Torres del Paine Circuit Trek Guide 5 to 6 days

We believe this is the best guide to the Torres del Paine Circuit Trek, in-print or online. This guide was inspired by Alison and I finding a scarcity of accurate and up-to-date information on how to plan for trekking in Torres del Paine. In fact mainstream, supposedly reputable materials about the trek were missing essential information, out-of-date, or just plain wrong. Here is the information gathered from our recent Circuit Trek in Torres de Paine.

June 2017: It appears that C. Torres (área de acampar Torres) is likely closed for the 17-18 season! This has significant implications for the W Trek (and some for the Circuit Trek as well), but there is a hack. See more below…

Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

Glacier Grey, a 7 km (4.5 mile) wide river of ice that flows down from the immense Heilo Sur (this Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the second largest non-polar ice shelf). Glacier Grey’s origin from the Heilo Sur is at the upper right of the photo between the snow covered mountains of the Southern Andes. If you only do the W Trek you’ll miss walking along this incredible river of ice. It was our favorite part of the Torres del Paine Circuit Trek. Alison’s ULA Ohm 2.0 Pack is probably carrying less than 11 lb (5 kg) at this point in the trip.

This is a companion piece to an overall guide to Trekking the Torres de Paine. The main post: Torres del Paine Trekking – Quick and Easy Guide to Essential Trip Planning has gear lists, food lists, information on campsite reservations, busses and ferries, park maps, GPX files, and other essential information to plan your trip.

Note: Until I manage to update all the TdP Guide Pages, this information supersedes what’s written in them. And please let me know of any changes, new information, or errors in the comments section at the end of this post. Your fellow travelers will appreciate it!

June 2017: It appears that C. Torres (área de acampar Torres) is likely closed for the 17-18 season!
This has significant implications for the W Trek, but there is a hack (see below)

C. Torres (área de acampar Torres) is clearly “greyed-out” not an option on the Park map on the reservations page. And they state “(Campamento Torres Closed Next Season).” My best guess is that they are renovating it.  It was in pretty bad shape when we were there last. That leaves C. Paso and C. Italiano as the only free/CONAF options. As a backup until this resolves, you could consider booking Campamento Chileno (Área de acampar Chileno) with Fantastico Sur. It’s about plus an hour or a bit longer hike up to the Torres de Paine (vs. C. Torres), but still doable.

April 2017: Most Refugios and Private Campamentos closed for the season. Backside of O/Circuit guided only.

As of April 15 Most, most Refugios/Private Campamentos (Fantastico Sur and Vertice) are closed for the season. You can still camp on the W but obviously there will be far fewer resources. The “Backside” of the O or Circuit Trek (Serón, Dickson, Los Perros, Paso John Gardern, etc.) is closed unless with an official guide. These will re-open to general use/travel at the start of the 17-18 season.


January 2017: New requirements for reservations and route quotas for both the W Trek and Circuit Trek

1. Advance Reservations are Required for All Your Campsites (W and Circuit)

You need to have all your campsite reservations in place before you enter the park. “You need to show reservations at each campsite in order to stay. This is being enforced. There are limited campsites so making your reservation is essential. (Overcrowding last year caused camp latrines to collapse and many people got sick. Due to this, multiple campsites are now permanently closed.)”

2. There is an 80 Person Per Day Limit on the Circuit Trek (and it can only be done counterclockwise).

There is a 80 person per day limit for the “Backside” (non-W portion) of the Circuit Trek. This is passively regulated by the campsite reservation system (that is, if you have all your campsite reservations you are part of the 80 people per day allowed). This is being strictly enforced! There is a guard house (Gaurdería Coirón) on the backside operated by CONAF and and you’ll be asked to show proof of your reservations to proceed. Note: We have received reports of trekkers without reservations being sent back. [see Official 2017 Park Trekking Map]

3. Reservations for the free Park (CONAF) Campsites are Filling up Well in Advance

Per CONAF:If you are unable to book in all the camps you want to visit, you must adapt your itinerary according to the camps you could get. Consider that there are two other camping and shelter providers where you can book:Fantastico Sur* and Vertice*. We remind you that if you do not have the corresponding reservations you will not be able to access the mountain trails and you should plan other visit options, as there will be control points where you must show the voucher or confirmation email of your reservation.

*Note: Can’t get a site on Vertice/Fantastico? Switch to ‘book in chilean pesos‘ – yes it switches to Spanish, but google translate can help you out.

4. There are now cutoff/closing times for most trails

The back page of the Official 2017 Park Trekking Map now has cutoff times listed for many trails—that is you need to start hiking before that time to reach your destination. This is now strictly enforced.

5. The Park now accepts credit cards for the entry fee

Paying by cash is much faster, but unless you are in a car, you’ll need to wait for the rest of your bus to pay before it leaves. We have reports of trekkers waiting almost two hours at the park entry station for their bus of hikers to pay by credit card, get their pass and get back on the bus.

 

Torres del Paine Circuit Trek in 5 to 6 days from Puerto Natales and Back

The Torres del Paine Circuit Trek or ‘O’ Trek does all of the W Trek, then continues around the back of the Torres del Paine to complete a full loop. We believe many backpackers can easily do the Circuit in 5 to 6 days. (We comfortably did it in 4.5 hiking days). We prefer the Circuit Trek. The “backside,” non-W part of the Circuit Trek ias every bit as beautiful as the W Trek but with fewer people and you see a lot more of the park, which is more varied than just the W Trek. For instance, you walk for miles above Glacier Grey, a 7 km (4.5 mile) wide river of ice that flows down from the immense Heilo Sur (the vast Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the second largest non-polar ice shelf). This was our favorite part of the trek. And finally, the Circuit Trek gives you more time to enjoy this stunning park! [The tricky part of the Circuit is getting over Paso John Garner. This pass can sometimes be closed to travel by rangers due to high winds and/or low visibility.]

Glacier Frances from near Mirador Frances. It's typical in Patagonia for peaks to cloud in mid to late afternoon.

Glacier Frances from near Mirador Frances. It’s typical in Patagonia for peaks to cloud in mid to late afternoon.

Day 0 – Prep day before the Torres del Paine Circuit Trek
Our recommendation is to start at Refugio Paine Grande, head east (counterclockwise) to end at Refugio Paine Grande. See Hiking Times and Distances for Torres del Paine

  • Same as for the W Trek with the following exceptions
    • You will be taking the catamaran both to and from Refugio Paine Grande, so buy a round trip ticket on your ferry ride out to Refugio Paine Grande.
    • You will be taking the bus back from Pudeto on Lago Pehoé (not the Hotel) to return to Puerto Natales
  • Check the bus and ferry schedules to get the most current info (see Transportation).
  • It makes sense to stay overnight in Puerto Natales so you can easily catch the morning’s 7:30 am Bus Gomez (or potentially another bus co.) to the Park. (Make your bus reservation and buy a round-trip ticket to the Park the night before. This is easiest to do when you get off the bus from Punta Arenas.)
  • When you get to P. Natales go directly to CONAF (Park) office (Closed Sat & Sunday) and make campsite reservations for free campamentos (Italiano and Torres fill quickly).
  • Check in at Basecamp/Erratic Rock for 3:00 talk. (Worth listening to!) You can rent gear at Basecamp and they make a decent pizza.
  • Provision food at the Unimarc in Puerto Natales. Long lines! (Better to provision in Punta Arenas if you have the chance. Way more options including a natural foods store, Patachmama, with lots of nuts & dried fruit.)
  • Outdoors stores, hardware stores are well supplied with hiking items. Fuel canisters are everywhere in Punta Arenas and P. Natales
  • Alcohol fuel is available at Cruz Verde pharmacias in plastic bottles.
Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

Floor of Valle Encantado with wildflowers in full bloom (at least when we were there). One of the highlights of the Torres del Paine Circuit Trek.

Day 1 – Getting to trek start (Refugio Paine Grande) via bus, catamaran – Valle Frances and Campamento Italiano

4 to 5 hours and 12 km, 7.5 miles (to Mirador Frances). This is a half day starting around noon. Hiking on good trails (and with just a daypack to Miradors [viewpoints] in Valle Frances).

Get to the bus station early for the 7:30 am bus. First come first serve and the bus fills quickly. [Late comers for our bus did not get on the exact bus they had reserved. e.g. a ticket and reservation does not guarantee you a seat. No worries tho. They will put you on the next bus.]

  • Be first off the bus at Laguna Amarga Entrance stop (around 9:30 am). Pay entrance fee & get permit. If you didn’t make campsite reservations for free campamentos do it now. The free campsites on the W like Campamento Italiano & Torres fill fast. If you can’t get a reservation at C. Italiano, for a small fee camping at R. Frances is quieter and nicer.
  • Get back on bus to and arrive approx. 10:30a the Pudeto ferry dock (Catamaran on Lago Pehoé). Ferry leaves at 12:00 or 6:00 for Paine Grande. (Realistically in high season it may be going back and forth almost hourly). We got a “10:45” ferry and got to R. Paine Grande around 11:15 am. You pay your fee on the ferry–no advance reservations taken. Buy a round trip ticket since you’ll be taking the ferry back at the end of the Circuit.
  • Pickup your pack and head off to the free camping at Campamento Italiano (if you have a reservation) or possibly camping at Refugio Frances. One way stats to C. Italiano: approx. 7.5 km, 4.8 miles and 2.0 hours from RPG.
  • No matter where you are camping, drop your pack at Campamento Italiano (very safe everybody does it) and kit yourself out for day-hiking. Hike to at least Mirador Frances for a stunning view of the hanging Glacier Frances. We were less inspired by the hike up Valle Frances to the Mirador Britanico which is a lot more trekking for a nice view of a high cirque. If you are short on time and energy M. Frances is the bigger bang for the buck. Round trip stats for M. Frances: approx. 4 km, 2.6 miles and 2.0 to 2.5 hours. Round trip to M. Britanico 11 km, 6.9 miles and 4.0 hours.
  • 2017 update: Please note that the trail to Mirador Britanico now closes at 3.00pm/15.00 and is strictly enforced. As such, it’s tight to make it to C. Italiano off of the 10.45am Catamaran (arrives at Paine Grande around 11.40am) in time to trek to M. Frances. To make it work: be the first off the ferry, don’t stop long or at all at R. Paine Grande, and instead hike quickly to C. Italiano. Once there, drop your packs and hike briskly up to M. Frances to beat the closing time.
  • Once back down, get packs and if you have a reservation pitch your tent at C. Italiano. We camped 1/2 hour further down the trail from C. Italiano at the new and nice R Frances. Good tent platforms. Best hot showers and bathrooms of the trip by far. Small store and they serve meals if you have reservations (we managed to talk them into seating us for dinner day-0f but it was very tight).

