 kilometres, around 30 minutes)
Our first leg this morning is a rejuvenating, 30-minute leg-stretcher to Italiano Ranger Station; we roll up to the office around 9am.
There’s just one guy with a guitar at the Ranger Station when we arrive. He points to some racks opposite the office building; this is where we’ll be leaving our backpacks ahead of the challenging hike into Francés Valley. Once we get our daypacks sorted, we’re back on the trail and hiking by 9.15am .
2nd Leg: Italiano Ranger Station to Británico Lookout (appx. 5.4 kilometres, around 3 hours)
The first kilometre out of Italiano is a flat trail through pleasant forest, after which the track starts to climb steeply through a rocky, rubbly stretch.
The scenery is seriously beautiful, serving up views of the 3,050-metre-high, ironically named Paine Grande Hill and the Francés glacier that clings to it: this is the source of the crack shots and grumbles we’ve been hearing as the hanging ice shifts, melts and avalanches down the mountain.
Soon enough, you’ll reach a mirador offering spectacular panoramas over the ‘hill’ and its glacier; this is the perfect spot for a short break and a snack, as the next stretch is tough.
From here, the trail to Británico Lookout takes us around 2.5 hours . It’s a challenging, rubble-strewn boulder dash with lots of climbing.
A flat, rocky clearance scattered with the parched white trunks of dead trees and overshadowed by the jaw-dropping Cuernos massif, marks the final stretch before a steep, 10-minute climb to the mirador itself.
We summit the boulders of the Británico Lookout around 12.15pm and cast our eyes over what will become our favourite panorama of this epic journey: the vast and spectacular Francés Valley. We find a rock to perch on and settle in for lunch with this glorious scene at our feet.
We still have a huge day of hiking the W ahead however, so to our eternal regret, we can only linger here for half an hour.
We promise ourselves that next time, we’ll spend an extra day or two in this valley so we can take in this view at our leisure. For us, this remains one of the most magnificent vistas we’ve come across in all our world travels.
Our takeout: Stay an extra day in Francés valley, or start Day 3 of the W trail earlier so you can enjoy more time at this spot.
3rd Leg: Británico Lookout to Italiano Ranger Station (appx. 5.4 kilometres, around 2 hours)
We reluctantly set off back down the trail to Italiano at 12.45pm . It’s a knee-buckling downward journey and our legs are screaming by the time we reach our packs back at the ranger station just over two hours later.
Tip: We might be the first trekkers to place our packs on the racks this morning, but by the time we return, there are dozens of bags on the pile and ours are buried at least four deep. In addition to carrying your valuables with you in your daypack, we recommend not leaving anything in your big pack that you’re worried might be crushed.
Once we’ve retrieved our packs from the pile, re-sorted our daybags, and stopped for a quick breather, we set out for Paine Grande, starting with a bridge crossing out of Italiano. It’s around 3pm by this stage .
4th Leg: Italiano Ranger Station to Paine Grande (appx. 7.5 kilometres, around 2.5 hours)
The final stretch of the W trail today is a journey of around 7.5 kilometres and it’s mostly flat with some sloping ups and downs. Travelling out of the valley and along the raised walkway as you head towards Sköttsberg Lake, remember to turn around and take in the mountain scene back the other way: it is immense.
After some more steady rises, we make our final descent into Paine Grande around 5.30pm . By this stage, we’re seriously sore and tired and very ready for a beer from the lodge bar, which is the first thing we do once we’ve checked in and dropped our packs at our tent.
The campground at Paine Grande, which is managed by Vertice Travel , is large and separated into sections for campers carrying their own gear, and those like us who have pre-arranged a tent and sleeping bags. A wooden walkway links the campgrounds with the lodge, the campers’ kitchen and bathrooms.
As Paine Grande is the western starting point for hiking the W and the O circuit, as well as for day trippers and short stay visitors coming over by catamaran, this is the largest lodge and by far the busiest campground we stay at on our trip.
The kitchen building is a good size but it’s heaving with campers and the windows are completely steamed up when we make our way in there to cook dinner around 7pm.
The camp shower and toilet facilities here are basic, and there are just a couple of cubicles for a large number of people. We recommend getting your ablutions out of the way while everyone else is cooking dinner and before the post-meal rush.
We’re tucked up in our tent just as a light rain begins to fall around 8.30pm.
Day 4 – Paine Grande to Grey
Total distance appx. 11 kilometres, total time 3 hours 45 minutes overnight at camping grey.
Today is our shortest day so far on the W trail, which is a relief as we’re really starting to feel the past three days’ hiking, and a strange kind of exhilarated fatigue.
We’re up at 8am, with plans to be on the trail an hour later. However the banshee-like screeches of a fox followed by the thrilling appearance of a puma on the hill behind the camp has us lingering for a while in hushed awe, until the sleek big cat disappears around a bend into the next valley. Which happens to be the same valley we’re about to trek into.
After checking in at the ranger station for advice on what to do if we see the puma again, we set off through the narrow, pretty dell at around 10am . We’re both relieved (and maybe a touch disappointed) to find no further sign of our feline friend.
The big cats of Patagonia: Don’t let the thought of pumas roaming the forests of Torres del Paine put you off trekking there. The fact is, these magnificent creatures are extremely shy and actively avoid humans. Seeing a puma is incredibly rare. Spotting one near camp as we did is almost unheard of. It’s good practice though to be across how to act if you do encounter a puma; you’ll find advice on this in the guide that you receive when you register for your Torres del Paine trek.
The valley walk is flat at first but soon begins to climb, and continues to serve up steady inclines followed by some steep descents into Camping Grey.
The scenery on this leg is still epic, but a touch gentler than the landscapes of the last couple of days. Undulating hills line the waters of Grey Lake, which is mirror still on the day we hike the trail, and dotted with large blueish lumps of ice from the vast Grey Glacier at its head.
About halfway along the trail, a rocky lookout reveals the first glimpses of this immense glacier, a sea of ice six kilometres wide and 30 metres high in places.
We arrive at Grey campground around 1.45pm , a journey of 3 hours and 45 minutes, with plenty of photo and snack stops along the way.
Refugio and Camping Grey are also operated by Vertice Travel . The lodge has a lovely bar and lounge area in addition to its dorms, and the campground out front is overlooked by the stunning peaks of the Cordon Olguín. By the time we arrive, the clouds have cleared and the mountains burn golden as the sun drops.
If you’ve got the energy, check in (or leave your pack with the office if check-in hasn’t opened yet), and then head back out to hike past the western tip of the W trail and on to the first leg of the O circuit towards Paso Ranger Station. This will bring you much closer to the glacier, but bear in mind, it’s a 5-hour, one-way hike to Paso itself.
We opt for a lunch of cheese and salami tortillas with mountain views, then roll out our mats and nap in the sun until check-in opens.
After checking in and getting our tent sorted, we hike to a rocky outcrop on the lake just 15 minutes from camp. The views from here towards the glacier’s terminus are gorgeous and we spend time here just soaking up the serene scene.
On our return to camp, we head to the lodge for a beer at the bar before making dinner on one of the picnic benches outside the campers’ kitchen, which is jammed full by 7pm.
There’s a small shop on site, and an equally small toilet and shower block. On our visit, the showers are only open between 6-9pm, which means long queues once the campsite has filled up. It hasn’t been too strenuous a walk today, so we skip the shower tonight.
We’re in bed by 9pm and prepped for a very early departure in the morning.
Day 5 – Grey to Paine Grande
Total distance appx. 11 kilometres, total time 3 hours 15 minutes.
It’s our last day on the W hike! We’re aiming to get the 11.35am catamaran from Paine Grande back to Pudeto today.
It shouldn’t take us more than 4 hours to get back to Paine Grande from the Grey campground, but we’re seriously shattered by this stage and John has nurtured some nasty blisters, so we’re up before dawn and on the trail by 7am .
It’s freezing when we set out but as the sky starts to lighten we’re treated to a stunning peach-tinted dawn reflecting off the lake, and we stop often to snap pics.
Despite John’s sore feet, we make good time on the return journey and while we’re climbing for much of the first half, it feels easier than the trek up from Paine Grande yesterday. Maybe it’s because we’re on the home run, even though the thought makes us sad.
We arrive at Paine Grande around 10.15am ; it’s taken us 3 hours and 15 minutes to walk this leg, 30 minutes less than yesterday.
We haven’t eaten breakfast and we’re starving by the time we arrive, but unfortunately the lodge and camp kitchen at Paine Grande are closed for cleaning. The lodge restaurant is also closed between 9am-12pm.
We make do with trail mix instead, which is a bigger deal than you might think: we packed way too much of the bitty hiker’s snack and after five days we have a serious love/hate relationship with it.
At 11.35am we board the catamaran for our return to the eastern side of the park. The boat trip across Lake Pehoé offers spectacular views of the entire mountainscape we’ve spent the last five days traversing. It’s an epic perspective of the W panorama and a mesmerising finale to our W trek itinerary.
Tickets and times for the catamaran across Lake Pehoé: Ferry times from Pudeto and Paine Grande change throughout the year so be sure to check the schedule when you’re planning your trip. You can buy your catamaran ticket onboard the boat. At last check, a one-way ticket still costs around USD$35 for the 30-minute ride.
If the weather is nice, we totally recommend taking a seat outside on the catamaran so you can properly admire the breathtaking panorama.
We arrive at Pudeto around midday . Buses are waiting when we disembark from the catamaran, and some head off as soon as they’ve collected all of their ticketed passengers. Others, like ours, wait until the stated 1pm departure time.
We grab a coffee from the lakeside café, take a seat in the sun, and enjoy our last moments in Torres del Paine.
From Pudeto, the bus makes its way back to the Laguna Amarga Ranger Station to collect hikers finishing their trek at the eastern end of the park. From here, we settle in for the return 2-hour bus journey to Puerto Natales .
Tonight, after a good hot shower and a lamentation on the ridiculous amount of trail mix we’ve got left over, we head out for a celebratory drink at local brewpub, Baguales ( sadly, we’ve learned Baguales has now closed ).
Our legs might be seizing, our knees protesting and we’re beyond exhausted, but we’re buzzing with the sheer thrill of having completed this epic trek. We’re already talking about when we might come back and hike the W trail again, or better yet, take on the longer O circuit.
However we do it, trekking in Torres del Paine is one nature experience we’re keeping firmly on our bucket list.
Booking Accommodation for Hiking W Trail Patagonia
Overnight reservations are mandatory
Whether you’re planning a lodge stay, hiring camping equipment, or camping with all your own gear, if you want to stay overnight in Torres del Paine National Park, you’ll need a reservation to do so.
You’ll also need to carry evidence of your overnight reservations as you may be asked to show proof at any time by a park ranger or when passing through checkpoints. We printed out our reservation confirmations and carried these with us.
With advance reservations necessary, spaces limited, and trekking in Torres del Paine becoming ever more popular, booking accommodation can be the trickiest part of planning your self guided W trek itinerary.
For this reason, it’s worth trying to book your overnight stays as far in advance as possible, preferably as soon as bookings open for the season. It also pays to be flexible about where you stay, as you may find you need to rework your trekking dates and approach based on what’s available.
Our final W trail hiking itinerary was the direct result of where and when we could get an overnight booking.
Booking your stay
There are a number of lodges (refugios) and campsites in the park. Broadly speaking, those in the east are managed by Las Torres Patagonia (Fantástico Sur) and those in the west are managed by Vertice Travel .
There are also a couple of free campgrounds across the park which are managed by the Chilean park agency CONAF (these campgrounds are closed for the 2021-22 season – visit the website for updates).
While you can book direct via Las Torres Patagonia and Vertice Travel, trying to align availability and book spots for a workable W circuit itinerary across different websites can be complicated and time-consuming. Another reason to plan well ahead.
There’s now an aggregator website called Torres Hike , which apparently takes the hassle out of this process by pulling together availability across all the sites to show you what’s available when. You can also book your stays. We haven’t used it so we can’t vouch for it, but we’ll be checking it out next time we visit!
What time of year is best for hiking the W Patagonia?
Patagonian weather will keep you on your toes no matter when you visit Torres del Paine; be ready for everything. However, there are two distinct periods to be aware of when planning your trip.
High Season (October to April)
These are the warmer months in the southern hemisphere, and December to March is the busiest time of year to trek in the park, with visitation peaking over January and February.
If you’re travelling in high season, and particularly if you’re planning to visit during the peak months, be sure to reserve your place in the lodges or campgrounds as far in advance as possible.
We hiked the W trail towards the end of March, and while sections were busy, like the path to Las Torres, there were stretches where we wouldn’t see more than a handful of people in hours. That said, despite making our campsite reservations two months prior to our visit, we struggled to find availability and had to change our trekking dates to suit.
Low Season (May to September)
The entry fee to Torres del Paine drops during the low season and you’ll find far fewer people in the park. But temps will also be lower, rain is frequent, it can snow, and many of the mountain trails are closed, as are some of the refugios and services.
While the trails to Grey, Británico and Las Torres usually remain open in winter, weather can turn at a moment’s notice and lead to their closure.
Most importantly however, to trek in the park over this period, you must have a guide; they can usually be hired locally.
The bottom line: Given the changeability of the weather in Torres Del Paine, you should check in with the CONAF website for updates and closures no matter what time of year you visit.
Got any questions? Have you trekked in Torres del Paine recently? We’d love to hear from you – message us below. For more of our posts from South America, head here .
02/10/2022, 9:56 pm
Hi John and Dan Thanks for such good info. Is it safe doing it self guided ? Thanks
23/10/2022, 9:44 pm
Hey Iris, thanks so much for your message, we hope you found the post helpful. We found going self-guided very easy – the trails are well trodden and during the peak season, there are plenty of other people hiking too (guides are mandatory in winter). Plus all trekkers have to stay in the designated camping and accomm areas so there are others around and you can stay in dorms if you’re not keen on camping. Conditions can vary dramatically though and it is the great outdoors, so having appropriate gear is essential and hiking with friends is good idea though we hear lots of people do it solo. Everyone we met en route were friendly, encouraging and helpful too. We absolutely loved the hiking the W and hope you get to experience it too! Happy travels! Dan & John
23/07/2022, 2:22 am
This is really helpful thank you so much. Did you have much hiking experience before you took this on? Would you recommend any training prior to going? What size backpack would you recommend taking?
Thank you so much
27/07/2022, 7:03 pm
Hi Jo, thanks for your kind words, we’re glad you found the post useful! We’re casual hikers and while we’d done a bit of hiking before the W, it was certainly one of the ‘biggest’ hikes we’d done. We definitely tried to up our walking/hiking game before the W in preparation and glad we did as we personally found some of the steeper, sustained-climbing parts of the trek relatively tough – we just took our time and had lots of breaks; necessary anyway to take in the gorgeous views! I carried a 30L daypack and John carried a 50L backpack – between us we carried everything we needed for the five day hike, but I would note that we didn’t have to carry tents, sleeping bags or mats as we hired these. We hope you have the chance to hike the W trek, it remains at the very top of our hiking list! Happy travels!
20/01/2022, 7:04 am
Thank you all for this awesome breakdown and information! We followed it exactly to book our accommodations and plan to do the trek end of March. Thanks again!
23/01/2022, 11:13 am
Hi Kristen, thanks so much for your feedback! We’re stoked you found our post helpful and we’re very excited for your upcoming trip. Torres del Paine is sooooo spectacular, wishing you a fantastic trek – let us know how you go! ~ Danielle & John
12/01/2023, 6:05 pm
Thanks Dan for the great details and info.
Hi Kristen. I am doing the trek around of march with a friend. We are travelling from Perth, Australia. Would be great to collaborate in planning.
21/02/2020, 10:44 pm
Hello! This page is fantastic, thank you so much. We are looking at November and can be flexible in terms of dates. Did you book your accommodation first? Are there any other considerations i.e. tickets or entry to the park? Or should we just arrange accommodation and go from there? Do you mind sharing how much you paid approximately for your camping accommodation? No worries if not. Thanks 🙂 Amie
22/02/2020, 11:55 am
Hi Amie, many thanks! We booked our accommodation first and a couple of months in advance. Site availability ended up driving our approach to the trek – so it’s good that you have flexibility! Would definitely get in as early as possible to book. Tickets for the park itself are arranged at the park entry office, but you will need to have the accomm bookings in place (and evidence of them) when you get to that point. So it’s important to book the accommodation and bus tickets to the park in advance. Bus tix you can buy when you get to Puerto Natales, but try and do that as soon as you arrive rather than on the day you intend to travel to the park. Prices for camping and cabins may have changed since we trekked, but if you head to the accomm links in our post, you’ll be able to find out the current prices as it’s all bookable online. Hope that helps and have a fantastic trek! Cheers, Dan & John
18/02/2020, 4:31 pm
Thank you for the detailed information. We are trekking this exact route this March 2020!
22/02/2020, 11:46 am
Hi Jackie, thanks for your message, we’re really happy you’ve found it helpful for planning. Hope you have a sensational trek!
01/02/2020, 6:11 pm
Thank you so much for the detailed guide! This is really helpful 🙂
02/02/2020, 10:48 am
Hi Katherine, thanks for getting in touch! We’re really pleased you found the guide useful – happy hiking!
25/11/2019, 10:24 am
How did you book the campsite ? I unable to locate the source to book just the campsite
30/11/2019, 12:51 pm
Hey Rajesh, thanks for the message.
The Camping areas are run by three different operators in the park, and you can find links to all three operators in our post.
All three operators’ websites have information about their camp sites, and how to book.
Hope this helps.
John & Dan
18/06/2018, 9:35 pm
Exactly what I’m looking for, thanks! Chileno and Los Torres always been there on my bucket list, now I know where and how to start.
25/06/2018, 9:36 pm
Awesome, thanks Rika, we’re really pleased you’ve found it helpful. It is the most spectacular walk – even if you just did the one leg to Las Torres, you’d have photography opps galore! Happy travels!
Hello! We’re Danielle and John: a couple of incurable travellers on a journey together to seek out the very best travel experiences on our beautiful planet.
Ultimate Guide to Hiking the W Trek in Patagonia
Situated in the southern realms of South America , Patagonia is one of the world’s last untouched wildernesses. Chilean Patagonia is a land of towering peaks, crystal-clear rivers, blue-hazed glaciers and treeless steppe, it offers vistas like nowhere else on Earth.
Often at the top of hiker’s bucket list, the region’s most celebrated trekking route, the W Trek, takes a ‘W-shaped’ path through Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. There’s perhaps no better way to explore the region’s dramatic landscapes than on foot, so we’ve created a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know about hiking Patagonia’s famed W Trek.
Travel Guide to Hiking the W Trek in Patagonia
Hiking the w trek basics.
While scenic, hiking the W Trek is no gentle stroll in the park. Demanding in places, it requires a good level of basic fitness to cover its 50-mile length successfully. This is not least because altitude is a significant factor on the route, topping out at more than 3,500 feet above sea level. After all, the W Trek lies deep within the southern reaches of the mighty Andes mountain range. Located within Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park , the W trek can usually be hiked in four or five days.
There are a number of options available for those looking to hike the W trek. Some choose to pre-plan the lodging, purchase a pass and do it on their own. While this is certainly an option, the lodges fill up months in advance. Another option for those that don’t want to hike the W trek alone or are booking closer to your hike date and the lodges are full, is to book a guided hike.
Guided hikes can be private or you can book a small group hike to go with a guide and some other people.
Accommodation on the W Trek
Most of this multi-day hike will require overnight camping in tents or at a designated lodge, with hostels and hotels accessible at the start and end of the trek. Camping is only permitted with designated refuges, or refugios at Torres del Paine National Park. Keep in mind that these often get booked up a year in advance so make sure to plan ahead to get the best spots at your favorite refugio.
Lodging at the refugios are either tent camping or a shared room inside the lodge. Tents provided at the refuge are meant for the colder weather, rain and wind so they are warmer than tents you may be used to. Still, if you require the comfort of your own bed inside a warm, cozy lodge then make sure to book even further out because those rooms book up the fastest.
The upside of this arrangement is that you’ll have access to shared bathroom facilities, which generally include hot showers ideal for soothing sore muscles after a day’s walk. Refuges also have heating and electric lighting, and a communal dining room for eating meals sheltered from the elements. Most contain a small shop selling basic items.
Many of the refugios even have wifi so you can catch up on communication with loved ones. Keep in mind that the cost is much higher because it is satellite internet. You will not have cell service while hiking the W trek so make sure your loved ones are aware.
HOT TIP : If you find that individual reservations are booked up in all of the refugios, there may still be availability through a guided tour . You can join a guided hiking tour that is organized by the companies that own the shelters and this comes with a guide for your hike as well as lodging at the shelters along the way. It will be slightly more expensive than hiking and booking everything solo and you will be restricted to one company of shelters versus being able to pick and choose but the upside is your dates will be more likely to be available when planning closer to your travel date.
When to Tackle the W Trek
Hiking the W Trek is open right throughout the year, but if you’re planning on heading along it independent of guides and tour groups you’re limited to the period between October and April. This coincides with the southern hemisphere’s summer months and is also great to combine with a visit to the beautiful Atacama desert .
Independent hiking is complicated by the fact that places at refugios need to be reserved ahead of time, and can be fully booked months in advance. This is particularly true for the high season, which lasts from December to February. The route is also at its busiest during these months, which some trekkers find takes away from the overall experience of solitude and isolation Patagonia is renowned for.
Getting Started : Where to Fly Into and How to Get There
The standard gateway to the W Trek is the town of Puerto Natales , Chile. It lies more than 1800 miles south of the Chilean capital, Santiago. Limited flights connect the airport at Puerto Natales with Santiago, and it’s often easier to fly to either Punta Arenas further south in Chile, or even to El Calafate, just across the border in Argentina.
From either of these latter airports, you’ll then have to head to Puerto Natales by road. Long distance buses cover the distance from Punta Arenas in around three hours, or around 7 hours from El Calafate including border formalities. There is also an opportunity to rent a car and drive yourself .
If coming from Argentinian Patagonia, you should arrange your visa for Chile ahead of time. However, most European, North American and Australian passport holders require nothing more than six months validity on their passport for tourist visits of less than 60 or 90 days (dependent on nationality).
Puerto Natales – The Gateway to Torres del Paine National Park
Puerto Natales has a good cluster of hostels and hotels that are well used to welcoming those starting or finishing hiking the W Trek. Perhaps even more helpfully, this once small fishing village has a number of stores where hikers can rent any equipment they may need. Most stay open until 8 or 9 pm, allowing you to organize any kit requirements even if you arrive later in the day.
It’s also possible to securely store gear you won’t need during the trek. Ideally, your backpack won’t weigh more than around 30 lbs.
Storage can be arranged with your guiding service if you hire a guide, with your hostel/hotel depending on where you are staying or you can rent storage at the bus station. Ask your hotel or hostel if it is possible to store some of your items while you do the W trek. If they don’t have storage available, you can store your items at the bus station. Be aware of the opening hours if you choose this option as you will only be able to drop off or pick up your items during specific hours.
Getting to the W Trek from Puerto Natales, Chile
It’s possible to walk the W Trek in either west to east or east to west directions. That said, the vast majority of trekkers start the trail at the end closest to the entry gates into Torres del Paine National Park, which means they tackle the route from west to east. In turn, starting the trek in this direction means you’re not thrown into the deep end on day one.
Several trustworthy companies run buses that drop off and pick-up hikers from the park entrances. The trip takes between two and four hours depending on which entrance is used. They all have departures in the morning from Puerto Natales, usually around 7 am. If you’re struggling to get a seat, less popular services also operate in the early afternoon, leaving Puerto Natales around 2.30 pm.
You should buy your ticket ahead of time at the company offices inside Terminal Rodoviario , where the buses depart from. You’ll find the terminus on Avenida Espana. Round trip tickets (around $20) permit a ride on any of that company’s returning buses.
Buses generally have stops at Laguna Amarga, Pudeto, and Administrativa. The stop at Laguna Amarga is primarily used by those heading along the W Trek from east to west as it connects with the minibus to Las Torres base camp.
If you’re following the majority of trekkers in starting the W Trek at its western end, you’re better off buying a ticket to either Pudeto or Administrativa. From Pudeto, a catamaran crosses Lake Pehoé in around half an hour. Its destination is Paine Grande. As it lies midway along the W Trek route, arriving via Pudeto means repeating your day one walk on day two.
A way of avoiding this is to head instead to Administrativa and then catch the three-hour ferry that travels the length of Lago (Lake) Grey towards the stunning Grey Glacier where there is a campsite.
Fees for entering the park are the equivalent of roughly $30, and can be paid in Chilean pesos, US dollars or euros. If you pay in dollars or euros try and have the exact amount and don’t rely on there being change available. There are numerous currency exchanges in Puerto Natales. Tickets last as long as you stay within the park, or for five consecutive days of entry.
W Trek Itinerary
For those crossing Lake Grey, day one of hiking the W Trek will be mostly taken up by arrival at Grey Campsite, situated between the lake and montane forest. However, there’s still a chance to give your hiking boots a little action, with a trail leading to a viewpoint of Grey Glacier. Approximately one mile in either direction, it has an ascent and descent of around 1,200 feet in total.
If you get lucky with the weather you will have incredible views of the glacier and the glacial lake with icebergs swimming in it. The day we went was cloudy, windy and rainy making it very difficult to complete the hike. While you can’t predict the weather, be aware that the glacier creates a micro climate so just because it is sunny in other parts of the park does not mean that it will be the same nice weather near the glacier. Pack a hat and a warm jacket as it can get very cold, windy and wet.
Day two is usually the first full day of hiking the W Trek, with the path following the eastern shore of Grey Lake for the first third of the day’s route before moving inland.
The path is relatively gentle, and the scenery simply extraordinary from early on. The campsite of choice is called Refugio Italiano, which sits at the southern end of French Valley. In all, hikers usually take around eight hours to reach this point, covering around 13 miles and a further 1,000 feet in altitude.
Day three is normally dedicated to hiking French Valley which is the favorite part of hiking the W trek for many.
Following streams and rivers much of the way north, the valley offers spectacular views of glaciers towards the lookout at Britanicos Camp, although it’s uphill all the way. After taking in the majestic scene, you then complete the central part of the ‘W’ by returning to your previous night’s camp, having covered around ten miles and another 1,000 feet in altitude.
The day’s trek usually lasts around seven hours. Just like with the previous treks, the glaciers here can create microclimates which means that the weather could be unpredictable. Parts of this trek can be especially windy so hold on to your hats!
Day four of the W Trek sees hikers take on the second ‘V’ of the W-shaped route, along the Sendero Paso Los Cuernos trail. Much of the day’s path follows the shores of Lago Nordenskjöld, which are typified by alpine grasslands crisscrossed by small streams. You’ll more than likely end the day at Chileno Camp, after seven hours and 12 miles of walking.
Day five is normally the last day of hiking the W Trek, although it’s possible to cover shorter distances each day thanks to a chain of intermediate campsites along the way.
For most though, day five means the journey to the base of Los Torres mountains, which rise to a height of 9,500 feet. Heading towards their granite towers you’ll follow the sound of the River Asencio. The trek ends with a scramble over loose moraine, so be sure to save some energy.
In all, you’ll cover around nine miles in six hours, allowing plenty of time to meet the bus back to Puerto Natales.
What to Pack when Hiking the W Trek
Camping equipment can be rented at refugios, but this will add to your costs. If you’re completing the W Trek as part of a tour , tents and meals will be prepared for you. Even so, you’ll still need some specialty equipment to finish hiking the W Trek. In addition to cold weather gear, you should take waterproof clothing, as well as a battery-operated head torch for nights in camp and early morning starts.
Weather can really vary in the summer so you will need both warm clothing on the cold days and nights and light clothing for hotter days.
Below is a brief checklist of the must have things to pack along with you so you are prepared for the elements when hiking the W trek.
While there are many tours and ways to visit Torres del Paine National park , The W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park is an ultimate bucket list experience for anyone visiting Patagonia in Chile. Taking in incredible mountain, lake and glacier views there’s really nothing else like it. Follow the recommendations in our guide to hiking the W Trek in Patagonia, and you’ll be well on your way to being able to tick off this bucket list.
Looking for more epic bucket list destinations in South America? Check out our content for Ecuador for some incredible places to explore.
Bucket List Places Contributors
Roatán travel guide: best things to do, where to stay, eat, drink, galapagos luxury cruise review: aboard quasar evolution 8 days/7 nights, you may also like, kenya safari travel guide: the best parks to..., san juan islands sailing guide: ultimate 10-day itinerary, a guide to thailand’s remarkable temples, 10 day alaska road trip itinerary: ultimate alaska..., atacama desert travel guide: things to do, where..., most beautiful places in ethiopia: ultimate travel guide, 10 most beautiful places in laos to visit, diving in galapagos: one of the best places..., galapagos luxury cruise review: aboard quasar evolution 8..., roatán travel guide: best things to do, where....
The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the ‘W’ Trek in Torres del Paine Without A Tour
By Author Steph Dyson
Posted on Last updated: 7th November 2023
Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park is one of the absolute highlights of a visit to Patagonia – I should know, I’ve done it twice!
Back in March 2016, I walked the Torres del Paine W trek as part of a tour around Patagonia and was so struck by the park that I returned in March 2017 to hike the Full O Circuit .
In September 2022, I returned on a third occasion, this time to explore the other attractions of Torres del Paine National Park beyond these two, multi-day hikes.
