Advice on hiking the W Trek

  • The 4-5 day route takes you to three iconic highlights of the national park—French Valley, Base of the Towers, and Glacier Grey
  • It's the perfect introduction to multi-day trekking, with more challenging routes available for experienced hikers
  • The majority of trekkers stay in shared dorm rooms in mountain huts (refugios) or camp. But you can day hike to all the key landmarks of the W Trek while staying in a selection of Luxury Hotels 
  • 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
  • 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

W Trek: 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. 

Distance and Elevation Map

The W Trek

Distance:

60km | 37.5 miles

Time:

4 days

Elevation gain: +7,045ft/2,147m

Elevation loss: -7,230ft/2,204m

Hear what our experts have to say...

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Harriet says

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 Head of Swoop Patagonia

W Trek Accommodation

Refugios

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 usually six-person dorm rooms with bars, basic restaurants, 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. 

Cuernos Refugio

Refugio Cuernos

Glamping

Three different Glamping sites provide a base for day hikes to the three highlights of the W Trek with vehicle transfers at the start of each day before returning to your private yurt or eco-dome. 

Alternatively, if you are happy in refugios for a couple of nights then you can base yourself in a private glamping dome with better food, services and comfort for the remaining nights of your trip.  

Cascada Yoga Dome at night, Torres Del Paine

Yoga Dome at night, Torres Del Paine

Luxury 

For hikers who want to see the highlights of the W Trek route and return every night to a Luxury room where they can relax in a spa and enjoy local gastronomy then there are also three Luxury Lodges from which you can explore.

The beauty of staying in a Luxury Yurt or Lodge is that you can choose the night before which excursion you will do the following day so you check the weather beforehand and see how you feel.

Tierra views

Lago Sarmiento and Paine Massif

Camping

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 around with you on the trail.

Please note that you must book your place at the campsite well in advance.

Paine Grande Campsite

Camping at Paine Grande

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W Trek FAQs

  • Where is the W Trek?

    The W Trek is in Torres Del Paine National Park, on the Chilean side of Patagonia. It is Torres del Paine's most famous hiking route: a four or five day hike that can be walked without carrying gear or food, between refugios or campsites, with spectacular views of the granite towers that gave the park its name.

  • 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 any toilets on the trails of the W Trek?

    The only toilets are at the refugios and campsites so you need to be prepared to go for wild toilet stops.

  • Can I do the W Trek and stay in a Luxury Hotel?

    Yes, you can complete a multi-day W Trek and then reward yourself with a few days soaking in the spa, enjoying some world-class gastronomy and perhaps exploring some different trails on foot, van or horse during the day at a Luxury Lodge. 

    If camping or dorm rooms are really not your thing then you can still see the highlights of the W Trek, taking three separate day excursions to the towers viewpoint in the Ascencio Valley, the French Valley and Glacier Grey.

    The beauty of staying in a Luxury Yurt or Lodge is that you can choose the night before which excursion you will do the following day when you will have a weather forecast available and can see how you feel.

  • 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.

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Distance and Elevation Map of The W Trek in Torres Del Paine

The W Trek in Torres Del Paine trips scored 4.4/5 from 942 reviews

What was your most memorable moment? The W Trek Hike which is fabulous. Great guide and experience. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Chau Hin Chung - Hong Kong

Each time I looked up, which I tried to do as often as my footing would allow, I said "WOW!". The W is straight out of a movie with it's breathtaking landscape. The entire trek was my most memorable moment. :) Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

David Goss - USA

The beauty of the park and being immersed in it is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The combination of medium to hard physical exertion hiking the W Trek, alongside our great (random) group of people that you organically get to know well while completing this together, and total faith in our guides- honestly lead to this being an experience I would recommend to everyone. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2023

Christine O'Reilly - USA

Going into the process, I was skeptical about the value of hiring a facilitator to assist with the planning and logistics. We are typically travel do-it-yourselfers, so paying a premium was a hard nut to swallow. However, as the experience unfolded, the thoroughness of the planning Swoop and their local partner provided completely impressed us. Everything went according to plan, and at every refugio, we got exactly what we contracted for easily and pleasantly. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Michael Rousseau - USA

This was the trek of a lifetime for me! I have been thinking about doing this for years and it was better than I imagined. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Dana Myers - USA

The W trek is beautiful but not without its physical challenges. Our guide was very experienced and knew every nuance of the trek. He also was able to teach us about the mountain, glacier and wildlife. We wanted to complete this trek the way it was intended to be done and the help from Swoop allowed us to accomplish this! Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Sheri-Lin Newell - USA

The second and third day were a really pleasant surprise. The first day to the towers was expected but really liked the days after that. The weather was amazing which was lucky. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

David Lock - USA

It was an incredably challenging yet managable hike. Something I never dreamed of dong but a memory I will have for a lifetime. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Jacquelyn Van Dyk - USA

Completed the W Trek with my 19 year old daughter where I would say the Trek and adventure was life changing. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Steve Gladwin - UK