Mirador Britanico in Valley Frances. Not all days are sunny in Patagonia, especially later in the day when the mountains are likely to cloud in. A waterproof pack like this HMG 2400 Southwest is nice on days that are threatening rain. (Early starts are best, especially if you want to see the mountains unobstructed by clouds.)

Day 2 – C. Italiano to Campamento Torres (with an evening peek at the Torres themselves)

7.5 to 9 hours and 28 km, 17.5 miles to Campamento Torres and a trip up to M Torres. This is a very pleasant alpine walk along the shore of Lago Nordenskjöld to R. Cuernos. After R. Cuernos take the cutoff trail (well marked) to R. Chileno (very nice store!). And then hike up to C. Torres. This camp has minimal facilities (dirt sites, no showers, basic cooking shelter, no tables). Not so great bathrooms. Your alternative is to camp at R. Chileno but that adds an extra hour each way for the hike to the Mirador las Torres, making it a 3.5 hour round trip hike vs. the 1.5 hours from C. las Torres.

  • C. Italiano to R Los Curenos – 1.5 to 2.0 hours, and 5 km, 3.1 miles.
  • R. Los Cuernos to C Torres – 2.5 to 3.0 hours
Park Tails are well signed. It is almost impossible to get off-route or lost.

The shortcut to Refugio Chileno  is about 40 to 60 minutes hiking from R Los Cuernos.

  • If you have time (you should) and the Torres are clear of clouds, consider hiking the 45 minutes up the steep trail to Mirador las Torres to see the famous Torres del Paine. It is also beneficial to familiarize yourself with the steep trail if you will hike it in the dark the next morning to catch the Torres at dawn. Round trip – 1.5 to 2.0 hours and 2 km, 1.3 miles.
tdp-couple

We arrived early enough at C. Torres to hike up for an evening photo at the Torres Del Paine. While not clouded in, the late day overcast did not make for the best of photos.

Torres de Paine W Trek

The pictures at dawn the next morning were much better although I needed to hike in the dark to get them.

Day 3 – Dawn photos of Las Torres, hike to Campamento Serón

7 to 9.5 hours and 23.5 km, 15 miles to Campamento Serón. This day is fast hiking on excellent trails. (A pre-dawn hike to the mirador is included)

Note that we have reports of bugs from Serón to Grey. We use the following on areas not protected by clothing: DEET (or the newer  Picaridin which doesn’t degrade clothing or plastics).  We prefer airline friendly 0.5 pump sprays, which are small, pocketable and easily applied in the field.  Alternatively, for around $6 USD you can get spray at Cruz Verde Pharmacies in Puerto Natales.

Alison dropping down to Rio Paine and Valley Encantado (backside of the Circuit Trek).

Alison dropping down to the Rio Paine in Valle Encantado on the way to Campamento Serón (backside of the Circuit Trek). All the almost white, flat ground in the distance is actually blanketed by wildflowers.

  • (Optional) For those that want the best chance for a photo of Las Torres del Paine: Get up 2.0 hours before sunrise to hike in the dark up to the Mirador to hopefully catch the Torres at first light. You want to be there ready at the mirador with your camera positioned at least 30 minutes before sunrise. This is your best chance to get a clear view of the Torres as they often mist/cloud in later in the day. If you are lucky you may see them in the splendid red light of dawn but it’s not a sure thing. Bring warm clothes for the wait in the dark for photos. After shooting photos hike back down to camp, have breakfast and pack up. [Round trip – 1.5 to 2.0 hours and 2 km, 1.3 miles.]
  • From C Torres hit the trail at approx. 8:00 am or earlier. Hike to Hotel Torres. Be prepared for droves of day hikers heading up from the Hotel. The earlier you get down the fewer hikers you’ll have to dodge around on you way to the hotel. Best food store of the trip is the Kiosk in parking lot of Hotel. Also there is a nice cafe at Refugio Torres. Beautiful views from cafe tables. One way stats from C. Torres to the Hotel/Refugio Torres: approx. 2.0 to 3.0 hours,and 8.5 km, 5.5 miles.
Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

A peek at the Southern Andes and the Vast Southern Ice Field. Nearing the end of Valle Encantado on the way to Refugio Dickson. Backside of the Circuit Trek.

  • Hike along private wooded pastures and meadows to Campamento Serón. There is some cattle pasturing here and we were careful to treat our water. The hike is superbly beautiful once you drop off the hill and down into the aptly named Valle Encantado (enchanted valley). We arrived in time for fields of wildflowers for miles and miles. 3.5 to 4.5 hours and 13km, 8.1 miles
  • Arrive Campamento Serón. Nice cooking on a covered porch. We ate our best sit-down dinner of the trip here. Sketchy hot showers. Decent store with wine and beer. Serón has fairly exposed campsites. (We saw a tent snapped and crushed here by the wind.) If windy, the best tent locations are right up against the fence at the base of the hill. You can even tie a few guylines to the fence.

Day 4 – Campamento Serón to Campamento Los Perros

7.5 to 9.5 hours and 29 km, 18 miles to Campamento Serón. This was one of our favorite hiking days—spectacular scenery. Another day of fast hiking on excellent trails. Beautiful views of the head of Valle Frances, then Lago Dickson and Glacier Dickson, and finally Glacier Perros, and Lago Los Perros.

Logo Dickson from near Refugio Dickson (backside of the Circuit Trek).

Lago Dickson with Glacier Dickson pouring down from the Southern Ice Field. (From Refugio Dickson, backside of the Circuit Trek)

  • Day starts with a long walk through superb alpine meadows to R Dickson. Incredible wildflowers when in bloom! Also, we got our first views of Heilo Sur. One very steep, but short climb in the first hour of hiking. You will need to register at Ranger Station after you leave private land and reenter the park (no payment needed). 4.5 to 5.5 hours and 18 km, 11.2 miles to R. Dickson.
    • Refugio Dickson has great views from their camp site (views of Heilo Sur and surrounding mountains in all directions). Lago Dickson is picturesque with Glacier Dickson flowing into it. Campsite has significant mosquitoes if wind is calm. Relatively unprotected cooking area (picnic tables) if wind is strong. Some camping in woods. Camping in field out of woods is quite unprotected. Nice, well stocked store.

    Lago Perros and Glacier Perros. You exit a long stretch of woods and see this about 10 minutes before reaching Campamento Los Perros.

    Lago Perros and Glacier Perros. You exit a long stretch of woods and get this exquisite view 10 minutes before reaching Campamento Los Perros.

  • From R. Dickson, it is a very pleasant walk through a lovely forest to Campamento los Perros. Steady but moderate climb on good trail. Keep on the lookout for Magellanic Woodpeckers with their neon red heads. You get an incredible view of Glacier Perros and Lago Perros from top of the terminal moraine just before reaching C. Perros. (You can always drop your pack at camp and come back). 3.0 to 4.0 hours and 11 km, 6.9 miles.
image

Super nice Marmot tents, already setup with ground pads inside can be rented for around $12, allowing for a fast start in the morning (they set up the tent for you, you just leave it and go in the morning).

  • Register with Rangers at Los Perros. Most hikers leave in groups to go over Paso John Gardner around 7:00 or 8:00 am the next morning. This is encouraged by the Rangers as they feel it is safer for hikers to travel in groups. Rangers have say on go, no-go for attempting Paso John Gardner. Both strong wind and white-out are reasons for them close the pass. PJG is notorious for extremely high winds coming off of Glacier Grey and the Heilo Sur. An earlier start is almost always better.
  • Dirt campsites at Los Perros but well protected. Super nice tents can be rented for around $12, allowing for a fast start in the morning. Nice store. Best cooking area of trip. Large room with lots of windows and lighted at night.

Day 5 – Over Paso John Gardner and down to R. Paine Grande – catamaran and bus to P. Natales

9 to 12 hours and 29 km, 18.1 miles to catch the last catamaran from R. Paine Grande. This is admittedly a very long day. Many may chose to break this into a full day into Refugio Grey with a following short day to Refugio Paine Grande. [The tricky part is is getting over Paso John Garner. This pass can sometimes be closed to travel by rangers due to high winds and/or low visibility.]

Paso-John-Gardner

Alison fights a strong headwind for the final push over Paso John Gardner. When we woke at 5:30 am. at our camp below the Pass the wind was already blowing 25-30 mph. We quickly packed up and got the hell out of dodge before the Rangers were around to close the pass (which they had done the previous day). It was windy on the way up but not horrible. We could still walk/weave a bit over the actual pass which had the strongest winds.