It’s fair to say that on all occasions I have fallen head over heels in love with this part of Chilean Patagonia.
The problem is, the first time I hiked the W trek in Patagonia, I did so as part of a guided tour. We were dropped off at the Pudeto ferry port on Lake Pehoé and from that point onwards barely even had to think for ourselves.
We hiked the W during the day led along the one path by our guides and arrived at night to pre-pitched tents and pre-paid food.
However, it didn’t take more than five minutes of being in the park to realise that a tour was utterly unnecessary and that trekking in Torres del Paine solo and self-guided is easy and will also save you a whole stash of money.
What's in this article:
Torres del Paine W Trek FAQs
1. how long is the w trek in torres del paine.
80 kilometres (50 miles)
2. What is the altitude of Torres del Paine?
The highest point in the park is the John Gardner Pass at an altitude of 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) above sea level.
However, only those trekking the O Circuit are required to reach this height; all of the W trek is at altitudes below this.
3. How fit do you need to be to hike the W trek?
While previous backpacking experience is not necessary, you do need a reasonable level of fitness to be able to climb up into the Frances Valley and up to the towers themselves.
It’s helpful to have done a couple of practice walks, with a backpack weighing around 10 kilograms (22 pounds), in preparation for the trail.
4. When can you hike the W trek?
The park is open year-round, however, for self-guided trekking, you can only hike between October and the end of April.
If you want to hike during the winter months (May through September), you’ll need to arrange a guide.
Our local partner, Chile Nativo, lead winter tours of the W trek and offer a 5% discount to Worldly Adventurer readers (use “Worldly Adventurer” in the referral discount box when you book!). Find out more here .
5. Can you do day hikes in Torres del Paine?
If you don’t want to spend four+ days hiking or have only a short period of time in the park, you can still visit for day hikes.
The best part is, many sections of the W trek are possible as day hikes (including the trail up to Mirador Las Torres and the towers).
We’ve got a complete guide to day hikes in Torres del Paine with all the information you need.
6. Do you need to book your park entrance ticket in advance?
As of 2022, you must now book online as they are no longer accepting payment at the park entrance. Book your ticket online here . You need to download the QR code in Puerto Natales while you have internet (there is no signal in the park) and may need to show a copy of your passport to prove you do not live in Chile.
The cost of entering the park varies according to how long you plan on staying. For up to three days in the national park, it costs $35 USD for adults and $17 USD for children aged 12 to 17. For over three days in the park, the cost is $49 USD for both adults and children.
7. How difficult is the W trek in Patagonia?
The W trek in Torres del Paine National Park is a moderately challenging hike. If you’re able to walk up to 18 kilometers (11 miles) per day (and feel like you would be able to do that over multiple days), then you will find this hike perfectly doable.
That said, the hike up to the towers on the final day of the W (or the first, if you’re hiking east to west), is classed as a difficult hike due to the elevation gain of 900 meters (2,956 ft).
Bear in mind that you will be trekking with a backpack; the contents will depend on whether you’re carrying your tent and meals or planning on renting camping equipment and paying for meals at the campgrounds en route.
Before hiking up the French Valley and up to the towers, you can also leave your backpacks at the rangers’ station or campsite, which means you won’t actually have to carry them up much elevation.
Before heading to Patagonia, it’s important to go on a couple of hikes of around 18 kilometers (11 miles) with a backpack that will mimic the weight you’ll be carrying in the park – as well as to ensure you break in any hiking boots you might have bought for the trek and find out if they give you blisters!
8. Is the W trek worth it?
Yes! While hiking for five days might not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, the scenery in Torres del Paine National Park more than makes up for the hard work!
Every day has spellbinding views: whether of Grey Glacier on day one, the French Valley on day two or three, or the eponymous towers on the final day of the hike.
You’ll finish tired but truly fulfilled by the experience – and proud of yourself for having completed it!
9. Can you do the W trek without a guide?
Yes you can. The trail that the W trek takes in Torres del Paine National Park is very clear and easy to follow – and you’ll be joined by plenty of other hikers along the way.
To book your accommodation (and meals if you’re not planning on bringing your own food), we recommend using Torres Hike , a site that makes the otherwise laborious process a lot simpler!
10. Are there bathrooms on the W trek?
Yes, but only at the campgrounds where you sleep every night! During the day, you’ll need to find a hidden spot to go to the toilet at least 100 meters (330 feet) away from water sources.
Remember to also leave no trace: all toilet paper should be picked up and packed away in a sealed bag.
If you need to poop between campgrounds, dig a deep hole, bury your waste and then pack away the toilet paper as before.
How much does it cost to hike the W?
You’ve got a couple of different options for hiking the W:
- Booking campgrounds or hostel accommodation independently
- Booking campgrounds or hostel accommodation through a tour operator, but still hiking independently
- Booking campgrounds or hostel accommodation through a tour operator and hiking with a guide
All three have very different prices. I’ll go into them below.
What you can pay to walk Torres del Paine W trek with a tour: from $1,500 USD
What you pay trekking the W without a tour: $157,000 CLP ($173 USD – check here for the most up-to-date conversion) plus food
Camping and Transport cost breakdown*
- Return bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park: $20,000 CLP ($22 USD)
- Adult entrance fee into the park: $44,000 CLP ($49 USD)
- One-way ferry from Pudeto de Paine Grande Ranger Station: $27,000 CLP ($30 USD)
- Grey Campsite: $9,000 CLP (per person) ($10 USD)
- Paine Grande Campsite: $11,000 CLP (per person) ($12 USD)
- Francés Campsite: $23,000 CLP (per person) ($25 USD)**
- El Chileno Campsite: $23,000 CLP (per person) ($25 USD)***
* these figures are all updated for the 2022/2023 season.
**based on two people sharing a tent
***Torres Ranger Station (the free camping closest to the towers) is closed for the foreseeable future.
- When we hiked the Full Circuit, we paid $68,620 CLP ($95 USD) between four people for all of our food. That’s $17,155 CLP ($20,5 USD) per person. No kidding.
- So for your food budget, expect to spend no more than $10,000 CLP ($12 USD) (read this full outline of exactly what we took with us in terms of food when we walked the Circuit)
And if you want to get your hands on a FREE one-month Patagonia travel itinerary (including tips and tricks for travelling in Patagonia) scroll to the bottom of this post!
If you want to save time, the website Torres Hike can show you the availability of accommodation and allows you to book it directly through them , rather than having to go via the Vertice Patagonia and Las Torres (previously known as Fantastico Sur) websites. All you need to do is plug in your dates and it’ll show you which campgrounds and refugios are available – saving you LOTS of time. You can then book directly with them, rather than having to try and book through the other websites!
How do you make campsite and refugio bookings for Torres del Paine?
The system for making refugio and camping reservations has changed dramatically over the past couple of years and a lot of the information you find online about the subject is out of date.
I also put together this epic, 5,000-word post about securing camping reservations in Torres del Paine that literally walks you through the process.
Reservations are now open for the 2023/2024 season. If you’re struggling to find spots for the coming season, you should also read my article about alternative ways to hike the W if you can’t get camping reservations .
You can also check out this ultimate guide to Torres del Paine National Park , covering everything from the best time to visit, to where to stay and what to do beyond the W trek.
If you’re completely baffled by the process and just want someone else to deal with it, you can book with our partner in the region, Chile Nativo , who organise, guided, self-guided and fast-track (three-day) W treks. They give a 5% discount to Worldly Adventurer readers (use “Worldly Adventurer” in the referral discount box when you book!).
Planning Your Trip to Patagonia?
Save time, stress & money with a customized travel itinerary planned for you by a Patagonia expert
What previous clients have said:
Steph did a great job! I have never used such a service before and I wish there were more of them!Getting off the beaten track was important to us and with Steph’s knowledge we were away from the crowds. The information is very detailed and she knows some great places to stay! Thank you Steph!
What equipment do you need to hike the W without a tour?
To pay as little as possible trekking Torres del Paine solo, it does require that you have the following pieces of equipment:
- A tent: I strongly recommend the lightweight Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon ), the North Face Stormbreak 2 (buy it on REI | Amazon ), or, for more room, the North Face Stormbreak 3 (buy it on ( REI ).
- A sleeping bag: I recommend the Nemo Disco 15 for women (buy it on REI ) and for men (buy it on REI ).
- A sleeping pad: Get a cheap foam pad ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon ) or a more comfortable Therm-a-rest Prolite (buy it on REI | Backcountry | Amazon ).
- A headlamp : Useful for midnight toilet visits and the hike up to the towers (buy one on REI | Black Diamond | Backcountry ).
- A cooking stove and gas: My favourite, the MSR Dragonfly (buy it on REI | Backcountry | Amazon ), although the cheaper MSR PocketRocket 2 (buy it on REI | Backcountry | Amazon ) is great value for those on more of a budget.
- Cooking pots: I recommend the MSR pots set (buy them on Backcountry | Amazon ) as they’re good quality and food will stick less, which will make them easier to clean.
- Plates, a mug and cutlery : A collapsible bowl is a great space saver (check out Sea to Summit on REI | Backcountry | Amazon ); I recommend a reasonably cheap, plastic mug (buy it on REI | Backcountry | Amazon ) and for cutlery, a multipurpose spork is a good choice (check them out on REI | Backcountry | Amazon ).
I’ve detailed exactly the items that I packed for the O Circuit in Torres del Paine (and which are still relevant to the W trek) and also what I pack in my rucksack on a trip to Patagonia in this packing checklist . Both have a free packing checklist download, too.
I recommend you take a look if you’re thinking of investing in camping equipment before you head over to Patagonia (something I would strongly advise if you plan on doing any other hikes or wild camping or if you’re looking at exploring the Carretera Austral ).
Where can you buy equipment for the W?
If you’re already traveling around Patagonia, what can you do to get your hands on this camping equipment for Torres del Paine?
You have three options:
Buy equipment in Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales
There is a wide range of hiking and camping equipment shops in these two towns. Punta Arenas is a tax-free zone so prices here are cheaper than you will find in Puerto Natales, although Calle Manuel Bulnes in the latter has some gear shops.
I actually found a pair of waterproof trousers for only $15,000 CLP ($18 USD) in one of the shops there, which is a lot cheaper than I thought they would be.
If you’re looking to buy equipment for camping and hiking in Torres del Paine National Park, you should be able to find everything that you need in these shops, but you will pay an elevated price for good-quality gear.
Estimated additional cost: $360,000 CLP+ ($400 USD+) per person
Rent equipment from Puerto Natales
Your second option is to rent all of your camping and cooking equipment from Rental Natales (you can book online) in Puerto Natales.
There are other places in Puerto Natales to rent equipment too, so I suggest having a wander around and looking out for signs for rental equipment. Yaghan House (O’Higgins 584) and Lili Patagonico’s (Arturo Prat 479) also have cheap, good-quality rental gear.
Remember to check the equipment thoroughly before committing as it does get a lot of wear and tear on the trail and you want something without holes and with zips that close to keep you warm and dry!
Estimated additional cost: $147,000 CLP ($162 USD) per person (based on two sharing) for five days’ rental
Rent equipment at each campsite in Torres del Paine National Park
Your final option is by the far the most expensive. Each of the main camping grounds in Torres del Paine rent out tents, sleeping bags and sleeping mats at a premium.
For example, in Grey , you can hire a two-man tent for $29,000 CLP ($32 USD), a sleeping bag for $21,000 CLP ($23 USD) and a sleeping mat for $8,000 CLP ($9 USD), bringing up your overnight cost (including cost of the camping site) to $53,000 CLP ($58 USD) per person per night (based on two sharing).
Bear in mind, this doesn’t include the cost of hiring cooking equipment (which you can’t do at the campsites), so you will also need to pay for meals at each – an additional cost of between $55,000 CLP ($61 USD) and $80,000 CLP ($88 USD).
Estimated additional cost: $232,000 CLP ($256 USD) per person for equipment and $256,000 CLP ($282 USD) per person for full board for five days hiking the W circuit (based on two sharing).
How do you get from Torres del Paine National Park to Puerto Natales ?
It’s easy enough to get to Torres del Paine National Park with public transport.
Four companies travel from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine each morning and all cost around $20,000 CLP ($22 USD) for a return ticket (which can be used on any of the company’s buses back from the park).
You must buy tickets from the companies’ offices, which are inside the Terminal Rodoviario (Av. España 1455) in Puerto Natales.
If there are a few of you, consider negotiating a group price like we did, which got us a few thousand pesos off per ticket.
It’s advisable to book your bus ticket at least a week in advance when visiting the park in high season (December through February).
Timetables for buses from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine (east to south: Laguna Amarga, Pudeto and Administración)*
Conventionally, buses have departed from Puerto Natales and entered the park via the northeastern entrance at Laguna Amarga (for the minibus to the eastern starting point for the W), before continuing to Pudeto (for the catamaran to the western starting point for the W) and finally to Administración (not a destination along the W trek).
These now continue along to Hotel Lago Grey and stop at Camping Pehoé en route, too.
These bus timetables are below and can be booked online in advance via Bus Sur’s website:
Pre-pandemic, the following companies also offered services. However, their websites are no longer active and I can’t find them on any local booking sites.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have buses, however; if you can’t get a reservation with Bus Sur then it’s still worth going to the bus terminal in Puerto Natales as some will likely still be in operation and with similar departure times:
- Transport Maria José (tel. 61/2410 951)
- Buses Gómez (tel. 61/2415700)
- JB Buses Patagonia (tel. 61/2410 242)
- Buses Juan Ojeda (tel. 9/8943 7808)
*Service available November through April
Timetables for buses from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine (south to east: Administración , Pudeto and Laguna Amarga)*
* Note : These are not currently operating in the 2022/2023 season.
In 2020, Bus Sur started running buses that enter via the southern entrance at Administración (not a stop on the W), stopping at Pudeto (for the catamaran to the western starting point for the W) and ending at Laguna Amarga (for the minibus to the eastern starting point for the W).
The bonus with this bus is that you get to Pudeto in time for the first catamaran ferry of the day at 9am. As a result, this gives you enough time to walk to the viewpoints for Glaciar Grey and back to Paine Grande for the night in one day.
If you take the later buses above, you connect with the catamaran ferry at 11am, which means you only have time to hike to the viewpoints for Glaciar Grey but not enough time to hike back again.
Therefore, you need to stay overnight at Grey Camping and Refugio and hike back to Paine Grande on day two.
This is clearer in the hiking itineraries below.
Bus timetables for buses that go to Pudeto earlier are as follows:
*Available October 14 through March 31
**Available November 15 through February 29
Timetables for buses from Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales (Administración, Pudeto, Laguna Amarga)*
The following timetables are when buses can return you to Puerto Natales from the four different stops in the park. They can also be booked online and in advance via Bus Sur’s website.
Note that you have to return with the same bus company you entered the park with – you won’t be allowed on a different company’s buses.
As above, there should be other companies offering buses to and from Puerto Natales into the park; visit the Terminal Rodovario in Puerto Natales to find out if you can’t make a reservation with Bus Sur.
Where do you buy your Torres del Paine entrance ticket?
It’s no longer possible to buy your ticket at the Laguna Amarga entrance to the national park (the first stop on the bus if entering via that entrance) or at the Administración entrance (if entering via that entrance).
You must buy it in advance online here . You must download the QR code to your phone before you enter the park (as you won’t have signal when you get there!) and bring your passport to show that you’re not a Chilean resident.
Insider tip: As of 2022, you’ve been required to book your entrance ticket to Torres del Paine National Park online as they no longer accept payment at the park entrance. Book your ticket online here .
When you enter the park and pay your fee, you will be provided with a Torres del Paine W trek map to be used when you’re walking.
Unfortunately, the map that you get from CONAF doesn’t include distances. I would strongly recommend you download Maps.me , a free app that has all the trails marked on and you can use it to work out distances if required.
Torres del Paine W trek itineraries
Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park is significantly cheaper if you go self-guided.
There is also absolutely no chance that you’ll get lost. Believe me, the W trek is now so busy that (unfortunately) you see people all the time.
If you want to trek Torres del Paine solo, here are the two routes that I would suggest for hiking the W:
Itinerary for W trek Torres del Paine in five days (West to East Route)
Want to know how to book the campsites mentioned in this itinerary? Head over to this comprehensive article about booking Torres del Paine camping or hostel accommodation .
Day One: Puerto Natales to Grey
Distance: 11km, 3-4 hours hiking
7:00am Take a bus from Puerto Natales to the Pudeto (the catamaran ferry stop). You will stop at the park entrance when you first get into Torres del Paine to pay your entrance fee.
Make sure you’ve got the $25,000 CLP in cash; they don’t accept cards. You may need to prove you’re a foreigner so bring a photocopy of your passport just in case.
10:00am Arrive at Pudeto. Queue up for the catamaran ferry across the lake.
10:30am Take the ferry across to Paine Grande*. This service is operated by Hielos Patagonicos ($25,000 ($30 USD) single, cash only). Tickets cannot be reserved in advance; you buy them at the ferry port.
Ferry schedules do sometimes change; you can check up-to-date ones here .
11:40am Arrive at Paine Grande and trek to Grey. The trail starts to go uphill but soon levels off and has great views of Lago Grey to keep your spirits up!
16:00pm The hike from Paine Grande takes between three and four hours so expect to arrive late afternoon to Grey to pitch your tent, meet some other hikers and cook dinner.
Day Two: Grey to Paine Grande
Distance: 18 km, 6-7 hours hiking
8:00am Wake up and have breakfast.
9:00am Leave your stuff at the campsite and return a few hours later to pack everything up. From the campsite, an additional one kilometre north through the forest brings you go two viewpoints lying over a kilometre from the glacier’s snout. From here, look out for enormous chunks of ice in the water.
Continue a further 2.5 kilometres (around a one-hour hike) along the path along the edge of the glacier to reach a series of two rope bridges hanging over ravines.
From here you get the best views of the glacier and, if you’re lucky and it’s a clear day, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field beyond.
Return to Grey along the same path and back to Paine Grande.
16:00pm You’ll arrive at Paine Grande at around 4pm, which is where you’ll spend the night. The facilities are great here, with a covered dining area for campers.
Day Three: Paine Grande to Francés
Distance: 11.5 km (+ 9 km for the extension to Mirador Británico), 4 hours hiking (7.5 hours with extension)
8:00am Get up, have breakfast and pack up your tent.
9:00am Today begins with a flattish trek around Lake Nordernskjold to Guardería Italiano and the free, CONAF run Campamento Italiano. You can leave your bags here with the ranger before hiking up into the Francés Valley.
Note that there’s a new trail that begins about one km (15 mins) after you leave Paine Grande. It’s a little longer – 9 km rather than 7 km – and so takes around 30 minutes longer, but it has fewer hikers on it and is really pretty.
11:00am The hike up the Francés Valley may be long or painfully short – all depending on the weather. Both times I’ve walked Torres del Paine W hike I’ve experienced dreadful weather in the Francés Valley.
This part of the hike marks the central section of the W and it’s all uphill. After an hour’s steep gradient up a rocky, slippery trail to Mirador Francés, look for Glaciar Francés as it clings to the mountainside in the west.
If you’re feeling energetic, and the weather’s playing fair, you can continue climbing to Mirador Británico (an additional 3.5 km each way; around three hours’ return), where you’ll view a ring of toothy granite peaks, including the park’s second most famous landmark, the three-horned Cuernos del Paine.
It’s one of the park’s most stunning viewpoints—when the sky is clear. You may even see an endangered Southern Andean huemul (a type of deer) around here.
Luckily, the hike back is downhill to return to Campamento Italiano, where you pick up your rucksack and hike the 30 minutes to reach Francés.
13:00pm-16:00pm Arrive at Francés*, pitch up and enjoy the views across the lake.
*If there is no availability at Francés when you go to make your refugio or campsite reservations , you can instead book to stay at Los Cuernos, which is a further 3.5 kilometers (one hour) from Francés.
Day Four: Francés to El Chileno*
Distance: 17 km, 4-5 hours hiking
9:00am Leave the campsite and begin the trek to El Chileno, situated about two hours from the bottom of the towers.
This trek meanders alongside the lake, gaining and losing altitude as it goes, until you reach the start of the valley where it becomes all uphill. The views are incredible but if it’s sunny, it will be hot!
16:00pm Arrive at El Chileno* and pitch your tent. Get everything organised for the morning as you’ll be leaving early. Check with the staff what time sunrise will be the next morning.
*For the 2023-2024 season, and for the foreseeable future, Torres Ranger Station is not open to the public. It’s no longer as easy to get to the towers for dawn as the distance is now around four kilometres, rather than one kilometre; however, it is still possible to do it.
If you can’t get a pitch at Chileno, it is possible to hike from Torres Central/Norte ($25 USD camping pitch per person). Although you’re not officially supposed to hike from here up to the towers, you can: leave four hours ahead of sunrise. It’s an additional one-hour 45 minutes if starting from Torres Central/Norte to reach the towers.
Day Five: El Chileno* to Laguna Amarga and Puerto Natales
Distance: 13 km (+8 km for the hike from the Centro de Bienvenida to Laguna Amarga), 6 hours hiking (add an extra 1.5-2 hours for the hike to Laguna Amarga)
4:30am Wake up and take a small bag (including warm clothes and a snack) to see the torres at dawn. Don’t forget your torch as the route is over rocks and can be treacherous.
4:45am Start hiking up to the torres . For us at the very start of March, dawn was at about 7:15am.
8:00am Leave the torres and return to the campsite. Pack up, have breakfast start the long walk down.
12.30pm When you get to Las Torres Hotel car park, there is a shop selling ice creams. To get the shuttle minibus to take you to Laguna Amarga, you need to hike one kilometre down the road towards Torres Central/Norte to reach the Centro de Bienvenida /Welcome Centre.
Shuttles ($3,000 CLP ($5 USD) – you must pay in cash at the shuttle) leave throughout the day to take you to Laguna Amarga.
If you can face the walk, it’s about another one and a half hours to the Laguna Amarga Ranger Station where buses are waiting to pick you up.
Hiking there, you can get good views of the towers as they rise out of the Cordillera Paine if the weather is clear.
14:30pm Take the bus from Laguna Amarga back to Puerto Natales.
17:00pm Arrive in Puerto Natales bus station and go and enjoy a pint at Cerveza Baguales on the Plaza de Armas to celebrate!
*If you can’t get a pitch at Chileno, it is possible to hike from Torres Central/Norte ($21 USD camping pitch per person). Although you’re not officially supposed to hike from here up to the towers, you can: leave four hours ahead of sunrise. It’s an additional one-hour 45 minutes if starting from Torres Central/Norte to reach the towers.
Make sure you bring a headtorch for climbing in the dark (it will get lighter as you reach the more difficult stretch of hiking just below the towers), plus warm clothing (even including a sleeping bag) to use at the top and keep you cozy as you enjoy the sunrise.
If time allows, consider spending a night in Puerto Natales to explore all the town has to offer before your onward journey. Our guide to the best hotels in Puerto Natales caters for all budgets, styles and preferences.
Itinerary for Torres del Paine W circuit in four days (West to East Route)
Day One – Paine Grande to Paine Grande
Distance: 22 km (+7 km if you hike to the last viewpoint), 7-9 hours hiking
Unfortunately, the buses that made this first day possible are no longer in operation. As a result, you’re better to take the Bus Sur bus from Puerto Natales at 3pm the day before, which gets you to Pudeto at 5.45pm, in time for the last ferry of the day at 6pm. You can then camp in Paine Grande that night and trek to Grey and back the next morning.
7:00am Catch the Bus Sur bus from Puerto Natales.
You will stop at the park entrance when you first get into Torres del Paine to pay your entrance fee. Make sure you’ve got the $21,000 CLP in cash; they don’t accept cards. You may need to prove you’re a foreigner so bring a photocopy of your passport just in case.
08:45am Arrive at Pudeto take the ferry across to Paine Grande at 9am. This service is operated by Hielos Patagonicos ($25,000 ($30 USD) single, cash only).
Tickets cannot be reserved in advance; you buy them at the ferry port. Ferry schedules and prices do sometimes change; you can check up-to-date ones here and the 9am ferry only runs November through the end of March.
09:30am Arrive at Paine Grande and drop your camping gear at the campsite**.
Take the trail towards Grey; it starts uphill but soon levels off and has great views of Lago Grey to keep your spirits up!
If you’re fit, you can hike an additional one kilometre north through the forest brings you go two viewpoints lying over a kilometre from the glacier’s snout. From here, look out for enormous chunks of ice in the water.
If you’re still feeling full of energy and it’s not too late, continue a further 2.5 kilometres (around a one-hour hike) along the path along the edge of the glacier to reach a series of two rope bridges hanging over ravines.
Turn back and return the way you came, past Grey and then back to Paine Grande.
18:00pm Arrive late afternoon back at Paine Grande to meet some other hikers and cook dinner.
* Because this service offers the easiest way to get to the park early, it’s likely it will get booked out very fast. I would highly recommend reserving tickets as soon as you can; you can make reservations online via Bus Sur’s website .
**This could take an hour or so, depending on how many people are trying to check in or drop baggage. You can confirm with Vertice Patagonia when you make your reservations as to how long this should take and whether they want you to pitch up your tent or just leave your belongings and pitch up later.
Day Two – Paine Grande to Frances
9:00am Hike to the ranger station and campsite, Campamento Italiano (around two hours), where you leave your rucksack with the ranger. You’ll pick it up on your way back down from the Francés Valley.
The hike up the Francés Valley may be long or painfully short – all depending on the weather. Both times I’ve walked Torres del Paine W hike I’ve experienced dreadful weather in the Francés Valley.
Luckily, the hike back is downhill to return to Italiano, where you pick up your rucksack and hike the 30 minutes to reach Francés.
*If there is no availability at Francés when you go to make your refugio or campsite reservations , you can instead book to stay at Los Cuernos, which is a further 3.5 kilometres (one hour) from Francés.
Day Three: Francés to El Chileno*
Distance: 17km, 4-5 hours hiking
9:00am Leave the campsite and begin the trek to El Chileno, situated about two hours from the bottom of the towers. This trek meanders alongside the lake, gaining and losing altitude as it goes, until you reach the start of the valley where it becomes all uphill.
The views are incredible but if it’s sunny, it will be hot!
*For the 2023-2024 season and for the foreseeable future, Campamento Torres, the campground just below the towers, is not open to the public. It’s no longer as easy to get to the towers for dawn as the distance is now around four kilometres, rather than one kilometre; however, it is still possible to do it.
Day Four: El Chileno* to Laguna Amarga and Puerto Natales
Shuttles ($3,000 CLP ($5 USD) – you must pay with cash in the shuttle) leave throughout the day to take you to Laguna Amarga.
*If you can’t get a pitch at El Chileno, it is possible to hike from Torres Central/Norte ($25 USD camping pitch per person). Although you’re not officially supposed to hike from here up to the towers, you can: leave four hours ahead of sunrise.
Make sure you bring a headtorch for climbing in the dark (it will get lighter as you reach the more difficult stretch of hiking just below the towers), plus warm clothing (even including a sleeping bag) to use at the top and keep you cosy as you enjoy the sunrise.
Top tips for hiking the Torres del Paine W Trek self-guided
Having now been hiking in Torres del Paine National Park twice, I’ve learned a few important tips that have kept me happy, sane and comfortable en route :
- Camping in Torres del Paine at Francés, Los Cuernos and El Chileno is on wooden platforms. If you plan to stay at any of these campsites, you will need extra cord or string to help you attach your tent without using pegs.
- Bring a range of warm and wet weather clothing. Check out my packing list for hiking the Circuit in Torres del Paine for the full guide to the clothing that I packed for the trip (and which is also a good guide to what to pack for the W). It also includes a free, downloadable checklist.
- Bring a book or some cards for the evenings as you tend to finish hiking quite early and if it’s cold and wet, you’ll want to retire to the shelters with something to do.
- Having a lightweight tent really does make a difference camping on this trek. Have a look at my review of the Big Agnes HVUL2 , the really lightweight backpacking tent that we used for the O Circuit.
- If you’re carrying all of your own equipment, a 60-litre rucksack should be big enough.
- Pack all of your clothes into dry bags (better than a bin bag which can easily rip). The weather changes rapidly and on days when it’s pissing it down, you’ll welcome the fact that your sleeping bag and clothes are dry. I recommend the Sea to Summit dry bags (buy them on REI | Amazon ).
- Bring a rucksack cover. I’ve heard mixed advice on this one, but a rucksack cover kept our bags dry (and so lighter) when we were hiking in Torres del Paine National Park and no, they didn’t blow away in the wind. If your rucksack doesn’t come with its own, you can find them in various sizes on | Osprey | Amazon (make sure it’s the correct size for your bag – otherwise it will blow away!).
- There is a much wider (and cheaper) selection of food in the supermarkets in Punta Arenas than in the one Unimarc supermarket in Puerto Natales. I recommend doing your food shop there before you take the bus to Puerto Natales. We left the stuff we didn’t need in our hostel in Punta Arenas. You can also buy trekking food and bring it with you , but it’s heavier and far more expensive than organising your food when you get to Puerto Natales.
- Pack everything into zip-lock plastic bags and bin all the original packaging that you can to save on carrying any extra weight. Also, don’t bring the full pack of rice if you’re only going to eat half of it – every bit of weight counts!
- You can buy basic staples (pasta, biscuits, tomato puree etc.) from the shops at Paine Grande, Grey, Francés and El Chileno to stock up on supplies. It’s pretty expensive, but totally worth it. They also all stock beer – an additional expense that I didn’t include in the costings for the W trek!
