W Trek, Torres del Paine

Winter TdP - SWX

The "W" Trek is Patagonia's most famous hiking route.  This is a hut-to-hut route, so no need to carry tents and food, just your personal clothing.  The huts ('refugios') have shared rooms for up to 6 people, but see below for ways to hike the best trails using hotels. 

It's a 4-5 day route (read our FAQ below) but can be shortened, and you can also check out longer tours and alternative trip options that include the trails of the W trek.

Read our guide to hiking the W or check out 5 different ways to hike the "W":

W Trek: The Route

The W Circuit follows a trail (normally from East to West), in a 'W' shape. It takes in the 3 main valleys, home to the three gems of Torres del Paine:

  • up the Ascensio Valley to: the best vantage point of the mile-high granite Towers from which the park gets its name. This involves 800m of ascent is a demanding 6 to 8 hour day.
  • up the French Valley, with the vast hanging glacier Frances dominating the landscape on your left as you climb. More challenging terrain and wonderful views of the glacier as you hike up the valley.
  • along Lago Grey towards the magnficent Grey glacier on the edge of the Patagonian Ice Cap. An easier days hiking and the Grey Glacier, stretching out towards the Ice Cap, is beautiful.

See these places on a map of the W Trek with key landmarks, and read our guide to hiking the W.

Route Map

W Trek Route Map - SWO

Elevation Profile

Elevation W Trek -SWO

W Trek - hut to hut

W Trek from a hotel base

Budget and self-guided W Trek

3-4 day shorter W Trek options

Longer W Trek Options

W Trek: Questions and answers

How hard is it?

The W Circuit takes around 4-5 days to complete and the trail itself stretches approximately 46 miles in distance. It's a moderately difficult trek, with easier days on undulating terrain interspersed with more challenging days ascending 600-800 metres. You need to be in good shape, have some experience of multi-day hiking and be prepared for some rough terrain and weather conditions that are best described as "four seasons in one day". The longest days are 6-8 hours at a gentle pace with plenty of time to take it all it in, stop for photos and properly soak up the incredible landscapes.

Experienced trekkers looking for more might want to tackle the longer "Full Circuit" or get off-the-beaten-track in to Paine's hidden valleys and mountain passes.

Gentler ways to see Torres del Paine include this eco option and this stay at a fully-inclusive lodge.

If you'd like to talk about the route and see how it compares to hikes you've done before then let us know.

Can I combine the trek with some kayaking, mountain biking or horse-riding?

Yes, absolutely. Some parts of the national park are best seen on foot, but there are areas that are well suited to mountain biking and horse riding, and a 2 day kayak out down the Rio Serrano is an increidble way to finish the W Trek. For more info see our guide to multi-activity trips in Torres del Paine.

I’m travelling alone – how can I find a group?

Every year we help dozens of solo travellers to find a hiking group to join in Torres del Paine. Either joining the regular trips organised by our local operators, or putting likeminded hikers together  to create a new departure date.

Please get in touch with your dates and we'll check with all of our partners and records to let you know what options are available to you.

We’ve heard the trails are well marked. Can we do it on our own?

Yes, the trails are well-marked and if you are an experienced hiker and are on a tight budget then you probably can trek it in pairs/couples. Some of our customers do a self-guided hike with all transport and logistics arranged in advance, others combine some independent trekking with guided days in more remote parts of the national park.

However, after years of experience we know that safety and navigation are just a tiny fraction of what guides offer. The local guides that we work with in Torres del Paine speak excellent English and are deeply knowledgeable about the region's wildlife, history, culture and geography. We speak to almost all of our customers on their return and the thing they always talk about is their guides - the very best guides are also great travel companions in the mountains. 

Refugios or Camping?

The refugios (mountain huts and hostels) are very well located for hiking the "W" allowing you hike from hut to hut. The are friendly and convivial places, even if the service can be disappointing on some occasions. Food is good, the bar normally open, and showers are hot nine times out of ten. You sleep in shared rooms of up to 6 people.

If you crave either more privacy, or more exposure to the Patagonian elements then a 4 day trek with camping might work for you, and it is of course possible to take your own tent, or rent one from each camp site (situated alongside the main refugios). The wind can be pretty extreme here - expect one or two noisy nights as the canvas is buffeted by 80km/h winds. We always take our earplugs.

I need private accommodation each night. What are my options?

With one exception (the cabins at Cuernos) the refugios do not have private rooms. So if you are going to follow the exact route of the "W" then you'll need to spend at least one night in a dorm. However there is a hotel at the trail-head for two of the days, and on some trips transport is arrange to a comfortable hotel at the end of the other days.

