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 W Trek Detailed Info

Custom Experiences and Reservations

 

The W Trek in Torres del Paine is one of the most breathtaking hiking routes in Patagonia, making it one of the most incredible trekking routes in the world. So-named for the W shape of the trail through Torres Del Paine national park.  Above all, the W Trek is an intermediate level hike along mostly not-too challenging terrain, except the treks up to the Torres base and also into the French valley, which involve steeper inclines. The experience will have you staring, at close distance, up at the snow-capped peaks, but not making you climb them.

In full, the trail takes between 4-5 days but can be modified to suit your experience in a number of ways. Potentially including additional activities or a touch more luxury, like returning to your hotel each night rather than stay in refugios or camp. As a result, Experience Chile strives to offer fully customisable itineraries to suit every party, every type of trip and every individual, right down to the last detail. Ask us, as specialists, to make your W Trek reservations for accommodation.

Patagonia: Hiking the W Trek in Torres del Paine

  • Taking between 4 – 5 full days of hiking, the W Trek will take you past all of Torres Del Paine national park’s best views like the Base of the Towers, Valle France and the Grey Lake.
  • For the W Trek, traditionally visitors stay in refugios (hostels) overnight for the duration of the trek. However, some choose to camp.
  • Fitness should be considered before departure. While the W Trek isn’t an excessively ‘difficult’ hike per se, it will still require quite a lot of physical exertion. Therefore, we will always advise our customers to assess their own and other party members’ fitness and broader health before booking.
  • We provide full-board reservations so you won’t need to buy your own food on the trek.
  • The local currency is the Chilean peso.

Routes and Weather

The W Trek is Patagonia’s most famous trek, beginning at Hotel Las Torres, Refugio Las Torres, Refugio Chileno, or Refugio Grey.  Most importantly, you will traverse the three valleys that give the trek its name, before finishing your trek at Refugio Grey, or at the Las Torres end. Moreover, each valley possesses its’ very own set of natural wonders:

 

  • The Ascensio Valley – will take you right up to the base of the towers that you’ll see in every photo of the W Trek. To get to the base of the towers is a demanding 800m ascent.
  • In the central part is the French Valley. Consquently this is the middle section of the hike and prominently features the stunning Glacier Francés, which you’ll be able to see up-close.
  • The final section of the trek runs parallel to Lago Grey (the Grey lake). This a world-famous geological phenomenon dominated by Glacier Grey (the Grey Glacier).

Torres del Paine W Trek Trail Route

East to West (Torres Base to Glacier Grey)

Brief Descriptions of Trekking Sectors East to West

Begin at Estancia Sector and depart at the Grey Sector

The W Trek can be broken into three main sectors. These include the:

EASTERN END (ESTANCIA SECTOR): You will begin at the Estancia Sector. This route includes the trek to the base of the Towers.

On this leg, you’ll visit Hosteria Las Torres, and the Refugio Torre Norte, Refugio Torre of Central, the Torres del Paine Welcome Centre and the Eco Camp.

CENTRAL PART (CUERNOS SECTOR):
On this leg, you will embark on a trek into the French Valley.

You will also get the chance to visit Domos Cuernos, Cabañas Cuernos and Refugio Cuernos.

WESTERN END (GREY SECTOR):
This portion of the trip includes the trek alongside Grey Lake to Glacier Grey.

This is where you’ll get the chance to visit Refugio Grey and Refugio Paine Grande.

 

Eastern Sector (Las Torres End) to the Mirador Las Torres (Torres Base)

Effectively this is the Las Torres Sector up to the Torres Base

Operated: Between September to end of April

Start:  You will embark on your trek from Eco Camp, Hotel Las Torres, Refugio Torre Central or Refugio Torre Norte.

Alternatively, you can also start your expedition from the Torres del Paine Welcome Centre, which is also located in this area.