- You don’t need to bring water with you as it’s available from all the glacier meltwater streams that you’ll run into along the W and is drinkable from the taps at each of the campsites. If you’re nervous about drinking the water, you can also bring a Steripen (read my review of the Steripen Adventurer or buy one from Amazon or buy a newer Steripen UV Ultra from REI ) to zap anything that might be nasty or a Grayl ( REI | Backcountry | Amazon ) – find out why I recommend these water filters for South American travel .
- My dad is a pro at packing food for multi-day treks. Read what food we took with us for the O Circuit (and which you can use as a guide for the W too).
Camping in Torres del Paine
The following summarises some of the main points about booking campsites and refugios in Torres del Paine for the W trek, but for you can get a full overview of how to book campsites in Torres del Paine with this article updated for the 2023/2024 season.
Reservations with Las Torres and Vertice Patagonia
You will need to book your campsites in Torres del Paine in advance. In August 2022, many of the campsites and refugios were fully booked for December through February 2023, which just shows how far in advance it gets booked up.
Before you start panicking, what happens each year is that reservations free up again in September/October, probably due to the fact that tour agencies in Puerto Natales make mass reservations for the high season, and then cancel them when they don’t fill the bookings.
If you need anything planned well in advance, then this isn’t going to suit your plans. If your plans are a little more open and you can wait until closer until the time (and keep checking back to see if any spots have opened up), then you should still be able to hike the W during these months.
My recommendation would be to hike outside of these months anyway (November or March) to avoid the crowds as much as possible, but either way, you still MUST SECURE YOUR RESERVATIONS with Las Torres (Francés, Los Cuernos, El Chileno) and Vertice Patagonia (Paine Grande and Grey).
If you’re trying to get a space last-minute, you can always pop into either of their offices in Puerto Natales and see if they can book you in. I’ve heard of people having success with this with only a day or two’s notice.
Reservations with CONAF
For the 2023/2024 season, and for the foreseeable future, all of the CONAF campsites remain closed.
As of the 2019-2020 season, you now have to book all of your CONAF camping site in Torres del Paine (the free ones: Italiano Ranger Station and Torres Ranger Station) in advance too and PRINT OFF CONFIRMATION .
They don’t have a list so you must show them your reservation. Again, these book up well in advance so secure all of your accommodation at least one or two months in advance during peak season.
Make reservations here . Their online booking system is now much easier than it was for last season.
You just need to click on the above link, put in your dates (you will need to do this twice if you want to book more than one campsite with CONAF) and it will show availability and allow you to insert your details to make the reservation. It’s all in English, too!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Reservations for CONAF campgrounds for the 2020/2021 season likely won’t open until around September time. When they do, you can make reservations directly through their website .
- You will need Chilean pesos on you for the park as nowhere accepts cards. You’ll need $25,000 CLP ($35 USD) for the catamaran ferry and then extras for additional food, beer and anything else you want to buy.
Upgrade your solo Torres del Paine W trek with these changes
If you’re not so bothered about hiking the W in Torres del Paine National Park on a complete budget, consider making the following small tweaks to your itinerary.
Stay overnight at Paine Grande ($10,000 CLP ($12 USD) camping between two) rather than at Italiano*
*Italiano is closed for the foreseeable future
The toilets at the latter are pretty grim and there’s only a three-wall shelter to protect you from the elements. Instead, at Paine Grande, there’s a huge cooking area with dining tables, magnificent views of Los Cuernos and even power sockets for charging the batteries of your camera.
If you make this change, you’ll need to hike all the way to Francés the following day, but you can always trek just to the Francés Lookout rather than all the way to Británico to shorten the walk.
Stay overnight at Los Cuernos ($80,000 CLP ($88 USD) per person full board) instead of Francés
Again, this is only really possible if you stayed overnight on Day Two in Paine Grande. When we hiked the Full Circuit, we decided to treat ourselves to an all-inclusive night at Los Cuernos.
This meant we still pitched our own tent on a wooden platform, but we had a three-course dinner, breakfast and packed lunch for the next morning, which reduced the amount we had to pack in our rucksacks for the hike.
The food from Las Torres (previously known as Fantastico Sur) is much better than Vertigo Patagonia too, so I would recommend this instead of eating in the big canteen at Paine Grande.
Los Cuernos now offers camping sites without full board (previously you had to pay for full board at this campsite).
This means that for $25 USD per person you can pitch up your own tent here. They also offer half board options priced at $62 USD per person, which include dinner and breakfast.
Book full board and a tent or bed at each campsite
You can rent gear and get food at all campgrounds, so if you don’t want to carry anything, then you can also book this way!
Bear in mind that full board at Los Cuernos comes in at $158 USD per person for a fully-equipped tent and full board – so it certainly won’t come cheap!
Did you find this guide to the Torres del Paine W hike useful? Pin it!
Wednesday 22nd of March 2023
Hi Steph! Can you please provide link where it is stated that a guide is required for hiking in May in Torres del Paine? I had not come across this requirement yet. Thank you!
Thursday 23rd of March 2023
Hi Megan, it's something I was told in a conversation with CONAF, the national parks office. You can reach out to them https://www.conaf.cl/parques/parque-nacional-torres-del-paine/ Steph
Saturday 4th of March 2023
We are planning a trip for December of 2023. I have tried to make reservations at various campsites but none of them seem to be open for bookings beyond April of this year. When do they open up for reservations for December?
Thursday 13th of July 2023
@Steph Dyson, I'm looking to book for Dec. of this year as well and booking for the Las Torres sites is already a mess. Cuernos and Chileno are completely booked, none of the refugios at any site are available, and Frances doesn't even have it's refugios on the booking page. Food availability is already a problem for these sites too. This is while there appears to be much more availability for the Vertice sites in the West. Is this normal or is there weirdness happening and more space should appear soon?
Wednesday 8th of March 2023
Hi Andre, normally around July! Steph
Wednesday 21st of December 2022
I recommanded so much this guide. I did alone by following ur steps so thanks a lot. I only recommanded for if you want to do the W to do it by following the one in 4 days because you can wait a bit longer in the afternoon the first 2 days. But it was incredible. This trek is really amazing. I'm a french student and I met there lot of people from different country and I met 2 guys using this guide to do there trek so THANK'YOU so much, I think you don't realize but your allow so much people to do this trek. Don't hesitate to do it if u can do it. If you don't have money, u can go in argentina, lot's trek overthere are cheapers, but there are not really so same ;)
Thursday 19th of January 2023
Thanks for your feedback Stan - I'm glad you had a great trip! Steph
Saturday 29th of October 2022
Hi Steph, What a great and helpful post. Thanks a lot. We will visit Torres del Paine in 3 weeks and there is one question still unclear for us. Is there a parking spare near the park or do we have to take the bus from Puerto Natales and leave our car there for 5 days? If we can park our car near the Park how can we get to the catamaran? Thanks in advance for your help. Tanja
Tuesday 15th of November 2022
Hi Tanja, if you're doing the W or the O, the best option is to leave your car in Puerto Natales and take the bus into the park. Steph
Monday 17th of October 2022
Hi Just to let you know about gear rental, the only place that is working right now is Rental Natales, all the other are out of business. Well erratic rock is running as a hostel only.
Thanks for this update Kristine!
Groovy Mashed Potatoes - Travel Blog
Unique travel experiences, fun itineraries & offbeat places to help you plan your dream trip
Self Guided W Trek - The Best W Trek Route and W Trek Itinerary
Hiking the Torres Del Paine W Trek in Patagonia is a bucket list item for many. Doing the W Trek without a guide is the most cost efficient way to trek through the park and it feels very rewarding to do it yourself.
However, sorting out the W Trek was one of the most challenging bookings we have made to this day. Non English websites, sparse accredited blog coverage on routes, and limited availability due to popularity, made for a difficult journey before we even got to the park.
We have put together a clear and concise way to plan and book your self-guided W trek , including the best W Trek route with a map and W Trek itinerary with hiking distances.
Best time to visit Torres Del Paine
You want to have the best chance possible of seeing the towers in clear light. The weather can be treacherous in these mountains, so the best time to hike the W Trek is in the summer months from November to March. During the months outside of summer, most of the services at main lodging companies are closed and the days will also be shorter and cloudier.
How to book refugios and campsites in Torres Del Paine
Torres Del Paine National Park has been split up so you must book your sites with at least two of three companies operating campsites there. The first two companies, Fantasticosur and Vertice , have paid refugios (lodges and campsites) where you can either reserve a spot to pitch your tent, rent a tent, or stay in the lodge.
CONAF on the other hand, is a non-profit organization that offers free camping. The CONAF site at Italiano is extremely basic with no lodge, but hey it's free! Whichever you choose, you'll need to book your accommodation through their online booking systems.
Beautiful and strategic sites like Glacier Grey and Chileno book up fast. Book the refugios as far in advance as you can to ensure you get the sites you want.
Top booking tip:
Bookings for the following year's season open around the middle of May. For example, bookings open in May 2020 for the November 2020 - April 2021 season. Message the companies, Vertice and Fantasticosur, directly in advance and ask if they can email you once reservations open up. We got our emails and booked right away!
Should you travel the W Trek east to west or west to east?
This question left us scratching our heads until we finished our trek. There are pros and cons of each. We hiked the 'W' from the left to the right which starts at Paine Grande and ends at Torres Central, but would actually recommend hiking from east to west , since its pros outweigh the cons and the itinerary works out a bit better.
W Trek Map with our Refugio & Campsite ratings
What we did and why it wasn't as great:
We hiked the W Trek from left to right and stayed 5 nights. We stayed in Glacier Grey, Paine Grande, Cuernos, and Toores Central (2 nights).
Ultimately, the views are better and the itinerary works more nicely hiking the W Trek from right to left.
The drawbacks of our original route:
- On the way to the start of our trek, we almost didn't make the catamaran from Pudeto to Paine Grande due to the long line up of people (it's first come, first served). If we missed it we would have had to either wait 3 hours for the next ferry or hike an additional five hours to the start of our trek at Paine Grande.
- Staying at Torres Central rather than Chileno added an extra 5 km total to our whole trek . It is a 1 km hike from the campsite to the main trail on a gravel road, which is included in the 5km total.
- Torres Central feels as if you are not actually on the trek. The camp and refugio is located on a road with tour busses and other vehicles driving by. The service was also the worst we experienced out of all refugios.
- We had to spend an additional night in Torres Central so we could avoid rushing our hike up to the towers and back in order to catch the bus.
- The view from Cuernos to Chileno wasn't as nice as the other way around since the sun wasn't in our favour.
The benefits of our original route:
- Saving the crown jewel, the three Torres Del Paine, for last. After the multi-day trek it was satisfying to finish with the a view of the famous centrepiece of the park.
- The first two days of the trek covering the Paine Grande to Glacier Grey then back the next day to Paine Grande are the easiest of the trek. It was nice to warm our muscles up and get used to our packs before the harder hiking days.
Will all of these factors in mind, we came up with the ideal itinerary we would use next time!
The Best W Trek Route
- Day 1: Arrive at Torres Central, hike up to the three Towers and back down to Chileno (13.8km)
- Day 2: Chileno to Cuernos (13km)
- Day 3: Cuernos to Frances Valley and back down to Paine Grande (21.5km)
- Day 4: Paine Grande to Grey (11km)
- Day 5: Grey to Pudeto where you catch your bus back to Puerto Natales (11km)
W Trek Map with Recommended Route
W Trek Itinerary Breakdown
Day 1: puerto natales - las torres hotel - towers lookout - chileno (7 hour hike, 13.8km, 750m ascent, 400m descent).
Highlight: Today you will see the crown jewel of the park, the granite towers!
Your first task is getting to the park entrance (Amarga) from Puerto Natales. After your 2 hour bus ride, pay the park fee (cash only) and then take a shuttle to Los Torres Hotel.
- 🚌 Buy your bus ticket to the park entrance (Amarga) through Busbud .
- 💳 If you want to buy your park pass by credit card, you have to purchase it online at least 24 hours in advance through aspticket.cl .
Congratulations, you made it. Time to start hiking! From Las Torres Hotel to Chileno it's a 5 km hike with a total ascent of 325 m. Careful on your way, there are very high winds as you enter the valley, so hike slowly and crouch down if a gust catches you off step. Drop off your bags/tent in Chileno where you will be staying the night and take some water. It's much easier hiking with just a day pack up to the spectacular granite peaks. From Chileno, the roundtrip distance to the Towers Lookout is 7.8 km.
Read our article on a ll you need to know about the Chileno refugio.
The weather is crazy in this area. We had two snow storms on our way mixed with sunny blue skies. The last half of the hike to the towers is tough and includes scrambling up large rocks. The 90 km/hour winds didn't help! When we reached the top we were sad to see the towers completely covered by cloud and yet another snow storm. However, we waited patiently beside a large rock for 45 minutes and the weather cleared up to perfect sunny blue skies! Seeing Torres Del Paine in real life was breathtaking.
Top Tip: There are weather reports posted at Chileno, so consider staying a bit or heading off right away depending on the hourly cloud cover forecast.
Day 2: Chileno to Cuernos (4 hours, 13km, 125m ascent, 406m descent)
Highlight: Passing the multi coloured lakes and relaxing at the lovely Cuernos camp.
Today you will have spectacular views of the lake as you walk through otherworldly landscapes. The hike is relatively easy with a total descent of 406 meters and a small 125 m ascent in the middle of your hike.
Cuernos was our favourite refugio we stayed at. It didn't feel too busy and we got to pitch our tent on a wooden tent pad overlooking the beautiful lake! It's the perfect place to relax after your long first day.
Read our article on what to know about the Cuernos refugio .
Day 3: Cuernos to Britanico to Paine Grande (10 hours, 21.5 km, 550m ascent, 600m descent)
Highlight: Seeing the very much alive Frances Glacier drop massive chunks of ice with a thunderous roar.
Today will be your longest hiking day. Once you reach the Italiano campsite, drop your bags off to lessen your load for the return hike to Frances Lookout and Britanico. It was partly cloudy when we hiked, but we were lucky to see Frances Glacier and even see and hear the thunderous roar of ice breaking and falling!
Since the clouds were rolling in we decided to stop at Frances lookout and forgo hiking to Britanico further up the mountain. We heard mixed reviews about Britanico and that it wasn't any more spectacular than the view at Frances Lookout. To shorten your hike, you could opt to stop at Frances Lookout and forgo Britanico. This would take about 5 km and 2.75 hours off your total journey that day. Shortcut!
After picking up your bags from Italiano, it is a 2.5 hour easy hike to Paine Grande with small ups and downs on the way.
Read our article on what to know about the Paine Grande refugio .
Day 4: Paine Grande to Grey Lodge (3.5 hours, 11 km, 200m ascent, 185m descent)
Highlight: You will see views of Grey Lake and small icebergs before the grand finale views of the massive Grey Glacier.
Watch out for the huge gusts of wind coming at you from the front. Once you reach Refugio Grey it's about a 10 minute walk from there to the Grey Glacier lookout point. You don't want to miss it!
Read our article on what to know about the Grey refugio .
Day 5: Grey to Paine Grande (3 hours, 11 km, 185 ascent, 200 m descent) & back to Puerto Natales
Highlight: Today is an easy hiking day with the wind at your back and your last of the trip, so enjoy the views!
It's only 11 km to Paine Grande where you'll catch the catamaran to Pudeto and a bus back to Puerto Natales (30 minute catamaran & 2 hour bus ride). Hiking this direction is a lot faster and less effort so it's a nice way to end off the trip.
The catamaran is first-come-first-serve so arrive early to ensure you get a seat. The ferry times change depending on the time of year but the last ferry from Paine Grande to Pudeto will take multiple trips to ensure everyone waiting gets across. No stress and you can get yourself a victory cocktail at the Paine Grande refugio while you wait. The catamaran costs 25,000 CLP ($30 USD) one way and you pay for your ticket with cash inside the boat. Once at Pudeto, you'll catch your bus back to Puerto Natales.
Meal options at the refugios and campsites
There are a few options for eating while you're on the trek. You can cook, or you can have the cooking done for you. We found it really nice to come into the big lodges and have a seat out of the rain and wind to a nice warm prepared meal.
At Fantastico and Vertice refugios, there are full-board and half-board options. Full board includes breakfast, dinner and a boxed lunch. There was always enough food to keep us full at every meal.
The lunch bag typically consists of a sandwich, Nature Valley bar, juice box, nuts with dried fruit, chocolate bar and a piece of fruit. Dinners are hearty and come with a big piece of meat. Breakfasts are served with eggs and toast. Make sure to state if you are vegetarian.
Get all the info from our article: W Trek Patagonia Camps Ranked and Rated
You can also buy a la carte meals during lunch and dinner at some refugios. At our favourite Refugio, Los Cuernos, they had lasagna, burgers and even a charcuterie board, so we wished we had just ordered breakfast and lunch from there!
Cook your own food
Most refugios have a kitchen where campers can prepare and cook their own food. The downside is that you'll have to carry the weight of your food on the trek. Most refugios also have a small convenience store where you can purchase extra items along the way, such as soup, Ichiban noodles, cookies, alcoholic beverages, water, crackers, pasta, coffee etc.
If you're going to cook your own food, ensure the refugio you're staying at has a kitchen. Chileno for example does not have a kitchen.
Most lodges take credit card for snacks, food and drinks, however sometimes the credit machine is down so it is better to have a some Chilean Pesos with you.
Even if you're not cooking your own food, grab some snacks at the grocery store before your hike while it's cheap. We brought almonds, dried fruit, dark chocolate, and gummy worms. Check out Supermercado Unimarc in Puerto Natales. There is a dried goods stand at the front door. Full board won't leave you hungry, but it's nice to have a few snacks of choice to lift your spirits during a hard hiking day.
W Trek Packing List
Here is our list of what to pack for the W Trek. This is what we brought with us on our multi-day hike. Each item that is linked, is what we own and highly recommend. We have used them over the years for numerous hikes and camping trips around the world (Nepal, Peru etc.).
Note: we ate half board/full board at the lodges, so this packing list does not include gear to make your own food.
Top Tip: You won't need a pack cover we were told and saw first hand these things just act like parachutes on the windy sections of the trail. Garbage bag your goods or use dry bags instead.
What you can rent for the W Trek
You can rent a one or two person tent, sleeping mattress, hiking poles, sleeping bag, and hiking shoes (although we recommend bringing your own shoes to avoid blisters!).
Erratic Rock doesn't take advanced reservations and has become very popular, so don't count on getting your gear the night before your trek like we did. We ran over to Rental Natales and luckily found a two-person tent that had just arrived. Rentals Natales has online reservations and they wash their sleeping bags after every use.
Pre-trek prep in Puerto Natales
Where to stay in Puerto Natales before your trek
Pre-trek preparation checklist.
- Grab your rentals the day before you leave on your trek
- Purchase your bus ticket in advance to ensure you get an early departure time. You can reserve your ticket online through Busbud .
- Grab snacks beforehand at a grocery store, such as almonds, dried fruit, dark chocolate, candies, and a roll of toilet paper.
- Pull out cash for catamaran, Torres Del Paine Park fee, and any extra goodies you wish to buy at the camping lodges. There are reliable ATMs in Puerto Natales to pull out cash. Most lodges take credit card for snacks, food, and drinks, but cash is needed for the catamaran and park fee.
Getting to Torres Del Paine National Park
Getting from the Puerto Natales airport to Puerto Natales
A taxi from Puerto Natales airport to Puerto Natales is a flat rate of 7000 CLP for the whole car, not per person. The drive is about 10 minutes.
Taking the bus from Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine National Park
Arrive at least 15 minutes early for your bus at 7 AM from Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine. Some people didn't get on and had to wait for the 11 AM bus. It's better to get to the park early and is a must for this itinerary.
The bus first stops at Amarga where everyone gets off to purchase their park pass (cash only). Those going further to Pudeto to catch the catamaran to Paine Grande will need to get back on the same bus. The drive is 30 more minutes to Pudeto. Those headed to Las Torres Hotel catch another 15 minute shuttle bus.
Top Tip: Sit on the front left side of bus from Puerto Natales to Amarga for the best views. Sitting at the front also ensures you're first in line to get your park pass and you can quickly hop on the shuttle.
Start planning your trip to Torres Del Paine National Park
- 💡 Travel tips: see our top 17 tips for the W Trek
- ⛺ Refugios/Campsites: see how we ranked and rated the W Trek refugios & campsites
- 🌃 Book your stay in Puerto Natales: Booking.com is our go-to for finding places to stay. Sort by top reviewed.
- 🥾 Rent your gear: we rented our camping gear from Rental Natales
- 🚌 Buy your bus ticket to the park: book in advance through Busbud .
- 🛫 Book your flight to Puerto Natales: use Skyscanner to compare flights across different airlines (we recommend booking direct with the airline however).
Check out what the W Trek was like in our Chile vlog
Save and pin this self-guided W Trek itinerary for later:
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out our list of fun adventure ideas for your next trip .
7 best restaurants on gabriola island, bc.
Although the food scene is small on Gabriola Island, there are some special spots with their own twist. From a historic dining room with ocean views to a fun locals' pub with good food, we list the best restaurants on Gabriola Island, each for a unique reason.
The Best Galiano Island Accommodation for a Weekend Getaway
From charming boutique hotels to cozy B&Bs, we list the best Galiano Island accommodation to experience the islander way of life.
12 Best Things to do on Galiano Island, BC
Escape into nature, spot wildlife and enjoy luxuries on an island that feels your own. See our list of 12 unique things to do on Galiano Island, Canada.
Search Groovy Mashed Potatoes - Travel Blog
19 Things to Know Before Hiking the W Trek in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine in 2023
So you’re interested in hiking the W Trek in Patagonia – one of South America’s most famous trails. The W Trek zigzags through the heart of Chile’s iconic Torres del Paine National Park , a land where the summits form stunning granite monolith towers and the lakes glisten a breathtaking turquoise blue. The trek is named after the W-shape it forms on a map, running along the base of the iconic mountains before doubling back into the Valle Francés (“French Valley”) at the very heart of the reserve.
This detailed guide will run through all the ins and outs of hiking the W Trek. It will cover the best time of year for hikers to visit this wild part of Chilean Patagonia, some challenges you can expect to encounter, top trip highlights, what gear you will need, how long you may spend in the wilderness, and much more. Happy exploring!
My experience hiking the W Trek
I’ve trekked extensively throughout the Andes, from the dizzying heights of Machu Picchu to the impressive glaciers of Argentine Patagonia, and have learned powerful life lessons from my adventures . However, I still remember the W Trek as one of the most amazing mountain adventures I have taken. There’s a reason why it’s the most famous hiking trail in Patagonia. T he scenery you’ll enjoy along the way is second to none – imagine jagged mountains that resemble massive shards of ice, milky mountain lakes, and the rolling Patagonian Steppe in the distance.
A personal highlight of the W Trek was the approach to Grey Glacier, which feels like one of the most untouched parts of Torres del Paine. The path to Grey Glacier along Grey Lake is stunningly beautiful and poses a nice challenge as you trek amongst chiseled sculpturesque mountains. Adding to the physical beauty of it all, the hiking route is fantastically well-organized with designated camp / hut sites that boast gorgeous views of the national park, the trekking season is long, and wonderful local guides are available. I highly recommend you experience hiking the W Trek for yourself .
What’s in this guide to the W Trek?
- An introduction to Chilean Patagonia
- Where is the W Trek?
- The history of the W Trek and the Torres del Paine National Park
- Highlights of the W Trek
- How long is the W Trek? How many days are needed?
- Elevation and terrain on the W Trek
- Is the W Trek difficult?
- Preparation for the W Trek
- When is the best time of year to go?
- What do I need to pack for the W Trek in Patagonia?
- Accommodations: Where to stay on the W Trek
- W Trek permits
- Getting to the start of the W Trek
- Sample W Trek itinerary
- The 5-Day W Trek Circuit
- W Trek Express
- Alternative routes to the W Trek (O Circuit vs Q Circuit)
- Where to go after the W Trek
- Visas for Chile
1. An introduction to Chilean Patagonia
Chilean Patagonia is one side of the greater region of Patagonia. Altogether, it encompasses a whopping 400,000 square miles (that’s over a million square kilometers!) of land at the southern end of South America. It’s a diverse place, rolling from seemingly endless steppes inhabited by unusual Welsh-speaking farming communities to the jagged tops of mountains like the Fitz Roy and the Torres del Paine.
Ever since the first Spanish conquistadors started coming here in the 1500s, Patagonia has been seen as a land of myth and majesty. Open and vast like nowhere in Europe, it wowed explorers with calving glaciers and penguin-spotted islands, mirror-like alpine lakes, and whale-filled oceans. Today, the awe-inspiring nature of the region is still very much intact and trekking here is seen as a bit of a rite of passage a la the Himalaya.
Chilean Patagonia begins roughly 500 miles (805 kilometers) south of Santiago, the capital, and then arcs around the whole of the edge of the continent before finishing at the icy channels of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. It’s all pretty wonderful, but most agree that the zenith is the Torres del Paine National Park, which is where you’ll be doing the W Trek.
2. Where is the W Trek?
The W Trek leads you to the most famous part of Chilean Patagonia: The Torres del Paine. They’re a trio of incredible granite tower peaks that look like daggers shooting straight out of the earth. At their closest point, the three towers are just 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the Argentina border. The nearest main town is Puerto Natales, Chile. More generally speaking, the W Trek takes you down to the ice-capped, snow-dusted ends of the continent, less than 400 miles (645 kilometers) from Cape Horn . It’s truly a wild part of the planet you must see!
3. The history of the W Trek and the Torres del Paine National Park
Arguably the most famous corner of Chilean Patagonia, the serrated tops of the mighty Torres del Paine massif became the centrepiece of their own national park back in 1959. But you have to go back almost 80 years more to discover the moment when the region first entered the limelight.
Yep, Scottish travel-writing pioneer Lady Florence Dixie blazed a trail here during her South American travels in the late 1880s. Her prose recalls “three tall peaks of a reddish hue” stood before plains of ripe berry bushes and grazing guanacos.
Her descriptions piqued the interest of others. Finnish geologist Otto Nordenskjöld took a break from his polar explorations to visit the region in the 1900s. Then came the missionary-mountaineer Alberto María de Agostini en route to his epic crossing of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
It wasn’t until the end of the 1950s that the region was designated an official national park by the Chilean government. It was originally known as Grey Lake National Tourism Park but was subsequently given its modern name in the 1970s, the same decade it was dubbed a prestigious UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
It was also the 1970s that saw the formation of the famous trails. That was spearheaded by a team of local rangers in conjunction with British explorer John Garner (who now has a pass named after him in the range). They laid the foundations of the now-iconic circular route that encompasses the whole massif, including the W Trek section itself.
4. Highlights of the W Trek
If you’re looking to be wowed by the sheer majesty of hiking in Chilean Patagonia, then yes, the W Trek is most certainly worth it. This relatively low-altitude trek takes you through areas of the national park that are widely considered to be the most incredible places in Patagonia. In a region that’s beset by ice fields and soaring peaks, that’s really saying something!
The W Trek requires a commitment of about 4-5 days of hiking, on average. What’s great is that there is something special to see on every single day of the journey. Views abound from start to finish and there’s always another W Trek highlight to look forward to. The most impressive parts of the trek are:
- The French Valley & Cerro Paine Grande – See the spectacular summits of Cerro Paine Grande, the tallest peak of the Cordillera Paine mountain range in Torres del Paine National Park, up close as you trek into the French Valley. The French Valley is a hidden cleft in the Andes that’s topped by a hanging glacier and dashed with gnarled beech forests.
- The Base of the Towers – you will either finish or begin the trek at this stunning location with a turquoise lake set before the iconic Torres del Paine granite spires themselves. The lookout point encompasses three sheer mountains before a milky alpine lake. This is the scene that is the infamous image of the W Trek.
- Mirador Britanico – There are numerous lookout points within the French Valley, but we’d say the Mirador Britanico trumps the lot. Stand on this slab of rock to survey an amphitheater of cathedral-like mountains that descend into forests of Antarctic beech trees filled with finches and woodpeckers.
- Los Cuernos – A set of twisted mountains dominating the northern view for much of the hike. A colossal cirque of peaks all tangled together, the Los Cuernos form the very heart of the Torres del Paine massif. Look up to spy out summits named things like The Blade, The Sword, and the Shark’s Fin.
- Grey Glacier – This colossal ice field with calving sheets of frozen water could be one of the most awe-inspiring things you encounter on the W Trek. It is the largest glacier in the Torres del Paine National Park. Just one of the many tongues of frozen water that cascade down from the great Southern Patagonia Ice Field, Grey Glacier is either the grand finale or the starting point of the W Trek. It’s everything you imagine of a South American ice cap, sporting 98-foot high (30-meter) walls that rise suddenly from the turquoise waters of Lake Grey.
- Pehoé Lake – This many-armed body of water rolls out to the south of the W Trek path. You’ll see it on multiple days, but there’s one epic photo spot that frames the twisted Los Cuernos mountains above a mirror-like dash of water.
- The wildlife in Torres del Paine – Of course, you cannot forget the park’s incredible fauna! You will undoubtedly encounter a diverse range of wildlife on the W Trek. One of the most common mammals you will spot will be the ubiquitous guanacos, which are related to llamas and vicuñas. You may also see Magellanic woodpeckers, Patagonian gray foxes, Andean condors, or even caracaras (a unique-looking bird of prey). Even more elusive are the pumas and the endangered and rare Chilean Huemul, or South Andean deer.