  • 2 to 3 hours and 4 km, 2.5 miles to Paso John Gardner
    • On our trip Alison and I left Campamento Los Perros around 6:30 am as wind was already blowing 25-30 mph in camp. It’s a boggy and rocky hike up to the pass, but well marked. About half the hike is in the woods protected from wind. Other portions are rocky, exposed and can be quite windy. We had to hike through a few small snowfields at the top, which were a bit slippery in the early morning. Final 100m vertical to the actual pass was quite windy. We were buffeted by the wind and weaving a bit as we crossed the actual summit. Fortunately, the trail quickly descends (down and to the left) into protected woods on other side.
    • The most incredible views of the trip unfold as you go over the pass. Glacier Grey, a 4.5 mile wide river of ice flowing down from Heilo Sur (the great Southern Ice Shelf) and the Southern Andes completely covered in ice and snow. The tip of Glacier Grey many miles below you is calving icebergs into Lago Grey.
glacier-grey-2

Hiking right along the side of Glacier Grey on the way down from Paso John Garner. You’ll get views that few in the park get of this massive river of ice.

  • 1.5 to 2 hours and 4 km, 2.5 miles to Campamento Paso
    • It is a very steep descent in woods on a decent well-maintained trail with many stairs and even some handrails. In short, you are descending from the pass along the ice river until you reach R. Grey. The views are incredible the whole way down. It doesn’t take long to reach Campamento Paso. This not the best campsite on the circuit by a long shot. It is small, unattractive and offers virtually no amenities. C Paso’s redeeming features are that it is well protected in the woods, and is in a key location in relation to Paso John Garner.
  • 3.0 to 3.5 hours and 10 km, 6.5 miles to Refugio Grey
    • More steep downward trail hiking takes you to R. Grey. (The closer you get the Refugio the more crowded the day hiker scene becomes. These are mostly W trekkers making the hike up from the Refugio Grey to miradors of the Glacier.) There are two new Indiana Jones worthy suspension bridges (not for acrophobes) that span nasty gullies. These bridges are tons of fun! There is also one sketchy steel ladder (ala Indiana Jones—sections tied together with cord).
    image

    Not for acrophobes! The park recently added two Indiana Jones worthy suspension bridges between Campamento Paso and Refugio Grey. They speed crossing two deep gullies full of loose rock. The bridges are quite high, long and swing a bunch when you are in the middle.

    • Make sure you stop at the Mirador about ½ mile above R Gray (well marked). Great views of the glacier as it goes into Lago Grey. You are right above the tip of the glacier as it feeds into the lake.
    • R Grey has tons of services meals, food stores. Dirt camping in woods and in a grassy meadow.
  • 2.5 to 3.5 hours and 11 km, 6.3 miles to Refugio Paine Grande
    • From R. Grey, its a non-trivial hike to Paine Grande with a fair amount of up and down along the shore of Lago Grey (or it could be that we were getting tired at this point). It can be very windy. Lots of hikers with both W Trek backpackers and hordes of day hikers coming from Refugio Paine Grande to miradors of Glacier Grey. We found it difficult at times to get around groups of hikers.
    • Paine Grande is a stopping point for day hikers (those staying overnight at RPG, and day trippers from the ferry). Pretty big campsite in back (but very unprotected from wind) and nice Refugio with all services including mini-mart and cafeteria. Nice bathrooms/showers for the campsite. This Refugio gets a lot of traffic since it is the stopping point for the Catamaran so people coming/going all day long.
    • We caught the 5:00pm catamaran back to Pudeto. Last boat of the day leaves at 6:00pm. Buses leave Pudeto (last stop at end of day), at 7:00pm or when the last catamaran gets in. So there’s no premium to getting to the catamaran stop early. Although there’s a decent cafe with sandwiches and good views of the Lago if you do get to Pudeto early.
View from Third mirador (Mirador-Grey-03 on my map): The massive, 4.5 mile wide Glacier Grey as it feeds into Lago Grey. On Day 1 – you’ll hike as far as you have time or energy to get views of the Glacier. The closer you get to the Glacier the better the views, but rest assured there are no bad views!

View from the Third Mirador (Mirador-Grey-03 on my map) where you can see Glacier Grey calve icebergs into Lago Grey. It’s only a short walk from here to Refugio Grey.

Day 6 – Optional extra day + some extra hiking time contingency for bad weather

We realize that day 5 may be a bit longer than some hikers prefer. In this version, Day 6  is a very short day—approx. 3 hours hiking time. This gives you almost a full day (3/4 of a day or more) of contingency hiking time in case of bad weather on the trip and to still make the last catamaran of the day out of R Paine Grande on Day 6.

  • Shorten day 5 and hike only to Refugio Grey. There’s a nice campground here and plenty of amenities. Better yet, there’s a very nice Mirador of Glacier Grey where you can watch icebergs calve into Lago Grey. 6.5 to 8.5 hours and 18 km, 11.5 miles
  • On day 6 hike to Refugio Paine Grande in time to catch the catamaran to Pudeto where you can catch the bus to Puerto Natales. 2.5 to 3.5 hours and 11 km, 6.3 miles.

Hiking Times and Distances for Torres del Paine

C= campamento (camp)   R= refugio (more facilities, meals and beds in addition to camping)

  • This table is just a starting point for planning. You will need to estimate your own hiking pace based on your abilities and pack weight.
  • Times in above table are for Alison and I on our recent trek which we averaged about 2 miles per hour (3.4 km/hr). We are reasonably fit and experienced hikers and carried packs under 18 pounds (under 8 kilos). See our gear list in main post for details. But we are both over 50 years old and by no means speed hikers. And during our trek, Alison was recovering from influenza.
  • Hours (hiking times between points) is just that—hiking/moving time only. Our hiking times include only short stopped tasks like tying a shoelace, snapping a quick photo, putting on a rain jacket, or filling a water bottle. They do not include stoppage or breaks longer than 2-3 minutes. We averaged 2 miles/hour the entire trek.
  • Hiking faster than expected can be just as problematic as slower. See below…
  • Hiking times on Park Maps and in most guide books are conservative (based on an “average” hiker traveling with a heavy pack and not intending on setting any speed records). If you are reasonably fit hiker you will likely do better than these times. We believe with an early start and decent to OK weather, most backpackers could probably do two stages in a day. You have 17 hours of daylight in January!
  • So chances are that you’ll take less time to get from place to place than their estimates. This is one case where hiking too fast is as problematic as too slow. The major complaint we heard was of people hiking faster than expected and arriving at their reserved campground around noon. e.g. they could have easily hiked another stage that day to the next campamento/refugio.
  • We suggest you get an early start and hike far when the weather is good. You may get bad weather later in the trip. There is a lot of daylight in the summer hiking season. The key to making miles is to keep a steady pace and minimize time lost on long stops.
By | 2017-06-21T15:15:14+00:00 February 23rd, 2016|Trip Guides|93 Comments

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93 Comments

  1. Katharine November 13, 2016 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you for writing this – very informative! We are doing the Circuit next year and are trying to gather as much up-to-date information as possible which has proven a little difficult.

    This is probably a stupid question, but you mention “tent platforms” on this itinerary so I wanted to ask you if you think we will have any trouble setting up our tent. I am imagining a wooden platform of sorts and am not sure how that will work without dirt to push the stakes into.

    Any information would be super helpful!

    Thank you!

    • Alan Dixon November 15, 2016 at 1:02 am - Reply

      Katherine, good Q. I am in the field now. Will get back to you soon. Best, -alan

    • Alan Dixon November 15, 2016 at 11:59 pm - Reply

      Katherine, like the US the ent platforms are definitely designed for freestanding dome tents. But can be managed with a non-free standing shelter like our MLD Duomid XL. Some longer pieces of cord can be anchored to stuff around the edges of the platform. And at R. Frances they actually loaned us a hammer and small nails to that we could better anchor the Duomid. The other option is to just rent one their tents for the night. They are generally decent and inexpensive to rent. It also saves the time and hassle of setup and takedown. Have a good trip, -alan

      • Katharine December 6, 2016 at 4:13 pm - Reply

        Thank you Alan. We have a North Face Mountain 25 and were feeling pretty good about it in terms of wind/weather resistance (since I hear the wind is bonkers down there), but I was a bit worried about the cords and stakes when I started reading about the tent platforms. I am glad you think it can be managed and we will bring some extra cord just in case.

        I also see your comment below about the new requirements for reservations on the Circuit – thankfully we are all set for reservations, we made those well in advance and are going to be there the first week of March so hopefully it is a bit less crowded at that time anyway.

        Here is another bizarre question that you may or may not be able to answer. Are you aware of the refugios being able to cater to people with specific food allergies?

        Thank you!

        • Alan Dixon December 6, 2016 at 4:26 pm - Reply

          Glad you have the tent sorted Katherine. As to the food, unless you buy it in packages (with accurate ingredient labels) at the refugio stores, I am guessing almost 90% that they can’t control ingredients enough to cover food allergies. There is a chance that Places like Frances and Seron might be able to tell you with some reliability, but you would likely need to ask day-of to make contact with the cooks and get a rundown on what they are cooking that day. Best on your trip, -alan

  2. Alan Dixon November 29, 2016 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    November 2016. New requirements for reservations and route quotas for both the W Trek and Circuit Trek.

    Until I manage to update all the TdP Guide Pages, this information supersedes what’s written in them.

