What is the W Trek?
W Trek: The Route
The W Trek is normally walked from the eastern starting point at Refugio Las Torres to Refugio Paine Grande in the west. It runs up three valleys, creating the W shape that gives it the name, and in each of those valleys lies one of the iconic sights of the park:
- The Ascencio Valley, reached first when walking from the east, takes you all the way to the base of the famous towers. The ascent to their base is a demanding 800m climb at the end of a six to eight hour day of hiking.
- The French Valley, the central spur of the W, is dominated by the hanging glacier Frances which cracks and crumbles above you as climb the tough, rocky terrain into its heart.
- The last leg of the traditional W Trek runs alongside Lago Grey, where cobalt ice floes floating on the meltwater lead you up to the face of the enormous Grey Glacier, that stretches out towards the ice cap.
The last section on the slippery scree and loose rocks is a bit of a slog, but that first time, when the towers came into view... I just wasn't ready for the scale of them.
Harriet Pike Trekking, Mountaineering & Cycling Specialist
Full W Trek hut to hut
The most popular way to experience what might just be Patagonia's best hiking. Great local guides, small groups, moderate comfort in refugios and an efficient itinerary help you get the most out of your time. Great for solo travellers or…
Paine's most famous trek from the base of a relaxed, friendly eco camp for 4 of the 6 nights. Hike with expert guides and only a day pack, returning to a comfortable bed, a wood-burning stove and en suite bathroom.…
The W Trek in five full and active days, enriched by the geographical and wildlife knowledge of the best guides we know and with complete peace of mind provided by full organisation of accommodation, meals and airport transfers where…
W Trek from a hotel base
Day trip forays to Torres del Paine's most famous sights and some lesser-known gems, from a base at the park's only spa hotel. Enjoy some solid days of hiking, or more leisurely strolls, and unwind afterwards with a sauna or…
Don't just trek the W-Trek, do it from comfort. Stay at one of the best known all-inclusive lodges in Patagonia whilst each day completing each leg of the W Trek, plus extras like boat trips to the wall of…
Your guide will take you on a journey to the highlights of Torres del Paine National Park, where you will witness it's stunning landscape and varied flora and fauna, as well as some of its better kept secrets. All of…
This trip turns the W Trek into a series of shorter day hikes, with an all-inclusive hotel in the heart of the park as your base. A flexible schedule, options for extra excursions or horseback riding and organisation of all…
A gentle-paced W-Trek for peace- and nature-lovers: based in a secluded, all-inclusive camp of luxury yurts, you'll wake up each morning in a forest over-looking Lago Toro before journeying through breath-taking scenery to complete the world famous W-Trek. Looked after…
Budget and self-guided W Trek
Guided hiking and camping gives you the best combination of expert assistance and economy for the W trek. Tents are waiting at the stops, so there's no heavy gear to carry but you still get the feeling of living wild…
Hiking without guides or groups keeps down costs and lets you set your own pace, allowing you to wait at scenic stops for that perfect shot. We'll help you plan your route and save you stress by organising accommodation and…
One of the quickest and simplest ways to take in both the W Trek and the Perito Moreno glacier from the southern base of El Calafate. All accommodation and transfers are taken care of and you can hike the trails…
A great multi-sport extension to the W-Trek including an Ice-Hike on Glacier Grey and Kayaking Lago Grey. All logistics and reservations are taken care of for you, but you can still enjoy the freedom of exploring independently. 4 Nights in…
Staying in the best accommodation on each leg of the trek, you can experience the iconic W-trek at the highest level of comfort, giving you the opportunity to really relax your legs after each trek. Guiding yourself you can enjoy…
3-4 day shorter W Trek options
The best way to fit the park's highlights into a short time frame. Expert guides and organisation of accommodation, transport and meals remove all distractions from the pure joy of trekking and the trip manages to take in the eponymous…
Hike the main W Trek trails, using a new and secluded refugio as your base. The refugio is set amongst the guanacos and flamingos, with majestic views of the Towers of Paine. Ground transfers to and from Punta Arenas are…
The highlights of Torres del Paine's most famous trek, from the base of a relaxed, friendly eco camp for 3 of 4 nights. Hike with expert guides and only a day pack, returning to a comfortable bed, wood burning stove…
Family W Trek options
Designed for family groups to enjoy the iconic Torres del Paine national park together but with unique experiences catering to different comfort levels, ability and fitness. The trip splits the family group into "active" and "relaxed" branches and offers something…
Longer W Trek Options
An adventurous trek that takes in some of Torres del Paine's most famous sights, with a route that weaves across the W Trek on rarely-travelled paths to which few are ever permitted access and gives you a chance to actually…
This itinerary will allow you to explore Torres del Paine with a Guide, enjoying the main highlights, as well as an ice hike on Glacier Grey and remote hiking around the Cuernos. You will be camping under the stars every…
Be unique: start your adventure on zodiac boats and pass glaciers on your way up the Rio Serrano into the National Park before hiking the famed ‘W’ Trek. You’ll be camping, fully supported by your guide and their…
Hiking to the Mirador del Condor provides a unique vantage point on the National Park in addition to the classic ‘W’ Trek; after which you will visit the Seno Otway Penguin…
Ideal for couples: trek the ‘W’ Circuit by day and enjoy the comfort of private rooms in hotels and an authentic ‘estancia’ by night. This is the only trip offering you private rooms every night of your adventure. (This…
Combine Torres del Paine and Fitz Roy
The trail of trails. Explore Patagonia's most famous hikes in two of its most iconic areas.