5. How long is the W Trek? How many days are needed?
The distance of the W Trek is approximately 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) long. One of the great things about this hiking route is just how versatile it can be. It’s easy to chop, change, and add to the W Trek itinerary so you’ll find everything from 4-day treks to 7-day ultimate treks on the menu.
There are many different distances reported by various sources for the W Trek. The below is what I have personally tracked via GPS while hiking the East to West route for 5 days.
Day 1 – Central Sector to Central Sector (Base Torres Hike)
- 13.5 miles / 22 kilometers
Day 2 – Central Sector to Francés Sector
- 11.5 miles / 18.5 kilometers
Day 3 – Francés Sector to Paine Grande (including Mirador Britannica Lookout)
- 15 miles / 24 kilometers
Day 4 – Paine Grande to Grey Mountain Refuge
- 7.5 miles / 12 kilometers
Day 5 – Grey Mountain Refuge to Paine Grande / Lake Pehoé
If you plan to do the W Trek in 4 days then your Day 4 (Paine Grande to Grey to Paine Grande) will be 15 miles (24 kilometers) in length.
You can do the trail in different directions. There are ways to skip one leg of the journey and add on extra excursions. So long as you follow the basic idea of a W-shaped route through the Torres del Paine park and include a trek into the stunning French Valley along the way, you can rest assured that you’ll see the Patagonian national park’s highlight attractions.
6. Elevation and terrain on the W Trek
The pinnacle of the W Trek reaches 2,788 feet (850 meters) above sea level. Now, that might sound positively low for veterans of Everest Base Camp, Mount Kilimanjaro, or the Inca Trail – and it is. However, where this trek gets tricky is in elevation gain and loss and the daily distances. Some sections of the W Trek see hikers clock up altitudes of over 2,000 feet (610 meters) in just a few hours, only to lose it all again that afternoon as they head to the rest site for the night. You’re likely to notice this most after the hike to the base of Las Torres, which is followed a few days later by the ascent into the French Valley.
The good news is that there’s zero technical climbing on the W Trek. The trek is on a mix of well-maintained paths, packed mud, loose gravel, and stones. There are some parts where you may need to navigate wet rocks, low streams, and cable bridges, but there’s nothing overly challenging on the route itself in terms of terrain.
7. Is the W Trek difficult?
The W Trek multi-day hike isn’t a cinch, but it’s also not on the same level of difficulty as other world-famous hikes such as Mount Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp . So how hard is the W Trek in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine? Well, there’s no technical expertise needed and you don’t have to acclimatize. The trail is well-marked and maintained for a majority of the route. I’d say one of the the biggest challenges is the unpredictable weather, which can change from snow to heavy rain to blazing sun in just a matter of hours. In addition, Torres del Paine is known for its extreme winds which can reach speeds of up to 100 mph (161 kph).
The W Trek also packs a lot of walking into single days. For comparison, you are asked to hike between 6-8 miles (9.7-12.9 kilometers) per day on average on an Inca Trail tour. However, on the W Trek, you can expect to hike between 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) and 15 miles (24 kilometers) per day depending on how your adventure is structured. I highly recommend a training plan that builds in long distances (over 10 miles / 16 kilometers per day) and consecutive day hikes.
8. Preparation for the W Trek
We’ve already mentioned how the W Trek isn’t up there with Kilimanjaro and other high-altitude expeditions. Most trekkers of decent fitness level should be able to complete it with a solid training schedule beforehand. That said, the days are long on this one – some pack in up to 10 hours of hiking across tough terrain that can get tougher when the weather changes.
For that reason, we’d say a good program of regular exercise starting around 12 weeks prior to the start of your hike is always a good idea. Begin with local walks of 2-3 hours and short runs of just a few miles each. By six weeks out, you should be able to up your runs to three miles and complete a hike of 7-9 continuous hours. With three weeks to go, try to double your number of runs and do weekly hikes of at least 7-9 hours each. I also recommend that you begin doing consecutive day hikes at this time and ensure you are wearing a pack with the same weight you will bring with you on the trek. Resistance training can also work wonders for muscle fatigue and recovery, something that’s often an issue with such long days on the W Trek.
9. When is the best time of year to do the W Trek?
The seasons can be very unpredictable this far south in Patagonia. As a general rule, summer (November to March) is better for trekking, making it the peak season for hiking the W Trek in Torres del Paine. That’s because it’s warmer, with midsummer temperatures typically between 43-63°F (6-17°C), and there’s less rain (average of just 4 millimeters each month).
However, it’s not totally clear cut that the summer season is the best time to hike the W Trek. It all depends on your preference and the type of experience you’re looking for. There are way more people hiking the trail so the W Trek lookout points are busier and the mountain huts more expensive. Additionally, high summer winds can spoil a hike in Patagonia so you’ll have to be ready to change plans if the gusts get up to over 80 mph (130 kph) or so.
Autumn (April is a good alternative to the main summer trekking season. The upsides include fewer hikers and beautiful colors on the Patagonian Steppe – think pale yellows, deep oranges, and muted browns rolling out from the base of the mountains. However, there is usually more rainfall and the temperatures at night get low. Keep in mind that the main W Trek route closes on April 30th each year.
Spring (September to November) is another popular time to hike the W Trek but this season can bring the risk of snowfall. This means you’ll need to pack extra thermals. The W Trek route typically opens in mid-September each year. However, a few of the huts are closed until October 1. So, if you want to do the Trek in September you will need to do an amended version.
Winter (May to August) a majority of the huts and campsites along the standard W Trek route are mainly closed due weather conditions and snowfall. However, it is possible to do three of the four segments of the W Trek as out and back hikes by staying in two of the refugios that are open during the Winter months. Also, please note that there are fixed group dates for these excursions and the treks are guided by a professional mountain guide which is required by the National Park for safety reasons.
We offer trips all year long on the W Trek. Click HERE to learn more.
10. What do I need to pack for the W Trek in Patagonia?
What you pack for your W Trek trip will depend on when you decide to visit Torres del Paine to hike the trail, but try packing as light as possible. Travelers in the high season (summer and autumn) won’t need as much thermal gear as those visiting in the low season (spring and winter), when there’s a bigger risk of snow and sub-zero temperatures. That said, every hiker on the W Trek should have a good thermal under-layer, a fleece, and waterproof outer layers for the upper and lower parts of your body . The weather can be pretty wild and unpredictable, even in the height of summer, so it’s a good idea to bring multiple layers to wear .
When it comes to trekking equipment, there are some must-haves: sturdy walking boots, a good set of trekking poles, a high-volume and lightweight water bottle and/or reservoir, sunscreen, and a reliable waterproof trekking backpack . Depending on how you choose to do the trek, you may also need camping equipment and a sleeping bag. Note: when booking with us, sleeping bags will be ready for you in both the mountain hut and/or tent at each sector, and you are also provided a ‘welcome kit’ that includes a sleeping bag liner, water bottle, map, and personal towel at your Pre-Trek Briefing in Puerto Natales.
Also, drinking water is not treated at huts/campsites along the trail. Many hikers feel comfortable drinking the water along the route (including from rivers or streams). But, if you prefer additional protection and peace of mind, you can certainly bring your own portable water filter (e.g. Katadyn BeFree, LifeStraw, Grayl, Sawyer Squeeze, etc.). Some of these systems only weigh a few ounces!
Some hikers will go for a porter service on their W Trek trip to help carry baggage and equipment. That’s an optional extra with most providers. A porter on the W Trek will typically carry 33 pounds (15 kilograms) of your clothing and gear. Keep in mind that if you do decide to get a porter, you won’t need one on the Base Towers hike as this day is an out and back trek. In addition, if you are doing the 4-day trek from East to West you also won’t need a porter for the last day as you can pay a small fee to leave your baggage at Paine Grande while you trek to Grey.
My team at The Explorer’s Passage makes it easy for trekkers who plan their travels with us. Because the requirements for the W Trek change with the seasons and the sort of trek you go for, we can provide our guests with a full packing list so they’re fully prepared – just ask us !
11. Accommodations: where to stay on the W Trek
There are a number of options when it comes to accommodations on the W Trek. Depending on the sector you are staying in, the options include standard camping, premium camping, cabanas, refugios / mountain huts, and hotels. I’m going to describe each of these options in greater detail below:
For the most part, the campsites on the W Trek are of very high quality, at least for true backcountry camps. They’re well equipped with all the things that trekkers might need, and even have extras that you could only dream of in the far-flung basecamps of other major trails. Take the site at Paine Grande, for instance: it has hot showers during designated times each day, bathrooms, access to the restaurant and bar at Refugio Paine Grande, and even pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi. At the various campsites, some of the tents are set up on the ground and others are set up on wooden platforms.
A few of the campsites on the W Trek circuit have a newer concept known as premium camping, which consists of a raised tent approximately 6 feet (1.8 meters) off the ground and has a ladder for access. The tents in premium camping are larger and sturdier than in standard camping, and there is no need for mattress pads as the entire base floor of the tent consists of a ~3-inch (7.6-millimeter) comfortable pad. Currently, premium camping is currently available at Chileno and Francés Sectors but there are plans to bring this concept to more sectors (such as Central Sector) on the W Trek in the coming years.
At Cuernos Sector there is a wonderful accommodation option known as cabanas (cabins). They are mini villas that dot the landscape around the main refugio building and are private accommodations that can fit 1-3 people. There are bathrooms and showers that are shared by all guests who are staying in the cabanas.
Most of our guests doing the East to West W Trek hike directly from Central Sector to Francés Sector on Day 2 of their hike, which is ~11.5 miles (18.5 kilometers). Chileno is located ~9.5 miles (15.3 kilometers) from Central Sector and is 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) short of Francés Sector. So, if you would like private indoor accommodations, then you can sleep in a cabana (cabin) at Cuernos for the evening. Just note that if you do choose to sleep at Cuernos on Day 2 of your trek then it will tack on ~2 miles (3.2 kilometers) to your trip on Day 3 of your hike.
Refugios / Mountain Huts
Refugio is the local name for a refuge or shelter that’s essentially a mountain hut or lodge that offers dorm-style (bunk beds) accommodations along the W Trek. Refugios are rustic but comfy, and typically have warm communal areas with dining halls where you can meet and mingle with other trekkers. The bathrooms and showers at the refugios are communal.
Some of the refugios have bar areas, like Central and Paine Grande sectors. Many of the refugios have small shops where you can purchase an assortment of goods such as water, soda, energy bars, eggs, noodles, toothpaste, toothbrush, and clothing. All of the main refugios on the W Circuit have Wi-Fi for an additional fee as well. Depending on which sector you are in, the number of people per room will differ. The room size on the W Circuit ranges from 2-8 people.
On the standard W Trek route there is only one hotel option, Hotel Las Torres, which is located in the Central Sector. Hotel Las Torres is a very nice 4-star hotel located approximately 100 yards (nearly a meter) from the refugio and camping area at Central sector.
If you are doing the East to West Route, then you will most likely be spending two nights in the Central Sector as your first day of hiking is an out and back trek. We have many guests who stay at Hotel Las Torres for the first two nights of their journey, then do either camping or huts for the remainder of the trip.
Please note that EcoCamp is located in the Central Sector. While not a traditional hotel, EcoCamp consists of luxury domes of different sizes and amenities. We have many guests that stay in EcoCamp for a few nights as part of their W Trek journey.
If you would prefer to stay in a hotel every night while in Torres del Paine, there are six wonderful hotels that offer all-inclusive programs for their guests. Please note: If you stay in one of these hotels you won’t be able to do the full W Trek. However, you will be able to do some of the W Trek segment hikes as guided day trips with vehicle / boat support to the trail heads. At the all-inclusive hotels in Torres del Paine, you get to choose between a range of guided hikes and adventure activities, many of which are included as part of your package.
Below is a list of the main all-inclusive hotel properties in Torres del Paine:
Hotel Las Torres 4-Star Hotel Located in the Central Sector, 100 yards (~1 meter) from the Central refugio and camping
Hotel Lago Grey 4-Star Hotel Located in between the south shore of Grey Lake and Lake Pehoé
Explora Lodge 5-Star Hotel Located near the southern shores of Lake Pehoé
EcoCamp Patagonia 5-Star Domes Located on a hilltop overlooking the Central Sector
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa 5-Star Hotel Located in on the Eastern shore of Lake Sarmiento de Gamboa
Awasi Patagonia 5+ Star Hotel with 14 private villas Located East of the Central Sector in a private reserve
The W Trek is punctuated with a host of rest areas and the conventional plan of the hike makes use of seven of these Sectors along the way. Let’s take a closer look at each rest site:
- Central Sector – The Central Sector is the base of operations on the eastern side of the W Trek. It’s often used as the starting point or ending point of the entire W Trek journey and is one of the most developed sites in Torres del Paine.
Accommodations at Central Sector include camping, two mountain huts/refugios (Central Refugio & Torre), EcoCamp Dome, and Hotel Las Torres. In the camping area, there is standard camping, which has hot showers, bathrooms, and designated picnic tables. It is expected that premium camping will be added in the near future in the Central Sector. The refugio in the Central Sector has a large common area that has a very fun and social atmosphere so you can meet people from all across the globe. It has 6-person hut rooms, communal bathrooms and showers, and a restaurant and bar area.
Hotel Las Torres is situated 100 yards (~1 meter) from the camping and refugio in the direction of the Las Torres Base Hike. The EcoCamp domes are situated on a hilltop overlooking the entire Central Sector.
- Chileno – Chileno is wedged into the narrow valley that runs north to the base of Las Torres themselves. It-s a pit stop before or after seeing arguably the greatest vista on the W Trek and the location is one to match – scenes of snow-capped peaks and cascading pine woods dominate on both sides. The site is much like the Central Sector, with standard camping and a refugio. The refugio has 6-person hut rooms. Chileno has premium camping as well. There are communal bathrooms, showers, and a small restaurant. It’s a quality lodge with a fantastic outdoor area by a roaring river.
- Los Cuernos – You’ll be greeted with sweeping 180-degree views of glimmering Lake Nordenskjöld when you enter Cuernos sector. It is set on a soft slope right under the twisted tops of Los Cuernos massif itself. In true Patagonia style, it’s well appointed with standard camping, a refugio, and a series of 20 private cabanas (cabins) that are situated in the beautiful terrain throughout the sector. The refugio has 6-person hut rooms. Cuernos has an onsite bar, restaurant, and a snack kiosk, as well as communal bathrooms and showers, and Wi-Fi.
- Francés – Remember when we said that the French Valley was one of our top highlights on the whole W Trek? Well…the Francés Sector is the gateway to it all. Just 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) to the west of Los Cuernos, it’s an alternative midway option for hikers wanting to enter that secret Shangri-La of the Andes. The site has standard camping, premium camping, and 8-person dome huts. It’s also just as comfy as the other sites listed here, complete with hot showers, bathrooms, a restaurant, shop, and wifi.
- Italiano – This campground on the main course of the W Trek is a free-to-camp alternative at the base of the French Valley. Because it’s free, don’t expect the same amenities and frills as in the sites on the W Circuit. The basics are all taken care of: Running water, toilets, and a cooking shelter. We rarely have guests stay at this site as it is very basic, but our trekkers primarily use it as a location to drop their bags off for the up-and-back excursion into the French Valley.
- Paine Grande – There’s a pretty slick lodge at the Paine Grande sector on the edge of Lake Pehoé that some trekkers use as the first point of call on the W Trek if doing the West to East Route. The site has a large standard camping site with space for over 200 campers and 2-, 4-, and 6-person hut rooms. There are communal bathrooms, showers, a shop with an extensive assortment of items, and a large restaurant area. Don’t miss the onsite Paine Grande Bar here – it’s a chance for a pre- or post-trek drink overlooking the serrated Paine Grande Massif.
- Grey – Grey sector marks the western end of the W Trek and, as such, is an important starting point, not to mention connecting point for those looking to join with the larger O Trek. The lodge here is one of the best on the trail. It’s got 60 beds in 4- and 6-person rooms, and a cozy restaurant and bar area to enjoy after dark. The campground has room for 120 people in standard camping and offers a covered cooking space and shared toilets. There’s paid Wi-Fi if you need it as well.
One important item to note is that if your group size is below the minimum room s ize in the refugios, then other travelers will fill the empty spots on the rooms. Guests are not permitted to purchase the extra room spaces to create a private room.
Since the sectors are run by three different companies and itineraries often require a separate reservation, booking accommodations for the W Trek can be a chore. It doesn’t have to be, though! The Explorer’s Passage makes visiting Torres del Paine easy. Book your trip to Patagonia with us and let us take the stress out of planning so you can focus on hiking the W Trek. Also, with us, all meals are included from the start of the hike to the finish.
12. W Trek permits
In planning this journey, you may ask yourself “Do I need a permit for the W Trek?” Although you’ll need an entrance ticket to enter Torres del Paine National Park, there’s no official permit system for the W Trek as there is for the classic Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu. There are, however, capacity limitations on the number of trekkers that are permitted to stay in the park’s campsites, huts, cabanas (cabins), and hotels. That acts as a sort of de facto limit on the number of people who can do the trek, governed mainly by who was quick enough to book their accommodations.
My advice? Start planning early to avoid disappointment. The huts, campsites, and cabanas (cabins) go on sale in May and June each year for the upcoming trekking season which typically goes from September 8 to April 30. Spaces in Central, Chileno, Cuernos, and Francés Sectors are typically released in early to mid May. Spaces for Paine Grande and Grey sectors are typically released in early to mid June. I typically recommend that our guests try to get their bookings in before the first release dates to ensure they get their desired spots.
If you would like help with this process, you can plan to travel with us and our experienced team will take care of all the important details for you, including campsite, hut, cabana (cabin), and hotel bookings, meals, National Park permits, transfers, gear rentals, and much more.
13. Getting to the start of the W Trek
Most people start the W Trek hike with an organized bus transfer from the city of Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park.
Your journey to the trailhead of the W Trek will depend on which direction you will be hiking it: either from East-to-West, or vice versa. At The Explorer’s Passage, we recommend East-to-West, primarily because you get the hardest day of hiking (to and from Las Torres Lookout Point) out of the way on the first full day, when your legs are still fresh. However, some prefer to save the view of these granite towers as a reward for the final day, so they start the journey in the West and head East. As with all adventures, there are pros and cons to each option!
- To hike the W Trek from East to West, you will get off the bus at the National Park office at Laguna Amarga, then take a connecting bus to the Welcome Center at Central Sector.
- To hike the W Trek from West to East, you can get off at the Pudeto stop and catch the catamaran across Lake Pehoé to the refugio at Paine Grande. There are boat departures throughout the day, but be sure to check the schedule before you depart because they can change at short notice.
All of the above trips can be done from Punta Arenas , but expect transfer times to the trailhead to be in the region of five to six hours, instead of a 2-3 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales.
14. Sample W Trek 4-Day Hike itinerary
As noted in the prior section, at The Explorer’s Passage we recommend hiking the W Trek from east to west. Below you will find a sample itinerary for this option (visit our W Trek trip page to download a full detailed itinerary):
- Day 1: Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park – After breakfast at your hotel in Puerto Natales, you will have the morning to explore the town a bit more. Later, you will travel by bus to Torres del Paine National Park. Enjoy dinner in the Central Sector as the excitement builds for the days ahead, where you will have the rare privilege of exploring one of the planet’s most striking national parks!
- Day 2: First Day of W Trek (Las Torres Lookout) – Today, you will start early and begin your hike of the W Trek – one of South America’s most famous trails. Today’s destination is the iconic Las Torres Lookout Point! During the first stretch, you will walk through the pampa, cross the Ascencio River, and then hike up to Los Vientos Mountain Pass, where you will enjoy amazing views of the valley and lakes. You will continue your journey to the Chileno Mountain Refuge, and then go deep into a lenga beech forest up to La Morrena, where the hardest part of the day’s hike begins. From there, you will follow a rock trail to the spectacular Las Torres Base Lookout Point. Later, you will return to the Central Sector to have dinner and rest.
- Day 3: Second Day of W Trek (Nordenskjöld Lake & Francés Sector) – Today is your 2nd full day of hiking the W Trek. You will walk along the shores of Nordenskjöld Lake, below the peaks of Almirante Nieto and the striking Cuernos del Paine. During the hike, you will enjoy magnificent views of Los Cuernos, hanging glaciers, lakes, and the abundant vegetation and wildlife. You will have dinner and sleep in the Francés Sector.
- Day 4: Third Day of W Trek (French Valley) – This day features one of the most memorable portions of the W Trek: the Valle Francés. You will start early with a light hike to the Italiano Campsite. From there, you will progress through the woods up the Francés River Valley. You will continue to the Francés Lookout Point, where you will enjoy one of the most breathtaking views of the trek: the view of the valley framed by the Paine Grande, Catedral, Hoja, Máscara, Espada, Aleta de Tiburón, and Cuerno del Norte mountains. The landscape will undoubtedly leave you speechless! Later, you will begin the descent to the Paine Grande Sector for the evening.
- Note: we can arrange optional add-on excursions in the Grey Glacier area if you are interested: kayaking (~3 hour activity) and/or ice hiking (~5 hour activity). These activities will require more time on your itinerary, and potentially an additional overnight in the park.
If you prefer to hike the W Trek from west to east, culminating with an up-close encounter with the iconic towers themselves, here is a sample itinerary:
- Day 1: Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park – You can get an early pickup in the towns to the south of the Torres del Paine National Park and then a transfer north to the Hotel Lago Grey. From there, a ferry whisks you across Grey Lake (Lago Grey) with the icy tongue of the colossal Grey Glacier looming ahead. This is your first chance to catch a glimpse of the famous Torres massif highlight, with a broadside of the twisted tops of the Cerro Paine Grande rising to the east. Your destination is the campsite and hut at the base of the Grey Glacier, a starting point for the west-to-east W Trek route. An alternative option here is to catch the catamaran ferry across Lake Pehoé (Lago Pehoé) and then walk to the Grey Glacier lodging from there.
- Day 2: First Day of W Trek (Grey Lake & Glacier) – Your W Trek hike starts by skirting the milky waters of Grey Lake going southwards. This is right beneath the Cerro Paine Grande and the Paine Horns, which are some of the most famous mountain summits in South America. Before setting off, I’d recommend taking some time to visit the Mirador Glaciar Grey. It adds a few hours of walking but offers a sweeping panorama of the point where the ice meets the frigid waters, with the potential to see calving ice sheets.
- Day 3: Second Day of W Trek (Paine Grande to French Valley) – For many, this day is the highlight of the whole W Trek. The path bends eastwards and north from your second campsite, taking you deep into the heart of the Torres del Paine National Park. The first step is the trek along the south side of the massif to the Italiano campsite. You can leave your main bags there for the expedition into the French Valley. Then, take the north spur into that famous cleft in the Andes, which soon becomes a lush land of twisted pine trees and meadows beneath the hanging French Glacier. If the group is walking well, the aim will be the jaw-dropping Mirador Británico at the end of the valley, all before a return to the Italiano campsite.
- Day 4: Third Day of W Trek (Nordenskjöld Lake and Francés Sector) – You’re now back to skirting the southern edge of the Torres del Paine. Head east from the Italiano campsite and join the path that circles Nordenskjöld Lake (Lago Nordenskjöld). It will take much of the day to link up to your next W Trek overnight spot, but there are some fantastic lookouts along the way. They’ll put the high peaks of the Torres just behind and the rolling tundra of Chilean Patagonia in front, not to mention the placid waters of numerous alpine waters in the foreground.
- Day 5: Fourth Day of W Trek (Las Torres Lookout) – After an early morning start, you will begin a tough uphill ascent through the craggy easternmost valley of the Torres massif. It’s steep but opens the way to the Mirador Las Torres, which is surely one of the most unforgettable viewpoints on the planet! There, you’ll see the three jagged peaks that give this region its name and reputation, jutting straight up from pearly blue waters. You should finish with photos around mid-morning, because you’ll be descending back down to the Central Sector and then to Laguna Amarga to board a bus back south to Puerto Natales (or Punta Arenas, for a longer journey).
These sample itineraries are just a start and the opportunities are endless. Regardless of whether you’re traveling solo or in a group of any size, our expert Adventure Consultants will craft extraordinary itineraries for your private travel needs. See how to get the ball rolling on your private travel dreams here .
15. The 5-Day W Trek Circuit
The W Trek circuit is often completed in four full days of trekking. However, approximately 30% of our travelers elect to do it in five days and spend a night at the Grey Mountain Refuge by Grey Glacier, either camping or in huts.
With this 5-day hike option, the typical fourth day of the standard 4-Day route’s 15-mile (24-kilometer) hike is essentially split in half and shared between Days 4 and 5: from Paine Grande Sector to Grey Sector on the fourth day and then back to Paine Grande Sector the next day to catch the catamaran across Lake Pehoé.
Trekkers who select the 5-day option and spend a night in Grey Sector also have the opportunity to take an ice trekking excursion on Grey Glacier (with crampons and ice axes) or go kayaking in Grey Lake, with amazing views of the massive glacier. Both of these adventure activities are offered multiple times per day, and are a great way to complement a trek in Torres del Paine.
16. W Trek Express
Most experts agree that this is the single most incredible trek in the whole of Patagonia, both on the Argentinian and Chilean sides of the border. However, not all travelers have the time to complete the entire adventure, which is why a more condensed version of the W Trek is now on the menu…
Cue the W Trek Express route. This cuts down your travel time by one day but still ensures you get to see all the legendary parts. Your travel from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine will take place on the same day that you begin trekking. It runs east to west, starting with the dramatic outlook over the Torres del Paine on an up-and-back route. Day two skirts the top end of Nordenskjöld Lake beneath the amazing Los Cuernos peaks. Day three is another there-and-back hike into the heart of the French Valley before a final day that whisks you across Lake Pehoé to be collected.
The whole Express W Trek can be self-guided or guided and done with hut accommodation or camping. One other important piece of information to note, since the Paine Grande hut does not typically open until October 1 each year, then your only option to do the W Trek trail in September is via the Express route.
17. Alternative routes to the W Trek (O Circuit and Q Circuit)
The W Trek may be the most popular trail in Torres del Paine but it certainly isn’t the only walking route that will let you experience this awesome corner of Chilean Patagonia. Usually open from November to April, there are also two route extensions that take you counterclockwise on the trail but promise to whisk you even higher into the clouds as you explore the mountains and glaciers. They are:
- The O Circuit (6-10 days) – Also known as the Paine Circuit, the O trek is the full circuit around the Cordillera del Paine mountains within the national park and includes the W route. It’s definitely a tougher and longer route, but its lesser traveled 74 miles (119 kilometers) of pure Patagonian wilderness will take you to the heights of the John Gardner Pass at about 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) above sea level. O Circuit trail highlights you’ll see include the reflective Lago Paine, a mesmerizingly turquoise lake, and the mountains from the northern section of the park.
- The Q Circuit (7-11 days) – The Q Circuit is the longer version of the O Circuit. The Q route includes one extra day of trekking past Lake Pehoé. This one’s for the most dedicated of trekkers who have the most time (and money) to spare.
If you have more time to spare and are up for an extended trek, definitely try out one of the treks above.
18. Where to go after the W Trek
You’ve got a few options for onward travel once you’ve finished the W Trek. The most obvious and popular place that hikers return to is Puerto Natales. Many trek packages even include a drop-off back in that town, which has become a bit of a buzzy outdoors hub in recent years, touting craft beer emporiums and wine tasting establishments. Puerto Natales also happens to be the best base for launching boat trips through the stunning fjords of Chilean Patagonia, including to the far-flung Tierra del Fuego for penguin watching and the Serrano Glacier a little closer by.
You might also want to use this opportunity to cross over into Argentinian Patagonia. The W Trek takes you very close to the border and there are regular buses that make the trip up to towns like El Calafate (5 hours) and El Chaltén (nine hours) from Puerto Natales. It’s a top option for continuing your adventures through the Andes, opening up hikes under the Fitz Roy (arguably the most famous mountain in Argentina) and visits to the Perito Moreno Glacier (a UNESCO site that showcases huge chunks of ice peeling off a glacier tongue).
19. Visas for Chile
There’s a long list of 90 countries that get visa-free access to Chile, including virtually all of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. That means administrative work at the border or prior to departure shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you’ve got your heart set on the W Trek. Notable exceptions include Australian citizens, who are no longer charged a hefty reciprocity fee when they enter but do need to go through the process of pre-applying for a single- or multiple-entry visa. All travelers should have at least six months’ validity left on their passport before traveling.
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to 19 things you should know before hiking the W Trek in Chilean Patagonia! I hope this post has provided you with the necessary information to help you begin planning a truly memorable adventure tour to Chile. If you feel inspired, here are the other best places to visit in Chile .
This guide has covered a lot, but you may have more questions on hiking the W Trek in Torres del Paine. If so, my experienced team here at The Explorer’s Passage would love to hear from you so please contact us and let’s chat .
We have been running trips and treks to Chile for 10 years. We pride ourselves on delivering extraordinary tours based on travelers’ needs and are humbled by our guests’ testimonials . In fact, our dedication has earned us a 5-star rating on Tripadvisor , and awards by Travel+Leisure Magazine and Newsweek. Check us out and discover why so many travelers worldwide choose us . My team and I would love for you to join us on the W Trek or any of our other adventures !
I hope to go exploring with you soon!
