W Trek Patagonia – Guide To The Most Popular Hike In Torres Del Paine

Torres Del Paine. Patagonia Base Torres Viewpoint

The Torres Del Paine W Trek in Patagonia is a 5-day, 100km adventure that brings you to some of the best features of Torres Del Paine. Visit Grey Glacier, the base of the Towers, the French Valley, and much more on this epic trek.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll go through everything you need to know about planning for and hiking this trail. I’ve also thrown in some up-to-date tips and links for booking campsites in Torres Del Paine.

Get ready to embark on the trail of a lifetime!

Why Hike The Patagonia W Trek?

See The Highlights Of Torres Del Paine

One of the main reasons why the W Trek in Patagonia is so popular is the stunning scenery that hikers encounter along the way. The route takes visitors past the park’s most popular features. See the granite spires of Torres del Paine, the turquoise waters of Grey Lake, and the vast glaciers that dominate the landscape.

An Accessible Trail If You Have Limited Time

Another reason why the W Trek in Patagonia is so popular is its accessibility. Unlike many other remote treks in Patagonia, the W Trek is relatively easy to reach and can be completed in a week or less. This is great if your Patagonian backpacking trip has a time limit.

Additionally, the W Trek offers several options for accommodations, from camping to refugios (mountain huts), making it accessible to a wide range of budgets and experience levels.

W Trek Patagonia- Know Before You Go

W Trek In Patagonia- Location

The Torres Del Paine W Trek is situated in Chile near the southern tip of South America. The park itself is located 112 km north of Puerto Natales and 312 km north of Punta Arenas.

When is the best time to trek the W Hike Patagonia?

To highlight the pros and cons of each season, we have written a brief description of each below.

It’s worth also reading our articles on the best time to trek in Patagonia and, more specifically, when to hike in Torres Del Paine.

Spring - September to November

This is the perfect time of year to visit the park if you're wanting to experience warm, clear weather but without the huge crowds. Although not as warm as the summer months, the skies are often clear and you will get incredible views across the park. This is also the best season to see flowering flora in the region and witness the breeding season for wildlife.

Summer - December to March

This is the high season at Torres del Paine national park. Although the trails in Torres Del Paine are at their busiest, the weather is at its warmest. You'll get the maximum amount of clear days on your trek at this time of year. If you're the active type, then summer is also the period when you can horse ride, kayak, and mountain bike alongside your trek!

Fall - March to June

My favorite season without a doubt. The landscape becomes ablaze with color as the trails start to empty out and days become colder. The wind is often ferocious, but the spectacularly beautiful views are worth it!

Winter - June to August

Between May- September, self-guided hiking is not permitted in Torres Del Paine. Over this period, you can only hike Patagonia W Trek with a guide.

The major benefit of this season is that it is the quietest. There will be very few other visitors and you'll have many of the trails to yourself. This is the coldest period though and you will certainly experience cold nights and high, cold winds.

Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Argentina

Torres Del Paine National Park

How Difficult Is Patagonia’s W Trek?

The Torres Del Paine W Trek is considered to be an easy multi-day trek as the elevation remains fairly steady throughout the hike. There is also the added benefit that the trek can be done over a longer or shorter period depending on your fitness levels.

Although regarded as easy, the trek still requires a solid level of fitness as you will be trekking a total of 100km/ 62 miles. This is 10-20km per day depending how many nights you camp out.

Hikers generally stay at the same elevation and certainly never go high enough for altitude sickness to become an issue.

The trails are well-defined and you’ll find signposts dotted along the trails at regular intervals. Water is available at all campsites, as is food. Ranger stations are dotted along the trail and you’ll most likely be among other trekkers (depending on when you trek).

Be careful though, storms are frequent in Patagonia and the wind can get extremely cold and strong. Always check weather forecasts before your day of trekking as the John Gardner Pass is often closed due to high winds.

Are Permits Required for The W Trek in Patagonia?

Yes, a permit is needed to enter the park. Permits cost $49 for more than three days. You need to book tickets online at least 24hrs before you visit.

You can print the permit or show it to officials on your phone. The park officials will need to see proof that you have booked your camping ground accommodation in advance.

Accommodation And Food On The W-Hike Patagonia

There are 11 campsites in the park which are run by three different companies. Currently, you can book campsites through Vertice Patagonia and Las Torres. Campsites cost between $10-$25 (Site only). Both companies also have the option to rent camping gear.

As well as tents, there is also options to stay in dormitories, cabins, and refugios. You can book these with the same companies mentioned above. I suggest using only one company to book your entire trek, for simplicity's sake.

