Patagonia Hiking Guide: How to break up the ‘W’ circuit in Torres Del Paine into day walks

Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile is immensely popular among hikers and rightly so. The park is home to massive glaciers that meet with emerald lakes and spectacular mountain panoramas at every turn.

The most popular route in the park is the 4 or 5 days ‘W’ circuit where you can walk from hut to hut.

However, if you could not get reservations on all the huts along the route (which is highly possible as the huts are booked up months in advance) or if you prefer to walk only with a day pack – here are a list of the trails you can go on and a list of possible accommodations.

Trail 1: To Mirador de las Torres

To get to the viewpoint of the iconic granite towers, you have an option of three different accommodations. Starting from the Visitor Centre (near Hotel Torres), the trail gently ascends for 3.5 hours.

Once you get to the currently closed Camp Las Torres, the difficult part starts. No matter where you start from, the last section of the trail goes steeply uphill for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.

 

Option 1                        : Camping Torres Central

Distance (return)  : 24km (9hours)

Getting there       : The bus heading to the national park will drop you off close to the campsite.

Room type         : Campsite

 

Option 2                        : Refugio Chileno

Distance(return)   : 12km (5hours)

Getting there       : You will have to get to Camping Central by bus and then walk the trail leading to the mirador for 2 hours. By staying here, you can get an early start to the mirador.

Room type         : Dorms and campsite

Option 3 : Estancia Goic
Distance (return) : 24km (9 hours)
Getting there : Estancia Goic is located 1km before the park entrance where the buses stop. You can walk it or request for the bus driver to stop here. As the hotel is located outside the park, this place usually has vacancies when other acomodations have been booked up. It i also a good place to spot the endangered guanacos who are often seen grazing at the grass patch next to it. To get to the trail head, walk back to the park entrance to take one of the buses heading to Camping Central from Puerto Natales.
Room type : Private rooms and campsite

Trail 2 : Mirador Britanico and Mirador Frances

A gentler hike than the one to Mirador de Las Torres but offers equally spectacular views of the mountains in the park. Both viewpoints are on the same trail. You will reach Mirador Frances first and after another 2 hours, you will reach Mirador Britanico which offers similar views but at a larger scale.


Option 1 :Refugio Paine Grande
Distance (return) : Mirador Britanico – 30km (10 hours) or to Mirador Frances – 20km (6 hours)
Getting there : Take the bus into the national park and get off at the Pudeto stop. From here, take the ferry (catamaran) which will arrive at the doorsteps of the welcoming Refugio Paine Grande. To get to Mirador Frances and Britanico, follow the trails to Campamento Italiano.
Room Type : Dorms and campsite

Option 2 : Camp Italiano or Camp Frances
Distance : Mirador Britanico – 15 km (6 hours) or Mirador Frances -6 km (2 hours)
Getting there : Get to Refugio Paine Grande and follow the gentle route for 2 hours to Camp Italiano. Walk for another 20 minutes to get to Camp Frances. The trail to the miradors start from Camp Italiano.
Room type : Campsites

Option 3 : Camping Pehoe
Distance :Mirador Britanico – 30km (10 hours) or to Mirador Frances – 20km (6 hours)
Getting there : Take the bus to the national park headed for the Adminstration stop. The bus will stop at Pudeto first. The campsite is 8km from the Pudeto stop. To get to the trailhead starting at Refugio Paine Grande, take the bus heading from Administracion to the Pudeto stop. From the pudeto stop, take the ferry to Refugio Paine Grande.

Trail 3 : Suspension bridge past Refugio Grey

This is another trail that starts from Refugio Paine Grande. This trail skirts the western side of the park and is one of the windiest area in the park. Follow the trail to Mirador Glacier Grey which will take approximately 2hours. At the viewpoint, you will have a clear view of the glacier. For a closer look at the glacier, keep followin the trail to Refugio Grey. 20 minutes uphill later, you will come across the first suspension bridge where it feels like you are walking just above the glaciers. Another 20 minutes later, you will come across the second suspension bridge. At the end of the second suspension bridge, there is a viewpoint that offers the best view of the glacier.

Option 1 :Refugio Paine Grande
Distance (return) : Second suspension bridge after Refugio Grey 30 km (8- 9 hours) or to Refugio Grey -22 km(7 hours) or to Mirador Glacier Grey – 10km (3 hours)

*It is also possible to stay at Camping Pehoe and do this trek.

WANDERSPIEL TIPS:

1. Get the latest bus and ferry schedules from the CONAF office in Puerto Natales.
2. You will get a map at the park entrance when you pay your fee. Do not lose this map as the other ranger offices in the park do not give out free maps.
3. Keep the ticket stub for your bus to and from Puerto Natales. Use this ticket to get around the park for free on the buses.

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