Jeff Bonaldi Founder & CEO The Explorer’s Passage
About Jeff Bonaldi
Jeff Bonaldi is the Founder and CEO of The Explorer’s Passage, a premier adventure travel company. His mission is to provide travelers with the opportunity to transform their lives and the planet through the power of adventure.
Learn more about Jeff’s story and his company HERE .
Share This Amazing Location!
Expert Guide to Solo Travel & Top Destinations in 2023
Everest Base Camp Trek – 13 Things to Know for Your Trip in 2023
14 Best Places to Visit in Iceland in 2023
14 Things to Know Before You Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 2023
The Ultimate Guide to Inca Trail Permits for 2023
The Classic Inca Trail Route: A Day by Day Guide
The Stunning Torres del Paine W Trek (2023/2024 Circuit Overview)
By: Author Charles
Posted on October 25, 2023
If you are looking to take part of one of the world’s most beautiful multi day hikes, then look no further than the W Trek of Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.
What usually is a one way 5 day trek that can be completed in either direction, the W Trek offers hikers the opportunity to admire some surreal Patagonia landscape. Whether is is rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys, or glaciers, the W Circuit will have something for you.
This guide is here to give you a complete overview of what the W Trek is all about and how to prepare yourself for your time out on the trail.
* Affiliate Disclosure : This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase through the links provided, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting the work I put into TripTins!
1) What is the W Trek
Within Torres del Paine National Park, you will come across two main multi day hikes to decide between. There is the W Trek (which we will focus on in this guide), a 4-5 day one way hike, and the O Trek, an 8 day counter clockwise loop trail that also heads to the backside of the park.
The reason they are called the “W” and the “O”, is because the routes themselves are shaped like the letters W and O.
It is important to note that the O Trek includes the entirety of the W Trek. So, if you head on the O Trek, you are also completing the W Trek (in addition to a few extra days on the trail).
All along the W though, you will find some of the best overall landscapes that Patagonia has to offer .
Whether it is a viewpoint over the Grey Glacier, taking in the Cuernos del Paine from Paine Grande, visiting the French Valley, or seeing the famous Mirador Las Torres. The W has it all, and is sure to be one of the top trekking circuits that you will take part of in your life.
For the W Trek, you will have a few different options to consider when deciding on your hiking accommodations.
You can choose from ready-made campsites, cozy refugios, or you can bring your own camping gear and do it all on your own .
Depending on availability and what you are most interested in will help determine what your accommodation will be on a nightly basis. Many people (including myself) mix and match these options to get a little bit of everything out on the trail.
Another great part about trekking in Torres del Paine, is that you can also find breakfast, lunch and dinner served at these refugios & campsites. If you choose to take advantage of these offerings, then you won’t necessarily need to bring along too much additional food weight on the hike.
Overall, the W Trek of Torres del Paine has a vast array of options to align with trekkers’ desires .
On one hand, you can decide to go about it completely self-supported bringing along your own tent and food. While on the other hand, you can simply take advantage of the refugios/ready-made campsites & food offerings.
However you decide to take part, you are sure to enjoy this once in a lifetime type of trek.
If you are spending more time in Patagonia, be sure to check out the various hikes in El Chalten , like the multi day Huemul Circuit & the Laguna de Los Tres day hike
2) Hiking Map & Route
To start, lets lay out the W Trek map so you can get a better understanding of the trail itself. On the map you will find the route, campsites/refugios, and other points of interest.
Learn More : Check out this Patagonia Itinerary that can better help you put together a complete trip to the region.
3) Patagonia W Trek Itinerary
The W Trek offers the opportunity to take part of the hike in either direction – either west to east or east to west. Below I will layout both of those options and give some insight on what my recommendation would be.
In general, the standard W Trek is completed in 5 days , and that is what I will be talking through in this overview. There are ways to cut it down to 4 (or even 3) days, but you would either need to have some very long days or cut some highlights out altogether.
For the most part, you will just have one campsite/refugio (also may be called “sectors”) to choose from for each night on the route. However, there are a couple nights, where you could consider alternate campsites if one or another is sold out.
So, with that said, below is how you should plan a Patagonia W Trek itinerary:
West to East
Day 1 : Bus to Pudeto | Catamaran to Paine Grande | Hike to Grey Day 2 : Hike from Grey to Glacier Grey Suspension Bridges & Back to Paine Grande Day 3 : Hike from Paine Grande to Frances (or Cuernos) via Valle del Frances Day 4 : Hike from Frances to Chileno (or Central or Las Torres Hotel) Day 5 : Hike to Mirador Base de Las Torres & Hike Back to Welcome Center | Van to Amarga | Bus to Puerto Natales
Day 1 : Bus to Laguna Amarga | Van to Welcome Center | Hike to Mirador Base Las Torres | Hike to Chileno (or Central or Las Torres Hotel) Day 2 : Hike from Chileno to Frances (or Cuernos) Day 3 : Hike from Frances to Paine Grande via Valle del Frances Day 4 : Hike from Paine Grande to Grey & Hike to Glacier Grey Suspension Bridges Day 5 : Hike from Grey to Paine Grande | Catamaran to Pudeto | Bus to Puerto Natales
Which Direction to Choose?
If I were to choose between these two routes, my recommendation would be to take part of the circuit from west to east . This is primarily due to some reasons regarding the famous viewpoint of Mirador Las Torres (the panorama of the three famous peaks with the lagoon in the foreground – see below!).
By taking part of the hike from east to west, the viewpoint would be your first day out on the trail (and it is going to be a long one – 9 miles & 3,500 feet of elevation gain). Personally, I would rather ease into a circuit like this and have a shorter first day (Paine Grande to Grey)
Alternatively, if you do the hike west to east, you get to save the top highlight of the trek for the final day .
This not only lets you have an easier day 1, but it also gives you the chance to hike to Mirador Las Torres for sunrise on day 5.
What better way to end the W Trek than seeing this famous view at sunrise with few other people all around. I can tell you that if you visit the viewpoint on day 1, you will more than likely have an overcrowded trail and viewpoint area (mostly due to day trekkers).
At the end of the day though, you can’t go wrong. Depending on availabilities and preference, you can make the choice that is best for you.
Hiking Resources & Checklist Before heading out for the trails, be sure to read up on some of the hiking resources up on the site. These are here to better prepare you for all types of outdoor adventure. Gear : Hiking Packing List Weather : How to Prepare for Hiking Weather Navigation : Hiking GPS & Navigation Tips : 20+ Hiking Tips & Tricks for the Trail Accommodation : Book Your Hotel Today Rental Car : Book Your Car Rental Today
4) How Long is the Trek
The W Trek comes in just around 47.5 miles / 76.4 km in total length over the course of 5 days. That means on average you should be comfortable with hiking 9.5 miles / 15.3 km per day.
Based on the west to east itinerary mentioned above, here is a breakdown of the mileage to expect on a daily basis:
- Day 1 : Paine Grande to Grey: 6.6 miles / 10.6 km
- Day 2 : Grey to Grey Suspension Bridge to Paine Grande: 10.6 miles / 17.1 km
- Day 3 : Paine Grande to Frances via Valle del Frances: 12.0 miles / 19.3 km
- Day 4 : Frances to Chileno: 9.6 miles / 15.4 km
- Day 5 : Chileno to Mirador Base La Torres to Welcome Center: 8.6 miles / 13.8 km
5) Is the Trek Difficult
While the W Trek comes in at 5 days, 48 miles, and over 12,000 feet of elevation gain (~3,700 meters), I would not consider this a difficult hike from a technical standpoint.
The trail is easy to navigate, without many technical aspects to it (although you will find some hiking up the Valle del Frances and to Mirador Las Torres). With that said though, there are certainly some longer days out on the trail.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself when deciding about the W Trek, is whether or not you are in the physical state to be on your feet hiking for 5 days straight (some of which may be in less than ideal weather conditions with less than ideal sleeping situations).
You will also need to think about how you will take part of the trek in general. If you are carrying all your own gear and food, it will be much more difficult than if you are staying in refugios and have all meals taken care of for you.
In my opinion, if you are comfortable with being on your feet for five days and hiking around 10 miles per day, then you will find the W Trek to be quite rewarding. While there are some tougher days spread throughout, I did find the W Trek to be just a moderate trekking experience altogether.
6) Refugios & Campsites
Now that you have a better idea of what the itinerary for the W Trek will look like, let’s talk a bit more about the Torres del Paine refugios and campsites that you will find out on the trail.
While all of these refugios and campsites are located within Torres del Paine National Park, they are not all operated by the same company. Instead you will find 3 different companies operating within the National Park. These include Vertice, Las Torres (formerly Fantastico Sur), and CONAF.
Note that the nights refer to the itinerary if going west to east.
Vertice runs 2 of the campsites on the W Circuit – Paine Grande & Grey. They also run two additional campsites on the O Circuit (Dickson and Los Perros), but you will not need to worry about those.
- Grey (night 1) -> campsites & refugio
- Paine Grande (night 2) -> campsites & refugio
Las Torres (formerly Fantastico Sur)
Las Torres runs the other 5 campsites in Torres Del Paine. For the W Trek, you will utilize them on nights 3 & 4 (choosing between a couple options for each). They also run the Seron campsite that is located on the O.
- Frances (night 3) -> campsites & refugio
- Cuernos (night 3 alternative) -> campsites, refugio, & mountain cabin
- Chileno (night 4) -> campsites & refugio
- Central (night 4 alternative) -> campsites & refugio
CONAF runs two free campsites in TDP National Park, however these are closed for the time being and booking them has always been a bit of an issue.
While the Paso camp is not used on the W, the Italiano camp can be used on night 3. For the purpose of this guide I will not be really mentioning these as options.
- Paso (not needed for W) -> campsites only
- Italiano (night 3 alternative) -> campsites only
With all that said, you are most likely looking at booking 2 nights with Vertice (1 & 2) and 2 nights with Las Torres (3 & 4), when taking part of the W Trek.
7) Campsite & Refugio Pricing
Each one of the sectors offers various options for visitors, with some offering more or less than others. Below you can find accommodation & food options along with the relevant prices.
As you go through some of the options and prices below, do note a few important details:
Options : For those that opt for the campsites, you will essentially have two main options to consider:
- If hiking with all the appropriate gear (tent, sleeping bags, etc), you will just need to pay an individual camping site fee.
- However, if you are coming without any gear, then you will need to pay the camping site fee + the rental fee for the tent, mat and sleeping bag. Note, that you can rent these items individually if you happen to bring along one or more of them already.
Sheet Discount : Some refugios offer discounts if you don’t want sheets. Rather you would be bringing your own sleeping bag. This option may be best for those who may be camping on their own but want a night in a refugio here or there.
Booking Meals : If you want to eat at the refugios, I would recommend buying meals when you are booking. With that said, at some refugios (such as Grey), you will have the chance to buy meals a la carte. Snacks are also available at some campsites/refugios.
Meal Hours : Meals are only served during certain hours of the day. For example, don’t expect to show up at 4PM for lunch or 10PM or dinner. Each sector has their specific hours, which match up with standard hiking times.
Note that these prices are for the 2023/2024 season in USD. I will be updating this yearly to reflect the latest.
Below are the accommodation and food options for Vertice (Grey & Paine Grande)
- Individual Camping Fee per Person : $11 ($13 at Paine Grande)
- Campsite Equipment Rental : Tent $40, Sleeping Bag $25, Mat $12
- Simple Bunk Bed in Shared Room : $100 (with bedding kit) | $43 without bedding ($65 at Paine Grande)
- Full Board : $80
- Breakfast : $25
- Lunch / Box Lunch : $25
- Dinner : $40
Las Torres Pricing
Below are the accommodation and food options for Las Torres (Frances, Cuernos, Chileno, Central)
- Campsite (single/double) : $56 / $70
- Campsite Equipment Rental : Tent $46 / Sleeping Bag $30 / Mat $10
- Premium Campsite (single/double) : $190 / $220
- Mountain Hostel Bed (refugio) : $144
- Mountain Cabin (single/double) : $430 / $460 (Cuernos Sector Only)
- Full Board : $100
- Breakfast : $28
- Lunch / Box Lunch : $50 / $30
- Dinner : $50
8) How To Book the Trek
Now that you have a better idea about the overall route and the refugios, campsites, & meals, let’s talk through how to book the W Trek.
The overall booking process is pretty simple as Vertice and Las Torres have online booking systems to utilize. The tougher part is making sure there is availability between the two for the exact dates you are looking for.
I would not recommend making a booking for either until you have both websites open and have confirmed that the refugios/campsites are available for the appropriate nights.
However, there now seems to be a solution to that problem:
Recently a new site called Booking Patagonia offers the opportunity to book both Vertice & Las Torres through a single site . Prices seem to be in line with the two companies, so that may be an easier option moving forward.
I gave it a try, and the site offers a very friendly interface, where you can build your route as you go. In addition to purchasing the food and accommodation, you can also purchase bus tickets and entrance tickets to the park (more on both of those soon).
So, instead of booking through 4 separate website (Vertice, Las Torres, bus tickets, entrance tickets), you can do it all through a single site. They also have a live customer support in case you have questions or changes to your booking.
If you do want to still book directly with the providers, below is how you would go about it.
Below are the steps to go about booking with Vertice on nights 2, 3, 4, & 5.
- Step 1 : Go to the Vertice website
- Step 2 : Choose the number of people, your nationality, & currency
- Step 3 : Choose the W or O Circuit (Paine Massif)
- Step 4 : Choose your starting point (Dickson or Los Perros)
- Step 5 : Continue choosing your next nights
- Step 6 : Once complete, click the red button “Yes, I want to choose my date”
- Step 7 : Choose your starting date (the rest will fill out automatically)
- Step 8 : Once you choose your accommodation and additional services (food, rental gear) for each night, click Continue. From there you will be shown your booking summary and you will have 25 minutes to then put in your personal details and pay for the reservation.
Las Torres Booking
Below are the steps to go about booking with Las Torres on nights 3 & 4 (west to east).
- Step 1 : Go to the Las Torres website
- Step 2 : You will be taken directly to the booking page where you will find the five campsites/refugios to choose from with check in / check out dates (change these initially before continuing to the next step).
- Step 3 : By clicking the magnifying glass icon on the right hand side of each sector, you will be shown booking options for that sector.
- Step 4 : Choose your accommodation and food options for each of the two nights needed
- Step 5 : Click the “Book Here” button, and follow the instructions to fill in your personal details & pay for the reservation.
Additional Booking Notes
All Inclusive : On the Vertice & Las Torres sites, you can also choose “W Trek”, which puts together a total package for you. This seems to be an all inclusive type of deal, where you can’t pick and choose what you want each night. Because of this, the price will be on the higher end.
Third Party Websites : You may also come across third party websites that offer W Trek packages . This companies usually buy allotments of spots at campsites/refugios and then upsell them as packages. I would say the main reason to book through a third party is if your dates are sold out through Vertice/Las Torres, but the third party company happens to have openings.
Last Minute Openings : Going off of that last note – don’t be surprised if you see any last minute openings for Torres del Paine. These third parties seem to give back any unused nights a couple weeks prior. I met several people, who were able to make reservations just days in advance due to these cancellations.
Torres Del Paine Entrance Fee
While you will need to pay for your accommodation, food, and transport to Torres Del Paine, you will also need to pay for entrance tickets.
I would recommend simply purchasing your tickets online through the official website . Scroll down to Torres Del Paine and complete the forms on the following pages to make your purchase.
Since you will be taking part of the W Trek, you will want to purchase the 3+ Day ticket at $49 . Once you stay over three days, there is no additional cost per day.
9) How to Get to Torres del Paine
Getting to Torres del Paine National Park will be the next set of logistics to figure out when taking part of the W Trek. Busses, catamarans, & shuttles will all come into play when getting yourself back and forth to TDP.
Before getting to Torres del Paine itself, you first must make your way to Puerto Natales – the closest major town to the National Park. While you can make your way from other places, Puerto Natales will be the most convenient of options.
Getting to Puerto Natales
I would recommend spending one night there prior to the trek, and then one night after finishing up with the trek (depending on your overall itinerary).
Puerto Natales has its own airport (PNT), located just 10 minutes outside of the city center. Currently, the only direct flights to Puerto Natales are through Santiago and Puerto Montt.
While flying in and out of Puerto Natales is one option, you can also take a bus there from other places in Patagonia. The main two closest hub cities would be El Calafate, Argentina (3.5 hours) and Punta Arenas, Chile (3 hours).
If visiting El Calafate be sure to check out the Perito Moreno Glacier , Cerro Frias , and a Todo Glaciares Boat Tour
Once in Puerto Natales, it is time to then make the journey to the Torres del Paine National Park.
If you are looking for hotels in Puerto Natales, check out Hotel Vendaval and Vinnhaus – two highly rated & recommended hotels downtown.
On the other hand, you can also decide to stay at one of the top Torres del Paine hotels !
W Trek Starting & Ending Point
Since this is a one way hike, the starting & ending point of the W Trek will be at two different locations. This will also depend on which way you go about the circuit in general:
Starting Point : Paine Grande Ending Point : Torres del Paine Welcome Center
East to West
Starting Point : Torres del Paine Welcome Center Ending Point : Paine Grande
W Trek – West to East Logistics
If taking part of the W from west to east, you will be starting your hike at Paine Grande and ending your hike at the Torres del Paine Welcome Center.
Start: Puerto Natales To Paine Grande
Getting yourself from Puerto Natales to Paine Grande will involve a bus ride to Pudeto, followed by a catamaran to Paine Grande.
Step 1: Puerto Natales to Pudeto Bus
The first part of the day will entail taking an early bus ride from Puerto Natales to the Pudeto entrance of the National Park. Bus Sur runs busses throughout the season from Puerto Natales, with the earliest one at 6:45AM (be sure to always check latest schedules and to book in advance).
The bus will first stop at the Amarga park entrance, before continuing onto Pudeto. The total length of the bus ride should be just around 3 hours (arriving closer to 10:00AM).
Step 2: Pudeto to Paine Grande Catamaran
Once you arrive in Pudeto, you can then take a ~30 minute catamaran across Lake Pehoe that will drop you off right at the starting point of Paine Grande.
The first catamaran leaves at 9:00AM (not possible to make it with the bus) and the second at 10:30AM (times up perfectly with the bus). The cost is $30 USD one way and can be paid on arrival.
Note that catamaran schedules change throughout the year. Please be sure to check out Hipsur and this Torres del Paine website for latest departure times for the catamarans.
Finish: Torres del Paine Welcome Center to Puerto Natales
After completing the hike, you will end up at the Torres del Paine Welcome Center on the eastern side of the park. Getting back to Puerto Natales will involve a quick shuttle & then a bus ride.
Step 1: Torres del Paine Welcome Center to Amarga Shuttle
Since the busses do not pick up/drop off directly at the welcome center, you will just need to take a quick 10 minute shared van to the Amarga TDP entrance. Shuttles will be timed up with the bus schedule and cost around $5 USD.
Step 2: Amarga to Puerto Natales Bus
Just like you began the journey, you will end the journey with a bus ride back to Puerto Natales. This time though, you will be departing from Amarga. I would recommend booking a later afternoon bus (most likely 3:00PM – but be sure to check the latest schedules).
W Trek – East to West Logistics
If taking part of the W from east to west, you will be starting your hike at the Torres del Paine Welcome Center and ending your hike at Paine Grande. Logistics will be similar to above but just in the reverse direction.
Start: Puerto Natales To Torres del Paine Welcome Center
Step 1: Puerto Natales to Amarga Bus
The first part of the day will be taking an early bus ride from Puerto Natales to the Amarga entrance of the National Park (the same bus that then heads to Pudeto).
Bus Sur runs busses throughout the season from Puerto Natales, with the earliest one at 6:45AM (be sure to always check latest schedules and book in advance).
Step 2: Amarga to Torres del Paine Welcome Center Shuttle
Since the busses do not pick up/drop off directly at the welcome center, you will just need to take a quick 10 minute shared van to the TDP Welcome Center from Amarga. Shuttles will be timed up with the bus schedule and cost around $5 USD.
Finish: From Paine Grande to Puerto Natales
Step 1: Paine Grande to Pudeto Catamaran
Once you finish up your final hike on day 5, you will then make your way back to Paine Grande, and catch the catamaran to Pudeto. Catamaran schedules change throughout the year (be sure to check out schedules linked above for the latest).
However, during peak season (December to February), there are boats to Pudeto at 9:35AM, 11:05AM, 5:00PM and 6:35PM
Step 2: Pudeto to Puerto Natales Bus
The final part of your day will be taking a bus back from Pudeto to Puerto Natales. Again, please check the Bus Sur website for the latest schedules. Currently the last busses leave Pudeto between 7:00PM – 8:00PM.
10) Best Time to Hike
While the W Trek certainly offers some of the world’s best landscapes, it also offers some of the world’s most unpredictable weather. Hiking for 5 days in Patagonia can offer a little bit of everything from a weather standpoint – both on a day to day basis and on an hourly basis.
It is a popular saying that you will experience 4 seasons of weather in a single day. Sun, rain, wind, clouds, snow, and more will be coming and going throughout your time on the trail.
With that said though, the best time to hike the W Circuit in general will be during the summer months of the region between December and February. During this time, you have the best chance for the most stable of weather with less rain and overcast skies.
A trip during the shoulder months of November and March are also potential options for you. During this time you will have a quieter park altogether, and may be just as lucky with the weather.
This also holds true if you are visiting places like Ushuaia, home to Tierra del Fuego National Park , which has plenty of top Ushuaia hikes to choose from, and the chance to walk with penguins .
When it comes to the W Trek, you will only be able to complete it during the times that the refugios and campsites are open.
To simplify things, that means the W Trek is only possible between September 1 2023 and April 2024 .
Below you can find the latest (I will update this each year):
- Central Sector : September 1 – April 30
- Chileno Sector : September 15 – April 30
- Frances Sector : September 1 – April 30
- Grey Sector : September 1 – April 30
- Paine Grande Sector : September 1 – April 30
- Cuernos Sector : November 1 – March 30
11) Packing List
Perhaps the most important aspect of the W Trek will be the gear that you bring along with you. Since this is 5 days out in Patagonia, you simply will need to be prepared for it all.
If you would like more detail, check out the Torres del Paine packing list I put together that deep dives into all of the below.
Below is my recommended packing list for all hikers that you can put into your hiking backpack ( Hyperlite Southwest recommended)
From a clothing perspective, you will want to bring along what is needed for five days on the trail. I am usually a bit more lightweight here as I use the same layers on a day to day basis.
Note that the weather can change quickly, so you will want to be prepared with the appropriate layers (all outlined below). Also, be sure to have moisture wicking materials for your clothing items.
- Hiking Boxers (2-3)
- Hiking Socks (2-3)
- Hiking Pants (1)
- Hiking Shorts (1)
- Long Sleeve Sun Hoodie (1)
- Short Sleeve Hiking Shirt (2)
- Puff Jacket (1)
- Hard Shell Jacket (1)
- Baseball Hat
- Quick Dry Towel
- Packing Cubes & Laundry Bag
A hike like the W Circuit must be done with the appropriate footwear. Be sure to invest in quality hiking shoes for your time on the trail. Some of my recommended shoes include:
- Keen (Targhee Series)
- Merrill (Moab Series)
- North Face (Ultra Series)
- Salomon (X Ultra Series)
Most of my electronics were used for photography and navigation purposes, so each person may be a bit different here (note you can recharge your electronics at campsites).
- iPhone & USB Cable
- Headlamp | Petzl Actik Core
- Portable Charger | Anker Portable Charger 10,000 mAH
- GoPro Stick
- Extra GoPro Batteries
- Extra Battery
- 256GB SD Card
- Mini Tripod
Satellite Communicator | Garmin inReach 2 Mini
While there are many people along the trails of the W Circuit, having a satellite device like the Garmin inReach is always going to be a good idea. This small device gives you the chance to communicate with family, track your route, and call for SOS in case of emergency.
Food & Drink
Remember, you will also need to bring all food for five days out on the trail if you do not want to purchase food along the way. There are also supermarkets in Puerto Natales where you can stock up on certain items. If you want to come prepared with food that you prefer, then check out my usual food purchases below (high calorie / low weight).
- Variety of Bars including PROBAR Bars , Honey Stinger Bars , Clif Builder Protein Bars
- Fruit & Nut Mixes
- Variety of dehydrated meals including Peak Refuel , Outdoor Herbivore , and GOOD TO-GO
Note that you will easily be able to fill up your water bottle consistently throughout the trek. Along most of the hike you will find rivers and streams, where you can get some fresh Patagonian water.
During my time on the circuit, I just filled up directly from these without any filtration. However, if you do want to play it safe, you can get a filtered water bottle like the Katadyn BeFree water bottle. I also brought along some Liquid IV hydration packets to keep hydrated at the beginning of the day.
- Cooking Stove : Jetboil Micromo
- Spork : TiTo titanium spork
- Cooking Gas (purchase in Puerto Natales)
This last section of the packing list will be toiletries. Each person will also be different here, but below are the main items I brought along with me.
- Deodorizing Body Wipes | Alcala Bamboo Deodorizing Body Wipes
- Body Deodorant
- Toothbrush / Toothpaste
- Contact Lenses / Solution
- Travel Shampoo & Soap
- Personal Creams & Medications
- Nail Clipper
- Small Mirror
- Toilet Paper
Now if you plan to bring your own sleeping gear on the trek, you will need to account for those items as well. Below is a list of the hiking & camping gear essentials for your time on the trail. Note that much of these can be rented or bought in Puerto Natales if you do not have everything already.
- 3-Season Tent | Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL
- Sleeping Bag (20 F – 40 F) | Thermarest Questar 20 ; Thermarest Hyperion 32
- Sleeping Bag Liner | Sea to Summit Liner
- Sleeping Pad | Thermarest NeoAir Xlite
- Camping Pillow | Thermarest Camping Pillow
- Hiking Poles | Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Poles
12) Patagonia Travel Insurance
Considering travel insurance for the W Circuit? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more (making it an option for those taking on the W Trek in Torres del Paine). For years, World Nomads has been protecting, connecting & inspiring independent travelers, offering travel insurance & safety advice to help you travel confidently. Their mission is to support and encourage travelers to explore their boundaries . World Nomads has simple and flexible travel insurance that has been designed by travelers for travelers. Even if you leave home without travel insurance or your policy runs out, you can buy or extend out on the road. Get a quote for a World Nomads travel insurance policy today!
13) Torres del Paine Tips & Things to Know
I did want to layout a few helpful tips and things to know as you go about your time in Torres del Paine.
WiFi: You will find WiFi throughout the trek at most sectors that you have to pay for on an hourly basis. If you just wanted to get a weather forecast, the folks checking you in will be able to give you some insight.
Closing Times : Be very aware of closing times around the National Park for certain trails. For example, during my time there, the Britanico Mirador closed at 1:00PM and the Mirador Base Torres closed at 4:30PM. These times seem to change, so be sure to keep an eye out at the campsites and ranger stations for the latest.
Bookings : Remember, there is no open camping or entering the park for overnights without accommodations reserved. Be sure to come prepared with your bookings prior to your arrival.
Cooking : For those cooking your own food, camping stoves are allowed in authorized areas at campsites. There are no open fires allowed whatsoever.
Forecasts : If checking weather prior to and along your hike (using the WiFi), I would recommend using Windguru or Meteoblue. This can give you a better idea if certain parts of the day may be better or worse than others (although you can never really trust the weather in Patagonia).
Showers : Hot showers can be found at all campsites on the W. As I mentioned in the packing list section, be sure to bring a small quick dry towel with you.
Food : If you are bringing your own food, you do have the option to purchase some in Puerto Natales. There are supermarkets there, so that should not cause too much trouble. You will also find gear shops if you need to rent or purchase any last minute essentials for the hike.
GPS : Lastly, I would highly recommend downloading the W Trek route onto you phone for navigation purposes. Apps like AllTrails or Maps.me would work here. While the route is easy to follow, the apps also give you a heads up when you are approaching viewpoints and other highlights.
14) Hiking Checklist
In the following section I will dive into the day by overview of the W Trek. However, before doing so I did want to put together a “W Trek Checklist”. I know we covered a lot already, so this is a good spot for a quick recap.
1) West to East or East to West
One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether to go about the circuit from west to east or east to west. This may come down to accommodation availabilities or just personal choice. Since I love the idea of ending with Mirador Las Torres, west to east is my overall preference.
2) Campsite vs Refugios
When going about booking your accommodation, you will need to decide between (1) bringing all of your own camping gear, (2) sleeping at ready made campsites, or (3) staying at the refugios. Note you can always mix and match as you see fit too!
3) Purchase Meals vs Cooking
Going hand in hand with booking accommodation will be meal choice as well. Do you want to bring your own meals and cook yourself? Or do you want to purchase breakfast, lunch and dinner from the refugios? This is another place where you can mix and match to your preferences.
4) Bus Tickets
Logistically, the only transport you will need to book in advance are round trip bus tickets to Torres del Paine (in addition to getting to Puerto Natales in the first place). The catamaran and shuttle bus don’t require reservations.
5) TDP Entrance Tickets
Don’t forget to purchase Torres del Paine entrance tickets prior to arriving. They offer the 3+ day option, which can be used for the full W Trek.
6) Packing List
A packing list may change based on whether or not you bring your own camping gear and food. However, the rest of the packing list holds true. Be sure to come prepared with all the essentials, so you are ready to hit the trail when you arrive.
