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Torres del Paine W Trek Complete Guide – Updated 2020

Last updated : April 28th, 2020

Las Torres Viewpoint in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile


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The Torres del Paine W Trek in Patagonia is one of the most famous hikes in the world – and for good reason! It is absolutely breathtaking from beginning to end.

However, booking and planning your trip on the W Circut in Torres del Paine National Park isn’t easy. In fact, I’ve done it twice now, once in 2016 on the W Trek and then again in 2019 on the O Trek and guess what? It didn’t get easier.

Luckily though, I’m now one of the most experienced people at booking the W Trek – mostly because people usually only do it once!

Regardless though, in this blog, I’m going to break down the booking process on the W Trek from start to finish and give you all the information I wish I’d had the first two times I went!

Included in this Blog

  1. About Torres del Paine National Park
  2. About the W Trek
  3. Campsites and refugios on the W Trek
  4. Things to know before planning the W Trek
  5. Planning the Torres del Paine W Trek (and itinerary suggestions)
  6. Booking your campsites and/or accommodation
  7. Torres del Paine W Trek tours
  8. Getting to and from Torres del Paine National Park
  9. *New* Torres del Paine entrance fee
  10. Packing for the W trek
  11. Renal gear in Puerto Natales
  12. Rental gear in the national park

About Torres del Paine National Park

Las Torres viewpoint in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
The Las Torres Viewpoint at sunrise on our last day of the hike!
This blog may contain affiliate links. Please check our disclosure policy for more information.

Torres del Paine National Park is located in the most southern region of Chile called Magallanes. The park was founded in 1959 and covers approximately 242,242 hectares. It’s one of the largest and most visited national parks in Chile, attracting around 220,000 hiking enthusiasts from all over the world each year.

Although a very large national park, most visitors only explore a small part of the park centered around the Las Torres Viewpoint (pictured above). This is by far the most beautiful part of Torres del Paine National Park and where the W Trek is.

The closest town to Torres del Paine National Park is Puerto Natales. The town of Puerto Natales, Chile is the number one place to stay before hiking in the park and completing the W Trek for a few reasons. For one, the town has everything hikers need to start their journey including rental gear, professional guides, information, transport, and shops that sell hiking food.

The next reason is that it’s only 110km from Puerto Natales to the entrance gate of Torres del Paine National Park. This makes it the perfect place to begin your adventure hiking the Torres del Paine W Trek!


About the Torres del Paine W Trek

Torres del Paine W Trek
The red line is the Torres del Paine W Trek. You can see it forms a W on the map.

The Torres del Paine W Trek is part of the complete circuit around the national park called the “O Circut” or “Big Circut”. However, instead of hiking around the park the trail only explores the front end of the national park. As you can see in the map above, the red line forms a “W” and that’s how the trail got its name.

There are many different ways you can hike the trail including in either direction, but you will need a minimum of 3 days (skipping the middle part of the W) and up to 5 days to complete the trail. The classic and recommended way to hike the trail is over 4 nights and 5 days. All up, there is 80km of trail that can be hiked.

Along the W Trek trail, there is one free campsite and six paid campsites with basic mountain hotels – more commonly called refugios in Chile. You can choose between a range of these when planning your trip depending on your budget, equipment, and experience.


The Campsites and Refugios on the Torres del Paine W Trek

diagram of the campsites on the Torres del Paione W Trek
A rough guide to show where the campsites are along on the W Trek trail

In order from far-left to right of the W Trek starting at Campamento Grey, here are the campsites and refugios you can stay in.

Grey (Refugio & Campsite)

Owner:Vertice Patagonia
Facilities:Bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, a full restaurant and bar, an indoor cooking area with running water, a convenience store, computers available with internet, equipment rentals.
Types of accommodation available:Camping sites, pre-setup tents, dorm beds.
Price:$9 USD per person for camping.
$37 or $87 USD per person for a dorm bed.