    1. Advance Reservations are Required for All Your Campsites (W and Circuit)

    You need to have all your campsite reservations in place before you enter the park. “You need to show reservations at each campsite in order to stay. This is being enforced. There are limited campsites so making your reservation is essential. (Overcrowding last year caused camp latrines to collapse and many people got sick. Due to this, multiple campsites are now permanently closed.)

    2. There is an 80 Person Per Day Limit on the Circuit Trek

    There is a 80 person per day limit for the “Backside” (non-W portion) of the Circuit Trek. This is passively regulated by the campsite reservation system (that is, if you have all your campsite reservations you are part of the 80 people per day allowed). This is being enforced. There is a guard house on the backside operated by CONAF and and you’ll be asked to show proof of your reservations to proceed.

    3. Reservations for the Fee Park (CONAF) Campsites are Filling up Well in Advance

    Now that the CONAF site accepts online registrations, Reservas De Campamentos (free campsite reservations) are filling up much faster — possibly months in advance. As such, it may not be possible to get the campsites you want online and/or in person in Puerto Natales or the Park Entrance. But you can complete the W or O trek without the CONAF sites. Just reserve the closest private camps managed by Fantastico Sur and Vertice

    Per CONAF:If you are unable to book in all the camps you want to visit, you must adapt your itinerary according to the camps you could get. Consider that there are two other camping and shelter providers where you can book:Fantastico Sur and Vertice. We remind you that if you do not have the corresponding reservations you will not be able to access the mountain trails and you should plan other visit options, as there will be control points where you must show the voucher or confirmation email of your reservation.

  3. Kim December 2, 2016 at 3:06 am - Reply

    Hi Alan can I ask what month you went? Im trying to avoid high season so thinking Feb/March or Sept/Oct….

    • Alan Dixon December 2, 2016 at 3:12 am - Reply

      We went the first week of January. W portion was reasonably crowded. Campamento Italiano was full altho Campamento Torres was not. The backside was not too crowded with planty of room in the campgrounds. Hope you have a great trek. -Alan

  4. Mary December 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan, thanks for posting all this awesome information. Would you mind giving me a quick breakdown of where you spent your nights? It’s hard to tell which campamentos/refugios you actually slept at vs. which ones you merely passed through. My friend and I now have to book sites in advance, and CONAF sites are booked up for our time frame. Would be nice to know which campsites on the second half of the circuit you would recommend, especially considering potentially having problems crossing Paso JG. We will camp at Seron (night 3), but sleeping which sites after that would work out best logistically to complete the trek within 5-6 days and split up the hiking in a reasonable way? Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon December 7, 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      Mary,
      Day 1 Puerto Natales to Ferry to Mirador Britanico and back down to camp at R Frances
      Day 2 hike to base of towers then back down to camp at C. Torres (then up the next moring to see towers again at dawn)
      Day 3 After seeing towers hike to camp at Seron
      Day 4 Hike to C. Los Perros
      Day 5 Hike to Ferry and back to Puerto Natales

      As to other options. Camping at R. Dixon looked really nice. R. Grey camping looked OK but was certainly crowded–whole area kind of a zoo, altho there’s a lot of amenities. Camping at C. Paso did not look very nice, altho great views of the glacier from there.

      Have a great trip, -alan

  5. Tarek Trad December 12, 2016 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    Thank you for the great work and detailed itineraries. I am in the process of planning my circuit hike with a couple of friends on January 7th, and the information you provided here has helped a lot. I was able to reserve some campsites, however, there’s zero availability of campsites/refugios for my last two nights in the park. Do you think it would be possible to reserve these sites in Puerto Natales? or if the online sites (CONAF, Fantastico Sur, and Vertice) show no availability then this is the way it is? Your thoughts on that would be much appreciated.

    Thank You
    Tarek

    • Alan Dixon December 12, 2016 at 11:35 pm - Reply

      Tarek,
      Reservations in Chile take a bit of elbow grease: To get our reservations right, we had do do a combination of online research, online transactions and emails with FS and Vertice. No right way to do this. You just have to work it with some patience and perseverance.

      And yes, the online reservations for the free park campamentos has made all campsites (free and pay) a bit scarce during high season. You could try to book the free CONAF campsites at their headquarters in PN but not sure what they could do for you (other than possibly have some knowledge of last minute cancellations). The same can also be said for FS and Vertice (but there you might have a better chance at a cancellation since people stand to lose money if they don’t show and don’t cancel).

      Hope this helps. And have a great trek! -alan

  6. bdgrover13 January 18, 2017 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    Alan,
    I am wondering how you take your bag and gear on the plane and through customs? Do you take other luggage if you plan on sight seeing as well (i.e. layover in Santiago)? Do you put everything in a big duffle bag? What do you do with the duffle or extra clothes/luggage while backpacking if you even take other stuff? I know that is a lot of questions, I just want to try to control what I can control to make sure it goes well. Thanks for your help.

  7. Franny January 23, 2017 at 6:17 am - Reply

    Alan,

    Thanks for the wonderful information. My husband and I are heading down to Patagonia in February to get in some much needed hiking.

    My question to you: what other hikes would you recommend in Patagonia? Are there any that you would recommend over the O?

    Thanks,
    Franny

    • Alan Dixon January 23, 2017 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Hi Franny,
      The Circuit Trek or O is likely the nicest long trek in the area. The other high profile (fantastic!) destination in Patagonia is the Cerro Torre, Fitzroy area outside of El Chalten in Argentine Patagonia. Alison and I trekked in this area in 2005. To do that you’ll need to take a Bus (unless you have a rental car). Some basic info on Bus service from Puerto Natales Chile to El Calafate Argentina (and then to El Chalten) is in our Guide. I have been advised that during high season, Dec to Feb that busses can fill up so it may be best to book in advance (possibly from the US?). Some readers have used a third party to book the bus “We used Patagonia Extrema/Southroad to book – we paid a 35-40% premium on tickets, but it was worth it, as our Calafate-PN, PN-Park roundtrip, and PN to PA buses were all sold-out.”

      Also from El Calafate you can easily see one of the great natural wonders of Argentina, the Perito Moreno Glacier (scroll a fair amount down to see the pictures).. It’s one of the few advancing glaciers in the world–it moves about 7cm each day. Because it is constantly moving, vast blocks of ice fall off the face of the glacier into the lake, calving icebergs with an explosive detonation that sounds like a bomb going off.

      The other incredible destination is to fly to the Atacama desert. This is where Alison and I went last year post TdP. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world. Amazing salt lakes and wildlife! We saw 3 of the 6 world’s flamingo species while there. Amazing star watching, possibly the premier astronomical research location on the planet. There is El Tatio an immense caldera with its many geysers is in the Atacama Desert at over 14,000 feet (4320m). Its name comes from the Quechua word for oven. It is among the highest-elevation geyser fields in the world. El Tatio has over 80 active geysers, making it the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world.

      Oh, and from Punta Arenas possibly PN you can see King Penguins in Terra del Fuego. This Penguin Colony in Terra del Fuego is the ONLY colony north of South Georgia Island. That’s a BIG DEAL! Otherwise you need to get on a boat and go the Antarctic to see them. Alison and I did an epic 18-hour day trip from Punta Areas to Terra del Fuego to see them for just an hour. This included endless hours of bad dirt roads and two insane and dangerous ferry crossing of the Straights of Magellan in 100kph winds. We got to look at these beautiful creatures for over an hour. Could even see the eggs they were incubating on top of their feet. A privilege that few have had. Incredible!

      Have a great trek, -alan

  8. bdgrover13 January 24, 2017 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    There is a penguin colony near puerto natales as well. At least there was 20 years ago when I lived in Punta Arenas.

  9. Mike January 30, 2017 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    This is a very long comment. Sorry. But I just returned from Torres del Paine and I thought it was worth sharing this detailed update.

    I did the 6-day version January 16-21. I am a 61-year-old male from New York with problematic knees who did this as a solo trip. I saw numerous women doing it solo and spoke extensively to two. Neither was aware of anyone having any problems.

    I carried all my food and was carrying a bit more weight than Alan or Allison. I got a nasty sinus infection the day I started and had a bit of a sore throat for part of the trip. I am not a particularly fast hiker but everything was fine. I don’t think I saw anyone over 30 between Perros and the Pass.

    Here is what I have learned. This is all your-mileage-my-vary kind of stuff since the situation changes constantly and one ranger or campsite manager may be quite different from another.

    1. They were superstrict about having reservations. I met two Australians who thought they could just make camping reservations when they showed up and they had to limit themselves to day hikes instead. Make all campsite reservations well in advance and print out hard copies.. I had to show these many times. One time I lost my patience with a ranger, complaining when he asked not only for the current night’s reserva but future nights as well. He explained that he was just doing his job and I apologized and thanked him for working to keep us safe.

    I did meet a group of Chileans with full packs on my Day 2 afternoon day hike up to the base of the Torres mirador. I asked one of them why they didn’t leave their giant loads at the Torres campsite. He explained that they didn’t have reservas. Given how frequently I was being asked to show my reservation, I would not recommend this as a strategy. Also, the rangers might cut Chileans a bit more slack if they caught them stealth camping. But it is the Chileans’ public resource and it’s just wrong for us, as guests, to overuse it.

