On this page you will find a comprehensive and impartial guide to the Torres Del Paine W Trek.
This short hike offers the best features of Torres del Paine without having to hike the full circuit. You will see Grey Glacier, the base of the Towers, the French Valley and much more on this stunning trek.
W Trek Torres Del Paine
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 trails stunning scenery.
Located in the amazing Torres del Paine National Park (which was made a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978), the trek generally takes around 5 days to complete and takes visitors into the very heart of the park, through haunting forests, soaring mountains and colossal glaciers.
The trek is 100km long and 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 trek, however, most travellers opt for the shorter W Trek instead.
The Torres Del Paine W Trek is considered a fairly easy level trek as 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 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.
Please Note: As of 2016, the CONAF has now limited the amount of people who can hike the W Trail to 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. It is also advised to book campsite early as they book up exceptionally quickly, particularly the free camp sites!
The Torres Del Paine W Trek is situated within 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.
The best map we have found for the Torres Del Paine W Trek is the Torres del Paine Waterproof Trekking Map by Sergio Zagier.
The map provides a compressive satellite relief, contour lines, shelters, timed trails, camping and inns.
Below is a detailed Torres Del Paine W Trek itinerary. Please note that this is a typical Torres Del Paine W Trek itinerary.
There are sometimes great differences in trek length depending on weather and trekking experience. The itinerary provided is the standard 5 day trek option.
Day 1: Puerto Natales to Refugio Grey (11km)
Today is the beginning of your adventure! You leave early from the town of Puerto Natales and 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 8am – 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 viewing the glacier for half an hour or so you have the option to continue the hike to Paso.
Although it’s uphill and adds to your overall trekking time and distance (on top of the 19km), the trail is absolutely beautiful and gives trekkers incredible views all the way along of the glacier.
After visiting Paso y0u have to return along the trail back dow to where you camped the previous night.
After lunch it is a 3-4 hour hime down to your next campsite at Paine Grande.
One tip here is to find a campsite next to the hill so your not battered by the strong winds overnight.
Day 3: Valle del Frances to Los Cuernos (28km)
Today is the toughest and longest day of the trek. You begin your trek around 8am and hike for several hours until you reach Campamento Italiano.
At the camp you should dump your large backpack and head on up to Mirador Frances with your daypack. Please remember to 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 exploring the area, having lunch and taking in the views, you’ll head back down to Campamento Italiano and grab your large backpack.
From there you head to your next campsite at Los Cuernos roughly 2 hours walk away.
Day 4: Los Cuernos to Campamento Torres (20km)
This is your last full day of hiking on the circuit. After a leisurely breakfast, you should head off around 9am 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! Have well-deserved break whilst you take in the lovely views.
After heading back down, make sure you hit the sack early as you’ll need to be up before sunrise the following day!
Day 5: Torres to Puerto Natales (10-15km)
Today you have get up early (around 5am) to get the sunrise views at the irador of the Towers! Sunrise happens around 6am 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 a 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 weather can clear fast.
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 which take roughly 3 hours.
From there you can either walk to the park entrance or take a minibus for a minimal fee.
The return bus to Puerto Natales leaves at 2pm from the entrance.
The one guide book that stands above all other is Trekking Torres del Paine: Chile’s Premier National Park and Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park by Rudolf Abraham.
The guide book 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.
Other guide books available include Fodor’s Chile: with Easter Island & Patagonia (Travel Guide), Backpacking in Chile: Travel Guide & Trekking Guide for Independent Travelers and orres del Paine (Chile) 1:50 / 100,000 Trekking Map, GPS, waterproof by Trekking Chile.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the W Trek cost?
The cost of a Torres Del Paine W Trek varies depending on when you book flights, when you trek (out of season tends to be a little cheaper) and whether to trek with a local or western trekking agency, or independently.
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
Tour Agency: ~$500 for a cheap local agency to ~$2,000 for a pricey Western trekking agency. You could do an independent trek for less than $200 as many of the campsites are free. You will need to book early though. this price includes food, park entrance and camping. Food can be purchased from refugios throughout the park, however, it is very expensive.
Misc (additional food, unplanned travel / hotels ect): $50
Total Costs: $2,000 – $4,000
Are permits required for the W Trek?
Yes, a park permit is needed to enter the park. However, the park permit can simply be purchased at the entrance gate and costs around $30 US dollars in the peak season and $15 US in the low season. To receive the permit, the park officials will need to see proof that you have booked your camping ground accommodation in advance.
When is the best time to trek the W circuit?
One of the great things about Torres del Paine national park is that it can be visited year-round. Therefore, to highlight the pros and cons of each season, we have written a brief description of each below.
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 proper, 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 of the wildlife.
Summer - December to March
This is the high season at Torres del Paine national park. Although the trails are at their busiest, the weather is at its warmest and you'll get the most 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
Our favourite season without a doubt. The landscape becomes ablaze with colour 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 AugustAlthough most of the refugios are closed during this period, this season has the major benefit of being the most quiet. 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.
Is altitude sickness a risk?
There is essentially zero risk of altitude sickness on the Toress Del Paine Full W Trek. The highest point reached is under 700 meters which is far too low to bring on altitude sickness.
How difficult is the W Trek?
The Toress Del Paine W Trek is considered to be an easy multi-day trek as the elevation remains fairly steady through 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 10-20km per day.
What gear do I need?
Trekking the Toress Del Paine W Trek does requires a certain amount of essential pieces of trekking clothing and equipment. The Torres Del Paine W Trek is a multi day trek that travels through a number of landscapes.
Many pieces of equipment can be rented at the park entrance, but 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 gear list.
What travel insurance do I need?
Trekking insurance is always a must. Although unlikely, accidents do happen and can cost a lot of money, especially when you consider the cost of rescue from remote destinations. It is also a great idea to take out travel insurance for other related risks of travel such as loss of baggage, stolen gear, delays and damaged equipment.
Check out World Nomads for a quick calculation of the cost of travel insurance for your trip.