Paine Grande (Refugio & Campsite)

Owner:Vertice Patagonia
Facilities:Bathrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers, convenience store, restaurant and bar, indoor cooking area with running water, internet (paid), and equipment rentals.
Types of Accommodation available:Camping sites, pre-setup tents, dorm beds.
Price:$11 USD per person for camping.
$57 or $87 per night for a dorm bed.

Italiano (Campsite only)

Owner:CONAF
Facilities:A couple of pit toilets (outhouses), an outdoor cooking shelter.
***There is no running water here and all water for cooking must be collected from the nearby river.
Types of accommodation available:Campsites only.
Prices:FREE

Frances (Refugio & Campsite)

Owner:Fantasticosur
Facilities:Bathrooms with flush toilets and hot water for showers, convenience store, tent platforms for tent campsites, restaurant, wifi (paid), equipment rental.
Types of accommodation available:Campsites, pre-setup tents, dorm beds.
Prices: $21 USD for a campsite for two people, $11 USD for just one person.
$49 USD for a pre-setup campsite for two people.
$116 USD per person for a fully-made dorm bed.

Los Cuernos (Refugio and Campsite)

Owner:Fantasticosur
Facilities:Bathrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers, cafeteria with food and drinks for purchase, convenience store, indoor cooking shelter, tent platforms.
Types of accommodation available:Camping, pre-setup tent, dorm beds, and privates huts for two people.
Prices: $21 USD for a campsite for two people, $11 USD for just one person.
$49 USD for a pre-setup campsite for two people.
$116 USD per person for fully-made dorm bed.
$180 USD for a hut for two people.

Central (Refugio & Campsite)

Owner:Fantasticosur
Facilities:Bathrooms with flush toilets and hot water for showers, convenience store, wifi (paid), full restaurant and bar, equipment rental.
Types of accommodation available:Campsites, pre-setup tents, dorm beds.
Prices:$21 USD for a campsite for two people, $11 USD for just one person.
$49 USD for a pre-setup campsite for two people.
$116 USD per person for a fully-made dorm bed.

Chileno (Refugio & Campsite)

Owner:Fantasticosur
Facilities:Bathrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers, full restaurant and bar, some grocery items (snacks only) available for purchase, tent platforms for camping, boiling water available for free, wifi for purchase.
***There is no cooking shelter at Chileno. You can access boiling water for free during the restaurant opening hours but you are not allowed to cook your own food (just a ploy to have you spend money at the restaurant.)
Types of accommodation available:Campsites, pre-setup tent, dorm beds.
Prices:$21 USD for a campsite for two people, $11 USD for just one person.
$49 USD for a pre-setup campsite for two people.
$116 USD per person for a fully-made dorm bed.
Related Read:   Ultimate Guide to Camping in Torres del Paine National Park

Important Things to know about the W Trek

Walking the suspension bridges on the Torres del Paine trek just past Campamento Grey
Walking the suspension bridges on the Torres del Paine trek just past Campamento Grey

1. The Ferry

On the W Trek, you must take one ferry either at the start or end of your hike. This is because, on the Refugio Grey and Paine Grande side of the park, there is no road access. This area is accessed via a ferry from across Lago Pehoe. I have more info on that below.

2. Logistics

DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE FERRY OR BUS TO THE PARK. This can all be sorted after you book the campsites and once you arrive in Puerto Natales. There are so many buses that go to the park, and the ferry can’t be booked in advance so don’t stress about that!

3. The Campsites and Refugios

The campsites and refugios are owned by three different companies that open bookings at different times throughout the year. So my advice is to have a plan B if one company hasn’t opened for bookings yet. I did this in 2019 by booking Frances in case I couldn’t get a spot at Italiano. Then I canceled Frances for free once I secured Italiano a couple of weeks later. Each company has a different policy, but generally 1-month in advance you can cancel for free.

4. Most popular campsites

Grey and Chileno are the two most popular campsites and they book up first. This is because overnight hikers use these campsites for one-night hikes only. They are also the most important to the W Trek so book them asap!

5. Water on the trail

All the water on the trails can be consumed without treatment. Just be sure to collect water upstream from any trail, horses, or campsites. You can also find drinking water at the campsites generally straight from the tap.