The trail of trails. An expansive experience of some of Patagonia's most famous hikes in two of its most iconic areas. A dramatic Zodiac boat approach into Torres del Paine follows exploration of the three major Fitz Roy routes, all…
What Our Customers Think
SUPER! Thank you so much for helping us put this trip together.
Patz Family December 2015
I am 100% confident that our experience was flawless and exhilarating because of our guide’s leadership. We will definitely be sending our friends to Swoop when they ask for recommendations.
Clara December 2015
Bring mustard for the W trek, or some condiment.
Katherine December 2016
The W Trek is rightfully popular and undoutbedly a great experience, but it can be very busy in peak season, mainly around Christmas. If you're looking for a bit more solitude, you can go in winter, explore other parts of Torres del Paine or head for some of Patagonia's other great trekking spots.
W Trek: Questions and Answers
The W Trek is a moderately difficult hike of around four to five days, covering 46 miles on mainly gentle terrain, with more challenging days involving climbs of 600-800 metres. You need to be in good shape, with some experience of multi day hiking and prepared for extremely variable weather. The longest days are six to eight hours of hiking, which allows for plenty of snack and photo breaks, both of which you'll definitely want to take.
More experienced trekkers can include the W as part of the Full Circuit, or criss cross it on some of our off-the-beaten-track trips into Paine's hidden valleys and mountain passes.
You can also break up the trek, or enjoy it in more comfort at luxury lodges or eco accommodation around the park.
Please get in touch if you'd like to talk to us about how the hike might compare to others that you've done before.
Every year we help dozens of solo travellers to find a hiking group in Torres del Paine. There are scheduled group trips with fixed departure dates organised by our local operators, but we also put like-minded hikers together to create more flexible itineraries. Let us know when you're going and we'll find a trek or a group to suit you.
Yes, it is possible to walk the W Trek unguided, which is an option if you're on a tight budget and have sufficient hiking experience, but a guide can really add to your trip.
While safety and navigation are an important part of what a guide offers, our customers always talk about the knowledge of wildlife, history, geography and culture that their guides brought to the trek. If you do want to hike alone, we can organise a self-guided hike with all logistics and transport taken care of and there's also the option to combine an unguided W Trek with some guided hiking off the beaten track.
Refugios are like youth hostels, with 6-person dorm rooms, bars, basic restaurants and showers with, most of the time, hot water. There are refugios at all the major stops on the trek, most of which are open year round. They are fun and friendly places, even if the service can be a little disappointing now and again.
Camping gives you a slightly wilder experience of the trek and it doesn't necessarily mean carrying all your gear. You can of course bring your own tent or rent everything you need in Puerto Natales, but it's also possible to hire tents at each of the campsites as you go. Do bear in mind that the wind regularly reaches 80km/h hour. It won't do you any harm, but you might need earplugs to sleep.
With one exception (the cabins at the Los Cuernos stop) the refugios do not have private rooms. There is one trip that follows the full continuous route of the W spending only one night in a dorm, but others break the W trek into day hikes and arrange transport between hotels with private rooms.
The end of December and early January are the busiest times in the park. Places in refugios get booked up by the end of September, flights arriving at this time can be more expensive if you leave it late and there will be more people on the trails.
If you book well in advance then the trek is still a great experience, but it is definitely worth considering the shoulder months or the off season if your schedule is flexible, or some off-the-beaten-track hiking.
The park is a very different place in winter, which is from April/May to August/September. There are far fewer visitors and the wind is calmer, but the days are shorter, transport and accommodation options are limited and there is a good chance you'll be trekking through snow, so it is only possible in a guided group.
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 above restrictions. There's usually one W Trek in each month of winter, so please get in touch to see what's available or read more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter.
Trekking poles are recommended for the W Trek.
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.
Swoop's Google Map of Torres del Paine
Our Torres del Paine Map shows the glaciers, lakes, mountains and other landmarks of the national park that lie on the route of the W Trek. You can also read about the accommodation options and check the distances involved in both the hike and travel from El Calafate.
Patagonia is a vast and varied region, with a wealth of things to see and do, a range of places to stay and a limited transport network.
Why not let us do the hard work for you? Our team of experts will work with you to design a 2-3 week adventure to your exact requirements, from hiking and horse-riding trips to wine-tasting tours and undiscovered lodges.
We’ll work around your budget and arrange flights, transfers and buses, to create your perfect trip.
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