    2. Learn as much as you can before you go. This page is by far the best. But read widely. I say this because you never know what’s going to happen. The day I entered the park (Jan. 16) the catamaran broke down. The park personnel boarded our bus in Laguna Amarga and told us it would probably start running at 2 pm. I was in a panic since I had all my campsites prereserved. I was not at all happy about getting on a 2 pm catamaran and wasn’t real confident that it would be up by then anyway. So, I changed plans, took a small bus to Hotel Torres and walked to C. Italiano the first day. Then did the day hike only to mirador Francés since it was late, there was bad weather, and it was past closing time to see Británico. I later realized that during my trip closing times were not being enforced. But you have to be flexible. Turns out the catamaran still was not up by day 6, so I ended up walking the tail of the Q from Pudeto to CONAF Administration to take the bus out of the park to Puerto Natales. This, of course, was not my original plan but it was all good.

    I learned about the online CONAF reservation system by pure luck when I saw a link on the CONAF site. Once I had my CONAF reservations, I figured I was already locked in, so I might as well make the pay reservations too.

    3. Wet-foot / dry-foot. No, I am not referring to US immigration policy with respect to Cuba. I am talking about trail runners vs. more traditional hiking boots. Alan argues for the former. A few days before I departed, I saw that there is an Erratic Rock daily 3 pm presentation up on youtube where the presenter supports Alan’s position. Yet the day I went, the Erratic Rock presenter said you have to have sturdy boots. My takeaway is that either works, as long as you know what you are in for. Don’t bring boots unless you are very confident that they will keep your feet dry after 5-6 days of continuous rain, mud, fording streams and walking trails that are themselves streams. If you doubt your boots can stay dry, then don’t bring them.

    My plan was to have an easy day 6 so I thought I might do the glacier walk at Gray that day. Trail runners don’t work well with crampons, so I brought my Gore-Tex leather boots. My feet stayed dry the entire trip (although I never did the glacier walk since the catamaran breakdown meant I didn’t have any slack in my schedule.)

    4. I regret not bringing my own food. The best strategy is to bring sealed food and declare it upon entering the country. There is a small risk that your food will be confiscated. But it is unlikely. And I think it is a risk worth taking since I could not find the food I wanted in Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales.

    5. Like Alan said, show up early for the bus to the park. Although I had a 7:30 am reservation. I got on a bus that left at 7:06 am. Given the fiasco with the catamaran, it was worth it getting there early.

    6. If you are having trouble making online campsite reservations with US dollars try making them in Chilean pesos. I tried to make reservations unsuccessfully for a couple of days. It only worked after I changed the currency. Maybe this is no longer a problem.

    This was the most ambitious trip I’ve taken in decades, maybe in my entire life. I am not exaggerating at all when I say that without Alan, this trip would not have happened. Thank you Alan.

    • Alan Dixon January 30, 2017 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      Nice job Mike. 6 days at over 60 is awesome! And so glad you enjoyed the hike–it is indeed a spectacular. All good info on the park and much of it jives with what others have written me as well.

      And as always, I am striving to maintain this site as the most up to date resource for planning a trip in TdP. And my guide pages have extensive updates with the latest on the reservation system, trail closings, etc. Warmest, -alan

  10. Karen February 11, 2017 at 5:15 am - Reply

    Thanks to you both for the info. I can’t wait. Leave for TDP on 2-26-17!

    • Alan Dixon February 21, 2017 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      Karen,
      Sorry for the late posting of your comment. I am just back in the US after two weeks in remote areas of country and with absolutely no internet whatsoever. Have a great trek. All the best, -alan

  11. Jyoti February 20, 2017 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Hi there Alan,

    Thank you so much for posting all this information! My sister and I will be doing the O circuit in 5 days and reserving tents at Seron, Perros, RPG, and Frances. We will also be bringing our own food and snacks. I see that you used a cord to hang up your food at night. Is there a high chance of animals sneaking around if we kept our food/trash in a sealed bag in our packs?

    Thank you gain for all the info!

    Jyoti

    • Alan Dixon February 21, 2017 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Jyoti,
      Sorry for the late posting of your comment. I am just back in the US after two weeks in remote areas of country and with absolutely no internet whatsoever. So glad yo found the article useful. The main concern with keeping food in your pack at any highly used campsite is rodents (mice, rats, squirrels, et.) habituated to getting food from packs. So if you leave food in your pack they may well chew their way in to get it leaving large holes in your expensive pack. If you hang a stuffsack, it makes it a bit harder for them to get the food. And if they do chew through, you are only out a $10 stuff sack vs. a $200+ pack. Have a great trek in TdP! All the best, -alan

      • Jyoti February 23, 2017 at 3:51 pm - Reply

        Thank you so much for getting back to me! We will go ahead and add a cord and stuff sack to our list gear list 🙂

        Your blog is priceless! Thank you gain

        J

  12. Chris February 24, 2017 at 7:31 am - Reply

    Alan, your blog is a phenomenal resource, and a serious inspiration. Thank you VERY much!

    My wife and I just booked a 14-day trip to Patagonia, and we’re looking to follow your advice for the O Circuit. However, we’ve budgeted 6 nights/7 days (wife is very nervous about doing it in 5 nights/6 days, and we’re a bit lacking on the lightweight gear) – any thoughts on how we should modify your itinerary for the extra time?

    Thanks again!

    -Chris

    • Alan Dixon February 24, 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Chris,
      More time is better. Given that the weather can be unpredictable in TdP having some extra time and even a wiggle room day makes a lot of sense! E.g. some days the Rangers may shut down Paso John Gardner to high winds and or white out conditions.

      But as to your exact schedule, not knowing your start/stop times, hiking pace, weight of packs, and how much you stop, and how efficient you are with your time, etc. it’s hard to comment on your schedule. I suggest you look at the hiking distance tables in this post and make your best guess as to whether you can comfortably make the daily distances. I will note that none of the hiking is particularly difficult and the trails in general are good.

      Finally, you should be able to get some good info on your actual hiking pace (and get some good trip conditioning) by doing some training hikes with packs on. I have a good piece on exactly this: Quick and Efficient Training for Backpacking and Hiking.

      Hope you have a great trip. Best, -alan

  13. Anne Erickson February 26, 2017 at 4:07 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for all this fantastic info!

    If the pass is closed or itinerary gets off-schedule for some other reason, what do you do with your pre-reserved sites?

    • Alan Dixon February 26, 2017 at 11:09 pm - Reply

      Anne, when we hiked, Dinner and campsite reservations could changed day-of, mid-trip as long as they had room. We did it twice because we were ahead of schedule–the key is to stick within the same reservation company e.g. you cannot switch a Fantastico Sur reservation for a Vertice Patagonia one. Tent rentals and bed reservations may be more difficult. (Lunch and Breakfast appear to need a day’s notice to reserve). Most campamentos and refugios are in radio contact with each other. This is good for making contact with other camps to make and/or change a reservation if you are running ahead or behind schedule. While this may have changed a bit with a stricter reservation policy (e.g. for people ahead of schedule), if the Ranger’s close the pass for the day then it seems to make sense that the Refugios are bound to follow suit and accommodate the disruption to hiker schedules. Hope this helps, Have a great trek. -alan

  14. Ashley H. February 26, 2017 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan & Alison,
    I am in the process of planning a trip to TdP in November or December of this year – and I absolutely LOVE how detailed your site is as it relates to planning. I am having a lot of issues in trying to book campsites along the “O” trek.
    – CONAF will not allow me to book for November/December at this time – but they have “no availability in September/October” and then the week after their “no availability” I am served up a message that says I am too early to book. Do you know how far in advance I should be able to book a site through CONAF?
    – Vertice is showing “no availability” through February of next year – does this sound right? Or, am I just too early here too? Do you have any idea when reservations would open for Vertice? (I even tried your suggestion of searching in Chilean Pesos without luck)
    – Fantastico Sur will not let me search for availability beyond March 2017…again, do you know when November/December reservations would open here?
    I have emailed all three of these organizations independently and have not heard back – since you are so knowledgeable on this topic, I thought that you might be able to help me navigate this or have a little insiders knowledge? Thanks so much in advance – and THANK YOU for the detailed information here.

    • Alan Dixon February 26, 2017 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Ashley,
      I think that none of the sites offer availability after the current season (approx April) Recently, I tried to see online campsite availability on Vertice for next season and it reported all options as “sold out.” I interpret this as… at least their online reservations system is not capable of booking for 2018. And (as of today) the Fantastico Sur online system only allows you to select dates through April of 2017. Your best option would be to email both companies and see what their advance reservation policy is. I haven’t checked the CONAF site recently but you could. And again if they don’t allow online booking for Nov to Dec this year, emailing a Q is your next best option. Wishing you a great trek, -alan

    • Kaitlin F May 18, 2017 at 3:29 pm - Reply

      Ashley,

      Wondering if any of the organizations got back to you. Looking to make reservations for Jan/Feb 2018 and wanted to know when the earliest I can booking is. Thanks!!

      • bdgrover13 May 23, 2017 at 11:40 pm - Reply

        I just heard back from Vertice patagonia and they said that reservations will be available for upcoming year in June. Hope this helps. I am looking to go in december.

        • Alan Dixon May 23, 2017 at 11:49 pm - Reply

          Thanks! Good to know!

  15. Taylor March 6, 2017 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Hey Alan,

    This is such a great resource! You’re right that information on the trek is completely fragmented and often inaccurate.

    Quick question for you as someone who has already completed the trek – I’m looking to do it in 7 days, and am pretty limited by campsite availability. Do you think the following route would work?

    Seron > Dickson > Paso > Paine Grande > Italiano > Torres

    Thanks for your input!