Hotel Torres Del Paine, Patagonia

Hotel In Torres Del Paine National Park

At the camps, you will find bathrooms, shops, and even small restaurants. You may need to pre-order your meal so check beforehand.

Note: As of 2022/2023, the free CONAF campsites (El Paso and Italiano) are not available. It is unclear when and if these will re-open. It’s better to budget in paying for all your sites. If this has changed, please drop us a comment.

How Far In Advance Should You Book The W Trek, Patagonia?

Torres Del Paine treks are not something you can decide to do last minute. I’ve seen a friend break a sweat over finding campsites when she already had flights to Punta Arenas booked. This was a whole three months before her hike in November!
To be safe, I’d say you should plan and book your trip at least six months in advance. Maybe even more if you plan on hiking the W Trek in the peak season (December-March)

Since 2016, the amount of people who can hike the W Trail is 80 persons per day. Visitors must reserve a place if trekking solo without an operator and you’ll need to take the trail in a counterclockwise direction.

How Do You Get To Torres Del Paine And The Start Of Patagonias W Trek?

Visitors can fly into Punta Arenas, Chile, or El Calafate, Argentina. From either of these towns. You can then take a bus to Puerto Natales.

The bus ride from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales takes three hours and costs between $20-$30 dollars.

Buses between El Calafate and Puerto Natales are quite a bit longer (around 5 hours). Tickets cost between $30-$40.

Puerto Natalensis, Patagonia

Its good to spend at least one night before the W Trek resting and exploring Puerto Natelensis

Daily buses run between the town of Puerto Natales to the entrance of Torres Del Paine. This ride will set you back $15-$15. If you have a higher budget, you could arrange a private transfer to the park and organize for the driver to pick you up after your trek.

How much does the W Trek Patagonia Cost?

The cost of a Torres Del Paine W Trek varies depending on when you book flights and when you trek (out-of-season tends to be a little cheaper).

If you go with a trekking agency, local companies will be much cheaper than booking through an American or European operator. Trekking independently in Patagonia is always the most budget-friendly choice.

  • Tour Agency: ~$500 for a cheap local agency to ~$2,000 for a pricey Western trekking agency
  • Visa, Vaccinations, Insurance etc:~$300-$500
  • Equipment (buying and hiring):~$500-$800 – camping gear can be rented at the park entrance for $200.
  • Return flights to Punta Arenas: ~$1,500
  • Tips: ~$10-20
  • Misc (additional food, unplanned travel/hotels, etc): $50

Total costs with tour agency: $2,000 – $4,000

It is possible to plan an independent W trek for less than $300. This price includes food, park entrance, and camping (assuming you have your own equipment). Food can be purchased from refugios throughout the park, however, it is very expensive.

You may also like: Guide to Fitz Roy hikes

Hiking The W Trek Patagonia - Route Guide

The most popular trek in Patagonia, the Torres Del Paine W Trek is fast becoming one of the most well-respected short hikes in the world due to the trail's stunning scenery.

Guanaco in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia

Guanaco in Torres Del Paine

Located in the amazing Torres del Paine National Park which was made a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. The 100km trek generally takes around 5 days to complete. It takes visitors into the very heart of the park, through haunting forests, soaring mountains, and colossal glaciers.

Where does the W Hike Patagonia Start And End?

The trek begins with a lovely boat ride near the Grey Glacier and finishes with a magical sunrise at the famous Torres on the final morning. There is the option to do the longer full circuit O trek, however, most travelers opt for the shorter W Trek.

Patagonia W Trek - Day By Day Trail Information

Below is a standard, 5-day itinerary outline for your Torres Del Paine W Trek. This can vary depending on fitness levels, available camps, and routes. It should at least provide a good idea of what to expect. This is especially useful if you are trekking Patagonia independently.

Day 1: Puerto Natales to Refugio Grey (11km)

Grey Lake, Torres Del Paine, Hiking Patagonia

Grey Lake with Grey Glacier in the background, the start of the W Trek

Leave early from the town of Puerto Natales. Buses depart at 7:15, if you go with a tour or taxi, you will probably leave earlier.

Take your transportation Pudeto. This is the next stop after the park entrance.

If you have time, visit the local waterfall and take some pictures. You then take a lovely boat ride by catamaran to Paine Grande.

After arriving you begin your trek in earnest with a 3-4 hour (uphill) hike along Lago Grey to Refugio Grey where you camp the night. If you have some energy after dinner, head down to the lake and feel the cold water!

Day 2: Grey Glacier to Paine Grande (19km)

Today you’ll be up early – around 8 am – to hike up to the former campsite of Paso. From the campsite, you take a small path to the lookout platform where you get stunning views across Grey Glacier.