6. Cooking and buying food

You can cook at every campsite except Chileno. Here, you’ll only be provided with boiling water. At all of the campsites and refugios (except Italiano), there are shops and restaurants. Here, you can buy supplies and even have a hot meal and an alcoholic drink if you choose (and your budget allows!)

7. Rental gear

Rental gear can be hired in Puerto Natales at pretty reasonable rates. Below we dive into this more and recommend a company we have used twice now.

8. Hiking outside of the summer season

You can only hike in Torres del Paine National Park without a guide from October to April. Outside of this season, you are required to have a registered guide in the park. This is purely for safety reasons as every year the national park does claim lives.

9. Money in the park

Only cash is excepted in the national park with Chilean Pesos being the safest option. Bring plenty, you never know when you might need to buy or rent something.

Related Read:   13 Things You Need to Know About Renting a Car in Patagonia

Planning Your Torres del Paine W Trek Route

map of distances on w trek and o circuit for torres del paine hike
The red trail is the “w trek”, while the yellow trail is the “O” which connects with the red at Refugio Grey. Entrance/exit points at at Hotel Las Torres on the right side, or Refugio Paine Grande on the left.

One of the most confusing things about the Torres del Paine W Trek is choosing the perfect route to hike, or making a new route because campsites are fully booked.

So below I’ll leave three suggestions of different routes to take and remember, you can reverse these to complete the trail in the opposite direction too.

1. The Classic W Trek (4 nights, 5 days)

glacier grey lookout
Me, looking out of Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine National Park!

Night 1 – Refugio Grey – get the bus to the park and then ferry (read more about the ferry below) to the start of the trail. Hike 11.5 km to Grey.

Night 2 – Camping Italiano – hike 19 km from Grey to Italiano

Night 3 – Camping Frances – Leave your large back at Italiano then hike the French Valley from Italiano (12km return) then continue from Italiano to Frances (2 km from Italiano)

Night 4 – Camping Chileno – Hike 17 km from Frances to Chileno. The next day, hike to Mirador Las Torres (for sunrise is the best) and back down out of the National Park to get the bus back to Puerto Natales.

Shortened version: If you have less time, you can shorten this hike by staying at either Italiano or Frances (not both) and skipping the French Valley. In my opinion, it’s not a must-do and something I skipped the second time I hiked in the park.

Related Read:   Torres del Paine 5-day Hike: Bailey's Story

2. Easy W Trek (4 days, 5 nights)

cooking shelter in torres del paine campsite
Bailey, hanging out in a cooking shelter at Italiano (it is the roughest campsite, all of the others have indoor kitchen areas for cooking!)

This next version of the hike is great for those unsure about the longer distances on the trail and want to take it easy. This does skip the French Valley, but it’s perfect for beginners!

Night 1 – Refugio Grey – As above, get the ferry to the trailhead at Paine Grande and hike to Grey (11.5km.)

Night 2 – Paine Grande – Hike back the way you came to Paine Grande (11.5km.)

Night 3 – Frances or Los Cuernos – today hike onto Frances (9.6km) or Los Cuernos (12 km). These campsites are close together but hiking all the way to Los Cuernos will shorten your next day.

Night 4 – Chileno – The next day hike all the way to Chileno. From Los Cuernos it’s about 14.5 km, and from Frances 17km.

3. My Favorite W Trek Itinerary (4 nights, 5 days)

Glacier Grey on the Torres del Paine W Trek
I never get sick of looking at the Grey Glacier!

This itinerary is the ideal route I think the W should be hiked. I have not done this, but after completing the O Circuit I realized this is what any fit, experienced hiker should do for the best experience.

It involves your first night at one of the O Circuit campsites called Camp Paso. This is a free CONAF campsite and one of the most beautiful in the park. However, this involves a long first day so only those who are experienced should attempt this route.

Night 1 – Camp Paso – Get the bus and ferry into the park and walk towards Grey, however instead of stopping at Grey for the night, continue on another 10 km to Camp Paso (21.5 km total)

Night 2 – Paine Grande – Hike from Camp Paso past Refugio Grey and onto Camping Paine Grande. For reference, this is where the ferry would have dropped you on the first day. So, you’re just hiking back the way you came.