    • Alan Dixon March 7, 2017 at 12:11 am - Reply

      Taylor, that seems like it should be doable for a fit hiker. But as you your personal schedule…

      Not knowing how fast you hike, your start/stop times, weight of packs, and how much you stop, and how efficient you are with your time, etc. it’s hard to make a definitive comment on your schedule. I suggest you look at the hiking distance tables in this post and the parks times here. Then make your best guess as to whether you can comfortably make the daily distances. Some data from past backpacking trips or even training hikes can be a help. You can also see my post on training for backpacking which has some info on estimating hiking times based on your training. I will note that none of the hiking is particularly difficult and the trails in general are good.

      I also have a post coming out in a few days on how to be most efficient with your hiking–might give most people an extra hour or two of hiking time each day.

      Hope you have a great trip. Best, -alan

      • Taylor March 11, 2017 at 7:29 pm - Reply

        Hi Alan,

        Thanks a lot for the feedback! Ideally, I’d like the stop in Los Perros, but I think it’s all booked up during my dates. Based on the time tables, I’m thinking it should be fine. I’m in reasonably good hiking condition after 6 months in South America, but am planning to take some of your tips on training for the next few weeks. Thanks for the info, and will keep you posted on how it goes!

        Best,
        Taylor

  16. Colleen Sullivan March 8, 2017 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    This is the best website out there for information on trekking in Torres del Paine! Thank you for taking your time to compile such an awesome resource. I will be heading to TDP in early April but realized that the first day of my hike falls on a Sunday. Is anyone aware if the bus and catamaran services run on Sunday? I am looking to take a bus from Puerto Natales to Pudeto and then catch the catamaran to Paine Grande. Will this be feasible on a Sunday?

    Thanks!
    Colleen

    • Alan Dixon March 9, 2017 at 2:55 am - Reply

      Collen, the catamaran schedule according to their site http://hielospatagonicos.com/itinerario-catamaran runs the same schedule every day of the week. This is described in the bus/ferry section of the guide. According to the schedule as of April there is only a 12:00 ferry. You should be able to make that via an early bus from Puerto Natales. Best, -alan

  17. Anisha March 15, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Alan,
    We followed your itinerary and had a fabulous trek with no issues whatsoever. Your guide to Torres and doing the O circuit is the best I could find online or otherwise. We attended the Erratic Rock lecture and nothing they talked about was new to me, thanks entirely to the comprehensive information on your blog. Thank you for sharing all this information with us and in such a step wise and not-so-overwhelming manner.
    A very grateful,
    Anisha

    • Alan Dixon March 15, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      WONDERFUL! So glad to be of help. Best, -a

  18. Joey March 22, 2017 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Alan,

    Thanks for the awesome guide. It has been an huge help!

    A friend and I are planning on doing the hike in April in 5 days. We are fit and have lots hiking experience. We were planning on following your itinerary but we’ve had to modify it because some of the campsites are closed in April (Frances, Seron). This is the itinerary we are now considering:

    Los Cuernos > Las Torres > Dickson > Paso (camping locations)

    Based on your experience do you see any issues with this schedule? I know it is aggressive and we will probably only get to visit Mirador Las Torres once in the evening. I wish we could add another day but time is an issue unfortunately!

    Thank you for your time!
    Joey

    • Alan Dixon March 25, 2017 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      Joey. Taylor, that seems like it should be doable for a fit hiker. 5 days is certainly doable. I think we ended up doing it in about 4.5 days and I am in my mid 50s. BUT especially in April you are going to have less daylight and some iffy’er weather. Your challenge will be getting over Paso John Garner in good weather. Leaving from Dickson (vs. Los Perros) even at dawn might get you too late to the pass if the wind is getting up or it’s starting to fog in. And the Rangers will close it if they think it’s not safe, so it will be out of your control. The Park will likely let you slide on campsite reservations given the Wx delay. But if you have to be somewhere or have inflexible reservations post hike, that might be a problem. In summary, late season with less daylight you might want to add a weather day to your schedule, if not for campsite reservations at least one at the end of the trip.

      Now as to your personal hike schedule… Not knowing how fast you hike, your start/stop times, weight of packs, and how much you stop, and how efficient you are with your time, etc. it’s hard to make a definitive comment on your schedule. I suggest you look at the hiking distance tables in this post and the parks times here. Then make your best guess as to whether you can comfortably make the daily distances. Some data from past backpacking trips or even training hikes can be a help. You can also see my post on training for backpacking which has some info on estimating hiking times based on your training. I will note that none of the hiking is particularly difficult and the trails in general are good.

      I also have a post coming out in a few days on how to be most efficient with your hiking–might give most people an extra hour or two of hiking time each day. Efficient Backpacking Tips – Easily Increase Mileage & Fun.

      Hope you have a great trip. Best, -alan

      • Joey April 3, 2017 at 3:17 pm - Reply

        Thanks Alan!

        We’ve revised our plan a bit to start at R Las Torres. For the sake of sharing, this is now our itinerary:

        Day 1: Bus to R. Las Torres; return trip to Mirador Las Torres; stay the night at R. Las Torres
        Day 2: R. Las Torres > Dickson
        Day 3: Dickson > Grey
        Day 4: Grey > Mirador Britanico > Los Cuernos
        Day 5: Los Cuernos > R. Las Torres

        I’ve looked at your hiking distance table, which was very helpful, and it looks doable. Obviously it’s very important to be aware of the closing times and we’ll have to be disciplined with our hiking. The Dickson to Grey will be a challenging day and we will have to leave pre-dawn to get to Paso John Gardner early enough, but we’ll be travelling light (renting tents from the refugios) and we have an extra day on the end just in case.

        I’m very happy we will be able to do the full circuit because it was a challenge to coordinate everything. Your guide was an immense help though! Thanks very much!

  19. Justin April 3, 2017 at 5:27 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for all the info – you’ve compiled an incredibly helpful resource!

    We’re hoping to do the circuit this April 16-21, following your 6-day itinerary. However, as these dates are after the campsite reservation season is over, we are unable to reserve sites on the back side (Seron and Los Perros/Dickson). I’ve repeatedly contacted Vertice, Fantastico, and the national park to ask if we’ll be able to camp at the closed campsites on the back side in the late season without reservations (since reservations cannot be made), but have not heard back. It’s pretty clear from what’s written above that back-side camping without reservations would not fly during the high season. Do you know if it’s possible during the post-season?

    If not, we’ll adapt. But it would be great to get around the back!

    Thanks so much!
    Justin

    • Alan Dixon April 3, 2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Justin, my understanding is that after sometime in April (not sure of the exact day of the month) that the backside is only allowed if you go with a guide. Like you I haven’t been able to confirm this directly with the Park. But this is what I heard from the local outfitting community in Puerto Natales. [The W is open during this time but with more limited facilities as many of the Refugios are closed.] Best, -alan

  20. Chris May 8, 2017 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Alan,

    Quick question – what’s the rationale for starting from Refugio Paine Grande, vs. the other common starting point near the Torres/Camp Seron?

    Thanks!

    -Chris

    • Alan Dixon May 8, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply

      Hi Chris. Starting at Hotel Torres is just fine. So no real reason you’d need to start at Refugio Paine Grande.

      I think that some people just want to make sure that they get the W portion of the hike in, so they do it first. When doing the backside first, weather (e.g. Paso John Gardner was closed due to high winds and fog when we arrived), injuries, and other unexpected events might put you behind schedule a few days– one might end up in a situation where you don’t have sufficient time to complete the W by the time your reach Refugio Paine Grande. This obviously can be solved by adding a few contingency days to your schedule. Best, -alan

      • Chris May 9, 2017 at 3:26 am - Reply

        Thanks Alan, that makes a lot of sense. I think we’ll go with this schedule (gives us a lot of buffer/rest towards the tail end):
        Day 1: Refugio Paine Grande -> Mirador Britanico -> Refugio Frances [per your guide – we’ll have to hustle]
        Day 2: Refugio Frances -> Campamento Torres -> Mirador Torres -> Campamento Torres
        Day 3: Campamento Torres – > Mirador Torres -> Campamento Torres -> Campamento Seron
        Day 4: Campamento Seron -> Regio Dickson (lunch) -> Campamento Los Perros
        Day 5: Campamento Los Perros -> Campamento Paso
        Day 6: Campamento Paso -> Refugio Grey
        Day 7: Refugio Grey -> Refugio Paine Grande -> back to Puerto Natales

        I’m chomping at the bit to get campsites and such booked for our late December/early January trip, but having reached out to Fantastico Sur and Vertice Patagonia, they won’t even open for reservations until early/mid-June. The Campamento booking site also looks to be unavailable for 2017/2018 for now.

        One unrelated question Alan – do you have any experience with the zPacks Triplex tent? That’s my wife/my go-to backpacking tent, but we’re wondering whether it will survive the high winds.

        • Alan Dixon May 10, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

          Chris, look at my trip report re: tents. I think that there will almost always be a place to pitch the Triplex in a sheltered area in the woods. In that case it should work. The only place I can think where that isn’t so is Refugio Paine Grande. In that case you may want to rent one of their tents for the night. And NO I do not think that the Triplex (without some sort of windbreak) is up to full force of Patagonia winds. Hope this helps, -alan

  21. Kevin June 2, 2017 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you so much for this very helpful guide! I am in the process of booking my reservations for the last 2 weeks of October, but I haven’t been able to find out when the full O circuit is open. I heard that in 2016 it opened November 1st. I’m worried that the Dickson and Perros campsites won’t be open until November this year. Do you know anything about this?