What was your most memorable moment? There are too many to count. The second I saw the park it was so amazingly beautiful. And as I walked through the park, I liked seeing how the landscape changed. The ice hike was an incredible experience. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Cerena Johnson - USA

The landscape is so beautiful. There is so much to see. While the hike can be incredibly difficult at times, it’s worth it. You will also experience many types of weather in a short period of time. Having hot food and a bed to sleep in at the refugios really made it luxury backpacking. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Cerena Johnson - USA

We absolutely adored our guide. This was the first tour/hike I've ever taken with an actual guide, and he really made the experience a positive one for all of us. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Krysondra Esposito - USA

It’s maybe the best hike in the world. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2022

Graham Oxley - UK

It’s hard to chose one memorable moment, but I think sitting at the top of the British gardens viewpoint after traversing the Frances Valley was a key highlight. The terrain was challenging and spectacular all at the same time. Seeing the blue lake in the distance and hearing the cracks of the glacier as it calves off small looking avalanches and shards of ice was exhilarating. In conjunction with all those sites and sounds, to be able to drink from the icy river cascading down the slopes was refreshing and so fresh. Read the full review

Travelled: October 2022

Rochelle Choyna - USA

So many moments of the trip were special and memorable, but one that stands out is getting to the first lookout in the French Valley and watching several avalanches send snow spilling down the glacier. The views were amazing despite mist and light rain. So worth the tough hike up. Read the full review

Travelled: March 2022

Hayden Payne - USA

Absolutely! It is breathtaking - and each day offers a new adventure. It is challenging, but approachable for most. The highlights were Cuernos, the glacier and the French Valley hike. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Leandra Branch - USA

What was our most memorable moment? Sitting at the French Lookout, watching hanging glaciers calve ice into the valley below them. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Scott Nutter - USA

While the W Trek can be accomplished unguided, we felt like we got great value with our guide. He was very familiar with the trail, the geology, and the flora and fauna. For example, on our windy and rainy day (can't have the true Patagonia experience without one of those) he had us stop for a break before cresting a hill because he said "we would be very exposed there and it is better to break now." Indeed, winds were crazy strong over the hill. He also had friends in every refugio, so knew the inside track on the fun stuff. For example: at Lago Grey, we had whisky on the rocks using glacier ice. How cool is that?! Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Scott Nutter - USA

Only one word: totally outstanding. Well...2 words. I have peaked in my trekking experience and doubt I will do anything better. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2022

Brian Luckett - UK

Just to say a big thanks...I have been travelling on my own since the trek finished..and it's proving hard work..having the support and infrastructure is vital...I could never have done the W Trek without it... Read the full review

Travelled: January 2022

Brian Luckett - UK

Great hiking! Difficult, but in a good way! Not too “cushy”. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2021

Jordan Taylor - USA

Hiking into the French Valley all alone surrounded by mountain peaks. But every day was the most memorable moment because every day was fantastic. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2021

Jeff Lambert - USA

We are avid hikers so we will push through pain if needed. No pain was encountered, just fatigue at the end of the day. Well worth it if you have any desire to see spectacular scenery. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2021

Sean Johnston - USA

Torres del Paine is the most beautiful, unspoiled place that we have ever been to, and we have traveled to every continent on the globe except Antarctica. This park is unlike any found in the States. Except on the French Valley trek, we encountered few other hikers or visitors. It's pristine, and the Chilean people have really preserved this wonderful resource. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2019

John Jenkins - United States Of America

We love Torres del Paine! The hiking was spectacular. The continuous views are amazing. The whole time you are hiking, the views are incredible and ever changing. Our guide was great and throughout the hike, gave us the history, geology, wildlife, and plant descriptions of the area. The refugios were really nice compared to others we have seen. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Brian McIntyre - United States Of America

The landscapes were unlike anything I could of ever imagined. Our group instantly bonded with the other 3 girls in our hiking group. We have plans to meet up in the future. I’ve told my friends that it was the best trip I’ve ever been on! No surprises - everything went as planned. The most magical moment was bonding with everyone in the Refugio the first night and meeting so many people from so many other cultures. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2019

Nicole Doria - United States Of America

We especially loved hiking the W. It was so beautiful, with dramatic mountains of towers and glaciers, and hillsides in prime flower blooming season. We met lots of other travelers and shared stories, and ibuprofen for our sore muscles, at the dinner table. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Mary Lou Fairweather - United States Of America

The highlight of the trip was definitely riding on the Grey III and getting to experience the Glacier super close up. I also really enjoyed the day hike from Refugio Chileno to Domo Frances, it was the most scenic in my opinion. The landscape was just mesmerizing. I couldn't stop looking at the granite peaks to the right and the turquoise blue glacier lakes to my left. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Dipesh - United States Of America

I recommend booking the refugios because it is extremely worth it after you hike all day. The food was extremely delicious and lodging was excellent. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Dipesh - United States Of America