Night 3 – Camping Italiano – Today, hike from Paine Grande to Camping Italiano. This is only 7.6 km so once you arrive, set up camp and hike as much of the French Valley as you want.

Night 4 – Camping Chileno – Hike from Italiano to Camping Chileno (19km). Then wake up the next day and hike to the Las Torres viewpoint before exiting the park.

Add an extra day: If you have more time you could add an extra day by staying at Grey on your second night. This would be a really good option and would follow the first itinerary except you would stay at Paso the first night. So your itinerary would be Paso, Grey, Italiano, Frances, and Chileno. 5 nights 6 days!

Alternative to Chileno – Chileno always books up fast, so if it is fully booked, you can instead stay at Camping/Refugio Central. However, this makes the sunrise hike to the Las Torres Viewpoint impossible and also makes for a long last day to the viewpoint and back! This works as an alternative for all of itineraries above.


Booking the Torres del Paine Trek

Bailey hiking on the Torres del Paine W Trek near Camp Paine Grande
Bailey hiking on the Torres del Paine W Trek near Camp Paine Grande

All campsites and accommodation should be booked online as soon as possible to avoid disappointment! If you are planning on arriving in the peak season (November to February) then you must book the campsites as soon as bookings open.

Unfortunately, bookings for each company open at different times and they usually don’t have a set date. This means you’ll need to keep an eye out by following them on facebook and checking their websites every few days.

From experience though, they tend to open around June (with CONAF usually opening last as late as Septemeber.)

The websites to book your Torres del Paine campsites are:

1. https://www.fantasticosur.com/en/For booking Frances, Los Cuernos, Central, or Chileno 

2. https://www.verticepatagonia.cl/homeFor booking Grey or Camping Paine Grande

3. https://www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/es/For booking Camping Italiano (you can also book Camp Paso here)

These are all the companies that have campsites in the park along the W Trek trail.

*Besides campsites and accommodation along the W Trek, you don’t need to book anything else in advance to do the W Trek. National Park passes are purchased at the entrance gate in cash, the same as the ferry. Buses to and from the park can be bought the day before in Puerto Natales at the bus station or from many hostels or hotels. Rental gear is also readily availabe in Puerto Natales.

Related Read:   12 BEST Hotels in Torres del Paine National Park (for every budget!)

Torres del Paine W Trek Tours

Huemel in Torres del Paine NP
We got to see this rare Huemel while on the W Trek!

For most reading this, you’re probably planning on hiking the trail and booking it for yourself, and that’s great you’ll save a lot of money.

However, if this entire process sounds too hard then you can a book self-guided or guided walk through the park. This is a great option if organizing everything just seems too confusing (or if all campsites and accommodation seem to be already fully booked.)

All of the tours include your transport to and from the park, accommodation (tents or dorm beds), food for the hike, and entrance fees. Some select tours even include guides, insurance, accommodation in Puerto Natales and Santiago (when you fly in) and all meals while your there.

So, it’s entirely up to you how much you want to spend vs how much you want to book yourself.

You can browse a huge range of Torres del Paine W Trek Tours.


Getting to and from Torres del Paine National Park

The Stunning landscapes on the W Trek looking out at Glacier Grey
Just spectacular!

Important note: The first time I booked the Torres del Paine Trek I was stressed about getting to and from the park. However, what I learned is that you really don’t have to at all. In fact, you can book it all when you arrive in Puerto Natales. Both times this is what I did without hassle.

However, for your own peace of mind here is exactly how to get to the Torres del Paine National Park.

1. Get the Bus to the park

Everybody who goes to Torres del Paine National Park to hike the W Trek will need to take the bus from Puerto Natales. This is because you can’t leave your car in the national park for 5 days unattended and you also don’t finish where you started.

The bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine costs 15,000 CLP (return) and can be booked through your hostel or directly at the bus station. There are many different bus companies and all are more or less the same and leave at 7 am, 7:30 am, and 2:30 pm to the park from Puerto Natales.

