Torres del Paine W Trek Itinerary for 3-4 Days

The Torres del Paine W Trek is the classic. We believe that most trekkers can do it a day less than the the traditional 5 days and still have plenty of time to take photos and fully enjoy the views. Day 2 of the three-day version this trek is a long day, and most suited to fit hikers with light packs. Many may consider breaking Day 2 into two days for a total of four days for a more leisurely W Trek. Our recommendation is to start at Refugio Paine Grande (the west) and work your way back to Hotel Torres (the east).

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)

Lead Photo: The Torres Del Paine, the gem of the Trek. Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and torres is tower in Spanish. So Towers of Blue.

Note 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 W Trek Itinerary for 3-4 Days

Day 0 – Prep day before the trek

  • 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  7:00am Bus Sur (or whichever) 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. Note: you will be taking the bus to the Pudeto Ferry on the way out but taking the bus back from the Laguna Amarga Entrance)
  • 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). Update, Aug, 2016: Book your campsite reservations ahead of time for all campsites. If you are unable to book the free campsites, then try the CONAF office or try to book when you arrive at the Park.
  • 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.
The start of the W Trek. Heading from Refugio Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano and Valle Frances.

The start of the W Trek. Heading from Refugio Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano and Valle Frances. At trip start Alison ULA Ohm 2.0 Pack is carrying less than 15 pounds (under 7 kg)

Day 1 – Torres del Paine W Trek start (Refugio Paine Grande) via bus, catamaran – Glacier Grey Views, Campamento Italiano

5 to 6 hours* and 18.5 km, 11.8 miles (mostly with a day pack on easy trails) – to first Mirador
Today you’ll do a round trip day hike from Refugio Paine Grande (RPG) as far as you can for a good view of Glacier Grey. Back at RPG you’ll don your full pack and trek over to Campamento Italiano or Refugio Frances (to setup for day hiking up Valle Frances the next morning).

*Note 1: 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 minutes.
Note 2: don’t forget that it doesn’t get dark until almost 23:00, 11:00 pm in peak hiking season. You have almost 18 hours of daylight!

  • Get to the bus station early for the 7:30 am 7:00am 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 — Campamento Italiano & Torres fill fast. If you can’t get a reservation at C. Italiano, for a small fee camping at the nearby R. Frances is quieter and nicer.
  • Get back on bus and arrive approx. 10:30a at 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.
The massive Glacier Grey as it feeds into Lago Grey.

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!

  • Hike to one of the viewpoints for Glacier Grey: Drop your pack at Refugio Paine Grande (RPG) and setup your day-hiking kit to do a round trip hike to one of the many miradors (viewpoints) for Glacier Grey. Essentially you’ll hike as far as you have time or energy. The closer you get to the Glacier the better the views, but rest assured there are no bad views!
    • First mirador (Mirador-Grey-01 on my map), is on a high bluff overlooking Lago Grey. One way stats: approx. 5.5 km, 3.5 miles and 1.5 to 2.0 hours from RPG.
    • Second mirador (Mirador-Grey-02 on my map) is the mirador for the classic ‘W.’ It is at Refugio Grey, on the shore of Lago Grey looking up at the Glacier. There are many food options at the Refugio. One way stats: approx. 11 km, 6.9 miles and 2.5 to 3.5 hours from RPG.
    • If you hike quite fast you can go to the Third mirador (Mirador-Grey-03 on my map). It is above the end of Glacier Grey and you can look down and see the glacier calving icebergs into Lago Grey. One way stats (additional from Refugio Grey): approx. 3.6 km, 2.3 miles and 1.0 to 1.5 hours (from Refugio Grey!)
  • Hike back to Refugio Paine Grande from whatever mirador you stopped at.
  • 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.
    • The new and very nice R Frances about ½ hour down the trail from C. Italiano has nice camping and good tent platforms. Best hot showers and bathrooms of the trip by far. Small store and they serve meals if you have reservations.
    • If you have extra time and the mountains are clear, you might consider hiking up to one of the miradors for views of Glacier Frances.
Fair warning, not all days are sunny in Patagonia, but that doesn't mean the Torres del Paine is any less beautiful. Clouds and mists swirling around the high peaks are every bit as stunning as a sunny day. Glacier Frances (a hanging glacier) from near Mirador Frances. The summit of Paine Grande the highest mountain in the park at 3,050 m (10,000 ft) is is already obscured by clouds mid-afternoon. It's typical in Patagonia for peaks to cloud in later in the day, even in good weather. Early starts are best if you want unobstructed views of the peaks.