Overall, the obvious highlight was the W-trek through Torres Del Paine. The park is great, the route is fantastic. We did the refugios and the 'glamping' option which we enjoyed for our short trip – the food in the refugios was surprisingly excellent and we enjoyed all of that a lot. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Oli Feldwick - United Kingdom

The W trek can be done in 4 days, but if you do the 5 day trek I'd recommend ensuring you do Camp Brittanica (it's an extension to day 3, going further than Camp Frances for a much better view) and also doing the hike up to the second bridge by Glacier Grey. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Oli Feldwick - United Kingdom

Patagonia was exactly what I needed to get reconnected with the outdoors. You are surrounded by unique beauty everywhere you look and it's vastness reminds you how big this world is. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Sarah Tocco - United States Of America

Many highlights, but possibly the strange highlight of being woken in the French campsite by thunderous roars from the glacier in the French Valley before trekking to the viewpoint to watch the ice falling. Spectacular landscapes, lovely birds and flowers, excellent guide, accommodation very good and transport couldn't have been better. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

Ronnie - United Kingdom

Even though it's a remote area there's lots of modern amenities like electricity and WiFi available almost at all hotels/refugios. Make sure to have a GREAT pair of hiking boots for the trip. If you can, try and visit Buenos Aires and Santiago on the front/back end of your trip. Pack less than what you think you need as you will re-wear things. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

CJ Newendorp - United States Of America

My magic moment? Las Torres....the gleaming granite towers of Paine sheathing straight to the Patagonian skies. The scenery took my breath away and stilled my heart. I can now understand why Las Torres have been a lifetime dream of hikers and mountain climbers the world over. It is here that heavens and earth syphonically merged to create a beauty that will forever endure. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

Hoang Phan - United States Of America

Booking the refuges / camping independently is stressful! If you don't want to spend a long time watching the websites for availability, Swoop and their local partners provide a welcomed solution. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

Clare Hodgson - United Kingdom

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The trip was incredible! We lucked out on the weather. On our first day, the Towers were gorgeous and getting to visit the Britanico Valley was spectacular, despite being long, somewhat difficult days of hiking. The picturesque views on day two could not be beat, especially coming into Los Cuernos. We really loved the experience with our group, both the other people and our guide. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

Lauren Harris - United States Of America

My girlfriend and I both agree that the 5 day W-trek was the most rewarding holiday we have had on any continent. The landscape of the park is breathtaking in a manner that no photo or video can adequately capture. We remain in touch with the other members of our group, I didn't anticipate that the social aspect of the trip would be significant, but it definitely was! Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

Howard Williams - United Kingdom

Ideal for first time trekkers like us, it may be difficult to match the scenery when travelling in future! Food and accommodation were both pleasant surprises. Our guide's experience of the park removed stress at the start and end of long days and allowed us to focus on unwinding and immersing in the majestic National Park. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

Howard Williams - United Kingdom

It was beautiful and very relaxing. Our guides were amazing, encouraging, supportive and very helpful. Eco Camp is a perfect holiday gateway with fantastic food. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2018

Cathy Boissy - United States Of America

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.

Travelled: November 2017

Wendy - USA

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.

Travelled: March 2017

Naveen - Netherlands

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.

Travelled: March 2017

Liz - New York

The landscapes of Patagonia are literally other-worldly. When we left the park, my nephew said it was like leaving Jurassic Park- it was so unreal. We saw grey foxes, condors, guanacos, and hawks (not to mention many other birds). The weather is as INTENSE as the beauty...every minute, it changed. The trail, though well-traveled, is not for the faint of heart. As times it was difficult. But never once did we regret the strain or aches. The people we met along the way were diverse and friendly. If we said "hola" one time a day, we said it fifty. it was truly a spirit-lifting trip! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2017

Julie Emery - United States Of America

Every day of the trip was unbelievable. The highlight was definitely the W trek. The landscapes were beautiful and we were able to see many rare sightings of native animals such as huemul and puma. We met many like-minded hikers who were passionate and excited about experiencing Patagonia. The guides and locals were all extremely friendly and welcoming. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2017

Andrea Lora - USA

My trip has really left me at a bit of a loss for words. While I tremendously enjoyed every piece of my trip (hiking, kayaking and then day hiking with an afternoon of horseback riding), I really loved hiking the W. I was traveling solo, but I enjoyed my time with our small group during the W trek. The Patagonian landscape was breathtaking - I've never been in a place quite so beautiful. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2016

Anne Helen-Evans - United States Of America

I am 100% confident that our trip was flawless and so exhilarating because of our guide’s leadership. We will definitely be sending our friends to Swoop when they ask for recommendations.

Travelled: December 2015

Clara - USA

Review:

Alternatives to the W Trek

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
A hiker standing looking at the snout of the Lenoes glacier in Aysen Chile as it calves into the water

Leynoes Glacier in Aysen

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Swoop says

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. 

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