Hot tip: If you want to leave earlier then Bus Sur has a bus that leaves at 6:40 am and goes straight to Pudeto (ferry terminal). This bus only works for those starting on the Paine Grande/Grey side fo the park but it means you can take the first 9 am ferry of the day.

On your return ticket, there will be 2 or 3 return times that you can choose from (each company varies by an hour or so, so it’s no big deal who you go with.) You don’t have to choose a time when you book a ticket either and can get on any one of those buses. These times are usually between 1:30 pm and 7:45 pm. The return ticket is also not date-specific. It is just an open return ticket.

The main bus companies are:

JB Buses Patagonia (tel. 61/2410 242)

Transport Maria José (tel. 61/2410 951)

Bus Sur (tel. 61/2410 784) – you can book these online in advance

Buses Juan Ojeda (tel. 9/8943 7808)

Buses Gómez (tel. 61/2415700)

2. Pay your entrance ticket and take your next bus (read carefully)

Four people standing at the start of the Torres del Paine trek
I never took a photo of the entrance gate so here’s a photo of me, Bailey, my dad, and my brother before we started the O Circuit in December 2019.

After the 1.5 to 2-hour bus ride, you’ll arrive at the front gate called Laguna Amarga. Here you will be required to get off the bus to watch a short video on the park and either buy your entrance ticket or show your already bought entrance ticket (you can but them at the Puerto Natales bus terminal with credit card only in advance.)

Once your ticket is sorted you will then need to do 1 of 2 things depending on your W trek Itinerary:

Option 1

If you’re starting the trail on the Grey or Paine Grande side of the park you’ll need to get back on the same bus that brought you to the park. This bus will then take you to the Pudeto. Pudeto is the ferry terminal and where you’ll catch the ferry to Paine Grande. This is where this side of the trail starts from. The ticket for the ferry is paid at the terminal and costs 18,000 CLP.

Hot tip: Be sure to line up for the ferry right away too so you make the first one.

Option 2

If you’re starting your hike from the Central or Chileno side of the park you’ll need to collect your bag (after you got your ticket) and line up at the black bus. This bus will drive you 7 km to the start of the W trek on this side of the park. This bus costs 3,000 CLP.

Whatever option you choose, you’ll do the opposite on the way back. And don’t worry about it all too much, as long as you know where you are starting your hike someone will be able to help you get there! The rangers are all very friendly!

3. Take the Ferry

The ferry to start the Torres del Paine camping
On the ferry to Paine Grande to start our first day to Refugio Grey!

As mentioned above, on the way into the park you’ll need to take the ferry if you’re choosing option 1. The ferry you’ll be taking is the 11 am as the bus drops you at Pudeto (ferry terminal) at 10:20 am. However, if you are hiking the park the other way (option 2) you’ll need to get the ferry back at the end.

So, the ferry times on the way back from Paine Grande to Pudeto to get your bus to back to Puerto Natales are: 9:35 am, 11:35 am, 2:35 pm, 5 pm, and 6:35 pm.

You will need to make sure your bus company has a bus leaving Pudeto at 7 pm and no earlier if you are going to take the last ferry.

You can check yearly updated ferry and bus times on this website

Related Read:   Mini Trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier - What I wish I knew before & Tour Review

*New* Torres del Paine Entrance Fee

As of January 1st, 2019 the entrance fees to the park have changed. The fee for an international adult visitor to enter the park for more than 3 days is 35,000 CLP ($47 USD).

For adults entering for less than 3 days, the fee is 21,000 CLP, however, this won’t apply to you if you’re hiking the W Trek.

You can check the full list of entrance fee prices on CONAF’s official website.


Basic Packing Guide for the Torres del Paine W Trek

If you’re coming on a holiday specifically for hiking or to complete this trek then I would suggest you bring as much of your own camping/hiking gear as possible. Camping gear for hire in Puerto Natales isn’t necessarily cheap, but it is easily available and good quality.

Some things you’re going to need to pack for the W Trek are:

1) A tent – make sure you have plenty of pegs as the high winds mean you’ll 100% need them!