Fair warning, not all days are sunny in Patagonia, but that doesn’t mean the Torres del Paine is any less beautiful. Clouds and mists swirling around the high peaks are every bit as stunning as a sunny day. Glacier Frances (a hanging glacier) from near Mirador Frances. The summit of Paine Grande the highest mountain in the park at 3,050 m (10,000 ft) is is already obscured by clouds mid-afternoon. It’s typical in Patagonia for peaks to cloud in later in the day, even in good weather. Early starts are best if you want unobstructed views of the peaks.

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

8 to 10.5 hours* and 30 km, 18.5 miles (good trails, some hiking with just a daypack to M Frances)
This is a long day and one might consider an early start (or breaking it into two days – see 4-day itinerary below). An early start has the added benefit of getting to Mirador Frances with the clearest views since the mountains tend to cloud in as the day progresses, and possibly allowing you time at the end of the day to hike up to see the Torres del Paine.

  • Leave your pack in camp and day 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, Mirador 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.
Valley frances approaching mirador Britanico and getting views of the Cirque at the end of the Valley

Valley Frances: approaching mirador Britanico and getting views of the Cirque at the end of the Valley

  • Back at camp, grab your pack and take a very pleasant alpine walk along the shore of Lago Nordenskjöld to Refugio Los Cuernos. One way stats from C. Italiano to R. Cuernos: approx. 5 km, 3.1 miles and 1.5 to 2.0 hours.
  • From  R. Cuernos take the cutoff trail to Refugio Chileno (well marked at around 8 km, 5 miles from R Cueros). Refugio Chileno has a very nice store! One way stats from R Cuernos to R Chileno: approx. 18 km, 11.3 miles and 4.0 to 5.0 hours to R. Chileno.
Hiking along the shores of Lago Norgenskjold. (W Trek)

Hiking along the shores of Lago Norgenskjold. (W Trek)

to the mirador to see the Torres del Paine.

Los Cuernos to Refugio Chileno: Wildflowers in front of the massive Almirante Nieto mountain. On our way to see the Torres del Paine later in the day.

  • Hike to Campamento Torres. This 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—a serious consideration if you are getting up early the next morning to see the Torres del Paine at dawn. One way stats from R. Chileno: approx. 3 km, 2 miles and 1.0 hours to C. Torres.
  • Optional: If you have time 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 hike it in the dark the next morning to catch the Torres at dawn. Optional round trip stats from C. Torres to the Torres: approx. 2 km, 1.2 miles and 1.5 to 2.0 hours

Alan's HyperLite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Pack is carrying less than 12 pounds (6 kg) at this point in the trip.

We had enough time on Day 2 to head up to the mirador to see the Torres del Paine for an evening view. We dropped most of our stuff in Campameto Torres and headed up with day gear. It was a bit overcast so the light is not photo perfect but we got an unobscured view. [We used Alan’s HMG 2400 Southwest Pack as a day-pack, loading it with our rain gear, warm jackets, and a bit of food.]

Day 3 – Dawn photos of Torres del Paine, hike to Hotel Las Torres, bus back to Puerto Natales

10 km, 6 miles and 3.5 to 5.0 hours (Campamento Torres to Hotel Las Torres)
A quick hike to see the Torres at dawn. Then an easy downhill hike to Hotel Torres to catch buses back to Puerto Natales.

  • For those that want the best photo of Las Torres del Paine: Get up 1.5 to 2.0 hours before sunrise to hike in the dark up to the Mirador to 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. Some even bring their sleeping bag to snuggle up in. Round trip stats: approx. 2 km, 1.2 miles and 1.5 to 2.0 hours
  • Have breakfast pack up and hit the trail at approx. 9:00 am. 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. One way stats from C. Torres to the Hotel: approx. 8 km, 5 miles and 2.0 to 3.0 hours
  • From Hotel las Torres take the 2:00 (approx. time) park shuttle bus back to the Laguna Amarga Entrance Station. From there you can catch a 2:30 Bus Gomez back to Puerto Natales.

4 Day Version – Split “Day 2” into two shorter days

This turns Day 2 from a long hard day into two far more leisurely days. It also makes hiking all the way up Valle Frances to Mirador Britanico a far more attractive option.

