Reasons to go
- The 4-5 day route takes you to the three iconic highlights of the national park
- It's the perfect introduction to multi-day trekking, with a roof over your head each night. More challenging routes are available for experienced hikers
- This trek does get busy, especially in December and January. Those looking for remote trails and solitude are better exploring some of the stunning off the beaten track options in the park
- Accommodation is in shared dorms - ask us about private, yurt or luxury alternatives
- Hiking isn't the only option - experience a whole different side of the park by kayaking, horse riding or mountain biking at the end of your trek
What is the W Trek?
The W Trek is normally walked east to west, starting at Refugio Las Torres and ending at Refugio Paine Grande. It runs up three valleys, creating the W shape that gives it its name. In each of those valleys lies one of the iconic sights of the park:
- Ascencio Valley in 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.
- French Valley, the central spur of the W, is dominated by the hanging glacier Frances. This glacier cracks and crumbles above as you climb rocky terrain into the heart of the valley.
- The final leg runs alongside Lago Grey, flecked with cobalt blue ice floes, 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
W Trek hut to hut
Budget and self-guided W Trek
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.
If you follow the specific W trek route then you will need to sleep in the mountain 'refugios' on at least two of the nights (refugios are also available in the Torres sector for the other night). These refugios are today more like youth hostels, with shared dormitories, hot food and showers, and a convivial atmosphere.
Camping is available for each of the nights on the route. You can even rent a tent in each location if you don't want to carry your own. Please note that as of late 2016 you must book your place in the campsite well in advance.
Eco Camping and Luxury Lodges
If you want private accommodation or to enjoy the experience of sleeping in a yurt or eco-dome then you can still see the highlights but follow an adapted route with vehicle transfers at the start of each day.
There are also three different luxury lodges from which you can explore the highlights of the W Trek route and get into some of the more remote corners of the national park.
W Trek from a hotel base
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…
3-4 day shorter W Trek options
What Our Customers Think
Our trip was amazing, the W is well worth the work, you get to see a lot and meet people on the way. I would recommend eating at the refugios so you don’t have to carry so much and plan as much. You can also rent their tents, less to carry is better.
Wendy USA November 2017
If you happen to be in Chalten, get a completos from the food truck if it's there - you won't regret it.
Sonia Canada November 2017
The French glacier and Mirador Brittanica were the highlights of the W trail. Saw a surprising amount of wildlife like foxes, hawks and small forest birds. At the refugios, which were almost too comfortable, met fellow hikers and had a cosy place to chat and unwind after a long hard day of trekking.
Naveen, Netherlands March 2017
The W Trek was the highlight of my 2-week trip - the scenery was beautiful and my guide, Paz, really made the experience incredible. She was so knowledgeable and that made the experience very special and unique.
Liz, New York March 2017
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
The W trek is undoubtedly Patagonia's most famous hiking route, and for good reason. However, there are alternatives:
- For experienced hikers and those looking for a longer trek or a more remote route, then the O Circuit will likely be more rewarding
- If you're looking to experience the Patagonian Andes at their most remote and wild, we'd recommend the hiking in either Aysen or Tierra del Fuego
- If you're short on time then the peaks and glaciers in nearby El Chalten might be a more accessible alternative, especially if you're basing yourself in Argentina during your trip
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.
Longer W Trek Options
Combine Torres del Paine and Fitz Roy
The trail of trails. Explore Patagonia's most famous hikes in two of its most iconic areas.
Explore more of Torres del Paine
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Paine Full Circuit or 'O' Trek
This 7-9 day route adds a northern section on to the park's famous W Trek. It's undoubtedly a tougher trail, marked by the extra distance and absence of refugios on the northern…
Off the Beaten Track in Torres del Paine
There is more to trekking in Torres del Paine than the W trek or the Circuit. Going off-the-beaten-track can take you scrambling up peaks for views of the icecap, or searching …
Pumas in Patagonia
Torres del Paine is home to a growing population of the elusive Puma. We work with responsible guides to give you great wildlife experiences while protecting the animals' habitat.
Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine National Park, with its iconic granite towers, is one of the most popular destinations in Patagonia. Most famous for the W Trek, it also offers a lot of wilder hiking, horseback riding on remote estancias, ice hiking on glaciers, kayaking among icebergs and biking on tough mountain trails.