7) Hotels in Puerto Natales
Lastly, booking hotels in Puerto Natales will be important for before and after your trek. You can book for a night on either end (or even extend your stay if you would like).
15) W Trek Torres del Paine Day by Day
For the purposes of this day by day breakdown, I will be going about the route from west to east (starting in Paine Grande and ending at the Welcome Center) . This should still be plenty helpful if you decide to go about the route in the opposite direction.
Day 1 – Paine Grande to Grey
Starting Point : Sector Paine Grande Ending Point : Sector Grey Distance : 6.6 miles / 10.6 km Elevation Gain : 1,430 feet / 435 meters Duration : 3-4 hours
After leaving Puerto Natales by bus and arriving in Pudeto, you will take a pleasant catamaran ride across Lake Pehoe to Paine Grande.
At Paine Grande you will find a refugio and campsite (which you will be staying at the following night). Once all set it is time to begin the first day of hiking. Altogether this is going to be one of the easier days out on the trail, and a great way to ease into the hiking experience.
From the starting point, the trail will ascend for the first half of the hike. This is where most of the elevation gain for the day will come into play. As you continue up, you will have the massive Cerro Paine Grande hovering up above with other mountains filling out the landscape.
You will soon reach a small lake – Laguna Los Patos, before the views start to get better and better out in front of you. One of the highlights of the W Trek is the Grey Glacier , which feeds Lago Grey.
The glacier will start coming into views and throughout much of the hike, you will now be able to enjoy the views from a far. There will be an “official” lookout point as well, but overall you won’t be disappointed with what the first day entails.
Soon enough, you will reach the high point for the day and then descend further down towards the first campsite. Continue to enjoy those views before easing right into the Grey campsite and refugio.
After checking in and getting all settled, I would recommend taking a late afternoon walk to the Mirador Grey.
This lookout point is located just nearby the campsite and gives you a great view of the glacier with large icebergs floating in the lake right besides you.
Once all done there, enjoy your first night on the W Trek, before getting ready for day 2.
Day 2 – Grey to Grey Glacier Suspension Bridges to Paine Grande
Starting Point : Sector Grey Highlight : Grey Glacier Suspension Bridges & Lookouts Ending Point : Sector Paine Grande Distance : 10.6 miles / 17.1 km Elevation Gain : 2,400 feet / 730 meters Duration : 6-7 hours
On day two of the W Trek, you will get to head further along the Grey Glacier and take in some views, before turning back around to Paine Grande. You can really split this day into two main parts.
For the first portion of your day, you can leave you bags behind and just take a day pack. This hike will entail an out & back route heading to some more viewpoints and a couple famous suspension bridges overlooking the Grey Glacier.
Most people opt to head to what is known as the second suspension bridge – a 2 mile (4 mile round trip) uphill hike from the Grey campsite. Throughout this out and back trail, you will get continuous beautiful views of the glacier out in front of you, and eventually right beside you.
While you can head even further up the trail past this second suspension bridge, remember that you will need to make it all the way back to Paine Grande at day’s end. Due to this, many just opt for this second suspension bridge lookout.
If you do have the energy and fitness to get it done, feel free to continue all the way up to the Paso campsite (4 mile one way / 8 mile round trip).
Once back at the Grey campsite, it is time for the second portion of the day. You can pack up your bags, and retrace the same route from the prior day to Paine Grande.
Similarly, you will leave the campsite, gain elevation and take in some views (with many views behind you now). After reaching the high point, you will descend down into Paine Grande after a successful day out on the trail.
While it would be a pretty long day already, there is more to explore if you have it in you. Feel free to walk the pathway along Lake Pehoe, where you can get some surreal views of the lake, Cuernos del Paine, and Cerro Paine Grande all in one shot.
Be sure to then get a good night’s rest since day 3 is going to be a big one!
Day 3 – Paine Grande to Frances via Valle del Frances
Starting Point : Sector Paine Grande Highlight : Valle del Frances (French Valley) Ending Point : Sector Frances Distance : 12.0 miles / 19.3 km Elevation Gain : 2,995 feet / 913 meters Duration : 8 hours
Up next on the W Trek of Torres del Paine is the hike from Paine Grande to Frances. Along the way though you will have the chance to head up the Valle del Frances (French Valley). During this day you will be completing the “middle line of the W”.
This is also one of those nights where you have more than one accommodation option to choose from – either Sector Frances or Sector Cuernos (another 2 miles further).
Most of the first portion of the day will entail hiking through the surrounding greenery with the Cuernos del Paine out in the distance. Your aim is to hike to the base of the mountainside before exploring the Valle del Frances.
You will pass by some beautiful lake views as you slowly get closer and closer the valley itself. Once you reach the valley turnoff, you can head up to the two viewpoints – Mirador Frances and Mirador Britanico.
Now, you do not need to go to both viewpoints, but they are both well worth the effort if you have it in you.
The hike through the valley will be one of the more technical parts of the W Trek. Instead of a nice easy pathway all the way through, the tail can get rockier and steeper at times. Be sure to just consistently watch your step along the way through.
The first viewpoint of Mirador Frances will offer views of Cerro Paine Grande and the Frances Glacier. Further up the valley, you will find Mirador Britanico.
Here you have views of a whole array of Torres del Paine mountains out in front, as well as the Cuernos del Paine up above.
Once you have enjoyed one or both viewpoints, it is then back down the same way you came, until you reach the Valle del Frances turnoff.
It is then another 20 minutes walk until you reach the Frances sector (or another hour or so if you opt for the Cuernos sector).
Day 4 – Frances to Chileno
Starting Point : Sector Frances Ending Point : Sector Chileno Distance : 9.6 miles / 15.4 km Elevation Gain : 2,810 feet / 856 meters Duration : 5 hours
On the fourth day of the W Trek, the circuit takes you from Frances to Sector Chileno. This will be a beautiful route as you get to walk right alongside the Nordenskjöld Lake for much of the day.
I ended up waking up early and I opted to just get started hiking around sunrise. This in turn led me to experience some beautiful colors lighting up Torres del Paine. If you have it in you for one (or more) days of the trek, I would recommend a sunrise at some point.
After walking along and above the lake, there is an intersection. To the right is a trail that heads towards the Welcome Center, and to the left is Sector Chileno. Take that left hand turn, and start hiking through the Ascencio Valley.
From here you will begin the hike up the valley along the pathway etched into the hillside. Down below will be the winding Ascencio River and further in the distance will be more alpine peaks.
After hiking above the river, the trail descends towards Chileno, where you can check in and get ready for the final day of the hike.
This is another day in which you can choose to opt for alternate accommodation. However, I would highly recommend going with Chileno for your first choice. If it is sold out, then you could end up going with Sector Central or even the Hotel Las Torres.
Day 5 – Chileno to Mirador Las Torres to TDP Welcome Center
Starting Point : Sector Chileno Highlight : Mirador Las Torres Ending Point : TDP Welcome Center Distance : 8.6 miles / 13.8 km Elevation Gain : 2,665 feet / 82 meters Duration : 5 hours
It is now time for the final day of the W Trek as you make your way from Chileno to the famed Mirador Las Torres viewpoint (one of the best hikes in Torres del Paine ).
At the viewpoint you will have a beautiful turquoise lake in the foreground with the three granite peaks of Torre Sur, Torre Central, and Torre Norte hovering up above.
Most people opt for a sunrise at the lake. This means you will need to wake up in the middle of the night and hike in the dark.
During my times in the park, it was pouring rain when I woke up. While some people did opt to hike in the wet darkness, most people waited it out a couple of hours. I am sure glad that I did because, the weather ending up clearing and the remainder of the morning was a memorable one.
Taking part of a sunrise hike though at Mirador Las Torres is still in my eyes one of the best overall highlights of the W Trek. I would highly recommend it if you are up for the early wake up.
This is also going to be one of the more technical days out on the trail, as there is a good portion of the hike that is on uneven, rocky, and steep terrain.
You will first make your way through the forest portion as you continue to gain elevation. Once out of the forest, the tougher section begins as you head up the rocky and steep hillside to get to the lake itself.
As you arrive at the lake, you can expect some surreal views of your surroundings (on a clear day at least).
Be sure to remember throughout this day that you will need to catch a bus out later in the afternoon. Pay attention to your timing, so you can get back to Chileno and to the Welcome Center in time.
After enjoying the views though, make your way back down to Chileno, where you can pack up your belongings. It is then retracing your steps along the river and out of the valley, where you can then follow the path to the Torres del Paine Welcome Center.
Once there, hop in one of the shared shuttle vans to the Amarga park entrance, where you can then get onto your bus back to Puerto Natales.
All said and done, while there are some logistics to a hike like this, the W Trek will be well worth the planning and effort.
16) Torres del Paine W Trek Cost
From a cost perspective, the W Trek of Torres del Paine can cover a wide array of budgets.
On one side, you have the chance to bring all your own gear and food, and simply just pay for campsites (and transport). On the other end, you have refugio rooms and full board to choose from.
Obviously, the budgets for these two trips can be vastly different. And while those are the two ends of the spectrum, many people fall right in between (mix between campsites/refugios & bringing some food but not all).
From a high level perspective, below is what you should expect the Torres del Paine W Circuit to cost from a few different standpoints (note all currency in USD).
Low Cost Option
- Accommodation : bring all of you own gear = ~$130 (campsite fees)
- Food : bring all of you own food = ~$75 (can vary greatly based on food choice)
High Cost Option
- Accommodation : refugios only = ~$500
- Food : full board = ~$360
Mid Cost Option
During my time out on the trail, I brought most of my food with me, and ending up buying a couple meals along the way (not guaranteed everywhere). For accommodations, I split up my time between refugios and ready made campsites.
You can expect this to fall right in between the low and high cost options.
In addition to the food and accommodation, your other cost considerations should be:
• Puerto Natales Hotel (before/after): varies • Round Trip Bus Tickets: ~$25 • Pudeto Catamaran: $30 • Laguna Amarga Van: $5 • Torres Del Paine Entrance Tickets: $49
17) Self Guided vs Guided
Many people ask can you do the W Trek without a guide? The answer to that question is certainly yes. In general, I would imagine most people who hike the W Trek do so unguided.
For the vast majority of the hike, the trail is obvious with trail markers sprinkled throughout. Getting from campsite to campsite should not be an issue given the trail (and having a navigation app just in case).
I would say a guided W Trek can be valuable for those with less hiking experience.
If you are someone who has just not completed multi day hikes and are not comfortable doing something like this on your own, then a guide can be very valuable to help lead the way (and help you out with some tips).
In general, if you are not one of those people, then a self guided hike is going to be more than doable. This also gives you the chance to be on your own schedule, and not worry as much about the larger group.
18) W vs O Trek Patagonia
While the W Trek is certainly a bucket list worthy type of hike, you may be asking yourself whether you should do the O Trek instead.
At the end of the day, this will just be based on the amount of time you have and whether or not you actually want to hike for an additional three days.
Remember, the W is part of the O. So if you complete the O, you are completing the W. With the O Circuit you get to hike the backside of Torres del Paine during your extra three days in the park. This section is much quieter than the W side of the park.
From a duration perspective, you will need just 5 days to complete the W (or maybe even less) but 8 days to complete the O .
You will need to ask yourself whether you even want to hike for 8 days in a row. That can be a lot of hiking for most people. Since the W may be hiked in as few as 4 days, some people may be more than happy with that amount of hiking.
Another consideration in general will be your overall fitness. While the O Trek is 70+ miles, the W Trek is just about 45 miles . So, that is another 25+ miles your body will need to make its way through (including the toughest part of Torres del Paine up the John Gardner Pass).
Lastly, you will also want to take your budget into consideration . By doing the W, you are sure to save on accommodation and food within the park. While on the O, you are going to spend more based on the longer duration.
While those are just some of the main questions to ask yourself, if you can answer those, you should have a better sense of which option is best for you.
Learn more about Torres del Paine O Trek to get a better idea of what it is all about .
I hope you enjoyed this extensive overview about the W Trek of Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. If you do happen to have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to add them in below.
Also, be sure to check out the other Patagonia itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!
Sharing is caring!
Saturday 25th of March 2023
Great write up, this is really helpful! Any idea if bookings are open for 2023/2024 season or when to expect them to open? I'm looking at booking for December 2023 and none of the websites work for any of those dates, but I dont think it would be completely full already. How far in advance would you recommend booking?
Monday 27th of March 2023
Hi Kirsten - I would guess bookings will open up soon (in the next month or two). The current season is almost at its end and I am guessing they will have the bookings open soon enough. December can be quite busy depending on if you are heading for holiday season. If that is the case I would honestly advise to book as soon as you are able to. Any other question feel free to reach out.
Hiking the W Trek in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia: Itinerary, Gear & Camping Tips
Want to hike the W Trek in Torres Del Paine? We answer all of your questions about itineraries, gear, campsites, and whether a guide is necessary.
During our guided trip to Patagonia, we hiked the famous W Trek with G Adventures as part of the most recent Bearfoot Theory group trip. We spent four days and three nights in and around Torres del Paine and took in the amazing scenery of wild and rugged Patagonia.
There were comfortable campsites, home-cooked meals at the park’s well-known refugios which exist to serve backpackers and day hikers alike, not to mention top-notch guides. If you’ve ever thought about hiking this world-famous trail look no further.
As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace . This means packing out all of your garbage, being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established rules.
Keep reading if you plan on hiking the W Trek in Patagonia for a complete itinerary, gear and camping tips.
[separator style_type=”icon” /]
W Trek YouTube Video
Watch my new YouTube vlog from our time on the W Trek in Torres Del Paine!
What is the W Trek in Patagonia?
Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is the most famous hike in the entire region. It’s a four to five-day hike that makes stops at the park’s iconic refugios for overnight stays with an option to hike the entire trek without carrying food. While hiking, it gives travelers unparalleled views of the granite towers and some of the park’s most well-known sites from up close.
[separator style_type=”single” /]
Do you need a guide to hike the W Trek?
Now I’ll say that I’m not necessarily a “guided-tour-kinda-person.” I love traveling independently and the spontaneity that comes with being your own guide. However, it really depends on the destination for me and in the case of hiking the W Trek, there are a number of benefits to joining a tour, or hiring a local guide at a minimum. Hiking the W trek requires a ton of advanced planning. All of the campsites are run by different operators and fill up from 6 months to even a year in advance . Getting your desired dates and sites can be difficult.
If you hike the W Trek with a tour, you can be more spontaneous with your travel plans since the campsite reservations are made for you. You won’t have to book a year in advance in the case that you find yourself with unexpected vacation time. You’ll also learn so much more about the culture, local language, geography and history of the park because of the guide’s own personal experience and familiarity with the area.
Our two local guides contracted by G Adventures, Jarek and Marcello (along with our G Adventures tour guide Marina ) were very knowledgeable, a lot of fun, and had high safety standards, and I had a more memorable experience because of them.
They were adamant about Leave No Trace practices and were full of local insight including what water sources were safe to drink, prime lunch spots, and more.
G Adventures even arranged for us to have all of our gear transported for us each day to the next campsite. So all we had to carry was our daypacks full of food, water, camera, and extra hiking layers. Plus, all of our meals were set up for us, we always had a hot breakfast and dinner at the refugios and were given a boxed lunch for the trail every day.
It’s worth pointing out that joining a tour or hiring a guide is the more expensive option; so you have to decide if the logistical conveniences are worth it to you. If you do decide to do it independently, don’t worry about hiking it solo. The trail is very well marked and well traveled, so it would be tough to get lost.
Overall, I thought our G Adventures tour was a great value given how much time and effort they saved us in planning and the amazing experience we had as a group. You can read the full review of my Patagonia G Adventures tour here .
If you do want to do it independently, check out these resources:
- Camping in Torres Del Paine
- 6 Options If You CAN’T Get Torres Del Paine Reservations
- Torres Del Paine Park Information, Fees, and Boat Schedules
[tagline_box link=”http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-7674930-13579210″]Want to go on this guided trip? Check out available dates on the G Adventures website![/tagline_box]
Leave No Trace When Hiking in Patagonia
Whether you are traveling with a guide or not, please educate yourself on local Leave No Trace practices. Here’s a quick refresher if you’re a little fuzzy on the most basic (and global!) ethics…
- Anytime you go outside, pack out your toilet paper and don’t go to the bathroom near water sources
- Stay on the trail. Don’t cut switchbacks or take shortcuts.
- Only camp at established campsites (making your own campsite in Torres Del Paine is prohibited)
- NO CAMPFIRES OR BURNING TOILET PAPER (there was a huge fire recently that burned a huge portion of the park).
- There is also no smoking allowed on the trail.
- Make sure you secure your trash when you are eating. It is very windy in Patagonia and if you leave a wrapper sitting on your pack while you eat, there is a good chance it will blow away.
- Pack out all of your trash, and don’t leave your food trash in refugio bathrooms. It’s much easier if everyone just takes the trash they produce back with them to Puerto Natales and disposes of it there.
- Leave wildlife alone. If you are lucky enough to encounter wildlife, don’t approach or feed them.
- Yield to uphill hikers and be friendly . This is a world-famous hike and it’s important to share it and practice good trail etiquette.
Best Time to Hike the W Trek
The W Trek can be hiked year-round (including winter with a guide). The busy season is December through late March. This is the warmest time of year, but also when you’ll experience the strongest winds. April is Patagonia’s fall with beautiful bursts of colors, while November is Spring when you’ll encounter wildflower blooms. No matter when you go, you should always be prepared for crazy weather.
What Gear do you need to hike the W Trek?
I wrote up a detailed W Trek gear list that you can check out here.
On our tour, G Adventures provided sleeping bags, tents, and sleeping pads. The tents and pads were already set up at each site so all we had to do was unpack our sleeping bag. We were given a small dry bag for all of our clothes and personal belongings for camping. Both that and our sleeping bag were put in the dry bag and transported for us each day to the next campsite. All we had to carry was lunch, water, camera, and extra layers in our day packs.
If you are hiking independently and need to carry all of your own gear, make sure you bring a backpacking pack that you’ve worn before . Since the summer season in Patagonia is known for the high winds, a rain cover might be ineffective in wet conditions, so in rainy condition, line your pack with a trash bag and then pack all of your stuff in that. Your tent also needs to be very solid and bring plenty of guy lines and stakes to secure your tent in high winds.
Aside from the windy conditions, it was hotter than I expected and I wish I had brought shorts. Pack layers with everything from warm to cold layers so you’re prepared for any kind of weather.
A half-buff is also helpful. A trick we learned from our guides is to use the buff as a headband over your hat so it prevents your hat from flying off in the wind.
In addition to the clothing, I’d recommend bringing a portable water purifier, like a Steripen or a Grayl water bottle. I did drink unfiltered tap water and water right out of streams, but I’d bring a purifier just to be safe.
If you want to eliminate the need for heavier camping gear, the Refugios also offer rooms for rent.
[tagline_box link=”https://bearfoottheory.com/w-trek-packing-list-patagonia/”]Check out my detailed W Trek Packing Checklist[/tagline_box]
My W Trek Itinerary
What direction should you hike the W Trek?
On our trip, we hiked the W Trek a little out of order (roughly from East to West) which was due to the way G Adventures arranged for our bags to be transported. On Day One , we hiked out and back to the base of the Towers (the famous spiraling granite towers) so the bags could stay put. The second day , we took a ferry to Refugio Paine Grande, dropped our bags, and hiked another out and back to Gray Glacier.
On Day Three our bags were transported by boat, while we hiked from Refugio Paine Grande to the French Valley, ending at Refugio Los Cuernos.
On Day 4 , our bags were transported by horseback to our finish line back at the Base of the Towers trailhead.
Although we did hike the W Trek in a slightly different sequence, it seemed a little easier than the opposite direction. I liked that we hiked the busiest day first because every day after that got less and less busy. That said, there are many different ways to hike it, so get familiar with the map and different locations. If you go independently, it’s important to understand that your itinerary may be determined by campsite availability.
How many days do you need to hike the W Trek?
We hiked the W Trek in four days and three nights . The hike to the Towers and the French valley were pretty long days, but the other two were fairly mellow and I thought the days were planned well.
Some people take five days and take a boat out to Gray Glacier Refuge and start there. Taking 5 full days would also allow you to take a little more time and hike farther up into the French Valley.
Is it worth purchasing meals at the refugios on the W Trek?
Meals may seem expensive but remember that you are in the middle of nowhere and getting your meals through the refugios means you don’t have to carry four to five days worth of food on your back.
We were given lunch boxes each day by the refugios which consisted of a large chicken salad sandwich, cookies, fruit, trail mix and a piece of chocolate. Plenty of food to energize you for the day. Overall, I thought dinners at the refugio were better than the breakfasts which matters since you can purchase meals ala carte.
[images_2_col image_1=”35446″ image_2=”35383″ /]
To give you an idea of prices independent travelers paid at the time of my hike:
- Refugio Paine Grande: $55 US for dinner, breakfast, and a boxed lunch (not including accomodations or camping)
- Refugio Los Cuernos: $80 US for dinner, breakfast and a boxed lunch / $115 US for a fully equipped campsite (with a tent, bag, and pad rental) and all meals
- Nash Patagonia Lodge: $29 for dinner / $112 for a fully equipped campsite and all meals
Note that Patagonia is very remote, lodging and food options are limited, and prices reflect that.
[separator style_type=”double” /]
Day 1 – Hiking to the Base of the Towers (12 miles)
This is a very busy trail so be prepared for crowds and a steep uphill climb. At times the congestion made it feel like Disneyland, as a line formed hiking up the mountain. The lake was beautiful but this was honestly my least favorite day of the hike due to the crowds. We hiked on Sunday, so maybe it’s less busy mid-week?
Once you’re about 30 minutes from the trailhead, the trail starts climbing and doesn’t really quit. Make sure you pack plenty of water, as there isn’t a place to fill up until you reach a river crossing at Refugio y Camping El Chileno.
I will say that the lake is one of the prettiest lakes I’ve ever seen. Just set your expectations for crowds, or get a very early start to try and beat them. If you are doing the trek independently you could try to get a camping spot at the refugio which would allow you to hike to the base of the towers for sunrise.
Camping Night One
G Adventures booked out an entire campsite on the Serrano River called Nash Patagonia that we stayed on the first night. The campsite is just on the outskirts of the park with the friendliest staff of all of the refugios we stayed at. The drive to that campsite, while it may look long on the map, took only an hour and a half and was absolutely gorgeous. The drive was a way to get a feel for other parts of the park. The campground only had one other G Adventures group so it was very quiet with gorgeous views. We had a tasty group dinner with braised beef and vegetables.
Day 2 – Refugio Paine Grande to Grey Glacier Overlook and back (7 miles)
The next morning we drove back into the park and took the 30-minute catamaran ferry across Lago Pehoe where we arrived at Refugio Paine Grande . On the G Adventures tour, our guide had reserved tents and sleeping pads that were already set up and waiting for us at each campsite. That way it was less for us to lug around on the hike.
[images_2_col image_1=”35399″ image_2=”35391″ /]
Day 2 to the Grey Glacier was a much more mellow hike than Day 1 that takes you over a ridge, past a Laguna Los Patos), and around the shoreline of Lago Grey. Eventually, it reaches a lookout with beautiful views of the Gray Glacier. If you want to get closer, you can keep walking all the way to Refugio Gray, which ends up being 13 miles round trip from Refugio Paine Grande.
You’ll note from the map that on day two that we didn’t hike all the way to the Gray Glacier and only went to the lookout. I was satisfied, but I do think with a quicker pace, it would have been possible to hike all the way to the Gray Glacier and back. Alternatively, you can also arrange to take a boat to Refugio Gray and start your W Trek hike from there.
Camping Night Two
We stayed at the Refugio Paine Grande where there were hundreds of people camping and gorgeous views. Dinner is served cafeteria-style and was my least favorite food of the W Trek. Dinner times are assigned so you should get in line a little early. Good news is that you can cook your own food in a separate cabin if you want to bring your own food. There’s also a bar upstairs with beer and place to hang out. Hot showers were available at certain times of the evening.
[images_2_col image_1=”35388″ image_2=”35385″ /]
Day 3 – Paine Grande to the French Valley to Refugio Los Cuernos (11.5 miles)
On our third day of hiking the W Trek, the views from the trail were non-stop. First, you pass Lake Skottsberg, and there are a few different rocky outcrops that make for a good snack break.
Next, you’ll hike through a burn area and eventually arrive at the Italiano campsite. Here you hang a left and start hiking up towards French valley. This is steep but didn’t feel as steep as the Base of the Towers hike and also had the bonus of way less people. The French Valley offered my favorite views from our entire time hiking the W Trek, and just past the main overlook, there is a nice lunch spot on the river where you can watch avalanches breaking off the glacier. You are also right under the Horn which is one of the famous peaks in Torres Del Paine.
On day 3, we only hiked to the French Valley (Mirador Frances) lookout but the trail continues quite a bit farther back to the Mirador Britanica. Our guides told us this was very difficult, and we still had 2 hours of hiking once we got back down to the Italiano campsite to reach Refugio Los Cuernos where we would be camping.
If you want to hike all the way to Mirador Britanica, you should consider starting or ending at the Italiano campsite and get a very early start. We heard this is one of the most beautiful and isolated areas of the park and would probably recommend five full days for the W Trek if you want to go to the very back of the valley.
Camping Night Three
This campsite was the Refugio Los Cuernos and also my favorite campsite. The refugio is located right underneath the Horn and had a beautiful beach with a great place to enjoy a beer from the bar. Luckily, there were clean, hot showers to boot. The dinner here was also my favorite spot. On the menu there was a hot soup, bread, braised beef with mashed potatoes, and a dessert.
Day 4 – Refugio Los Cuernos to Hosteria Los Torres and back to Puerto Natales (7.5 miles)
This was a mellow morning and breakfast consisted of toast, eggs and coffee. Our day was fairly short so we were able to take our time and enjoy the scenery. There were lots of beautiful flowers in bloom and we hiked along Lake Nordernskjold the entire day so we had non-stop views. In total, it took us about four hours.
[images_2_col image_1=”35373″ image_2=”35374″ /]
Since we had a shorter day on the trail, we stopped at the last spot with a view of the lake, where we enjoyed lunch and some mate tea.
When we got back to our Day 1 starting point, our driver was waiting for us at the end to take us back to Puerto Natales where we grabbed pizza with our guides at the basecamp.
What questions do you have about hiking the W Trek in Torres Del Paine? Leave us a comment below!
[content_box title=”Read Next”]
4 Day El Chalten Itinerary
40 best gifts for outdoor lovers, planning your everest base camp trek, backpacking lake clark national park with alaska alpine adventures, g adventure hiking patagonia group tour review.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase, I make a small commission at no added cost to you. I only promote products I use and love, and your support helps keep the wheels turning at Bearfoot Theory. Thanks!
In 2014, I quit my Washington DC job to start Bearfoot Theory, and for the past 9 years I’ve been sharing my experiences here on this blog. I’m a hiking obsessed, half-time van lifer who is happiest in the mountains. My team and I are here to show you it’s never too late to get your start and accomplish your goals in the outdoors.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Awesome post. I appreciate your time and effort in your work. Keep posting..
Thank you for your blog. I’m curious, when did you hike the W Trek? I have booked campsites for the second week in March and am hoping for some early Fall foliage on our visit.
Hi Rachel – Kristen hiked the W trek in November which is spring in Patagonia. I realize that you may have had to change your travel plans, but when you do make it to Patagonia, Fall begins in mid-late March so you just might catch some of that early Fall foliage you’re looking for if you go that time of year. Best of luck!
I’m looking for a guide to go with a small group in December 2021. Recommendations? Thanks!
There are a lot of great tour operators in Patagonia. Kristen’s group trip was with G-Adventures and she had a great experience. You can read more about it here: https://bearfoottheory.com/g-adventures-review-hiking-patagonia-in-depth/
Send Us a Message
W trek day by day itinerary - patagonia, chile, w trek day by day itinerary - patagonia chile.
About the circuit: Full W trek Route 5 Days / 4 Nights
The W Circuit is the most famous trekking trail in Torres del Paine, and includes hiking in 3 mountain valleys and the most epic viewpoints and attractions in the Park. You will see Las Torres, Los Cuernos (the Horns), Paine Grande and the Grey Glacier. As you hike along the trail you will be amazed by colossal mountains, native woods, crystal clear rivers, turquoise lakes, waterfalls and incredible glaciers.
Despite the trail being physically challenging and immersed in nature, you can still enjoy the treat of comfortable beds, hot showers, hearty meals and supplies from our kiosks. Just choose the accommodation you prefer and the length of the adventure you are looking for.
Accommodation Options: Campsite, Mountain Refugios or Hotel Las Torres (different combinations allowed).
Brief Itinerary: 5 Day W trek
Day 1: Transportation to Torres del Paine, lodging at Central Sector. Day 2: Hike to Las Torres Base, lodging at Central Sector. Day 3: Hiking to Francés Sector (o Cuernos), lodging Francés Sector (o Cuernos). Day 4: Hike to the Francés Valley, lodging at Paine Grande Sector. Day 5: Hike to Grey Glaciar Lookout Point, then cross the Pehoe Lake in catamaran and take transport back to Puerto Natales. (* Monday to Sunday: 10:30 a.m. from Pudeto and return at 5:00 p.m. from Paine Grande)
Day 1: Puerto Natales – Las Torres Patagonia
The day your trip begins you will take the 2:30 p.m. bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park. The journey takes about 2 1/2 hours (112 kms). You will reach the park in the afternoon and have time for dinner before spending the night in the Central Sector. If you prefer to seize the day and enjoy one of our horse-riding or rock-climbing excursions you should take the 7 a.m. bus from Puerto Natales and book these activities beforehand as they are not included in the program. Remember that the camping program includes all the equipment you need.