End: You can return to your starting point, or go on to Domos Frances, Refugio Chileno, Refugio Cuernos or Cabañas Cuernos.
Trek Time: 9 hours
Distance: 18km. However, many visitors stay at Refugio Chileno to break the distance up.  In other words, this refugio is exactly halfway between the Torres Base and the Estancia Sector.
Difficulty: Medium to high. This portion has a lot of uphill sections, and you’ll have to navigate your way up and over large boulders.
Experience Required: You don’t need any experience to embark on this trek, but you need to be physically fit and used to long walks.
Altitude Gain: 866m.

The Four Main Sections of the Trek:

Estancia Sector (effectively this is the Las Torres end) to the Ascencio Valley

This portion of the trip involves travelling uphill to Refugio Chileno, and this takes 1 hour and 15 mins on a steady incline.

Ascencio Valley to Refugio Chileno

Trekking through the valley will take around 45 minutes and it is mostly downhill.

Refugio Chileno to the Glacial Moraine Sector

This will take about 1 hour. However, this trail is only steep in short sections. During this part of the trip, you will walk through two river crossings and a dense beech, tree forest with over 100-year-old trees!

The Moraine Sector

This will take approximately an hour, and it involves climbing up, over and in-between glacial moraine’s large boulders.

Moreover, this is the most difficult portion of the trek and walking poles can come in handy during the steepest and windiest parts.

Eastern Sector (Las Torres End) to Refugio / Cabins Cuernos

Operated: Between September to end of April

Start: You can start from Refugio Chileno, Hotel Las Torres, Refugio Torre Central, Refugio Torre Norte, the welcome centre or the Eco Camp.

End: Cabañas Cuernos, Refugio Cuernos or Domos Frances.
Trek Time: 5 hours.
Distance: 11km if you’re returning to Refugio and Cabañas Cuernos. 13.5km if you’re returning to Domos Frances.
Difficulty: Medium.
Experience Required: None.
Altitude Gain: 250m

Description

This trek passes alongside the Nordenskjold Lake. Therefore, you’ll get to see its dazzling blue water whilst glancing at the stunning granite peaks of Los Cuernos.

The hike has some hills to climb, but you’ll be met with spectacular views each time you climb one. Before you get to  Refugio/Cabanas Cuernos you’ll pass through a beech-tree wood.

Central Sector: Refugio / Cabins Cuernos to Refugio Paine Grande

Operated: Between September to end of April

Start: Cabañas or Refugio Cuernos. Alternatively, you can begin from Domos Frances.

End: Refugio Paine Grande

Trek Time:  5 hours for direct treks to Paine Grande. 10 hours if you’d like to trek through the French Valley.

Those starting at Domos Frances should take an hour off these times.

Distance: 24km (via the French Valley) or 13km (direct to Paine Grande). However, if starting from Domos Frances these distances will be about 2.5km less.

Difficulty: Medium to high.

Experience Required: None.

Altitude Gain: 1,100m

Description

You’ll embark from the Los Cuernos sector, and after about an hour you will pass by Domos Frances. Following this, you will arrive at the unserviced camping ground called Camp Italiano, which is situated at the entrance to the French Valley. Consequently, because it is unserviced, there are no facilities here. It is just a place to pitch your own tent.

The French Valley is a steady uphill trail. Upon reaching Camp Britanico, which is towards the end of the valley, you will have reached an altitude of around 900m. Above all, if the sky is clear, the views in this area are amazing, especially around this campsite.

For the return trek you need to backtrack until you reach Camp Italiano. From this point, you’ll head towards the right if you’re you are going to Refugio Paine Grande. Therefore, you will travel across a  footbridge over the Frances River and then the trail levels out until you reach Refugio Paine Grande.

The journey from Camp Italiano to Paine Grande takes around two and a half hours.

Western Sector: Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey

Operated: Between September to end of April

Start: Refugio Paine Grande
End: At Refugio Grey
Trek Time: 4 hours
Distance: 11km
Difficulty: Medium.
Experience Required: None.
Altitude Gain: 485m

Description

You’ll begin your trek from Paine Grande, where the trail will lead you up to a peak which reaches an altitude of 485m. Consequently, this climb is gradual initially, however, it will become steeper the closer to get to the peak.