I’m going at Christmas. Will there be too many people?

The period at end of December and beginning of January does get busy. Places in the refugios normally do get booked up by the end of September, and there are many more people out on the trails. Flights can also be more expensive if you leave it too late.

Our advice is to book well in advance, and to take the opportunity to combine the main trails with a few days of trekking off-the-beaten-track.

Is it possible in the winter?

The park is a very different place in Patagonian winter (Apr/May through to August/September), with far fewer visitors, fewer hours of daylight and the high chance of trekking through snow.

Transport and accommodation options are limited in the winter months, and conditions can be quite extreme, so joining a guided group is critical, as is planning in advance.

We've worked with our local partners to design special itineraries that get you to the highlights of the "W Trek" in spite of the limited accommodation options and likely snow conditions.  We are planning to run a W Trek group each month this winter. See more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter.

Swoop's Google Map of Torres del Paine

Our Torres del Paine Map shows the glaciers, lakes, mountains and other spectacles you'll see when hiking the W Trek, as well as other landmarks of the National Park. You can also see a selection of airports and accommodation options on the map:

Example Itineraries including the W Trek

Here are some of our suggestions for visiting several regions of Patagonia, including the W Trek trails of Torres del Paine. These can be fully tailored to suit your timeframe, budget and interests. You can also see our other inspirational itineraries for exploring Patagonia.

Day Hike Patagonia

14 nights, from USD $5,300 to $7,200

Hike the glaciers, mountains and coastlines of Patagonia, experiencing the famous national parks of Torres del paine, Mount Fitz Roy and Tierra del Fuego and get off the beaten track on the island of Chiloe.  This trip is ideal for those who love to hike dramatic trails, but with only a daypack and good quality accommodation each night.

The Best of Chile & Argentina

14 nights, from USD $7,000 to $9,300

Combine cityscapes with wilderness.  Explore a colourful, bohemian port city, hike breathtaking trails to granite peaks, cruise to Cape Horn and dance the tango in Buenos Aires.  This trip is ideal for those looking to explore the best that southern Chile and Argentina have to offer without compromising on comfort.

Chile: Deep into Patagonia

21 nights, from USD $8,000 to $9,800

Combine the highlights of Chilean Patagonia with areas unvisited by many.  See volcanoes, glaciers, lakes and the mighty towers of Torres del Paine, laze in hot springs, hike forgotten trails, ride with gauchos, cruise amongst icebergs and fly over Cape Horn.  Ideal for first time visitors and those wanting to experience more.

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Multi activity Trips in Torres del Paine

You can combine your hike of the 'W' with a number of additional activities in the National Park. From kayaking to mountain biking and horse-riding. These are generally itineraries that are tailored to people's needs and dates but needn't cost the earth if you book with a local Chilean company.

Multi-Activity trips in Torres del Paine

Patagonia Tours that include the W Trek

If you are planning a longer trip through Patagonia and the 'W' is just part of that then you could consider a Tour where the itinerary includes Torres del Paine. Tours through Patagonia range in length and price, groups vs private, but nearly all will include a few days in Torres del Paine National Park. 

Patagonia Tours with Torres del Paine

The 'Full Circuit'

For experienced hikers, who are prepared for a couple of nights of camping (fully supported of course), the Full Circuit offers the chance to see all the trails of the 'W' but also explore the northern part of the National Park as well. If you have the time and the experience then this is a very rewarding trek indeed, over 7-10 days. 

Full Circuit treks of Torres del Paine

Off the beaten track in Torres del Paine

The main trails of Torres del Paine are beautiful, dramatic and very photogenic, but if you want a more remote and wild experience then why not hike the W and then take a few days Off the Beaten Track. 

Off the Beaten Track, Torres del Paine

Puma Tracking in Torres del Paine

The elusive Puma is the largest and most dangerous predator in Patagonia. You have the most chance of spotting a puma in the northern part of Torres del Paine National Park, although it's unlikely you'll see one unless you are on a specific Puma Tracking Trip. Our Puma trips are run by knowledgeable local guides teamed up with experienced trackers, who together will provide you with the best chance of spotting one of these stunning creatures. 

Patagonia Puma & Wildlife Tracking 

Questions? Need help?

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Call us on: +44 (0) 117 369 0196 (we're open 9am to 6pm, 7 days a week)

Email us at: advice@swooptravel.co.uk

Contact us on Skype: swoop_in

Twitter: @SwoopPatagonia

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