When booking one of the package Self - Guided treks with us we arrange all of your accommodations, and include a fully all inclusive trip package with transportation to/from Puerto Natales, meals, permits, and necessary tickets for the catamaran ride out. Camping packages include all of the camping gear setup on your arrival to camp each night and all of the camping gear. Our Refugio packages include all bedding and your own bunk style bed in a shared room.
Before the adventure begins, you will get an email with information to help you fully prepare for your Torres del Paine trip. Our sales executives will contact you about the Welcome kit, map and vouchers.
Day 2: Las Torres Lookout
The day begins with a slowly ascending hike through the Patagonian pampas and begins to steepen as you enter the Ascencio Valley, until you reach Los Vientos Mountain Pass - with its spectacular panoramic views other surrounding landscape and lakes.
You will continue hiking, past the Chileno Mountain Hostel and through a native lenga forest before approaching the final stretch of your adventure. This part of the hike takes about an hour and is over rocky terrain, lined with enormous boulders. Awaiting at the end is the most awe-inspiring view of the three iconic granite towers and glacial lagoon.
Hiking Distance: 8-10 hours long, 12 miles (19.5 kms)
Difficulty: High level of difficulty
Altitude: Starting altitude: 390ft (120m) Highest altitude: 2854ft (870m)
Accommodation: Overnight in Central Sector (Camping or Refugios available)
Day 3: Trekking to Francés Sector
Walk along the quiet mount shores of Lake Nordenskjöld, at the base of the magnificent Mount Almirante Nieto and its hanging glaciers. You will be drawn to the beauty of these enormous summits looming over the turquoise lake below and will want to capture the incredible scenery forever in a photo. The lake is surrounded by amazing geographical contrasts, home to many birds, so we recommend you look out for condors overhead. You will then continue along the Arriero River, which offers great places to relax and refill your bottle with fresh running water. Once you reach the highest viewpoint you will be able to see the lake, in its full glory, and the French Glacier hanging from the Paine Grande Mountain.
Hiking Distance: 4.5 - 6.5 hours, 8 Miles (13.5 kms)
Difficulty: Medium-level difficulty
Altitude: Starting altitude: Total altitude gain 650ft (200m)
Accommodation: One night in the French Sector (Camping or Refugios available)
Day 4: Trekking to Francés Valley
The day begins with a wonderful hike into the Francés Valley. Along the way you will enjoy the peace and quiet of pure nature, be surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and feel totally immersed in wild vegetation.
You will savor in the serenity of the forests and the glacial streams, where you can fill your bottle with pure, freshwater. And you will marvel at the majestic Los Cuernos Mountains, looming overhead.
The grand finale of this trek is like no other, a lookout with incredible views of the Francés Glacier and the rest of the Paine Massif Mountain Range.
Hiking Distance: 8 - 10 hours, 12.7 Miles (20.5 kms)
Difficulty: High-level difficulty
Altitude: Starting altitude: Starting altitude: 390ft (120m) Highest altitude: 2,500ft (762m)
Accommodation: Overnight in Paine Grande (Camping or Refugios available)
Day 5: Trekking to Grey Sector - Lake Pehoé Navigation - Puerto Natales
On the final part of this amazing trekking circuit the trail undulates between rocky areas and native forests that are home to many species of birds. Walking along the base of the Park’s tallest mountain, Paine Grande(3,050mt / 10,000ft), the nonstop views of hanging glaciers spilling over the mountaintop will feel some what surreal. Leaving the tree cover, you’ll reach the first lookout over Lake Grey and slowly start seeing more and more pieces of floating glacier. The larger they get, the smaller you ́ll feel. Finally you will see the breath taking view of Grey Glacier and all her glory.
When your adventure comes to an end, a catamaran on Lake Pehoé and a bus will take you to Puerto Natales.
Hiking Distance: 8 - 10 hours, 13.5 Miles (22 kms)
Altitude: Starting altitude: Starting altitude: 137ft (43m) Highest altitude: 1,025ft (313m)
Accommodation: Return to Puerto Natales - From here you can overnight and rest or continue on to Punta Arenas where you can catch your flight to a new destination or return home.
Check out all of our trip packages in Patagonia HERE!
Subscribe To OUR Newsletter
Stay up to date on whats new, and exclusive deals!
Lonely Plan-it: how to organize a hike on Chile’s famous W Trek in 2023
Jan 14, 2023 • 8 min read
Tackling the W Trek in Chile’s Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is a challenge and a thrill © sharptoyou / Shutterstock
In this series, we take you step by step through how we planned some of the most complicated travel adventures, so you can recreate them yourself with ease. Here, writer Sarah Reid takes you through how she planned her hike on Chile’s famous W Trek.
Tracing the foothills of the snow-capped Paine Massif in southern Chile ’s famous Parque Nacional Torres del Paine , the W Trek one of the world’s most epic multi-day tramps. Named for the shape sketched by the 80km (50-mile) trail, the W Trek immerses you in some of Patagonia’s most mesmerizing scenery, with turquoise lakes, oozing glaciers, gnarled subpolar forests and wildlife spotting opportunities aplenty (you might even spot a puma).
While it’s easy to follow the well-trodden if not always well-marked trail, planning the expedition is complicated by the numerous ways to access the route and the multiple reservations required before you set out. Having recently experienced the trail in two different ways, I’ve figured out all the tricks you’ll need to plan one of the most memorable hikes of your life. Here’s what I learned.
Step 1: Time it right
Find the best mix of good weather and accommodation availability.
Hiking the W Trek hinges on the availability of the half-dozen currently operational refugios (hostels with limited dorm beds, a restaurant, hot showers and campsites) dotted along the route, which can book out months in advance during the November-to-February peak season. This is the warmest time of the year comes with the added bonus of long daylight hours – but it can also be very windy. The less-busy shoulder seasons (March to April and September to October) offer increased camping availability and more agreeable weather (potentially; this is Patagonia, after all). A guide is required for a wintertime hike (May to August, when refugios are closed). Wildlife, including pumas, can be spotted year-round.
To get to Torres del Paine, you’ll need to travel to the small, beautifully situated gateway city of Puerto Natales . You can fly here (or to nearby Punta Arenas ) from Santiago , take a four-day ferry trip from Puerto Montt or travel overland from Argentina (a 5.5-hour bus ride from El Calafate to Puerto Natales). From Puerto Natales, expect a two-hour bus ride to the eastern end of the W Trek, and a three-hour bus ride followed by a 45-minute ferry to the western end.
Step 2: Decide which direction to hike in
You can start or finish your trek with one of the hike’s most epic views.
The W Trek can be hiked from east to west or vice versa, independently or guided, and you can take as many days as you like (pending refugio availability). Hikers with a good level of fitness will find it’s an achievable four-day independent hike. Factor in an extra day to add a glacier kayaking or ice-trekking excursion departing from Refugio Grey (arrange in advance; more on this below).
The benefits of hiking east to west include frequent daily bus services from Puerto Natales (from 7am) to the trailhead. You’ll also knock off the challenging hike to Mirador las Torres , at the base of the three granite towers that give the national park its name, on the first day. Hiking in this direction also means you don’t have to worry about securing a spot on the first ferry of the day across Lago Pehoé to access the western end of the W (critical for a four-day itinerary), as ferry tickets can’t be booked in advance. The early ferry (9am) only operates from November to March.
The beauty of hiking west to east is the opportunity to spend your last night at Refugio Chileno, making it easier to catch the sunrise at Mirador Las Torres on your final day and be back in Puerto Natales by dinnertime (finishing at Paine Grande gets you back to town closer to 10pm). With Patagonia known for its strong westerlies, hiking eastward also keeps the wind at your back for most of the journey.
Step 3: Consider your booking options
Reserve your accommodation, transit and park pass in advance to simplify your life.
This is where it gets tricky. The two refugios at the trail’s western end (Paine Grande and Grey) are operated by Vertice Patagonia , which also runs glacier trekking and kayaking tours. The other four refugios (Francés, Cuernos, Chileno and Central; there’s an additional bunkhouse near Central called Torre Norte) are operated by Las Torres Patagonia . You can book preferred campsites and dorm beds (some refugios also have rooms) separately through their websites, or make reservations at camps run by both operators in a single booking via Booking Patagonia .
Meals, pre-pitched tents, sleeping bags and mats can be prebooked for additional fees, pushing the cost of a four-day hike from as little as $62 (camping costs only; wild camping is forbidden) to around $400 if you book all the extras (and it’s worth doing so if you’re not keen on carrying all your supplies, including cooking equipment). Booking bus tickets to and from Puerto Natales in advance is also recommended; Bus Sur services both ends of the trail.
An easier if more expensive option is to book an all-inclusive package. These come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from classic unguided through-hikes, to hikes along sections of the trail each day with a guide then shuttling back to an off-trail camp or lodge each night. (Note that it’s difficult to complete all legs of the W Trek as day hikes given the volume of backtracking required to the two exit points.) Local operators offering good-value unguided through-hike packages with an east-west itinerary (about $1000) include Chile Nativo and ChileTour Patagonia . Las Torres Patagonia and Vertice Patagonia also offer packages with accommodation at their own properties (a through-hike is only possible with the former). International operators including G Adventures and World Expeditions also offer through-hike packages.
You’ll also need to book a multi-day national park pass via the CONAF website ($35), which will be checked at the entrance to the park.
Step 4: Prep for the adventure
Find the perfect gear for your adventure.
With the entire trail located between 100-900m (330-2600ft) above sea level, there’s no altitude to factor in on the W Trek. But it’s the ever-changing Patagonian weather, along with the uneven, often-exposed trail, that will likely test you. Layers are key, and a waterproof jacket, rain pants and pack cover are essential year-round.
Expect to have next-to-no cellular reception throughout the journey. Wi-fi coupons are available for sale at refugios (provided the router is working) but it’s more fun to stay disconnected and mingle with fellow hikers at the bar instead; every refugio has one. Be mindful when packing that everything you carry into the national park must come out with you – the only rubbish bins at refugios are designed for toilet paper. With a limited number of power points in refugios for charging devices, packing spare batteries is a good idea.
Step 5: Nail the trail
Be adaptable to conditions to get the most out of your journey.
Days on the trail can be long on a four-day hike; set out by 8am in autumn and spring to arrive in camp well before nightfall. If you’ve booked meals, most refugios have two sittings; book the first sitting when you arrive in camp each day to ensure an early night, and early start the next morning.
On foggy days, reconsider rising early to hike to Mirador las Torres for sunrise. You might also wish to reassess the mostly uphill return hike from Mirador Francés to Mirador Británico (the middle arm of the “W”) in poor weather, though I hiked the latter in average conditions and enjoyed it, particularly as I spotted a pair of endangered huemul deer right below Mirador Británico. Consider leaving non-essentials in a dry bag at Italiano (a CONAF-run camp not currently open for overnight stays) on your way up, as you’ll pass this camp again on your way back down.
If you’re making good time between Paine Grande and Valle Francés (French Valley), consider veering off the main path to hike the lesser-tramped alternative trail around the slightly more scenic eastern side of Lago Skottsberg, which adds about 30 minutes to the trip. Turn left at the first bridge after Italiano if you’re coming from the east, and head right at the fork after the first bridge you cross if you’re coming from Paine Grande.
If I could do it all again…
I booked a last-minute four-day through-hike package on my first W Trek experience. I hiked east to west in March 2022, and camped at Central, Cuernos and Paine Grande, and this itinerary was perfect for me. I’ve since hiked sections of the trail on a guided multi-day, multi-sport tour with Chile Nativo, with superb perspectives on Torres del Paine that complemented my first experience.
If I were to do the W Trek again, I’d aim to tackle the extended version of the trail called the O Circuit, ideally in late September, as I found the weather superb and the crowds thin when I visited then. I’d cut costs by making independent bookings, and I’d book my meals again (though extra comforts are not available at all refugios on the O Circuit).
Since my feet were soaking from the second day onward, I’d also wear waterproof boots; pack fewer snacks, as the boxed lunches were sufficient; and go easier on the Carménère (Chilean red wine) at the refugio bars. Did I mention you can order pisco sours, too?
Buy Epic Hikes of the World (Hardback)
With stories of 50 incredible hiking routes in 30 countries, from New Zealand to Peru, plus a further 150 suggestions, this book will inspire a lifetime of adventure on foot.
Explore related stories
Oct 25, 2023 • 19 min read
We've released our Best in Travel 2024 list of the top destinations and experiences for next year. Find out the best time to make these dream trips a reality.
Aug 26, 2023 • 7 min read
Jan 31, 2022 • 11 min read
Jan 25, 2022 • 8 min read
Aug 9, 2020 • 5 min read
Mar 31, 2020 • 4 min read
Mar 30, 2020 • 17 min read
Jan 15, 2020 • 6 min read
Aug 20, 2019 • 0 min read
Aug 20, 2019 • 2 min read
How to hike the W in Torres del Paine, Chile (Trekking Guide)
The W in Torres del Paine is the most popular multi-day hike as you come to see most of the highlights of the park. If you have a look at the map of the trail you'll quickly realize why it is called the W trek. (updated: August 2018)
I'll first explain the standard route and then give examples of longer & shorter itineraries. Please plan your trips always regarding to your physical ability and your experience. If you have no or just a bit of hiking experience keep it low and plan more time for each trek. [divider] How to hike the W in Torres del Paine – Quick Links (use the anchor links to jump to the section, use „Top“ to get back to this menu)
- Preparation for the hike
- The W in 5 days, 4 nights
- The W in 4 days, 3 nights
- The W in 6 days, 5 nights
- Guided Trekking Tours
- Video of my experience
To prepare for trekking in Torres del Paine checkout my other post named ‘How to prepare for hiking in Torres del Paine' with information about transport, accommodation in Pto. Natales, Gear and prices. Moreover I recommend a good health & travel insurance: the one I used from WorldNomads is perfect for this trekking trip as it covers also adventure activities! Please make sure to reserve all camping spots in advance as this trek is the most popular one and visitor numbers increased during the last 3 years. Reservations for Campamento Torres, Italiano and Chileno are mandatory during the official high season from October – April. Please be aware that Campamento Torres is closed due to reconstruction works for the whole 2018-2019 season! If you are too late and not able to make reservations your only chance is to take part in a guided trekking tour or explore the park with day hikes .
2) The W in 5 days, 4 nights (100 km, 139.800 CLP)
This is the perfect schedule for a relaxed time in the park starting with a nice boat trip and the Glacier Grey, finishing with the sunrise at the Torres in the morning of the last day.
After your arrival in Paine Grande start walking to the Refugio Grey – the path goes uphill, along the Lago Grey with some lookouts on the way. The whole trek will take around 3-4 hours so you'll arrive in the afternoon, can setup your tent (5.000 CLP) and have dinner. If you have some time left you can go down to the beach and maybe touch some icebergs.
Get up early, leave your stuff at the camp and just take a daypack to hike up to Paso (at 8:00 a.m.). After around 1-1,5hours you'll reach a former campsite (signs with “no camping”) with a lookout nearby (you can see a small path which leads to the platform, hard to find!) – time to enjoy the view to the Glacier for a while (9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.). Now you can decide if you want to continue a bit more into the direction of Paso or keep it shorter. The good thing about the way to Paso: you'll have great views to the Glacier and see a bit more of the massive southern icefield. The downside: it's uphill and adds more km to your trek today (on top of the mentioned 19 km). Do not make all the way up to Paso as it is a pretty long walk (you have to get back to Paine Grande today on time to be fit for the next day).
After your return to Refugio Grey at around lunchtime (12 / 1 p.m.) pack your stuff and head back down (at around 1 / 2 p.m.) to Paine Grande where you spent the night (6.000 CLP), it will take around 3-4 hours – make sure to find a nice place next to the little hill to avoid a bit of the massive winds down there.
Today is a long & tough day, so get up early again and walk (start at 8:00 a.m.) to Campamento Italiano (around 2 hours = 10 a.m.), leave your big backpack at the camp and head to the Mirador Frances with your daypack (take lunch, water, suncream). After 2,5 hours you'll reach the Mirador and have lunch (12:30 pm.m.). Go back down to Italiano, grab your backpack and keep going to Los Cuernos (03:00 / 3:30 p.m.). After another 2 hours you should reach the campsite (at 5:00/5:30 p.m. – 70000 CLP). Alternatively you make it a short (and much cheaper) day by spending the night at Campamento Francés (13.000 CLP).
On your last full day you have a nice hike ahead – starting flat and going up at the end to the base of the Torres. Start your walk around 9 a.m. to Campamento Chileno. The trail goes along the Lago Nordernskjöld, after around 3,5 hours you'll reach the shortcut to Chileno (it's hard to miss as there is a big sign saying “shortcut to Chileno”). Another 2 hours later you'll arrive at the Refugio Chileno (around 2:30 p.m. / 3 p.m.) you can make a short break and afterwards head uphill to the free campsite Campamento Torres, this will take around 1 hour. After setting up your tent use the chance to visit the Torres for the first time – it's a 45 min walk uphill. Remember that you can only stay there if you made a reservation beforehand!
Note: Unfortunately Campamento Torres will be closed for the 2018-2019 season due to maintenance work – therefore you need to switch plans to camp at Chileno (pretty pricey) or down at Campamento Las Torres (next to Hotel Las Torres). You should consider doing the sunrise hike only if you stay at Chileno and calculate 2,5 – 3h to reach the towers.
Go to bed early today as you have to get up very early tomorrow to see the sunrise at the towers. Depending on the time of the sunrise (ask the rangers) set your alarm 1 – 1,5hours before and prepare a daypack with mat, sleeping bag and breakfast as well as rain jacket)
In summer the sunrise is around 6 a.m., therefore leave the camp with your daypack at 5 a.m. to arrive at the Mirador of the Towers on time. Set up your little picnic and enjoy – if you are lucky you'll see amazing colors with a clear view, having the best breakfast ever. If you are not lucky like me you'll have rain and clouds – in that case you'll love the fact that you've been up here the day before. Don't make the fault to skip the way up when it is raining in the camp – the weather changes really quick and you might regret it later. Go for it anyway as it is your last day and it doesn't matter if your sleeping bag gets wet up there 😉
After your return take down your tent, pack your stuff and leave the camp at around 9 a.m. Head down to the Hotel Las Torres – it'll take around 3 hours to arrive there. Depending on the time you arrive (should be 12 p.m.) you can decide if you want to walk from the Hotel to the entrance (1 hour, 7,5km along the road) or pay 2.800 CLP extra to take the minibus which leaves around 2 p.m. The Bus back to Puerto Natales leaves at 2:30 p.m. from the entrance as already described in the preparation Guide .
Congratulations! You've done the W in Torres del Paine and with that around 100 km by foot.
3) The W in 4 days, 3 nights (100 km, around 134.800 CLP)
If you are short on time but good in shape you can also do the whole ‘W' in one day less. For this you simply make Day 1 and Day 2 in one day. With this you have a real challenging program right at the start.
Day 1: Puerto Natales – Refugio Grey – Paine Grande (28 -30 km, 15.000 CLP + 21.000 CLP + 20.000 CLP + 6.000 CLP) Leave Puerto Natales with the early bus (15.000 CLP return ticket) and get off at Pudeto (next stop after the park entrance – fee: 21.000 CLP) where you catch the catamaran to Paine Grande (20.000 CLP). Use the waiting time to visit the waterfall nearby (ask for the time of the boat before leaving). After your arrival in Paine Grande leave your stuff at the camp and just take a daypack to hike up to the Refugio Grey – the path goes uphill, along the Lago Grey with some lookouts on the way. The whole trek will take around 3-4 hours so you'll arrive in the afternoon (4 p.m.). Keep walking in the direction of Paso.
After around 1-1,5hours you'll reach a former campsite with a lookout nearby – time to enjoy the view to the Glacier for a while (5 p.m.). Do not continue the way up to Paso as it is a pretty long walk (you have to get back to Paine Grande today to be fit for the next day). After your return to Refugio Grey (6 p.m.) head back down to Paine Grande where you spent the night (6.000 CLP), it will take around 3 hours – make sure to find a nice place next to the little hill for your tent to avoid a bit of the massive winds down there.
Continue with Day 3 of the previous itinerary
4) The W in 6 days, 5 nights (100 km, around 137.000 CLP) – not in 2018/19!
Day 4: Campamento Italiano – Refugio Chileno (19 km, 139.800 CLP) Again you can take it easy. Start your walk around 10 a.m. to Campamento Chileno. The trail goes along the Lago Nordernskjöld, after around 5,5 hours you’ll reach the shortcut to Chileno (it’s hard to miss as there is a big sign saying “shortcut to Chileno”). Another 2 hours later you’ll arrive at the Refugio Chileno (around 5:30 p.m.). Remember that you can only stay here if you made a reservation beforehand!
Day 5: Refugio Chileno – Campamento Torres (8 km, free) As you see you have the most relaxed day ahead because you just move from one campsite to another. Have a slow start and head uphill, set up your tent and use the huge amount of time to spend some hours at the Torres in the afternoon. Also here you mostly need a reservation to camp.
For Day 6 continue with Day 5 of the standard itinerary.
Consider: The free campsite Torres is very popular, therefore you can stay mostly only for one night there.
Get my chile guide incl. tdp itineraries.
6) Guided Trekking Tours
Another option is to book a complete tour – this way you can leave the organization, gear rental, transportation, food and booking of campsites to local experts. Though you pay more you'll get the full package this way including porters and a knowledgable guide. After working with them in Peru I highly recommend the tours offered by G Adventures as their philosophy and focus on sustainable travel are in line with my personal values. With many years of expertise you can expect a well organized, fun trips in small groups with like-minded travelers:
- W-Trek with G Adventures – 6 day trek including meals, guide, camps, tents/hotel, transport and porters
- “O” Circuit-Trek with G Adventures – 11 day full circuit trek (includes the ‘W') including meals, guide, camps, tents/hotel, transport and porters
- Hike Patagonia in depth – active 14 day tour covering the highlights of Patagonia, including the Torres del Paine W trek, El Chaltén (Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre) and El Calafate (Perito Moreno glacier) including meals, guide, camps & tents, hotels, transport and porters
- Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego – active 14 day tour covering the highlights of Patagonia, including the Torres del Paine W trek, El Chaltén (Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre), El Calafate (Perito Moreno glacier) and Ushuaia. This also includes meals, guide, camps & tents, hotels, transport and porters.
7) Video of my experience
In 2016 I revisited Torres del Paine and spent around 2 weeks inside the National Park: first I hiked the full circuit (which includes the “W”), next I stayed at the Hotel Las Torres inside the park for a few more days to explore the several day tour options.
[divider] Info: During my time in Patagonia, I hiked the W, the circuit and the Q. I hiked the “Q” in 2013 and did the circuit again in 2016, altogether I spent 3 weeks in the park. All times here are based on my experience (i hiked all the trails I'm writing about) – I would say I'm a bit faster in hiking than the average hikers but I made some stops in between for taking photographs and filming. The prices mentioned are for camping and per Person. A good hiking map will be provided for free once you enter the park, you should consider getting a waterproof map beforehand for planning purposes. This article is part of a whole series of free guides for Backpacking in South America . [divider]
You hiked the W in Torres del Paine as well? Tell us more!
If you have any tips or hints feel free to join the conversation – post a comment below and share your experience of hiking the W in Torres del Paine! Moreover you can share this article with your friends on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus by using the related buttons on the left. [divider]
Helpful? Pin Me!
Best Day Tours & Day Hikes in Torres del Paine, Chile (Patagonia)
In this article I introduce you to the best day tours & day hikes in Torres del Paine. In contrast to the popular multi-day treks…
Backpacking in Chile (Book) – all Links & Accommodation recommendations
Thanks again for purchasing my travel guide – as promised you can find all related links in this article, sorted by chapter. Each URL will…
Top 10 Places to visit along the Carretera Austral in Chile
The Carretera Austral in Chile is definitely the highlight of Patagonia as this 1,200 km long road takes you to the most impressive corners of…
Trekking Guide: How to hike the Circuit in Torres del Paine, Patagonia (Chile)
If you are in Patagonia you should spent as much time as possible out there in the nature. Therefore the Circuit Trail in Torres del…
Trekking Guide: How to prepare for hiking in Torres del Paine, Patagonia (Chile)
Here you’ll find all info needed on how to prepare for hiking in Torres del Paine in Patagonia, Chile. Even the Lonely Planet considers the…
Backpacking in Argentina – my Argentina Travel Guide
My Argentina Travel Guide helps you to plan your trip to Argentina and explore the most incredible places this country has to offer from Salta…
103 thoughts on “How to hike the W in Torres del Paine, Chile (Trekking Guide)”
Nice detailed information (the most comprehensive I have seen). I am a little slow at hiking – perhaps I will consider W in 6 or 7 nights…
Thanks – and you’re right, you should always follow your own ‘blues’. Fortunately the treks in Torres del Paine are really nice to walk and every day more you spend in the park is worth it!
The views are so gorgeous!
That’s true, Andrea – I loved it and made a lot stops in between to enjoy it!
Very helpful description with some nice details and tips. I enjoyed reading it.
Thx Udo – I’m glad you found it helpful, the german version follows as well as the other itineraries!
I did the W in early December 2008 and this blog would have been really helpful – great attention to detail! I highly recommend taking your time, bringing your own food, camping, and enjoying the one of the most beautiful, natural, and pristine parts of Chile! You dont even have to bring water, the streams are clean and plentiful to fill up your water bottle. P.s. Stay a night or two after your trek in Punta Natales to relax loads of local cafes and hostals with delicious food. ERRATIC ROCK is a hostal & travel advice/camping rental, etc.is outstanding.
Thx Jen – I tried to put all information needed into this handy guide to help others in planning their trip. The Erratic Rock is a great hikers place – I’ve been there and had a few chats with fellow outdoor lovers, moreover they offer the free 3 o’clock talk where you’re able to get the latest information about the park & weather!
I’m looking forward to it!
Hello Steve – Thank you so much for the wonderful write-up and videos. They are amazing and I cannot wait to get there next month. One question, if bringing our own tents and planning to stay at campsites, do we need to reserve the campsites in advance? Thanks so much, the information has been invaluable. Sincerely, Bowen
I never did and there should be no need – I was there in high season and never had any troubles!
i was searching through web about those trails in Torres del Paine but more i searched, more i was confused.
Thank you for this! Nice explained.. with all informations i need.
Just back from a memorable experience on the “W”. You were with us the whole time as I printed out your itinerary/advice for the 5 day/4 night. We would often ask, “What would Steve do?” 😉 I wanted to share a couple of things from our trip: 1. An alternative itinerary for 5 days/4 nights and 2. Inform future backpackers of TDP about Big Foot Tours at Glacier Grey. (Disclaimer: my wife and I were unconditioned/unexperienced backpackers, who were slow, and had 35 lb packs.) On day 2, we decided to push past Refugio Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano. Refugio Paine Grande was a great stop for snacks and rest, but the camp was crowded and windy from the lake. Waking up at Campamento Italiano made the day hike to Valle del Frances way more enjoyable. After our day hike to Valle del Frances, we stayed at the brand new (Dec. 1, 2014) Refugio Frances, which is about 1 hour from Campo Italiano. The next day we decided to push it to Campamento Torres, which made for a long hiking day. However, we were able to rest at both Campamento Cuernes and Refugio Chileno before arriving late at Campamento Torres. We went to bed with rain and woke at 3:45 AM to a starry sky and a picture perfect sunrise unveiling the towers. As for the Big Foot Tours at Glacier Grey, it is a company that provides kayaking and ice hiking/climbing on the glacier. We only learned about it when we got to the camp, so I don’t know how expensive it is or any details. However, in hindsight, I think I would have stayed an extra day in the park and experienced Glacier Grey by kayak or ice climbing/hiking and eliminated the mad rush to the Perito Moreno Glacier … call me crazy. Thanks again Steve!
That. is. amazing! Thanks so much & also for the great advice you gave here to improve this guide with your new tips (great to see they opened another refugio and finished the work at Italiano!).
You made my day, Brian. Thanks for your lovely feedback 🙂
Hi Michael – sorry for the late response!
It is pretty much as you intend to do – just show up there and get everything sorted. Though I recommend to bring at least some own gear to save some money.
When you stopover in Punta Arenas you could consider to spend a day there and head to the “zona franca” which is a toll free zone where you can buy especially outdoor gear for good prices (apart from that South America is quite expensive if you want quality equipment).
Bus tickets can be bought at most hostels, I’d suggest a day in Pto Natales to buy your supplies in the big supermarket. No need for reservations at the campsites.
For the rest just follow my advice in the “How to Prepare for hiking Torres del Paine” guide which I linked to at the beginning of this article.
One final note: I’ve done a lot of trekking and especially the W is not really a big deal in matters of difficulty 😉
Thank you so much Steve! I appreciate it all of your advice. Do you have any suggestions of specific gear you would take vs rent? Also, can you find propane gas blends in Puerto Natales (my stove is tiny if I can find fuel)? I have debated just taking my own backpack loaded with gear because I know it so well and it’s light and reliable. However, when I traveled alone to Peru I just took a small backpack carry-on for two weeks and love traveling light. My gut says to just rent it all and go light but this is a dream trip and I want to be comfortable.