However, after this, you’ll head down towards Grey Lake. In parts the path is narrow and steep, however, the path alongside the lake is largely level. If you’re lucky you may even hear the sounds of the Magellan Woodpecker! Once you have a full view of Grey Lake you will see glacial icebergs and the breathtaking Glacier Grey in the distance.

If you’re beginning from Refugio Grey, you can stay the night and take the boat across Grey Lake the next day to Hotel Lago Grey or travel back to Paine Grande.

Alternatively, if you arrive at Refugio Grey early-on you can take the boat to Hotel Grey on the same day. Additional options include embarking on an ice hike on Glacier Grey and/or kayaking. (Both options can be pre-booked through us).

END OF THE “W” (East to West)

Torres del Paine W Trek Trail Route

West to East (Glacier Grey to Torres Base)

Brief Descriptions of Trekking Sectors West to East

The Three Main Sectors of the W-Trek:

Western End (Grey Sector):

This includes the trek alongside Refugio Grey and Grey Lake to Refugio Paine Grande.

Central Part (Cuernos Sector):

In the middle, this includes the trek into the French Valley.

Eastern End (The Estancia Sector, or Las Torres End):

You’ll begin from Refugio or Cabañas Cuernos (or Domos Frances), proceeding to Refugio Chileno and then up to the Torres Base.

The return trip will involve trekking down to Hosteria Las Torres, Refugio Torre Norte, Refugio Torre of Central, Eco Camp and the welcome centre.

NOTE:
You can begin this trek from Refugio Grey if you’re on the full-circuit trek from Los Perros.

or

If you have come over on the Navigation Grey boat from Hotel Grey.

or

In the case that you have travelled from Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey the previous day.

Western Sector: Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Operated: Between September to the end of April

Start: Refugio Grey

End: Refugio Paine Grande

Trek Time: 4 hours

Distance: 11km

Difficulty: Medium.

Experience Required: None.

Altitude Gain: 485m

Description

When beginning from Refugio Grey, the path is flat for the first hour and you’ll pass through a wood, cross over some small streams and then begin going up a slight slope.

There will be many opportunities to see Grey Lake. However, on the uphill portion, you can pause and look back on the path you have travelled, whilst catching a glimpse of the spectacular Glacier Grey in the distance. The entire trek from Refugio Grey is said to take around 3.5 hours, but some people take 4 hours and some do it faster.

Central Sector: Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio / Cabins Cuernos

From Paine Grande to Refugio Cuernos (via the French Valley)

Operated: Between September to the end of April

Start: Refugio Paine Grande

End: Refugio Cuernos, Cabañas Cuernos, or Domos Frances

Trek Time: 5hrs (direct to Refugio Cuernos and Cabañas Cuernos) or 10hrs (through the French Valley).

You can take an hour off both of these times if you’re staying at Domos Frances.

Distance: 24km (if going via the French Valley) or 13km (if going direct to Refugio and Cabañas Cuernos).

Difficulty: Medium to high.

Experience Required: None.

Altitude Gain: 1,100m

Description

If you’re starting from Refugio Paine Grande, you’ll travel along the well-trodden path towards the Cuernos of Paine. The path is mostly level, however, it gets slightly steeper in parts.

Moreover, on the right, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Nordenskjold Lake, and after around two and a half hours you will arrive at a pedestrian, hanging bridge. On the other side of the bridge is the non-serviced campsite, Camp Italiano, but if you turn left after the bridge you will start to head towards the French Valley.

If you want to travel across the French Valley and back it will take 5hrs, but you can cut this short if you prefer.

Central Sector: Refugio / Cabins Cuernos to Refugio Chileno

Operated: Between September to end of April

Start: You’ll begin from Domos Frances or Refugio Cuernos and Cabañas Cuernos

End: Refugio Chileno

Trek Time: 5 hours one way

Distance: 11km (to Refugio Chileno) or 13.5km (if travelling from Domos Frances)

Difficulty: Medium

Experience Required: None

Altitude Gain: 500m

Description

This trek passes through a distinctive beech-tree wood and continues along the northern shore of the Nordenskjold Lake. During the hike you will encounter medium-difficulty terrain. Therefore, this means that there are some hills, but you’re met with stunning views at the top of each peak.