2) Sleeping bag – -5 Celcius (23 Fahrenheit) is what I used and it will get you by ok in the summer, but something a little warmer would be better.

3) Cooking set – this should include a small gas cooker, pot, utensils, bowls, and cups. You will need to BUY fuel for the cooker and you can do this in Puerto Natales.

4) Hiking boots – you will need waterproof hiking shoes. If you don’t already have good hiking shoes then you can hire them along with practically any other clothing or even a backpack.

5) Hiking poles – these really help with the high winds and for your knees on the trail which is very poorly maintained.

6) Waterproof jacket – super important if it’s raining and it also acts a windbreaker.

7) Layers – having lots of different light layers is great for the unpredictable weather in Torres del Paine National Park.

8) Torch – surprisingly you won’t use it much as it’s light from 4 am to 10 pm in the summer. However, it’s needed for the sunrise hike to Las Torres.

9) Backpack – For the 5 days, a 60 liter and above is needed and should suffice.

10) Garbage bags – It does get wet and these are great for separating wet clothes and having an extra waterproof layer over your sleeping bag. You’ll also need them for your rubbish, however, there are garbage bins at some campsites.

11) Backpack cover – a waterproof backpack cover is a great idea, but if it’s windy these become dangerous and act like parachutes so have your stuff in bin bags in case your bag gets wet.


Renting Equipment in Puerto Natales

rental gear costs on the torres del paine w trek
Rental gear costs

In Puerto Natales, there are lots of places you can rent hiking and camping equipment. However, after hiking the trail twice and using the same company I highly recommend renting your equipment from Rental Natales.

Guillermo, the owner is a super friendly guy and the equipment he rents is updated around every 6 months. He’s also very helpful and can clear up any questions you may have about the trek.

On his website, you can book your rental gear in advance but it is a little more expensive than in person. The benefit is that he will not only guarantee it, but it’ll all ready waiting for you at his office.

The price list above was from 2016 and funny enough, the prices never changed when we went back in 2019. One thing that did change was the amount of gear he rents and in fact, you can get a lot more stuff!


Rental Gear in Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine camping spot 1
The trail near Paine Grande

At the paid campsites, you can pay extra for a pre-setup tent which will be set up waiting for you when you arrive (tent, mattress, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner.) This is selected when you book on their websites and you can actually also book all of your food so you don’t have to carry anything but your personal items.

Of course, this is a lot more expensive but its an option for those who need it!

Related Read:   First Timer's Guide to Puerto Natales, Chile

In Conclusion

The Torres del Paine W Trek is still without a doubt one of my favorite hikes I have done in the world. The scenery and ever-changing landscape will blow your mind!

I really hope this article has helped you plan your trek and I have tried my best to make sense of this confusing hike! If there is something you don’t understand or you have questions then please leave a comment below and we will get back to you!

Enjoy your trek and take lots of pictures!

Keep Reading…

If you liked this article then be sure to check out all of our Patagonia blogs. Below are a few of our favorites we think you might like!

Things to do in El Calafate

Guide to choosing the best Punta Arenas Penguin Tour

17 Exciting things to do in Punta Arenas

21 BEST Things to do in Patagonia

1-Day Santiago Itinerary

-Daniel


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

4 Replies to “Torres del Paine W Trek Complete Guide – Updated 2020”

  • Thank you for your informations! Where did you see the info about Camp Torres being closed for this season?

    • Hey! It’s on the CONAF website. It does say 2018/2019 season but they have taken it off the booking map. Did you see somewhere it was open? It was definitely closed last year.

      • No, I didn’t see anywhere that it was open. I actually googled “Torres Camp 2019 season” and that’s how I found your blog 😛 !
        I saw that they took it of the booking map (now it only says gardería or something like that), it kind of gives the impression that it won’t ever be a campground again? However, I think that the information on their website won’t be updated as long as they don’t open for the 2019-2020 season.

        • Yeah I hope it’s available it’s the best free campsite and closest to the Torres. They told me the bookings would open 6 months before but who knows they are notoriously disorganized.

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