I don’t know about the special stove you have – I just had gas cans and a mount to put on which was quite cheap and easy to handle.
I took all my own gear – I think you could consider renting the tent and maybe some walking sticks – I’d not feel very comfortable in a rented sleeping bag :/
Hi Steve, echoing others thank you so much for an actual comprehensive guide on how to tackle the W trek. We are never particularly organised when travelling so we have just looked at booking places in the campsite (we are hiring or bringing all camping equipment) and the two owned by vertice say they are not available – we are planning to trek from 26th – 30th November West to East. You write that there is no need to book? Is this right, I’m not sure what the protocol is if you turn up and there’s no space. Where do you stay then?
Thank you for all your help thus far and in the future!
I assume that the answer from Vertice is related to the availability of tents or spaces to rent from them. Those are indeed limited – if you take your own tent there should always be space to put it as the campgrounds are quite huge. Even in high season I always found a spot to camp.
If you want to be on the safe side and get the best spots you should try to head to your next campground early in the morning to ensure early arrival.
Sure – if you want to use the tents which are already setup at the spots you should always check with the company who is renting it. Especially at the W it can get crowded in high season. Then you should also check with the Refugios if they can accommodate you.
Have fun trekking there!
Hi! I have a little question. So I have booked the camp sites for my w trek already for the middle of december. I am a bit unsure about trekking it because I will be trekking by myself and don’t know if this is unsafe because of the weather conditions. Should I consider staying in the Refugio’s or just booking something when I turn up to p natales? I don’t want to have to have to carry a tent around so will it be better for me to just organize something once I arrive there? Also thanks for all the tips!
Hey Bella, first of all the W is not really a very tough hike..so you should be fine. You’ll also meet fellow hikers on the way as it is the most popular route. Beside Refugios you also have the chance to rent a tent (you can book it in advance via the website of the operator). Generally you can also just turn up in Natales and organize most of the stuff there. Have fun!
Hi Leo – if you can’t make the early bus then you won’t be able to get to Refugio Grey as you need to take into account the bus ride to the park, the boat ride…and the 11km hike. This won’t work – so you need to figure out another itinerary (maybe hike my itinerary backwards – but please check with the boat times to get back to Pto.Natales on the last day!)
Hi Sen – here are my answers:
1) usually the space is always limited and it is a first come first serve base – in march you should be totally fine. Even in February I never had problems but arrived also mostly quite early with my moderate hiking pace.
2) the one from fantastico sur is located at the hotel las torres down in the valley – the free one is called campamento torres and is operated by CONAF, it is located only 40mins away from the highlight of the park
3) I haven’t done that one but indeed there are companies who offer this. I also know that the Hotel Las Torres offers a shuttle service for guests to El Calafate. Here you can find more info: https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/ShowTopic-g670171-i12474-k7508911-Tranferring_between_TdeP_and_El_Calafate_specific_companies-Torres_del_Paine_National_Park.html
Hi Steve. Just wondering how easy / difficult it is to navigate the routes. Are they signposted or do you need maps and compasses. Just don’t know if my compass will work in South America.
We will buy a map but just wanted to know if it is quite straightforward to find the various routes.
It is super easy, everything is well marked..it is actually more difficult to get lost than it is to stay on the path 😉
Great post, not easy to find reliable information on w trail. What’s the difficulty level of the w trail? I’ve looked at the denivelation and it doesn’t seem that bad so I would say mostly easy to medium in some sections. The trail doesn’t look that technical from looking at the pictures.
I’m looking at doing it in 3 days of hiking.
Day 1 get to Paine Grande from Puerto Natales. Day 2 Paine Grande to Paso John Grander (with day pack) and back. Day 3 Paine Grande to Mirrador Frances to Refugio Chileno Day 4 Refugio Chileno to Base of the towers to Las Torres (catch bus to El Calafate)
Is this realistic? My estimation is that I’m looking at 10 hours of hiking per day and I’m looking to rent tent (do you know if they are good?) and mat at refugio, the rest I will carry as well as food.
Your schedule is a bit to tight, especially for the 3rd day. You are right about the level but you should take the distances into account. Also you might want to take pictures!? Maybe you could try to do a bit more on Day 3 and not hike up all the way to Paso (only halfway gives you great views too).
The tents are good but limited – check with the links provided to reserver your spot ahead!
So i did the w and can confirm that 3 days is a bit thight, i ended up doing it in 4 days. Although I have to say that the part from lago grey to paso camp is stunning, you can stop at mid point after the second bridge but the other part i think is worth it as you walk on the edge of the the mountain and not in the forrest. Also brittano lookout is a must.
Cool – thanks for coming back and sharing your experience! Sounds like you had a great time & maybe you come back one day to try the whole circuit 😉
I will be hiking the W trek during the last week of march. Do you think the above information would still be applicable? And does the catamaran, and bus schedules change? I have email these sources and it has been slow awaiting a response.
I updated the information recently – so it should still be the same. The schedule of the catamaran can be found on the website which i linked above. Have fun!
at the time you want to do the W it shouldn’t be a problem as the high season is over by then. Be aware of the fact that you are only allowed to camp in the camp spots, wild camping is strictly forbidden! Have fun hiking there.
Hi Steve I am planning the W around Christmas. I am wondering if the buses will be running the 24, 25, 26? Or if you can be on the trail during those dates. Thankyou you so much!
Sure you can – make sure to consult the bus companies in Puerto Natales for the exact departure times!
Any advice for someone doing this trek in the dead of winter? (Late July and Early August)
We are planning to hike the W the end of Jan 2017. What are the Pros/Cons of going East to West as you suggest vs. West to East?
1) There are no pro’s and con’s – you can do as you wish 2) There are free campsite, I just added information about how to reserve those to that section in the “how to prepare for hiking torres del paine” article (linked at the top of this one) 3) You’d need to hike to the next campsite 5) Paid sites should be reserved as well, it is the same situation as in the free sites 4) Get in touch with them via eMail or call them
Please consider that I only provide information here but I’m not affiliated with any of the mentioned companies nor CONAF. I hope I could help you planning your trip!
Hi! My friend and I are doing the W in 4 days, and 3 nights December 11-14, 2016. We are planning on going west to east, beginning at Lago Grey. Our plan was to camp for all 3 nights, first at Refugio Paine Grande, then at Los Cuernos, and the third night at Refugio Chilenos. However, Fantastico Sur only books campsites at Paine Grande and Los Cuernos that include full board, making the price per night for a campsite very expensive, around $90 US Dollars per night! Was this the case when you booked these 2 campsites, and what company did you book through? Additionally, how did you book your free campsites through CONAF? I have not been able to find an official website where we can reserve the free sites. Thanks for your help, and I hope to hear from you soon!
I had the same problem! very confusing…
Hey, please consider that I’m not affiliated in any way with fantastico sur, vertice nor CONAF..so I can’t really give you information about their capacities or why they only offer certain packages.
Finally a reservation system for the free campsites has ben implemented. I already updated the info in the post above 🙂
Have fun hiking TdP!
We are planning on going from West to East as well this weekend. I just got word they are only allowing hiking from East to West. Have you heard of this?
Where did you hear this? I just booked campsites for west to east and didn’t realize how expensive it would be with the CONAF sites all full.
It’s not true. I was able to hike from west to east with no issues. I just finished the hike last week (nov 2016).
Thanks for sharing your experience, lisa. The restriction of direction only applies for the full circuit!
That might be true for the O trail (think I read something about that while doing my research).
Hello! Thank you so much for this info, my boyfriend and I are planning on following this exact route when we trek the W in December. One question I have – when I attempted to book camping at the Los Cuernos refugio campsite (on the fantastico sur website), the only options available are camping + full board, which works out to be around $180 USD per person, per night! as in there is no option just to camp, as it says in your itinerary. Is there another place to camp that you would recommend on the third night of the trek, if we are working off the 4N/5D itinerary you have provided?
please get in touch with the company directly as they run the campsites & spaces are limited. Another option could be the newly opened campamento frances.
Have fun in Chile!
Cheers, will do 🙂
there are regular buses from Punta Arenas to Pto Natales at that time, please check with the local bus companies (e.g. Bus Sur).
Gas – As far as I remember the shops were still open at that time, if not you could head to the Hostel “Base Camp” and ask if you can buy gas there (they also give away half filled gas cans for free).
Enjoy your trip!
Hi Steve, I can just echo what others have said, that your posts and videos are really amazing! We’ve been very inspired and are now really looking forward to our trip. I’d like to know what you think about going from Italiano to Torres in 1 day. We want to take the free campsites as the Refugio campsites require one to take “fullboard” which becomes quite expensive!
Hi and thank you for this great guide!!! I am booking my sites for the w trek now. On the fantastico website, I can’t find the campsite for 8,500 pesos. I can only see “platforms” including food for 82$US. I don’t want anything fancy, just a spot to drop my tent. It also says you can’t cook there. Am I looking at the wrong part of the website? I’m looking under camping and all that loads is the 82$US one, could you please send me a link to the website for the camping spaces at 8,500pesos? Not to put the pressure on you, but I need to get this done ASAP. Also, please let me know if there is anything you would like me to look out for for your blog, it is incredibly helpful to have people like you helping out other trekkers and if there is anything I can do to add to your blog, please don’t hesitate to ask, I’d be happy to contribute to this awesome blog!! Thanks Steve!! Keep it up!
Hey Owen…it seems you’re a bit late for getting the cheap camping spots as the demand right now is very high. Try to look into alternatives by planning a longer stretch at one of the days (e.g. you could do Francés or Italiano instead of los Cuernos). Have fun trekking!
Hi Steve, Thanks for the reply! I ended having to get a bed in Curenos as Italiano, Frances, Cuernos were all booked up. I have a few tips to share, but they unconventional…please feel free to delete my comments if you don’t want your readers using these tips. First let me explain what happened on my trek and shy I have no problem doing things a bit shady. I met a lady in my hostel who was doing the w at the same time as me. The only difference was that she had rented tents at the sites and booked meals so as not to carry all her gear…personally, I wanted to “do it myself” (even though this involves booking sites in advance). The only day where we had differences were: Cuernos, I had had to book a bunk bed (55$US!) and she had a tent set up for her…we asked about trading as I prefer to sleep outside and they had no problem with that..so all was good. The following night, I had had to book at the torres campsite near the park entrance and she a reservation at Chileano. We asked the guys at Cuernos if it would be possible for us to share her tent as we had both already paid, this would mean an easier trek in the morning for sunrise at the Torres. We arrived at chileano and all was good until they mentioned that I had to buy food from them, Supper, breakfast and a take away lunch…for 41000 pesos (80$Can, most of what I spent to date on the trip), I explained that I had my food and didn’t even need to cook, it was just a can of tuna and bread for supper, oats and powdered milk for breakfast, no fire or any put out for them. I was told no and had to hike down to the bottom, get up at 1:30am, come back up, met my friend at Chileano and proceed to the top. Not the worlds worst situation, but really made me feel like all they cared about was the $$$ (these are private, monopoly companies remember), so my tips are how to pay as little as possible (we should have just lied, said nothing and we could have shared her tent easily). So, when booking, reserve for one person, don’t bother paying for two, they won’t know or check. Also every site I slept in, never once checked my sticker on my tent, so anyone can just drop their tent and sleep for free in the pay sites. I thought the hike was great, but the owners of the properties were clearly in it for a cash grab with no concern for their property respecting the environmental rules, ie garbage not properly disposed of, human waste not properly disposed of…in short these places should be shut down, they are destroying what is a gorgeous parcel of land (they market it as the 8th wonder to increase tourism, with no means of handling the overflow of people, garbage, and human waste that I saw being dumped into a river), so do what you can to screw them out of money, they are already making a killing but seem to feel they have the right to squeeze out more at the expense of the environment (most trekkers I met were flabbergasted when I should them a picture of an employee dumping garbage/waste). Thanks again for a great blog…I am going back to complete the O, this time with no reservations and no money on me…hopefully I won’t get kicked out, but I’m leaving the country directly so I don’t care what they say.
Thanks for sharing your experience. It is indeed a big problem that tourism increased so much in the past 3 years. This is why I try to have an impact with this blog and tell people how to behave in an environment like this. The whole W is beautiful but very packed and at times it can be frustrating..this is a whole different on the circuit route as it is way calmer and you’ll trek with people who also care about the nature and behave accordingly.
One thing: they actually check the stickers of your tent at night, this is when they go through the camp with a tiny torch light and make notes about tents without stickers!
You should really go for the O – it’s the best option. Next time I’ll head down there I try to do the O in winter with some local friends who are rangers in the Park 😉
Good to know about the sticker checkers…I’ll let you know if I have any problems on the O trail….still going without trying to pay….would happily pay if I felt the money was going to protecting the park, but that is clearly not the case. Please post my bail if I don’t write back in a week! lol
Thanks for the notes, let us know how it goes! I was also disappointed that we had to pay extra for food, when all we wanted was a campsite at el chileano (or torres). I guess a lighter load will be nice.
I might have tried your tip to of only booking 1 person tents, but they probably would notice some people not getting food. Fantasico Sur told me they are doing it to limit the number of people, but I agree they are just using their monopoly to make more.
Did you try to sneak into the free Campamento Torres at the top? I’m guessing there’s space for more tents, they just don’t want to overbook by a large margin. But if they are checking stickers…
Here’s my question – for our middle night we could only book 1 tent at Camp Frances. We booked a placeholder spot at the large Camping Central (Torres) 4 hours away. We hope that will get us into the park since we have all a spot for all night. I wonder how hard it will be to sneak our extra tent into a campsite close to Frances. Would they force us to hike all the way to Central since that’s what is reserved?
well im not admin, so I dont know that it’s my place to say. here’s what I saw. I did not stop at frances (our route was sleep at grey, sleep at grande paine, sleep at cuenos, sleep at chileano/torres (bottom near the entrance), so I could not say with any degree of certainty about sneaking a tent into Frances, not enough room to share the tent booked? In curenos, the tents that I saw were on platorms, so sneaking would be difficult and obvious (unless there was an area for tents on the ground that I didn’t notice). I did join my friend in the dinning hall and just said I was not eating, got me a confused look from the waitress, but no more than that. My suggestion would be to sleep in the same tent as much as possible as it is far less obvious. I have no idea about the sticker checking….if they did check and make notes, no one questioned me about it on the 3 nights that I slept in my tent (reserved, paid for and checked in, but in my own tent, no way for them to know who was sleeping in it or who had paid etc.) My thoughts on this are to go sneaky as much as possible, wait for the trails to be closed (one couple did see a Puma on one of the trails at night), so you can claim fear of being eaten by a wild animal and that should keep you in your tent til morning. Even if you get kicked along, they would need a ranger to accompany you the whole way to the entrance or exit (you can claim lost passport or something to avoid giving up who you are). Bottom line, they are greedy people and deserve to lose as much $ as possible, please do obey all other park rules, no litter, no smoking, stay on the trails, no fires, etc. The only thing I would do against the rules is not pay for my camping, but still use good judgement and camp only in designated areas. Hope this is of some kind of help…..just burns me that they take such a great place and turn it into a money scheme…or that there are hikers who don’t respect the awesomeness that they are getting to see by camping outside grounds, littering or generally doing other stupid things. Enjoy the hiking and please let the rest of the forum know how it turns out. The best thing is to let as many people responsibly enjoy the park while doing minimal damage to keep it going for 100’s of years to come! Stay safe!
Hi Owen, Were you able to do the O trek? Especially curious on your methods of camping.
Thanks for the post! I will be hiking the W in a couple of weeks, and unfortunately left my hiking boots at home. Do I need a pair of hiking boots or will my Nike running shoes be okay? I am in good hiking shape.
Hiking boots would be better but for most parts of it you should be fine with your Nike if it isn’t raining 😉
Hi Steve! Thank you for sharing your experience. Could give me your advice on my issue? I’m planning the W from west to east but… I didn’t check bus timetable nor catamaran’s when booking my flight, and I will land on the 20th morning (9am) and leave on the 25th (10am). It means that I can take the bus in the afternoon and the boat at 6pm. Maybe I can start the trek before the night? I’m not used to trek, I wanna be realistic in my daily walk distance. I checked your suggestions and also some comments, but not sure what’s the best. Could you help me on that? Thank you in advance 🙂
a fantastic guide for those looking to hike the W. thank you! we hiked 6 days/5 nights staying at Grey, Paine Grande, Italiano, Cuernos, and Torres, making only adjustments to the itinerary above. we parked a rental car at Estancia Cerro, near Hotel Las Torres (where the trek ends), and took a bus to the Pudeto catamaran to begin the journey. we got really lucky with the weather and I have to say it was a near-perfect experience. though, it should be noted in the strongest terms: RESERVATIONS ARE MANDATORY, for campsites or whatever, at all locations mentioned (including Italiano, and particularly at Torres and Cuernos). we watched multiple people get turned away in November at every stop along the way. have fun!
Thank you very much for sharing your experience, James!
Thanks for your valuable feedback Josh! Please keep in mind that this is the first season with the booking system and the visitor numbers are increasing each year – therefore I’d like to recommend the reservation as I don’t want people to plan the trek and then having a bad experience because the got turned away (which is actually happening in some cases) – in the low season and maybe also the shoulder season this is another story 😉 Great to hear you had such an amazing experience!
Hello. I am visiting South America and I’m giving myself 2 weeks to visit Patagonia area. 1 week in TDP Chile and 1 week in Calafete/Chalten area Argentina. I’m traveling on my own and I’m a newbie at hiking/trekking, but I am a long distance runner and swimmer and I’m in reasonable good shape. I have done some uphill hiking and I actually really enjoy it. I decided not to the O and go for W. And I also decided to use refugios instead of camps, given my newbie trekker status, I didn’t want to overdo it. I decided to go with Vertice Patagonia and it seems I will be doing the hike from East to West. I have a few questions: 1. Since I’m a newbie hiker/trekker, seems the biggest challenge will be the weather conditions and being prepared for that. Hearing about people being blown in the wind and getting knocked out makes me a bit nervous. Have I gone over my head going here? I heard bringing poles is a must for stability. Any other suggestions on dealing with harsh weather conditions. 2. I think you recommend West to East route, do you have any suggestions on how I can make the best of the East to West route. I already booked with Vertice and don’t want to redo the bookings (since it took forever to just get this booking). 3. I will have an extra day either before or after the W. trek. Do you recommend staying in the park? or staying in Puerto Natales? What is another activity I should do besides the W trek. 3. You have any tips on traveling to El Calafete to El Chalten area? Do I need to book buses in advance, or are there many buses that travel in between. Seems both are pretty popular areas and I may be able to wait and buy a bus ticket when I’m in Puerto Natales. 4. You have done an amazing job covering TDP here. You have any suggestions on El Calafete/El Chalten. Given that I’m a newbie I don’t plan to trek any glasiers or anything, I probably will look for a tour that takes me to see Perito Moreno Glacier and Mt. Fitz Roy. Thank you so much for your great blog from a newbie hiker/trekker!
4 of us from Canada booked to go to Patagonia in Aug 2016 and from all the information available there was no requirement to reserve camping sites in the park however we now find out that the rules changes on 16 Oct 2016 (start of the season) and you now need to have reservations. The park web site is all in Spanish, so does not help, however the booking site is in English but when we enter our dates it says that there is not a single site available during the week we wanted, which I find difficult to believe.
The park refers you to two private sites neither of which indicate any availability so we can only hope that some of the reservations get cancelled or were pre booked on spec by tour companies.
sorry to hear that the dates you are looking into are booked already. As stated in my preparation guide the visitor number increased rapidly so I recommend reserving well in advance as there is a restriction on the number of people who are allowed to get in for a good reason: to protect this unique park.
Even if you don’t get to hike the W I can suggest doing day hikes or tours – there are several options to do so: 1) Hike to the Torres, starting from Hotel Las Torres (in the morning) 2) Take the early boat from Pudeto to Paine Grande to the lookout of the Grey glacier (about half way to refugio grey), take the late boat back (please check with the boat times) 3) Full Paine Tour – this is a great full day tour by bus which takes you to some spectacular viewpoints you wouldn’t see when hiking (the popular images you see on books and all over the web) 4) Laguna Azul 5) Grey Glacier by boat
If you stay inside the park you have all options as you are not tied to the bus times for the transfer to and from Puerto Natales. If you stay in Puerto Natales I’d highly recommend the full paine tour and the day hike to the Torres!
An alternative would be to go to El Chaltén where you have numerous great hiking options. Nevertheless I think Torres del Paine is worth it even with the day hikes and tours I mentioned, I’ll also write about those more in-depth in the future.
Hope you have a fantastic trip!
bummer to hear this. The glacier is a great feature of the park but also the French valley and the Torres are worth the visit, not to mention the lakes and mountains around!
An option to see the glacier would be a boat trip from Hotel Lago Grey (see my preparation guide), it is an expensive but wonderful day trip which brings you up close to the glacier itself (you can still do it afterwards). I also always recommend the full paine tour by bus to see the several impressive viewpoints you don’t get to see when doing the W or O.
Have fun hiking!
I am planning on going in 9 days and everything including the camping parts of the refugios are completely full…so am I screwed and can’t do the W since backcountry camping isn’t possible?
Hi Steve, and thank you for this guide! I am planning my trip to TDP, and I wanted to know if you think that I can make it in one day from Campamento Italiano to Campamento Torres. Avoiding Refugio Chileno, basically… I don’t really think that sleeping on wooden platforms is a good idea! 😀
Question…are there penguins in this park? If yes, where would I likely see them and what time of year? Also, thank you for this incredible blog. I just downloaded your e-book!
Hi Steve, Thanks so much for this information on the W trek. I have a query – Does Campo Torres provide any kind of food? My husband and I want to do the W but we are going to take our breakfast and lunch but splash out on the dinner so trying to work out best way to do it!
as stated in the main article: https://www.back-packer.org/trekking-guide-how-to-prepare-for-hiking-in-torres-del-paine-patagonia-chile/
All free campsites don’t have a shop nor do they provide food – you need to take it with you. Instead you could get snacks at Refugio Chileno before hiking up to Torres.
Very good article! It was very useful in planning my trip to the park. My experience here: https://thefrogzeye.com/2017/04/03/3-reasons-to-hike-the-w-in-torres-del-paine-chile/
Hey, there are no lockers so you need to trust people – I never had a problem with that and haven’t heard any negative story so far.
Please head over to the main article where you find all links and info: https://www.back-packer.org/trekking-guide-how-to-prepare-for-hiking-in-torres-del-paine-patagonia-chile/
Thank you for the great guide! We are actually going to do the trek in a week! I know it’s the end of the season and we are hearing mix information whether the park and the camp sites will be open for the time we are there. We are going from May 9-May 16. Do you have any recommendations on how to navigate this information? We want to get a sense on how we should approach this and where we can get real time information. Thank you for your help!
Hey Steve, A great article and I thank you for writing it. We will be doing the W in early January 2018 with my two boys who will be 16 & 17. What I am wondering about is the FREE Camping. I have had a look at the Torres Del Paine Website in an attempt to book a campsite for each night but as yet I can’t seem to book. So two questions. When does the website open to allow bookings? Do we have to book.
I appreciate you help here – cheers my friend X
Hi – I’d suggest to check every now and then…from my experience the booking system for the free campsite takes bookings starting 6 months before your travel dates
I like this post and your images. It’s really a very helpful post. Patagonia is a most unique holiday destination; perfect for those seeking thrills and adventure. The W in Torres del Paine is the perfect destination for the adventurous traveller. Torres del Paine as the park is becoming a very popular hiking destination, and accommodations fill up fast. This park is the most visited hiking area in all of Patagonia, and hoards of trekkers come here each season to experience the unbelievable natural beauty of this park. We just hiked the W trek a few months ago with ChileTour Patagonia a travel company and had such a great time! We hiked it is 8 days and we got very lucky with the weather.
Please head to the preparation guide (link at the beginning of this post)!
hey thx so much for the info! really helps.i have a question i wanna do the 4 day w circuit,now i booked the camps for the first 2 night in paine grande and italiano but how do i book the third night? cuz when i go on conaf it only lets me the italiano or paso options the is no torres so what do i do??
Steve, thank you for this great guide! I’m currently planning our trip to TDP at the end of March next year and wanted to do the W trek in 5 days as you have described it. Unfortunately CONAF site Torres seems to be closed this season, which means you are forced to book at Chileno. Fantastico Sur seems to be a criminal organisation judging by their prices. If you want to camp at their ground, you are forced to book a FB package costing over $100US (!) per person, so more than your whole trip in total cost! This way they are really taking the fun out of trekking. 🙁 I will stay at Campo Italiano instead of Cuernos (because there too, the Fantastico Sur criminals force you to book FB for almost $100 US…) and am still looking for a way to avoid having to spend over $100 on Chileno. Prices at Vertice are still the same as you published, so they are still good to go to. Local authorities should really do something about Fantastico Sur group though, as they have monopoly in the eastern part of the park and their outrageous prices really aren’t justified. Even Switzerland is cheaper to trek this way…
Thanks Ruud – I took today to update most of my guides on that topic…also other prices have increased which is very sad but a result of the popularity and the still increasing demand. Day hikes or longer hiking days on the W are the way to go to avoid those pricey refugios :/
Hi Steve! I really enjoy the work you have done putting these guides together, very informative. We are a group of five going to Patagonia in Jan 2018 and we are super excited. Just a heads up, I believe that the prices for campsites has increased a lot and the camp site Chileno you have to pay the full board. At first I found it a bit confusing, so if you can, please let other travellers know. Cheers, and travel safe!
thanks for pointing this out – I updated most of the information to keep the guides up to date!
also, the camp torres is closed this season 🙂
updated as well 😉
Hey – I just updated the prices and all Info on the main article. Fantastico Sur raised their prices dramatically offering only expensive platform camping with fullboard in Chileno and Los Cuernos. You’d need to do some longer hikes to avoid them (Frances – Camp. Las Torres next to the Hotel in the Valley) and then do a 1 day hike up to the towers.
Thanks for the update! Darn those prices! I was hoping to do this as a budget hiking trip. Perhaps I’ll rent a car and drive along and do day hikes. Any thoughts on that? Thanks, Steve!
Yes – that’s another way to do it. The day hike up to the Torres is a tough one but very rewarding. Also the tour by car along the road offers some spectacular views. If you can: try to book a glacier cruise to the grey glacier from Hotel Lago Grey at the end of that road.
I will definitely look into doing that!
I just updated all info in the main preparation guide – important for you: Chileno got super expensive so you might need to consider an alternative route (camping at Las Torres campground in the valley next to the Hotel Las Torres and doing a day hike up to the towers).
Thanks for such a detailed information. Me and my wife are going to do the W in the last week of December. We are relatively new in the trekking world. We are doing the East to West route (Ref Chileno > Ref Cuernos > Ref Frances > Paine Grande > Grey). We wanted to do the torres first so that we are still fresh to do the uphill hike. Do you think this route sounds logical? Also, we will have couple of days with us after the W, are there any day trip tours we can do?
Hi Steve, Really great work and description. The best I have found. I am planning to go solo on January 2018. I am back packing around so I do not exactly when I will reach. Therefore, how many days in advance do you think I need to book? Is there a boat from Hotel Grey to Refugio grey, instead of going through pahoe? Going from west to east and in 5 days 4 nights where should i book? (I am reading a lot of changes in the itinerary) I am fit and going solo though I like to enjoy the views I think I can go the extra mile. Last but not least, where do i rent a tent!?? Thanks so much!!!
I have a question for you: I am going to do the W in 4 Weeks and already booked all the camping sites. I have planned my trip around the very nice descrption you have offered here. Unfortunately, I just realized that I might have problems to actually see the torres. Because the 3rd night we are spending in Campo El Frances and since Campamento Torres will be closed and Chileno is to expensive for me, I am spending the 4th night at Campamento Las Torres. On the 5th day my bus to puerto natales leaves as you also described at 2:30pm. Since it’s a 6,5 hours hike from el frances to Campamento Las Torres and onother 3,5 to the Torres and another 3.5 to come back I dont think i Will be able to do all of that on the 4th day right? So the only option would be to leave early on the 5th day from Campamento Las Torres to the torres (3,5 hours) and then go back to the camp and then to the bus station. But since the bus leaves at 2:30 already I think it is very hard to do it right? What do you think? I am a little scared I wont find a solution for that prolem. Thanks for your help, Nik
Steve, thanks so much for all the great info! I leave on Saturday to join up with my son, who lives in Colombia. We’ll meet in Santiago, fly down to Punta Arenas, and bus up to Torres Del Paine. Your blog, plus the video(s) have all be really helpful in getting me prepared for this trip. I really do appreciate it!
Love to hear that. Thanks & let us know how it went!
Your blog was super helpful to my husband and I in planning our trip to Patagonia this January! Thank you!
I am currently writing my own blog post about the experience. I am not a professional blogger, but I enjoy writing once in awhile. I was wondering if I could post a link to your blog in mine under a section titled “Blogs That Helped Us Plan Our Trip” (or something along those lines, maybe a bit catchier – ha!).
If you’re not comfortable with it, I won’t link you, but your blog was so helpful I feel like sharing it with others!
Awesome to hear. Sure you can link it!
Did you hike in Patagonia in the summer or winter? I’m going in July and debating whether the conditions will be too harsh to hike any of the trails
Comments are closed.