    Best,
    Kevin

    • Alan Dixon June 4, 2017 at 6:39 am - Reply

      Kevin, I’ll do some checking on this one. But I am guessing that Nov 1 sounds about right. It seems, if anything, they are getting more not less restrictive each year. Best, -alan

  22. Cati June 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Hello Alan,

    Before anything, congratulations for the concise and updated information. Your blog is far better than any other tourist guide on Torres del Paine! I will be in Torres del Paine beginning of December and my plan is the following:

    Day 1: Frances – Fantastico Sur
    Day 2: Torres – Fantastico Sur
    Day 3: Seron – Fantastico Sur
    Day 4: Los Perros – Vertice
    Day 5: Grey – Vertice

    Vertice suggested that I stop at Dickson. They informed me that CONAF will allow me to do the route Seron – Los Perros only if I arrive at Coiron by 11am and at Dickson before 2pm. They, also, emailed me that they have not received a similar request in the past, i.e. to bypass Dickson. I will have to depart very early from Seron but this is no issue for me.

    The issue is that Vertice informed that solo travellers sometimes get lost. I am a female, solo traveller and my concern is that if I pass Dickson at 1pm, will I be able to join other people who would start from Dickson at 2pm? How late do people start hiking?

    Many thanks in advance!
    Cati

    • Alan Dixon June 21, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Cati, glad you find the guide useful. I don’t think you will get lost between Seron and Los Perros if you pay attention. Trail was fairly obvious and navigation is straightforward. Not sure why they said solo hikers get lost. And you can always carry a GPS or an iPhone with App See my posts on this. And there is a .gpx track on my post that you can load into it. And there is even a GPS iPhone App for TdP although I have not checked it out. I doubt you would need either, but you could use them if it would give you a sense of safety and security.

      As to making cutoff times: assuming you go around Dec/Jan/Feb you’ll have tons of daylight, being that far south and near summer solstice. My suggestion would be to start early. Alison and I only took 2 hours to Coiron and then another 6 hours to Los Perros for a total of 8 hours. Park says 10.5 hrs (hiking times on the backside of the park map). There are some quite steep hills on the way to Coiron and Dickson and then it is a gentle but fairly steady climb from Dickson to Los Perros. Elevation profiles are on the park map. With an early start you should have the best chance to make either of those times.

      BUT not knowing your start/stop times, hiking pace, weight of pack, and how much you stop, and how efficient you are with your time, etc. it’s hard to make a definitive comment on your schedule. I suggest you look at the hiking distance tables in this post and make your best guess as to whether you can comfortably make the daily distances. I will note that none of the hiking is particularly difficult and the trails in general are good. Hope you have a great trip. Best, -alan

  23. Cati June 22, 2017 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Alan,

    I am so grateful for your prompt reply. I am 33, quite fit and a disciplined hiker. Last year I hiked up to 5,500m at the Himalayas. I am planning to start my hiking early, around 7am. I will leave a lot of my stuff at Puerto Natales and I will rent the tents, so I will have a light weight. After reading your reply, I am confident I can skip Dickson and hike directly to Los Perros from Seron. I will be well prepared and download the apps you suggest.

    THANKS a million! I will email you end of December once I am back home from my journey in Patagonia! I am thankful there are people like you eager to help others without asking anything in return.

    Best,
    Cati

    • Alan Dixon June 22, 2017 at 4:37 pm - Reply

      My pleasure. Have a great trip! -a

  24. Vik July 10, 2017 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    A friend and I are planning a trip to do the Circuit Trek late this December, and I recently visited the websites for both Vertice and Fantastico Sur only to find that all campsite reservations are already sold out. Am I out of luck entirely or is there any hope that spots will open up at some point? I didn’t realize they’d fill up this quickly..

    Thanks so much for this guide and your help!

    Best,
    Vik

    • Alan Dixon July 10, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Vik, neither Vertice or Fantastico Sur has opened their sites yet for reservations for the 17-18 seasons. FS thinks they’ll be open for reservations in the next few weeks. No word yet from Vertice on when their reservations system will be open. Best to keep checking back from time to time to see what opens up. Best, -alan

      • Vik July 12, 2017 at 4:46 pm - Reply

        Thanks a lot, Alan! That is definitely a relief to hear. Do you remember approximately when the reservations opened for each of them? I just want to make sure I don’t miss them at all.

        • Maria July 12, 2017 at 8:27 pm - Reply

          Vik,

          I was able to successfully (after about a month and a half of back and forth) book campsites with Vertice via email. I have not had luck with Fantastico Sur, however.

          Hope this helps,
          Maria

        • Alan Dixon July 13, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

          Apparently Fan. Sur is now taking reservations via email. No word on Vertice yet tho. -a

          • Vik July 14, 2017 at 5:17 pm

            Thanks so much! I’ll definitely shoot them an email and hopefully can work it out.

  25. Stephan Fuchs July 12, 2017 at 4:19 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you so much for all your efforts in putting together this incredible comprehensive website.
    I am currently planning my visit to Torres del Paine at the end of December. While I will certainly take on the W trail, I am also interested in the O circle trail.

    Based on your experience, is there any scenario that would allow to skip camp sites altogether and hike the entire O trail without the need to camp, i.e. Refugio to Refugio? I appreciate this might be challenging, given the distances, but do you know of any folks who may have tried this in the past?

    Thanks so much in advance,
    Stephan

    • Alan Dixon July 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      Good question Stephan,
      I think the answer if very close but not quite. The difficulty will be Los Perros at the base of Paso John Garner, which has only camping. It’s at a key position for an early/safe start over the pass. As such, it would be quite difficult avoid spending the night there*. This is especially true since the rangers control starts over the pass from there (earlier is far better as they can shut it down for wind and or fog as the day progresses). And most trekkers will need all the hiking time they can get to make it to Refugio Grey from there the next day (and thereby avoid Campamento Paso).

      You can rent a tent and sleeping pad at Campamento Los Perros and buy food at the Alimentacion (food store) there. So you would only need to bring your own sleeping bag. (We actually rented a tent here to get a faster start in the morning. It was quite a nice tent.) If you look at my sleeping bags page, you can get a warm and light bag for around 1.5 pounds or less than kg.

      *Were you attempt R. Dickson to R. Grey (you might not get to the pass in time to safely cross over). But more critical is that according the park map it is over 15 hours of hiking from R. Dickson to R. Grey which includes some serious climbing and descent over Paso John Gardner. Our times were more like 10 hours to cover that distance, but we had light packs and were moving quickly. So theoretically it is doable. But you’d have no margin or a backup plan for bad weather, high winds, (the rangers shutting down the pass) and/or you just didn’t end up moving quickly enough. And any of those are quite possible in TdP.

      Whatever you chose, wishing you a great trek in TdP. Best, -alan

      • Stephan Fuchs July 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm - Reply

        Thank you, Alan – really appreciate your insight and thoughts! I definitely won’t take the chances here and probably just go with the W trail this time.

        On this note, though – am I right to assume that it is not allowed to hike just parts of the circle route? In other words… if I decided to start at Refugio Paine, then make my way up to Refugio Grey, but instead of going back the same day, could I keep walking toward Camp Site Paso (i.e. Part of the circle trail in clockwise direction), then turn around after a few hours of hiking and stay at Refugio Grey? This way I could soak in some of the glacier Grey views without actually hiking the O trail.

        I guess technically this is not allowed as the O trail has to be taken in counter clockwise direction, but I wanted to see what your thoughts are on this idea? Same idea btw would apply to Las Torres… could I walk toward Sermon for a day trip, and then return / take the trail at the crossing and return to Refugio Lagune Amarga?

        Thanks again,
        Stephan

        • Alan Dixon July 13, 2017 at 5:59 pm - Reply

          Stephan, a day hike from R. Grey to see the upper parts of the glacier would be most excellent! A good plan! Go as high up as you can. Don’t know of any constraints on hiking that section out and back as a day hike.

          And yes, the O or Circuit is counter clockwise only. Day hiking out and back towards Seron should be OK just so long as you make cutoff times (but not quite as sure on this one as most people do not do this with the same frequency as they dayhike up to G. Grey). Not sure about going out to overnight at Seron and then hiking back out the next day (if that was a Q). That would seem to hiking it backwards on your day back out. But you could always check with CONAF and see if it is allowed. Have a great trek, -alan

  26. Deniz Demirors July 13, 2017 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan, Thank you for all the information and your prompt responses to people questions. I plan to hike the W-Trek from East to West with my girl friend starting October 1 2017. Our plan is 4 nights and 5 days in the park. I have been trying to reserve refugio’s full board for two past 2 months with no success. I have been emailing back and forth with Fantastico Sur and spoke twice on the phone. They keep saying the rates are not confirmed yet so they can not make reservations. We bought our flights to be in the area on September 29. Unless I reserve the logging in refugio’s, I will not feel relaxed. Is there any advise you can provide regarding securing our lodging reservations? Thanks in advance.

    here is the last response I got from them:

    Dear:

    Unfortunately we don’t have the definite rates for next season. That is why we haven’t reply you back.

    As soon as I have the information we will send it back to you.

    Regards,

    Alejandra Vargas Alvarez
    Ejecutiva de Ventas y Reservas

    Fantástico Sur
    Treks and Lodging
    W Trek – Torres del Paine
    Patagonia – Chile
    T: (56)(61) 2 614 184

    ventas3@fantasticosur.com
    http://www.fantasticosur.com

    • Alan Dixon July 13, 2017 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      Deniz,
      Apparently Fan. Sur is now taking reservations via email. I have just seen a reservations and rates sheet from them for the 17/18 season. No word on Vertice rates yet tho. But if you check the comments section (near the end) Maria writes to Vik: “I was able to successfully (after about a month and a half of back and forth) book campsites with Vertice via email.” [This is what Alison and I had to do for our Circuit hike.]