  • Day 1: Same as Day 1 above.
    • On Day 1 you also have the option of camping at Refugio Paine Grande since the next day is not a killer day. This a) allows your more time to day hike up to miradors for Glacier Grey, or b) makes Day 1 hiking about 2 hours shorter. If camping at RPG make sure to pitch your tent close to the base of the hill to get some shelter from the strong winds that commonly blow in the area.
  • Day 2: Hike as far as you want up Valle Frances (even to Mirador Britanico). Then pickup your pack and hike to camp at Refugio Los Cuernos.
  • Day 3: Hike to Campamento Torres and possibly hike up to Mirador Las Torres for an evening view.
  • Day 4: Dawn hike to Mirador Las Torres. Hike to Hotel Las Torres and take buses back to Puerto Natales.

Hiking Times and Distances for Torres del Paine W Trek

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

  • This table is a just 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.

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By | 2017-06-21T15:09:58+00:00 February 7th, 2016|Trip Guides|36 Comments

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36 Comments

  1. Christina July 31, 2016 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    This is great information. Most blogs I have seen on the W Circuit are written by people in their 20s or 30s. By the time I get to this park, I’ll be 50. I really appreciate your perspective and advice. It’s much more applicable to me.

    • Alan Dixon July 31, 2016 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      Glad to see that experience is still valued. Enjoy our 50th year in Patagonia Christiana! -alan

  2. Verity October 1, 2016 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    What an incredibly helpful post, thank you Alan! I’ve been struggling to find one comprehensive source for up-to-date information on trekking in Patagonia, and was fortunate to stumble across your wealth of information. THANK YOU! Verity

    • Alan Dixon October 1, 2016 at 10:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks Verity. Have a great trek! -a

  3. Kelly October 9, 2016 at 2:49 am - Reply

    So glad to have found your site! I’ve been burning the midnight oil taking it all in. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We’re trying to decide which itinerary to do for our time and abilities – the limiting factors are that husband got a new knee in March, and son broke his ankle/lower leg climbing in April and neither are sure how they’ll feel by the end of 80 miles of the O. We’re flying into Buenos Aires on Dec 15 and planning on incorporating TDP along with Los Glaciares/Mont. Fitz Roy, Perito Moreno Glacier, and possibly Bariloche in the North. We fly back out of BA three weeks later. Did you end up going anywhere else in Patagonia? If so, do you have any recommendations to help us prioritize? Do you have any idea if being there over Christmas and New Years will be a problem? Thanks again!

    • Alan Dixon October 9, 2016 at 5:23 pm - Reply

      Kelly, so glad you found the guide useful. And yes TdP and Los Glaciares/Mont. Fitz Roy, Perito Moreno Glacier would be the grand tour of Patagonia!

      As to the W vs. O I can make a few suggestions, but not being you, your son, or your husband they can only be loose suggestions–final call is with you guys. In that vein, consider doing the W as test. By the end of the W you should have a much better idea of the suitability of continuing on to do the rest of the route to complete the O. Although you won’t have a huge selection, the small store at the Hotel at the end of the W should be sufficient to supplement your food if you decide to continue on the O. You can certainly get pasta, sauce and cheese for a few dinners and there is plenty of snack food. The other suggestion would be to do a longish W and trek, by starting with a hike up above Lago Grey for great views of Glacier Grey and the super fun swing bridges. Then continue on to do the W. You could stay overnight at Refugio Grey and do a day hike up above the glacier. That might be the biggest bang for the buck.

      The other place that we went was the Atacama Desert in Chile, staying in the small town of Sand Pedro de Atacama. Probably in the top 10 of the coolest places we’ve been. Driest non-polar desert in the world, 5 species of flamingos, geysers, vocanlos, and incredible stars. And if you are into birding and nature at all, the king penguins in Terra Del Fuego are you only chance to see these huge and beatiful penguins without hopping on a boat towards Antartica. Best, -alan

  4. Wendy November 19, 2016 at 12:11 am - Reply

    Alan, Thank you so much, your blog is indispensable!!! My husband and I plus another couple (all in the 50s) are heading to the area i February. We are wondering if it would be just as good to do the W in the opposite direction and why most people seem to go the way you suggested. Do you happen to know? A travel agent advised us to reverse the trip.

    Thanks so much again,
    Wendy

    • Alan Dixon November 19, 2016 at 12:45 am - Reply

      I think most people do it in the direction we did because it gives you the option of “day hiking out” to Glacier Grey and back on Day 1 — and still be able to camp at Italiano of the first day.

