Adventure seeking holiday-goers from around the world flock to Chile to trek one of the three famous Torres del Paine Treks. Amongst the three trekking routes in the Torres del Paine National Park - the W trek, the O trek, and the Q trek, the Torres del Paine W trek is the most sought-after.
Also known as the W circuit, the trek is popular for the up-close view of Los Torres; the iconic rock formations for which the park is famous. It also offers spectacular views of glaciers and skyscraping mountains. The fact that all these sights is packed into a relatively short and easy trek compared to the other two, contributes to the W Trek’s attractiveness.
- Start/End locations: The first stop inside the park gates will be Pudeto Port. From here, trekkers are transported by boat to the starting point of the W Trek, which is Refugio Paine Grande. The end point is Hotel Torres. It’s also possible to hike the trail in the opposite direction, starting at Hotel Las Torres and finishing at Refugio Paine Grande.
- Difficulty: Medium. This trek requires a certain level of physical fitness and athleticism. There are steep areas and certain sections of the trail that are more challenging than others, however you do not have to be in professional-athlete-like shape to successfully complete the trek.
- Trek duration: 4 - 5 days. The total trek is roughly 60km.
- Remoteness: Not Remote. The trails are wind through well preserved wilderness, but they’re clearly marked and accommodate plenty of hikers. There are several small supply stores, campgrounds, and infrastructures the entire length of the trail.
- Accommodation type: Free and Paid Campsites, and Refugios, shared accommodation shelters, and Luxury Hotels,. The W trek route definitely has the most options when it comes to accommodations in Torres del Paine, but it is highly recommended to make reservations months in advance. Proof of reservation is required when entering campsites.
- Best season:
- Summer (November – March) is considered best for any Torres del Paine trek because of the sunny and mild weather. Average temperatures hover around 12 – 15°C / 54 – 58°F.
- Spring (September – November) is also a lovely time to witness the park’s transformation from winter to spring. The weather can however be windy and temperatures will likely drop to 1 – 3°C / 34 – 37°F at night.
- Winter (June – early September) is not the most popular time to tackle the W Trek, but it’s doable with a guide for those who are up for the challenge. Temperature drops to -3 – 5°C / 26 – 41°F.
- Permits required: There is a park entrance fee that is required to be made in cash (Chilean Pesos) at the front entrance. Find out more about it in our guide to Torres del Paine treks.
Your enthusiasm, fitness level, and time constraints dictates the amount of time it takes to complete the Trek. The average amount of time spent on the trail is 5 days and 4 nights. Below is an example of the most common itinerary, spending five days and four nights to complete the trek by moving west to east on the “W”.
Day 1: Boat from Pudeto Port to Refugio Paine Grande. From here, walk 11km to Refugio Grey. About 2km prior to reaching Refugio Grey, there will be a lookout point for viewing Glacier Grey called Mirador Grey. Upon reaching Refugio Grey, there are options to view the east and south sides of the glacier by walking no more than an extra kilometer. Stay the night in the Refugio Grey or adjoining campsite.
Day 2: Depart Refugio Grey and return to Refugio Paine Grande (RPG). Continue past RPG another 7.5km to Camp Italiano, one of the two free campsites on the trail. Spend the night here.
Day 3: Leave your heavy gear and take only a day pack with you for this section. You will return to the camp before heading to the next stop. Depart Camp Italiano for a roundtrip journey of 11km to Valle del Frances. View the spectacular valley and Glacier Frances before returning to Camp Italiano.
From Camp Italiano, continue an additional 5.5km to Los Cuernos to spend the night. Here you have several accommodation options: Refugio Los Cuernos, Camp Los Cuernos, or the more luxurious Los Cuernos Cabanas.
Day 4: Depart from Los Cuernos and trek 11km toward Camp Torres, which sits at the base of the famous Los Torres. Set up camp here, then hike the 1 km up to Mirador Torres to get a look at the famous towers. Return to camp and spend the night.
Day 5: In the morning, hike up to Mirador Torres again to see a sunrise view of the towers. Return to Camp Torres, then embark on the final leg of the journey to Hotel Las Torres, about 8km away. From here you will be able to catch a shuttle bus to take you out of the park.
TIP: On both Day 4 and 5, leave your heavy gear and take only a day pack to trek to Mirador Torres. You will pass through the Camp Torres on the return and can collect the rest of your things then.
If you are fit and willing to put in extra kilometers every day, it’s possible to complete this circuit in 4 days and 3 nights. See the alternative itinerary below, starting east and moving west:
Day 1: Arrive to Hotel Las Torres in the morning, hike to The Towers and then spend the night in Refugio Chileno or adjoining campsite.
Day 2: From Refugio/Camp Chileno, hike along the picturesque Nordenskjold Lake and spend the night at Refugio Cuernos.
Day 3: Departing from Refugio Cuernos, trek to the Valle del Frances and then spend the night in Refugio Paine Grande.
Day 4: From Refugio Paine Grande, continue onto the Glacier Grey round-trip trek, finishing back at RPG. From here you can catch the boat back to Pudeto and exit the park.
Alternatively, if you wish to make the W Trek even longer, start at Hotel Las Torres and when you reach Refugio Grey in Glacier Grey, instead of turning back and finishing at RPG, you can simply continue past Refugio Grey. This is where the O Circuit, also known as the Full Circuit, picks up. Learn more about the O trek in our guide to Torres del Paine O Circuit.
- Book in advance! No matter the season, accommodations are consistently full. Even free campsites require a reservation. Be on the safe side, and make bookings months in advance.
- Pack light. If you don’t want to carry camping gear like a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, you can rent (in advance) from the campsites. Refugios offer hot meals, so you can still eat there while camping.
- Stock up on supplies outside the park. Everything inside the park is very expensive.
- Trails are well marked and there are plenty of people around (during high season), meaning it’s perfectly safe to make the journey without a guide. However, it is great to have a guide who is aware about the topography and can lead you to safety when emergencies such as forest fire or bad weather occurs. Plus, they also provide more information, facts, and history about the gorgeous sights you’re seeing. There are plenty of W trek tours available; you can join one.
- You can hike the Torres del Paine W Trek in either direction (east to west or west to east).
- Opt for sturdy gears and comfortable clothings. For more information on suitable trekking gears, read our guide to equipments needed when trekking.
The Torres del Paine W Trek is popular around the world and it’s not hard to see why. Conquering the W Trek is an amazing lifetime achievement. With incredible natural sights, straightforward trails, well-preserved wilderness, and decent accommodation options and facilities, what’s not to love?
While the Torres del Paine treks are the most popular trekking trails in Patagonia, there are other lesser known treks that are equally, and often more rewarding. Take a look at our list of best treks and hikes in Patagonia to learn more! Since Patagonia is notorious for unpredictable weather, do check up on the best time to visit Patagonia before planning your tour.