      So until online booking via the web opens up, emailing both FS and Vertice is your best and only option. Take care, -alan

  27. Deniz July 13, 2017 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks Alan. We are not camping so I am working on booking lodging on Refugio’s meaning bed and full board that seems not to be open for reservations. Do you know any other way to recommend me that is worth trying to book two beds and full board, (breakfast, packed lunch and dinner at the Refugio’s on W-Circuit?

    Thanks again…
    Deniz

    • Alan Dixon July 14, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      Sorry Deniz, until the the Fanstatico Sur and Vertice websites are accepting online registrations… persistence via phone and email are likely your best options for booking by yourself at the lowest cost. Some have had success booking through third parties, e.g. having a tour company book the reservations for you. Or possibly going on one of their guided trips. Although you’ll pay a premium for those options. Hope this helps, -alan

  28. David Trubridge July 19, 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Hi Alan. Thanks for a wonderful and generous resource. I came here for details on the W and O hikes, but have to say I am now daunted by all the restrictions and crowding: strict camp reservations, strict cut-off times, no off trail walking, etc. Is it worth it now? Do you know Patagonia well enough to recommend another area which might not be quite as spectacular but makes up for it with the freedom to walk where and when you please and the weather allows?! If I did stay with TdP would it be silly just to do the O backside from the hotel round to Paine Grande (incl a day trip up to Torres)? If so, is there a bus back from Pudeto to Hotel Las Torres?
    Many thanks
    David

    • Alan Dixon July 19, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      Hi David, understand your concerns about the increasing red-tape/restrictions around TdP. Yes, I do think that doing the Backside of the O would be a good idea. A lot more chill and less crowded than the W. The view from the top of Glacier Grey/Paso John Gardner is amazing! And then the early start dayhike up to the Towers would be good as well. As of last year you can take the buses between the entrance and Pudeto as long as there are seats, the cost is ~$4.000 CLP. But I would advise you to check with the Bus Co’s to confirm. My guess is that you might be able to hitch between the two since people go from the Hotel to see Salto Grande (water fall) at Pudeto.

      Your other major option would be to do Argentina Patagonia. Specifically the Fitzroy, Cerro Torre range. This is accessed from El Chaltén is a small mountain village (but getting bigger) in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Easiest place to fly into is El Califate Airport and then catch a bus into El Chalten. You could also visit the amazing Perrito Moreno Glacier, which is just outside of El Califate. Happy trekking. Warmest, -alan

  29. David Trubridge July 20, 2017 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Thanks Alan. One more question: Can I do the O backside without taking tent or cooker? The only problem seems to be C Paso which does not feature in either of your private company lists — so is it a free public one? If I need a tent and dinner do I have to push on to R Grey?
    Best wishes, David

    • Alan Dixon July 20, 2017 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      David, that should mostly work. I believe that Los Perros does not serve meals. That being said, they do have a reasonably well stocked store in camp that you could easily cobble something together for a no-cook dinner and breakfast (or possibly borrow some time on somebodies stove). Or you could buy food at the much better stocked store at Dickson and carry it up to Los Perros. As long as you reserve ahead of time, tents should be available at Seron, Dickson, Los Perros, and Refugio Gray.

      Paso, is a Park (CONAF) free site. As such it has no amenities like a store, tent rentals, etc. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan

  30. Melanie July 27, 2017 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Many thanks for your detailed post, it is definitely the most useful I have come across in planning our trip to Patagonia to do the O circuit in February 2018!

    I am having trouble booking with Fantastico Sur and getting any response from them. It seems they have opened up there reservations on the website. I was wondering if you had heard if anyone had experienced difficulties booking Camp Chileno as Camp Torres is closed. When I try to book it is not even an option on the reservations page. Also, they seem to only have the option of booking Camping at Seron, and if you want to book at Frances it says you must book ‘Platformus Premium’ which is 160 US per night for 2 people.

    Interested to hear whether you have heard anything about this! Really appreciate your help!

    Cheers,
    Mel

    • Alan Dixon July 27, 2017 at 2:07 am - Reply

      Mel, take a look through recent comments re: reservations at the bottom of this guide. So far for the ’17-’18 season, all report on NOT being able to book on the Fantastico Sur and Vertice Websites. A few have had success (with much persistence) booking via email. For some time now FS and V continue to say that their sites will be open for reservations in the next few weeks, but so far that had not happened. This appears to be the state of the things at the moment. Wish I had better news. Best, -a

  31. Jason Tam July 30, 2017 at 1:58 am - Reply

    Hi Alan

    This is a great and informative website! I am planning on doing the Circuit Trek in November, and just had a question. Do you or anyone thats following know if there are flights to and from Puerto Natales? Thank you for your time!

    • Alan Dixon July 30, 2017 at 2:03 am - Reply

      Hi Jason. Sorry but no flights to Puerto Natales. If you scan through the recent comments to this post (or the transportation section in this post) you can find more details. But for now Punta Arenas will be your closest airport. Have a great trek. Warmest, -alan

  32. David Trubridge August 8, 2017 at 8:20 am - Reply

    It Seems that both FS and V are overwhelmed by booking inquiries due to the new park regulations requiring advance bookings, so maybe we have to cut them some slack (even though you could say they could have got their websites functioning properly to avoid this!). FS have issued me with a booking form in reply to an email request. V say they are taking bookings after Sept 1.

    • Alan Dixon August 8, 2017 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the good info David. And I agree that patience, politeness, and some degree of understanding for FS and V (as they also learn how to deal with the new reg’s) will go a long way. We’re all in the same sandbox and it makes sense to play nice! Warmest, -alan

  33. bdgrover13 August 21, 2017 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Wanted to give an update and both websites FS and V reservations are working, I already have my FS confirmed, and waiting on V response. I put them in yesterday.

    • Melissa August 21, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks bdgrover13! Were you able to pay for your VP reservation? We submitted a reservation request & received an email requesting we submit payment within 48h, but with no link to a payment site and no response when we’ve tried to email them to inquire. Thanks for everyone’s help!

    • SL August 23, 2017 at 2:47 am - Reply

      Hi bdgrover,

      Just curious when you are planning on traveling to TdP. I tried the sites last night and today and was unable to make reservations for March 2018 on FS (unable to confirm booking in Pesos or USD) despite it showing availability. I was also not able to reserve a CONAF site as it seemed like it was too far in advance. I was only able to reserve a site on V, but am still awaiting confirmation.

      • bdgrover13 August 26, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

        I am going in december. I was able to book with CONAF and FS but still no response from VP.

        • Alan Dixon August 26, 2017 at 10:11 pm - Reply

          Yes, that was our experience as well. VP was the most complicated and time consuming to deal with. -alan

  34. bdgrover13 August 26, 2017 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    Alan, Did you travel with trekking poles and stakes or did you rent them from erratic rock?

    • Alan Dixon August 28, 2017 at 12:33 am - Reply

      We used these $40 Cascade Mtn. Tech Carbon Trekking poles http://amzn.to/1RlclGr. We put them in checked luggage and had no problems. Same for these MSR Groundhog Y-stakes http://goo.gl/ySoFHt

      Warmest, -alan

  35. Vik Waghray August 28, 2017 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan, it’s Vik again. I’m in the process of making reservations, and noticed that Fantastico Sur is fully booked at Refugio Chileno for the night we are planning to stay there. Do you know of any workarounds/alternate campsites we could stay at in the same general area? Thanks for the help!

    • Alan Dixon August 29, 2017 at 3:04 am - Reply

      Vik, heading out early tomorrow am for a 130 mile trip. So a brief response. I suggest you look through the last set of comments on Main Trip Guide here. Lots of good info. But in a nutshell Chileno is the only game in town. If not the other two places to legally camp are either around the Hotel or Los Cuernos. A long hike and not ideal. But doable if you get up early. The other option people have tried is to book through a third party (tour guide Co.) as they sometimes have places reserved in advance. You’ll pay more but you might get a place to camp. Hope this helps. Warmest, -alan

      • Vik Waghray September 11, 2017 at 8:50 pm - Reply

        Hope you had a great trip, Alan! Unfortunately, none of the alternative lodging options near Chileno have availability. I have reservations made at Acampar Frances and Seron, however there does not seem to be camping availability between the two spots. Do you have any recommendations for what to do? There’s about 32 miles between the two campsites, which isn’t impossible to do in one day but if there’s some way we could camp in between that would be ideal.

        On a separate note, when do you recommend booking flights? If prices are only going to go up between now and December, we’d like to purchase tickets ASAP. Thanks a lot!!

  36. Bdgrover September 2, 2017 at 1:17 am - Reply

    Update, I received an email confirming my reservation with VP. As the 48 hours was close to ending and multiple emails with no response. I called Vertice to make sure I didn’t lose my reservation. There is no way to pay over the phone. After you respond to the confirmation email they will send you a link but may take as long as three business days. I will update when I receive the link.

    • Alan Dixon September 7, 2017 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Bdgrover, Sorry for the late reply. Alison and are just back from 132 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains over this holiday weekend. You info. about VP sounds good. Will be curious how it all worked out. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

    • Bdgrover September 10, 2017 at 5:56 pm - Reply

      Finally able to book Vertice 10 days after receiving confirmation email. I received the email with the pay link and paid online. After day nine I went on and made a reservation again because of my concern that I had lost my reservation. The next day is when I received the link. Not sure if that made a difference or not. Thanks Alan for this website. super helpful!! Hope your trek on AT was enjoyable.

      • Alan Dixon September 11, 2017 at 2:54 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the info Brad. Good to know. Have a great trek! Best, -alan

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