Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Map: How to hike the "W" in Torres del Paine

April 7, 2012

Update: There's some useful information in the comments from recent trekkers.

The trek we did in Torres del Paine, the "W," is one of the park's most popular routes (along with the Circuit), but there still seems to be plenty of confusion among aspiring trekkers about how to do the "W," mostly about how to break up the days. Before we left, we only had a vague idea of what was feasible. So I've made two maps to illustrate possible "W" routes.

map hike w torres del paine
The route above is the one suggested by folks at the Erratic Rock Basecamp in Puerto Natales (the hostel/information centers offers free daily 3 p.m. info sessions with advice about hiking in the park). They argue for hiking west to east, though I have yet to hear a convincing argument for either direction (Lonely Planet recommends east to west). They suggest that you wake up early on your fifth day and get to the Mirador Las Torres for sunrise.

But there are a couple of downsides to their proposed route. First, you leave some of the best stuff (namely the Torres) until the last day. So if something unexpected happens, you risk not seeing the towers (for example, our stove broke and we lost a day because we had to trek back to the base). Second, the design of their trek is based around seeing the Torres at sunrise (you just have to pray for good weather). But if you don't care about this, or if you know you're not an earlier riser, you don't necessarily need to plan the whole trek around it.

Based on our experience, the below map is an alternative route that we would suggest you consider.

map hike w torres del paine

There are a couple of important features about our revised route:
  • It only works if you can take the afternoon bus to the park the day before (giving you five nights in the park, rather than four), which all depends on your itinerary and when you arrive in Puerto Natales. It also only works if you know you are going to have nice weather on your first day (the weather in the park is notoriously unpredictable, meaning no matter what your itinerary, it might not be possible to see what you want to see).
  • When you arrive at the park the night before (nice and early at about 5:30 p.m.), set up camp at Camping Las Torres (note: there is both a Camping Las Torres and a Campamento Las Torres). The next morning, wake up early and take only daypacks up to the Mirador Las Torres (plenty of people do this as a day hike, plus you'll have an early start since you're already in the park and you won't have to break down camp). Spend the night at Camping Las Torres again, and then head to Los Cuernos the next morning.
  • The main benefit of this route is you get to do the hardest day without your heavy pack (if you are staying at refugios and not carrying much then this route isn't for you). And if you know the weather is good, it guarantees good views of the Torres.
Read more: Lodging and bus travel in Patagonia

Finally, for anyone trying to plan their own route, here are the times and distances between various points, as listed in the CONAF map they hand out when you enter the park:
  • Hosteria Las Torres to Campamento Torres (9 kilometers, 3.5 hours): The first 2.5 km is a steep ascent, then the trail becomes much more moderate. With heavy packs, it's probably closer to 4 or 4.5 hours up, but much faster descending.
  • Campamento Torres to Mirador Torres (45 minutes - 1 hour): A steep rocky ascent, but not too long, and very do-able carrying a daypack.
  • Hosteria Las Torres to Refugio Los Cuernos (11 kilometers, 4.5 - 5 hours)
  • Los Cuernos to Campamento Italiano (5.5 kilometers, 2.5 hours)
  • Campamento Italiano to Mirador Britanico in the Valle Frances (7.5 kilometers one way, 3 hours)
  • Italiano to Refugio Paine Grande (7.6 kilometers, 2.5 hours)
  • Paine Grande to Refugio Grey (11 kilometers, 3.5 hours)
We found the hiking times to actually be fairly accurate for carrying heavy packs (unlike in El Chalten, where the hiking times seemed much too low unless you were stopping infrequently and carrying almost nothing).

107 comments:

  1. Hi Steph and Ben! Thank you for your informative and entertaining blog - I'm so happy I found it!

    Just booked to do the W in April next year with my extremely outdoorsy boyfriend; whereas my 5-day hiking experiences are limited to Drakensburg and the (relatively cushy) Otter Trail in South Africa, he's basically more used to a tent than an actual roof over his head :)

    We've read more than a few reviews, but yours fits a lot more with what we have been discussing. Particularly as we don't plan on using refugios unless the weather is dire. Sounds like it will be almost impossible to predict, but April should promise a lot of rain! Can't wait to get out there, either way.

    I hope you're enjoying San Fran!

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  2. Thanks for commenting and glad we could help! I remember when we were planning our trip, people had written so much about TDP that it was difficult to find the information we wanted. It sounds like your boyfriend will be plenty prepared for your trip. Let me know if I can answer any questions, and have a blast!

