Where to find it
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
What is it?
Valle Frances (the French Valley) is a deep valley between mountains in Torres del Paine and is one of the main hiking attractions in the national park. It is dominated by a magnificent hanging glacier, Glaciar Frances, beech forests and the French River.
It takes roughly two hours to trek into the valley before you get your first glimpse of the glacier and you can hear the rumble of small avalanches in the distance and watch ice calving from its face.
How can I see it?
You will hike the French Valley on Torres del Paine's two most famous multi-day hikes, the Full Circuit and the W Trek. It's also possible to do it as a day hike as part of a series of day trips in Torres del Paine, returning to a comfortable base each night.
On the Full Circuit you typically approach the French Valley from the east, starting from the nearest refugio, Paine Grande. On the W Trek you'd most likely start from the west, trekking from nearby Refugio los Cuernos. The weather is famously temperamental here, and a thick mist can descend making it impossible to reach the end of the valley. However if you do make it up to the end of the valley, expect spectacular views of Cerro Cota (2000m) and Cerro Catedral (2200m), a mountain which is said to resemble a cathedral facade.