Reasons to hike the Full Circuit
Also known as the Full Circuit, the O Circuit runs right around the Paine range. Experienced hikers will enjoy the challenge of some of the tougher passes, and for beginners, this is definitely a hike to aspire to.
- Complete a full circuit of the Paine range, visiting all the highlights as well as some hidden gems
- Escape the crowds on the W Trek by continuing into the quieter northern areas of the park
- Take on the challenging John Gardner pass to be rewarded by breathtaking views of the icecap stretching into the distance
- Camp with a view at some of the national park's secluded campsites that hug the mountain range
What is the O Circuit Trek?
O Circuit: the route
Starting at Refugio Torre or Paine Grande, you'll hike the full trek anticlockwise, visiting the three valleys of the W Trek as well as the quieter trails across the north. Stunning views and a sense of achievement await all who embark on this trail, and there is no shortage of highlights. The main areas to visit are:
- Dickson Lake, a beautiful tranquil campsite with views of the Dickson Glacier
- The hanging Perros Glacier which sits above the remote Perros campsite, one of your rest stops
- The John Gardner Pass, during the most challenging day of hiking, where you will climb to 1200m for spectacular views of the icecap
- Descend to Glacier Grey and follow the glacier as it meets Lake Grey
- Hike through French Valley, with the vast hanging Glacier Frances dominates the landscape on your left as you climb
- You will visit the magnificent mile-high granite towers that give Torres del Paine its name, either at the start or end of your trek. Climbing to this viewpoint is one of the more challenging days of the trek, with an 800m climb and 7-9 hours of hiking
O Circuit: FAQs
Yes, some nights of camping are needed as there are no 'refugios' at certain points along the route. Almost all the group trips have camping throughout, with an option to upgrade on certain nights.
Remember that if you join a guided tour then you'll be very well looked after at each of the campsites; tents will be set up for you and good hearty meals prepared for you.
Generally speaking, the guide and their assistant will carry all the group equipment (tents, food, fuel, radio, first aid kit, safety equipment) and you will only be expected to carry your personal clothing, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. Sometimes people choose to hire a porter to help with this (often between two people), but in Chile this is expensive.
Many young Chileans hike this route independently, but it is very remote and not without its risks. The weather conditions change, and heavy snow is known to come down on the higher passes, so navigation can become very difficult; sadly this route claims one or two lives each year. With this in mind, we strongly advise joining a guided group, but for very experienced hikers we have occasionally arranged self-guided treks.
This route used to offer hikers a true sense of Patagonia at its most wild and remote, however it has become world famous and there are more and more people on the route. If you're looking to really get off-the-beaten-track, then let us know and we can advise on alternative routes within Torres del Paine and in other parts of Patagonia.
You always hike the circuit anti-clockwise, because the John Gardner pass is too steep in a clockwise direction. Besides, the view with the whole ice cap below you as come over the pass is THE reason to do the full circuit.
Harriet Pike Trekking, Mountaineering & Cycling Specialist
O Circuit treks
O Circuit treks that go off-the-beaten-track
The Circuit - multi-sport trips
More hiking in Patagonia
For avid hikers, Torres del Paine is certainly one to tick off the bucket list, but this national park is not alone. The whole Patagonian region boasts some of the best hiking in the world, with glaciers, volcanoes, forests and pampa waiting to be explored. Visit our hiking page to find out more about the full options available.
Our combination trips allow you to see Torres del Paine and also explore a little wider. Prepare for your Circuit Trek by climbing volcanoes in the Lake District, or balance out the busy national park with a few weeks in the wild, remote Dientes range.
What Our Customers Think
The varying landscapes of the O circuit was breathtaking - mountains, rivers, forests, glacier lakes, valleys, and meadows. We didn't realize how different every hike would be. Highlights were John Gardner Pass, absolutely beautiful campsite Dickson, wonderful dinners (especially at Seron) and company, kayaking to Grey Glacier, and the unexpected detour trek to Los Cuernos and back to Perros to complete the O loop.
Julie Koo United States Of America January 2017
One of the things I loved about the circuit was the variety. Hiking through the forests, the valleys, the beautiful plains, over the passes, alongside glacier fields were all highlights. I also loved seeing the mountains in different perspectives throughout the hike.
Tim USA December 2017
The circuit trek in Torre del Paine was by far the highlight. The remoteness and the untouched nature were amazing. Both of our guides on the hikes were amazing! The simple and quiet beauty is what we will remember forever.
Erin USA December 2017
The highlight of the trek was going over the John Gardner pass and then seeing the enormous ice fields and Grey Glacier. I did not realize how big they were, now I do. The Full Circuit met our expectations and so glad we did this and not the W because that is so crowded.
Trina USA November 2017
The varying landscapes of the O circuit was breathtaking - mountains, rivers, forests, glacier lakes, valleys, and meadows. We didn't realise how different every hike would be.
Julie January 2017
We were so happy to complete the full circuit. Our guide was knowledgable and helpful and let us keep a comfortable pace. Logistics at the campsites worked out great.
Urszula January 2017
The Full Circuit was even better than I expected, especially the trekking outside of W: less people, smaller campgrounds with better food and nice people. Our guide Mauricio was amazing.
Aude December 2016
Within Torres del Paine, there was so much more flora than we were anticipating, the orchids stunning. We were really thankful for having a guide through the backcountry as he helped us to see so much, often pointing out flowers and birds that were naturally camouflaged.
Emma Price United Kingdom November 2016
Our Patagonia trip was amazing- thank you so much for your help with booking it! Our guide, Isi, was THE best!! Could not recommend her more highly. So much beauty everywhere!!
Cali February 2016