At some stage, you will come across a fork where you will have an option to miss out Refugio Chileno and, instead, carry on towards to the start, or end, of the trailhead at Hotel Las Torres.

However, if you decide to head towards Refugio Chileno, you will walk uphill for about an hour and a half until you get to a point where the path narrows and bends quite sharply to the left. This is the entrance to the Ascensio Valley.

Eastern Sector: Refugio Chileno to the Mirador Las Torres (Torres Base)

Operated: Between the end of September and the end of April

Start: Refugio Chileno

End: The welcome centre, Hotel Las Torres, Refugio Torre Central, Refugio Torre Norte, the welcome centre or the Eco Camp.

Trek Time: 2 hours up from Chileno, 2 hours back to Chileno and 2 hours down to Hotel Las Torres. Add an extra half an hour to your trip if you’re travelling back to down to Refugio Torre Central, Refugio Torre Norte, the welcome Centre, and add an hour if you’re heading to back to the Eco Camp.

Distance: 11km from Refugio Chilens to Torres Base

Difficulty: Medium to high

Experience Required: None

Altitude Gain: 866m

Description

Refugio Chileno to the Glacial Moraine Sector

This section will take around an hour. You’ll cross two rivers and pass through a dense lenga forest during this portion of the trip.

The Moraine Sector

It will take approximately one hour to travel over and around the large boulders of glacial moraine.

This part of the trek heads north towards the Mirador, which means that the wind is usually head-on, making this portion of the trek more difficult than it would normally be.

The Torres Base

Once you travel around the final bend of the path, you will see the sky-high ‘towers’ and a stunning blue-coloured lake at their base.

Most people take about half an hour to relax, enjoy some food and take in the view.

When you’re done soaking up the scenery, you’ll head back the way you came up; stopping by Refugio Chileno if you wish.

END OF THE “W” (West to East)

FAQs Before the W Trek

Q. How long does the W Trek take on average?

A. Most people complete the W Trek in anywhere between four and five days but the pace that you set is up to you, our custom itinerary system is designed to allow you to plan out your time to suit your needs.

The trek itself is 74 kilometres in length and along mostly flat ground, although some inclines will be essential of course. The longest and most difficult days will conventionally see you hiking for anywhere between six and eight hours, this, of course, will include plenty of breaks to stop and take in the view.

Q. What activities can I add on to my W Trek?

A. Torres Del Paine national park is rife with additional activities for you to incorporate into your custom itinerary. If you would like to get involved in some kayaking or ice-hiking, just mention this to our travel experts and we’ll do our best to incorporate it.

Q. What kind of pace do the guides set?

A. A guided tour is just that, guided. The pace of the trek is totally dependent on the speed of the slowest member. In general, guides will hike at the front of the group and make sure the group is comfortable with the pace.

Guides will also have a series of viewpoints or miradors planned out in advance, which serve as opportunities for an extended rest. If you need a slower pace than average, let us know ahead of time and we will make sure that we accommodate that in your itinerary.

Q. What kind of equipment will I need to do the W Trek?

A. We recommend bringing high-quality hiking boots, windproof and waterproof coats, sturdy ergonomic waterproof backpacks for hiking and plenty of water receptacles. If you need guidance on what to bring with you, please get in touch and we’re happy to provide more detailed information. 

Q. Is it possible to do it on my own or should I join a group?

A. We provide itineraries for solo travellers, couples and groups of all sizes, so don’t be discouraged if you’re apprehensive about going it alone.

If you’d like an experienced guide for your trip, get in touch and we can organise this for you for an additional fee. However, if you’re the adventurous type you’re more than welcome to tackle the W-Trek unguided.

Q. Do I need a guide?

A guide is not essential to the experience as the path is generally well-populated and well marked, however many of our customers who are first-time trekkers say that booking a guide is one of the best decisions they made for the trip.

The guide’s knowledge of the area and its history can really add to your experience. Also, having the responsibility of navigating in someone else’s hands will help you relax so you can just focus on the views and putting one foot in front of the other. 