After spending a little time appreciating the glacier, you have the option to continue the hike to Paso.

This is an uphill trek and will add extra mileage to your day. However, I’d recommend it as the trail is absolutely beautiful and gives incredible views all the way along the glacier.

After visiting Paso, return along the trail back down to where you camped the previous night.

After lunch, it is a 3-4 hour hike down to your next campsite at Paine Grande.
If you can, find a campsite next to the hill so you’re not battered by the strong winds overnight.

Pehoe Lake, Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Refugio Paine Grande lies at the other side of Laguna Pehoe

Day 3: Valle del Frances to Los Cuernos (28km)

Today is a long one! Mentally prepare yourself for a full day of hiking. You begin your trek around 8am and hike for several hours until you reach camp.

At the camp, you should dump your large backpack at Campamento Italiano and head on up to Mirador Frances with your daypack. Take your lunch with you along with water and sunscreen.

The walk takes 2-3 hours and you should reach the Mirador around lunchtime.

After stopping to eat and explore the area, you’ll head back down to Campamento Italiano and retrieve your large backpack.

From there you head to your next campsite at Los Cuernos. This is roughly 2 hours walk away.

Day 4: Los Cuernos to Campamento Torres (20km)

This is the last full day of hiking on the circuit. After a leisurely breakfast, you should head off around 9 am towards Campamento Chileno.

Your trek begins on flat ground as you make your way along the Lago Nordernskjöld. After a few hours, you’ll come to a sign saying “shortcut to Chileno”.

Take the shortcut and walk for several hours until you reach the Refugio Chileno. Have lunch here before continuing on.

After lunch, you will walk uphill for an hour or so until you reach Campamento Torres. Leave your large backpacks here and head upwards for 45 minutes until you reach the Torres! Take a well-deserved break and soak in this iconic view.

Base Torres Viewpoint, Torres Del Paine, Hiking Patagonia

A steep climb up is rewarded with this view of the Iconic Las Torres granite spires

Back at the Refugio, make sure you hit the sack early. You’ll need to be up before sunrise the following day!

Day 5: Torres to Puerto Natales (10-15km)

Don’t sleep in on Day 5! You’ll want to rise early (around 5 am) to get the sunrise views at the mirador of the Towers. Sunrise happens around 6 am in summer and there is just a short walk to the viewing and picnic area.

If you’re lucky with the weather, you’ll get an incredible view and witness one of the most beautiful sunrises on our planet! If it’s raining in camp, do not give up – the weather is frequently very different up near the viewing area and the weather can clear fast. It’s worth taking a chance.

After your sunrise moment, head back down to camp and pack up all your gear. From camp, you will head down to the Hotel Las Torres. This walk takes roughly 3 hours.

From the trail’s end, you can walk to the park entrance. The 7km/ 4.3 miles will take you around 1.5 - 2hrs. At this point, you will be exhausted and may prefer to take the 2 pm minibus to Laguna Amarga at the entrance. Its worth budgeting an extra $10 for this bus fee.

The return bus to Puerto Natales leaves at 2:30 pm from the park entrance. Double-check bus times before you set off.

W Trek Patagonia Map 

The best map I've found for the Torres Del Paine W Trek is the Torres del Paine Waterproof Trekking Map by Sergio Zagier. The map provides compressive satellite relief, contour lines, shelters, timed trails, camping, and inns.

Other W Trek FAQs

Is altitude sickness a risk on the W Trek?

There is essentially zero risk of altitude sickness on the Torres Del Paine Full W Trek. The highest point reached is under 700 meters which is far too low to bring on altitude sickness. See our guide on altitude sickness.

What W Trek guidebook do you recommend? 

The one guidebook that stands above all others is Trekking Torres del Paine: Chile’s Premier National Park and Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park by Rudolf Abraham. The guidebook covers eight major trails within the park including the Full Circuit and the ‘W’ Trek. Maps, tips, and detailed information is provided for each trek and the book is a must for trekkers hiking solo.

What gear do you need for the W hike?

Trekking the W requires a certain amount of essential pieces of trekking clothing and equipment.

Many pieces of equipment including tents, sleeping bags, and mats, can be rented at the campsites. However, rental prices are high. We recommend bringing the most important pieces of gear with you.

To help you plan and prepare for your trek we have written a detailed hiking gear list.

About the author 

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison used to work as a guide for a 5-star safari reserve in South Africa. Today she is a full time traveller and editor for Mountain IQ. She has travelled and hiked extensively in South America, including many solo hikes in Patagonia, the Cusco region of Peru, Ecuador and Chile.

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