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  3. Hey. Thanks for the information, It wasn´t clear in my Lonely Planet and this is much better... I´m heading to Torres del Paine soon and I´m starting to panic! Do I need to book refugios and campsites beforehand?! Or how did you do it? Sorry if you explained somewhere and I missed it

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  4. Glad to help! You definitely need to book refugios in advance if you're sleeping there (you don't need to book meals). I don't remember the rules for booking campsites -- we didn't book ahead, but it wasn't the busiest season and we made sure to arrive early each day.

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    1. Hi- As well, tks for the beautifully organized information! Just finished booking for our trip from the 23-29th. YES, you do need to book those campsites that are not free (FREE= Italiano, Britanico and Campamento Torres) all others are run by outside companies http://sales.fantasticosur.com/index2.php?ENG=English and http://www.verticepatagonia.com/service-search/1?search=block
      Be forewarned, I believe these campings are out fast.

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  5. Hi Steph and Ben,

    GREAT blog! If you don't mind me asking, and I apologize if I missed but where does the bus drop you off when you're doing the East to West route? I'm trying to figure out how long it will take us from the drop off to Camping Los Torres for the first night. THANK YOU!!

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  6. When we went, the bus dropped us off at Laguna Amarga, where we had to pay the park entrance fee. There was then a shuttle that took us to the base area. (You can also walk.) I believe it was about a 20-minute shuttle ride.

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  7. Hi -

    Thank you so much for this informative guide!!! I have a few questions.

    - Is it safe to bring photography equipment or am I asking to be mugged? Do people generally bring their cameras and tripods, or not so much?
    - I have a small high-end backpacking tent, but it's not a mountaineering tent - will this be adequate or will the winds destroy it?
    - Is it ever possible to get same-day reservations at the refugios if, for instance, my tent is destroyed?

    Thanks for your time!

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  8. - Camera: I'm not sure where you're referring to in terms of being mugged. I wouldn't walk around Puerto Natales after dark lugging around obviously expensive equipment, but in the park I wouldn't worry about it. My bigger concern would be the weight of what you're carrying while hiking. Plenty of people carry nice cameras, I'm not sure how many I saw with tripods.

    - Tent: We used a North Face Tadpole tent and were fine. We went in March so I can't speak for what you'll need in other seasons. The designated campsites are comparatively protected, just make sure you have plenty of extra rope to tie down your tent securely (multiple nights we saw other campers who had to get up in the night to deal with their unsecured tents).

    - Refugios: We never ran into this situation, maybe someone else can comment?

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  9. Hi Steph/Ben - thanks for taking the time to write up all this info. I'm heading there in a few weeks to do the Circuito, and will be following your advice and will probably be spending the first two nights at Camping Torres, with a day trip up to see the Torres if the weather is good.

    I was wondering if any of the paid campsites offer any way to secure food at the campsite when you are day tripping (sort of like the bear lockers found in California - obviously no bears there, but from what I hear, there's a big rodent problem there)? Or is there a section that everyone hangs up their food?

    Also, did you leave any valuables back in Natales? I'm not keen on carrying my non-camera electronics around, but don't have a sense as to how safe it is to leave stuff in storage in Natales. I'm curious as to if you heard of any problems with people leaving their stuff in Natales while trekking...

    I'm sure I'm just being overly paranoid - I don't usually worry about these things in the back-country at home, but TdP being such a tourist destination, I'm a little more cautious.

    Thanks!

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  10. Hey, we just got off the W yesterday and followed your/Erratic Rock route suggestion (more or less - we stayed in refugios all nights and ate all our meals there). Thanks for all the info!

    Some notes from our trip:

    Italiano has been closed for the last couple weeks because the bathrooms are broken, which screws up nearly everyone's itinerary. The nearest alternative is the campground at Cuernos, which has been a disaster - they have been turning people away starting at around 5 or 6pm. (Though it's possible to finagle a spot at Italiano if you arrive past 8pm - the guardaparques won't make you walk more after dark and will let you pitch a tent). They didn't seem to be doing anything to fix Italiano.

    Also, it is important to bring a load of cash with you to the park. I didn't read this anywhere on the internet before we went. It costs 18k pesos per person to enter the park, 12k pesos per person to ride the catamaran, and 2.5k pesos to take the bus to/from Las Torres. That's 32.5k pesos per person MINIMUM. Plus extra supplies at the stores in the refugios, maybe a couple beers or a hot meal, maybe some extra to cover if a refugio screwed up your reservation and never took payment, etc. I'd take minimum 100-150k pesos for a group of 2 people, just to be safe. Nobody takes credit cards anywhere in the park, and there is no ATM.