      “Day 1 – Torres del Paine W Trek start (Refugio Paine Grande) via bus, catamaran – Glacier Grey Views, Campamento Italiano. 5 to 6 hours* and 18.5 km, 11.8 miles (mostly with a day pack on easy trails) – to first Mirador. Today you’ll do a round trip day hike from Refugio Paine Grande (RPG) as far as you can for a good view of Glacier Grey. Back at RPG you’ll don your full pack and trek over to Campamento Italiano or Refugio Frances (to setup for day hiking up Valle Frances the next morning).”

      That being said, depending on personal hiking speed and goals, an argument can be made for going either direction. Best, -alan

  5. Michael Paiva November 23, 2016 at 4:04 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for all of the great information. Very helpful!

    We will have a rental car. Is it possible to drive from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine and then leave the car at the park entrance or at the ferry? Once we complete our trek, we are driving to El Chalten and we wondered if having the car in TdP would save some time?

    Thanks!

    Mike

    • Alan Dixon November 24, 2016 at 12:03 am - Reply

      Mike, Alison and I did not use a car for the almost 3 weeks we were in Chile. I think one option would be to leave your car in Puerto Natales and take the bus from there. If you feel like you want it watched a bit you might make an agreement with your hotel to keep an eye on it while you are in TdP.

      Also you might check on parking at either end of the W—-the Ferry lot in Pudeto or the Las Torres Hotel. There were gravel lots at both place and it might well be public parking for people trekking the TdP. I remeber the Hotel lot being quite large. Have a great hike. -alan

      Oh, and I am not sure how much time it would save as you’d still have to shuttle between trailheads in the park to get back to your car. -a

  6. Alan Dixon November 29, 2016 at 8:08 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.

  7. Teresa Burke December 1, 2016 at 5:17 am - Reply

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I was beginning to experience major anxiety about this hiking trip and now I am thinking that it is going to be very doable. I’m taking my daughter on her first backpacking experience. She is young, but I think we will take breaks and take our time. We will probably not hike in as far into the “w” when we have the option to make it shorter for her sake. All of the campsites are booked at the end of the W though. I’m not sure what to do. There is one campsite available with the private company for $180!! Eek!

    • Alan Dixon December 1, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      Teresa, glad you found the Guide useful. As to your camping option, I am about 99% sure that $180 is for a cabin or room and not a campsite. We paid around $10-$20 for private campsites along the route. Which end of the W are you talking about? There are private Campamentos at Refugio Grey, Refugio Paine Grande, and Camping Las Torres near Hotel Las Torres (this is not the same as the Park run Campamento Torres).

      Fantastico Sur handles reservations for: Refugio Las Torres, Camping Las Torres (not the same as the Park run Campamento Torres), Refugio Los Cuernos, Camping Los Cuernos, Domo Los Cuernos, Cabañas Los Cuernos, Refugio El Chileno, Camping El Chileno, Camping Serón, Domo Serón, Camping Francés, Domo Francés, and Refugio Torre Norte

      Vertice Patagonia handles reservations for: Refugio Paine Grande (camping, meals & beds), R. Grey (camping, meals & beds), R. Dickson (camping, meals & beds), and Camping Los Perros (camping only).

      Hope this helps, -Alan

  8. Anne-Sophie December 6, 2016 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Hi, im planing to hike torres del paine in January and I just started to book campsites so a lot of them are already sold out. Las torres campsite is sold out so I was thinking about sleeping at el chileno but apparently I HAVE to pay for meals too even if Im camping so it would cost 90 usd. It is a bit expensive so I was thinking that I could sleep at Central camping (close to the hotel) cause it is only 15$ usd. If I choose that option, Im gonna have a long walk to do before getting to las torres mirador so I feel like im not gonna be able to get there for the sunrise. Is it really worth it to see the sun rise or would i be ok arriving a bit later in the morning? I think i could see the sunrise if I slept at el chileno but I would have to pay 65 usd more only to see a sunrise. What do you think?

    Thank you! 🙂

    • Alan Dixon December 7, 2016 at 3:00 am - Reply

      Anne-Sophie,
      We saw tons of people doing the day-hike from the Hotel to the Towers and back. Definitely doable. And the towers are great at any time of day. The main downside of getting there late in the day is that clouds are more likely to build and obscure the towers. But with a pre-dawn start from the Hotel you could still be at the towers fairly early in the day. The other downsides are a) it’s more crowded later in the day, and b) you miss seeing them glowing red in the AM. But the latter is a rare’ish event that depends on particular conditions to happen. Apparently the red towers event is more common in Oct November when there are less clouds along the coast at dawn. This allows the long (very red) and early rays to sunlight to reach the towers. This is what every photographer hopes for, but is not assured by any means.