Q. What kind of wildlife can I expect to see?

Guanacos are close cousins of the Peruvian llamas and are often seen in Eastern sector of the Park.

South America’s iconic wildlife like the condor, huemul deer, armadillo and many other recognisable creatures are all found in Torres del Paine National Park. 

Just make sure to bring some binoculars if you want a good view of condors!

Q. What are the best accommodation choices?

Accommodation is basically split into two categories: Refugios (or hostels) on the actual trek and hotels positioned around the Park. However, there is also luxury camping and high-end luxury hotel lodges to be found in strategically-positioned places around the Park that give incredible, dramatic views of the Torres del Paine Central Masiff. The most popular choices for trekkers on the W Trek are either a refugio (hostel) or serviced camping.

Refugios

Refugios are youth hostels that are dotted along the trail and provide a fun social space to unwind and re-charge after your day on the trail. However, we only book full-board accommodation, so all of your meals will be included throughout the duration of your trip.

The refugios of Torres del Paine National Park vary in size and quality, so make sure to contact us if you’re unsure which option is right for you. If you don’t mind a bit of a squeeze and love a chat with interesting people then these are the perfect choice for you. 

Torres del Paine Refugio Torre Norte

Torres del Paine Refugio Torre Central

Torres del Paine Refugio Chileno

Torres del Paine W Trek Peak Season

The busiest months are December, January and February, therefore, the trekking route and Torres Del Paine national park will be more crowded during this time. On the other hand, October, November, March and April are normally the best months to embark on the W-Trek. If your schedule is flexible, we recommend visiting the park in April because it is quieter and there is less wind.

All bookings will need to be made up to one year in advance in order to secure your spot. However, if you have limited availability, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can build a custom travel itinerary that suits your exact needs.

W Trek Off-Season

The winter months of Chilean Patagonia (late April to early September) present challenges to itinerary design that have to be worked around. Days are shorter and the weather is generally colder, leading to a high likelihood of snow on the roads and trails.

Un-guided tours are not available as a result and many hostels scale back their opening hours and services offered to compensate for the reduced quantity of tourists. If Patagonian winter is still the only time you can make it, or you just love a challenge, we can still easily create your custom itinerary to work around these restrictions.

What about the O circuit?

You may have heard about the other popular trek in the Torres Del Paine National Park, the “O Trek”. The O Trek is a longer and generally more demanding trek that incorporates the W Trek route as well.  This trek will take you off to more remote areas with even fewer traces of human life.

Recommended for experienced trekkers only, the O Trek will take between seven to nine days and require you to camp at a serviced campsite. All gear and camping equipment is included as part of the program, so you won’t need to worry about bringing your own. 

If you embark on the O Trek then you’ll be blessed with unique views of the Grey Lake and the Southern Patagonian ice field.

For more information on the O Trek, head to our dedicated O Trek page now!

 

Torres del Paine W Trek & O Circuit Trek Itineraries

Torres del Paine Classic Self-Guided W Trek

with Puerto Natales

Torres del Paine Classic Self-Guided W Trek

with El Calafate

Torres del Paine Self-Guided "O" Circuit

Anticlockwise

W Trek Offer – Free Night in Santiago (Min. 2 People per Room)

* The W Trek Rates Include: Transportation from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine and back |Accommodation |Breakfast at Hotels | Bedding at Accommodation on the W trek | Towels at Grey and Grande Accommodation on the W trek |All Meals (full board) at Refugios or Alternative Accommodation (like camping) on the W trek route.

For custom-built W Trek itineraries, email us…

Torres del Paine W Trek & Other Premium Itineraries

Torres del Paine Tierra Patagonia Premium Itinerary

Torres del Paine Premium Full W Trek Itinerary Incl FREE Park Entrance

Torres del Paine Explora Salto Chico Lodge Premium Itinerary

If you would like for us to create a custom-built premium itinerary for you, email us…

Torres del Paine

W Trek Info

Why is it called the
W Trek?

The W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park is called so because the path marks out a “W” shape on the map. The total distance is around 55km.

Torres del Paine W Trek Landing Page

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