W Trek: The Route

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

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

Harriet says

W Trek - hut to hut

W Trek from a hotel base

Budget and self-guided W Trek

3-4 day shorter W Trek options

Family W Trek options

Longer W Trek Options

Combine the W-Trek with trekking FitzRoy & Calafate

What Our Customers Think

Swoop Says

W Trek: Questions and Answers

  • How hard is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Refugios or Camping?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Is it possible in the winter?

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

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

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

Customer Tips

Trekking poles are recommended for the W Trek.

Jon Customer

Splurge for the refugios (sleep is important), bring gaiters for the snow, bring cash for drinks at refugios, have quality boots, quality outer-jacket, bring blister care materials.

Daniel Customer

Route Map

W Trek Route Map - SWO

Swoop's Google Map of Torres del Paine

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

People Also Viewed

Ready to plan your Patagonia adventure?

  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Harriet
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Luke
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Chloe
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Sally
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Tom
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Loli

Whatever your budget, group size, length of stay, preferred activity or appetite for adventure, we can help.