      Have a great trek, -alan

  9. Arielle December 19, 2016 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Hey there! My fiance and I are looking into Patagonia and Torres Del Paine for our honeymoon, and we’re still in the research stage. Your blog has been super helpful on how the W can be done and what we should do. Quick question – if we didn’t want to camp, and wanted to stay at refugios instead, are they along the whole way? Is it possible to only stay at refugios? Thanks so much!

    • Alan Dixon December 19, 2016 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Yes Arielle, it is possible to do the W without camping and without bringing food. Although, you’ll need to book well enough in advance to get reservations at places with beds. Best, -alan

      Oh, and my wife and I honeymooned in Patagonia. Good choice 🙂 -a

  10. Annette January 27, 2017 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    A tip!

    If you are finding that all the campsites and refugios are filled, don’t give up hope. It seems that Fantastico Sur can work it out even if their website says they are full.

    I’m going in February 2017. Just when I was about to give up on my trip because everything was reserved, I reached out to Fantastico Sur if they had any unguided tour packages available — and they did!

    So it seems like you can’t always trust what’s on the website for reservations. This included a stay at one Vertice lodging. I don’t know if they’re hoarding reservations to try to get people to buy more tours, or if the reservations just change so rapidly that the website is out-dated. But try reaching out to them for a tour. (I did have to pay about $100 more than if I had done it all myself, but it’s not bad because they buy a majority of tickets and stuff for you.)

    • Alan Dixon January 27, 2017 at 11:10 pm - Reply

      Nice work! Glad you have your reservations all worked out.

    • Nik February 8, 2017 at 2:14 am - Reply

      @Annette
      Did you call or email Fantastico Sur for the unguided tour? I have reservations at Chileno, Central, then RPG ( we are doing East to West) But I dont have a reservation at Cuernos. If I cant get a site in that area then I have a 20+ mile hike in one day, which is damn near impossible!.

      Any suggestions? CONAF sites appear booked up too, online anyway.

  11. Meredith March 13, 2017 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan – thank you for this guide. I’m going to be hiking the W in late April, and came across an app with offline trail maps – here: https://appadvice.com/app/torres-del-paine-map/545998465. Have you heard of this or do you know if it is reputable? I’ve also been researching what would be the most affordable emergency 2-way communication device to take on the trail – do you have any suggestions? Most of the options I have looked at are quite pricey.

    Thanks!!

    • Alan Dixon March 13, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Meredith,

      1) yes, by the time you add in a plan none of these devices is cheap. I have done some really good writing and reviews about them tho. See Why you should make a trip plan (and you should!). And Best Sat. Messenger inReach vs. SPOT. Note that depending on how much you use your unit, the annual service plan for the SPOT may or may not be less expensive than the as-needed Freedom Plan for the inReach.

      2) App looks nice, I’ll need to check it out. If it works in the field with no mobile data (and without burning a lot a battery) that’s great. At $3 it would certainly be a bargain. Please report back on how it works.

      Have a great trek. -Alan

  12. Madeline April 25, 2017 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Dear Adventure Alan,
    Thank you so much for your website! It has all the info you want to know but can’t find on the internet.
    Me and 2 of my friends are leaving at the end of the week for Torres del Paine. This whole trip was sort of last minute and we’ll only have 3 days/2 nights in the park. We’re all young (21 yo) and pretty fit but most of all very dedicated to seeing both Glacier Grey and the Torres while we’re there. Our current plan is to hike west to east, starting on Day 1 with a bus from Puerto Natales for the noon ferry. Then, we plan to hike up to the Glacier Grey mirador, admire the view for a hot sec and snap a few picks. Then we will hike back down and camp overnight at Paine Grande. On Day 2, we will get a very early start to reach Torres Norte, where we’ll camp overnight. On Day 3, we will hike up to the Torres, then back down for the bus to Puerto Natales.
    So…I just had a few questions that I was hoping you could answer, as someone who knows the park.
    (1) Since days are not super long at the end of April, we will end up reaching the campsite at Paine Grande in the dark on Day 1. Are the trails marked clearly enough for this to work?
    (2) Also, just wondering if you had any thoughts on completing the Paine Grande to Torres Norte in one day? We realize it would be a very long day but we just really want to see the glacier and Torres!
    Thank you very much for any insight you have!
    Madeline

    • Alan Dixon April 25, 2017 at 11:12 pm - Reply

      Madeline,
      If you are young and fast (and efficient!) hikers this should work. I am on the road, with limited internet so can’t write long messages. As to timing and distance, you should check the Main Post’s Message Thread for my other responses as to timing vs. your KNOWN hiking pace. It also points you to a post of mine on how to hike efficiency. (Note: feedbaack is that most people fall somewhere between my hiking times and the Park’s estimated times).

