Advice on hiking the W Trek

  • The 4-5 day route takes you to the three iconic highlights of the national park, Valle Francés, Base of the Towers, and Glacier Grey
  • 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 aspect of the park by kayaking, horse riding or mountain biking at the end of your trek

What is the W Trek?

Illustrated Guide
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The route

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 as part of a six to eight hour day of hiking.
  • French Valley - the central spur of the W is dominated by the hanging glacier Francés. This glacier cracks and crumbles ahead of you 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 glacier that stretches out towards the ice cap.
The W Trek in Torres Del Paine
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W Trek FAQs

  • How long is the W Trek?

    The W Trek is a moderately difficult hike lasting 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 dip in and out during 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.

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

    Definitely. While the trekking is the reason most people come to the park, it's easy to add an extra activity to your itinerary. Take a look at multi-sport trip options, mountain bike trails, horseback treks or kayaking among the icebergs of Rio Serrano.

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

    Every year we help dozens of solo travellers 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 happily find a trek or a group to suit you.

  • Are the trails well marked? Can it be done unguided?

    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 the 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 or camping?

    Refugios are the youth hostels of the trails, with six-person dorm rooms, bars, basic restaurants and showers and - 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.   

  • Are there options for private rooms?

    With one exception - the cabins at the Los Cuernos - the refugios do not have private rooms. If you want to spend every night in a private room, consider splitting the W Trek into day hikes, where your transport between hotels will be arranged. Otherwise, there is an option to do the multi-day trek with most nights in rooms, and only one in a shared dorm. 

  • Will it be too busy at Christmas?

    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 low season if your schedule is flexible. Alternatively, avoid the busier trails and experience the off-the-beaten-track treks in the wilder areas of the park. 

  • What is winter like in Torres del Paine?

    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. Guided treks are few and far between in winter, so please get in touch to see what's available, or read more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter.

  • The W Trek vs the O Circuit

    While the W Trek visits each of the park's main highlights in 4-5 days, the O Circuit Trek is for more experienced hikers aiming to get a little more remote and spend 7-9 days trekking. You'll still see the main sights, but will then loop around the northern side of the park where you'll have views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and the Grey Glacier.

    It is undoubtedly more challenging and you'll need to be prepared to camp, but the sights are spectacular.

W Trek: Hut-to-Hut

Budget and self-guided W Trek



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 the youth hostels of the trails, with six-person dorm rooms, bars, basic restaurants and showers and - 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 with a convivial atmosphere to share with your fellow hikers. 

Refugio Chileno


Camping is available for all 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 you must book your place in the campsite well in advance.

Paine Grande Campsite

Glamping 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 whilst following an adapted route with vehicle transfers at the start of each day.

There are also three 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. 

Eco Yurt Camp

W Trek from a hotel base

3-4 day shorter W Trek options

Off the beaten track W trek options

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What Our Customers Think


The W Trek is undoubtedly Patagonia's most famous hiking route, and for good reason, so it does get busy and the high footfall is eroding the land around the trails. If you're looking for a quieter experience, or would like to reduce your impact on the land, then here are some alternatives for hiking in Patagonia:

  • 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
Grey Glacier
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Combine Torres del Paine & Fitz Roy

The trail of trails. Explore Patagonia's most famous hikes in two of its most iconic areas.

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