[All the Raige] The W Trek in Torres del Paine

Our take on the ever popular

 

The Hype

Many consider Torres del Paine in southern Chilean Patagonia the world’s most beautiful national park. Its spectacular landscape boasts soaring mountains, enormous glaciers, and iceberg-filled lakes. The park’s pièce de résistance is the three granite towers from which the park takes its name.

What’s the best way to experience the beauty of the park? Hitting the trail, of course! While there are many day and multiday hikes to choose from, we set out to conquer the most popular, 100-kilometer, 5-day, 4-night, W Trek.

Note: Those looking for a longer trek should consider the 8-day, 7-night, O Circuit. The O includes the W plus the more remote backside of the Cordillera del Paine mountain range.

 

The Reality

I decided on hiking the W from west to east and mapped out our itinerary beforehand. Because of the park’s increasing popularity, overnighters must make reservations several months in advance. For example, I made our reservations for February in July.

DAYSTARTENDHOURSRESERVATIONSNOTES
1PUERTO NATALESTORRES DEL PAINE (PUDETO)2BUS-SURPay entrance fee at Laguna Amarga
1TORRES DEL PAINE (PUDETO)REFUGIO PAINE GRANDE0.5Pay fee on catamaran/ferry
1REFUGIO PAINE GRANDEREFUGIO GREY*3VERTICE PATAGONIA
2REFUGIO GREYGREY GLACIER (LOOKOUT)0.5Leave pack at Grey
Do not go all the way to Paso
2GREY GLACIER (LOOKOUT)REFUGIO GREY0.5Pick up pack at Grey
2REFUGIO GREYREFUGIO PAINE GRANDE*2VERTICE PATAGONIA
3REFUGIO PAINE GRANDECAMPAMENTO ITALIANO2Drop off pack at Italiano
3CAMPAMENTO ITALIANOMIRADOR BRITANICO3Stop at Mirador Frances
3MIRADOR BRITANICOCAMPAMENTO ITALIANO2Pick up pack at Italiano
3CAMPAMENTO ITALIANOREFUGIO LOS CUERNOS*2
4REFUGIO LOS CUERNOSCUT OFF TO REFUGIO CHILENO1.5
4CUT OFF TO REFUGIO CHILENOREFUGIO CHILENO*1.5
5REFUGIO CHILENOMIRADOR LAS TORRES1.5Leave 2 hours before sunrise
5MIRADOR LAS TORRESLAGUNA ARMAGA2Take shuttle from Admin/Visitor Center to Laguna Armaga
5LAGUNA ARMAGAPUERTO NATALES2BUS-SUR

 

Overnighters have the option of staying at free or paid campsites/refugios (cabins). The two free campsites (Italiano, Torres) were closed for the season due to maintenance. That worked out just fine for us since we planned to stay in refugios.

No need to rough it when hiking the W Trek. We hiked the whole way while sleeping in beds, eating hot meals, taking showers, and ending our days with a glass of wine. Sure, this sounds like cheating, but we’re only amateur backpackers at best!

I won’t give you the play by play because I’m hoping you experience it for yourself. However, here are our recommendations.

1. Go west to east

Simply put, there’s no better grand finale than the Torres.

2. Hike all the way to Mirador Britanico 

Although day 3 is a beast, the views at Britanico in the French Valley are totally worth it.

3. Make it to Mirador Las Torres for sunrise

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the Torres at sunrise. Also, be prepared (and camera-ready) to watch the towers change from blue to red to orange to yellow all within 15 minutes.

 

 

The Verdict

It’s all the raige!

 

Without a doubt, Torres del Paine was the best hiking we’ve ever done. Yes, even better than the Inca Trail, Annapurna, Kilimanjaro, or Los Glaciares National Park.

Every day is not only beautiful, but so different. Five days gives you such a variety of landscapes, experiences, and memories. Our favorites were the picturesque French Valley (Day 3) and of course, the majestic Torres at sunrise (Day 5).

You also really get to know your fellow hikers with whom you share the trail, your meals, and your rooms (thank you bunk beds!). Without WiFi, we made fast friends with a couple from Hong Kong/New York and another from London (shoutout to Leeyan, Emmanuel, Emily, Emma!), playing Gin Rummy and sharing crazy travel stories.

On a sad note, we got off the trail to news that our dog, Walter, died unexpectedly. He passed exactly six months and one day after his soulmate/life partner, Gertie, died. As much as we have loved traveling the world, it’s difficult being away from our friends, family, and pets back home. Wished we could have said goodbye. Here’s to W…

 

 

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