      Trails are well signed. Make sure you take the shortcut to Campamento Torres to save some time and distance! My other recommendations would be to get very early starts, don’t take unnecessary stops, and keep close track during the day of how you are doing with hiking times vs. distance. Then adapt your plan/approach if you aren’t making the necessary speed. Enjoy TdP!

      Best, -alan (typed on my iPhone)

    • Alan Dixon April 25, 2017 at 11:34 pm - Reply

      Make sure to bring a good headlamp. One that is bright enough to hike at night. Definitely helps when you run out of daylight! Check my gearlist for a few good ones. -a

  13. Katie Bell April 27, 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan – thanks for posting so much information! I just started planning my trip for December 2017 and your website is well awesome. I have a question about leaving your packs at refugios where you are not staying the night, RPG, for example. Do they have a designated area to leave packs? Is there any fee associated with this (ie if someone is watching them)? I’m just curious how that whole process would work.
    Katie

    • Alan Dixon April 27, 2017 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      As to leaving stuff at a Refugios: Most hikers just leave their stuff in a fairly high traffic area, e.g. on the side of the Ranger’s hut at Campamento Italiano–you might see upwards of 50 packs piled there as folks trek on up into Valley Frances.

      But nobody is “officially” watching them. So you could 1) bring a very light day pack to carry your valuables, cash, phone, camera, warm clothes, rain jacket etc. If this day pack were also used as a stuff sack the rest of the time it would not add that much weight. Or 2) Alison and I stripped our packs down and put all of our day hiking essentials/valuables into my pack and we left the rest at a refugio/campground. Have a great hike, -alan

  14. Trevor May 22, 2017 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan- I am planning on a trip in November 2017 and I have to say your website is fantastic! I was having some issue booking campsites/refugios through the websites. I wanted to ask if the sites typically fill up 6 months in advance or the companies that run them don’t take reservations this far in advance? I didn’t want to book a plane ticket I know that I won’t have a place to stay for the route.

    Trevor

    • Alan Dixon May 22, 2017 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Trevor take a look at the more recent reservation comments in this and the Main TdP post. In summary, the pay-for, private Refugios have not yet opened booking for next season. The Park Campamentos can be booked, although there seems to be a problem booking C. Torres right now. Nobody knows why. Best, -alan

  15. Dustin June 24, 2017 at 12:58 am - Reply

    Well done! Sure am glad I ran into your post. Went a couple years ago and I “winged” it without reservations and was perfectly fine. Going back at the end of the year and planned on doing the same. I might want to rethink that now. 🙂 Wish I had this detailed of a post prior to my first trip, very well put together.

    Happy trails!

    • Alan Dixon June 24, 2017 at 2:25 am - Reply

      My pleasure Dustin. Have a great trip in TdP. -a

  16. Aaron August 9, 2017 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this great post, Alan! Super helpful. I’m wondering what you think about doing an itinerary like this (in December or possibly January):
    Day 1: Hike an easy 6.9 miles to Refugio Grey, camp there, and check out the glacier.
    Day 2: Hike 11.6 miles to Italiano, drop packs there, and do the 6.9 mile round trip to the mirador. Spend the night at Italiano.
    Day 3: Hike 14.4 miles to Chileno. If we get there early enough and have the energy, drop our packs and do the 3.2 mile round trip to check out the Torres.
    Day 4: Get up predawn, check out the Torres at sunrise, and then hike the 3.1 miles from Chileno to the exit.

    Does that make sense? Are there any drawbacks that I’m missing? Thanks so much!

    • Alan Dixon August 10, 2017 at 1:04 am - Reply

      Arron, that looks like a lovely itinerary. Only thing is to make sure you can get reservations for all your nights. Italiano in particular books full early. Have a great trek. Warmest, -alan

      • Aaron August 10, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

        Thanks so much, Alan!

  17. Kat September 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for this site Alan! It’s incredibly helpful to find all this info in one place.

    • Alan Dixon September 10, 2017 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Thanks so much for the kind words Kat. Warmest, -alan

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