    And one other comment for anyone considering the hike: bring hiking poles! It was so windy, people were getting knocked down when we were there. I used to think poles were for old people, but boy am I glad we had them in the park, mostly for stability. A waterproof pack cover is also highly recommended. In the states, we typically either tie our ponchos around our packs or just wear them, but we found it's far too windy in the park for ponchos. We bought our pack covers at Cuernos for the (surprisingly reasonable) cost of 5k pesos each, and had them on 100% of the time, even if it wasn't raining. Sometimes it would start raining out of literally nowhere.

    Some answers to comment questions:

    1) Rodents were not a problem for anyone we met. Leave your food in a garbage bag in your tent if you're day tripping, or hang it. That's what everyone was doing. There were some extremely inexperienced people doing the hike, though, so I imagine some people have left a pile of food on the ground, in which case yeah, rodents would be a problem.

    2) Nobody we met has had any issue with leaving valuables in Natales, though it's obviously best to cover your butt in case of emergency. We left our laptop and some other stuff in the locking shed at our B&B, but took passports, money, wallets, etc. We were also worried about this, and asked many travelers who said they had no problems leaving stuff at Erratic Rock, or other hostels. Turned out to be totally fine, though we put garbage bags with hard-to-undo knots around the stuff we left anyway..

    3) The refugios appeared to be taking same-day cash on some occasions, but only if they're not full and it's already late in the day (Cuernos and Chileno seemed to be always full). The refugios also offer a service where they will rent you a tent/sleeping bag and set it up for you (typically with a reservation). The staff didn't seem happy about taking same-day reservations, but were helpful if you were in dire straits (we saw a group of people that arrived at the full Cuernos campground at 10:30pm, and the refugio staff worked with them to find a non-designated tent spot).

    4) We saw a few people with Gorillapods or lightweight extending tripods, but nobody with a real tripod. I think the hikes are too long to carry that much weight. Additionally, I don't think there is much (any) robbery in the depths of the park. At least 25+% of people we saw had nice DSLR cameras.

    Thanks for all the info, and have a good trip to anyone who hasn't yet been!

    Jeff

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  11. Kristen/Jeff - thanks for your feedback on the questions above! Sounds like I don't have much to worry about re: storage and food, although it looks like I won't be storing anything particularly valuable after all...

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  12. The official CONAF park websites lists that Camping is only available from Sept - March. We're 2 experienced trekkers from Canada planning to do the O in mid April, we'd be bringing all our own gear. Does anyone know if there are restrictions on camping and camping in the free sites during April/Winter?

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    1. Hi Matthan, The TDP Park it is open from Jan to Dec but maybe there some restriction and tips that you may need to consider ... The Forum http://www.tricuspide.com/ (Chilean Forum) contain some important info in spanish about the Torres del Paine and also some guys post their experience doing their trip in winter. My suggestion is to post a message in that forum (English will be fine I think) asking what you need to know ...

      Cristian

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  13. I did this trip in complete reverse back in December 2011, well except I did what I have named the W+, as I started at the main administration office at the last "bus" stop within the park (map: http://globe-trekking.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2011-patagonia-map.jpg). I left the park the same day the fire broke out, so I was very lucky to have been able to hike at all... very sad about what had happened.

    I question how people found the western part of the park given it is now 2 years after the fire. What kind of damage did you experience?

    It is such a beautiful park and I am planning to go back next year to do the full circuit....

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    1. I was just there late Feb 2013, did the 'Q' (the full circuit plus the walk-in from Administration). The damage is extensive on the Western section of the park - most of the trail from Paso down to Paine Grande and beyond crosses through burned-out forest. That said, it's not nearly as distracting as I had expected - it's still scenic (even thought more stark), and I think it made for a more interesting hike overall. It certainly wouldn't be a make-or-break issue in my opinion...

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  14. Great blog - did learn a lot of facts. My question if you don't mind:
    I am not a young bloke but have no problems hiking in the Alps 5..7 hours. What I don't like is to carry a heavy backpack: it ruins my knees downhill. Is it possible to do the trail by reserving cottages or tents on site without to carry all that camping-stuff with me? And if so: where to get the phone numbers to make a reservation. Oh, yes, I dont like to book a guided tour.
    Thanks for the input.
    Wolf

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    1. You can reserve spots in the refugios (lodges, basically). They offer dorm-style beds, sleeping bags and meals. They're run by two different companies: Fantastico Sur (http://www.fantasticosur.com/en/) and Vertice Patagonia (http://www.verticepatagonia.com/). I believe you can also rent a tent at *some* of the refugios.

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  15. Thanks for this. I know it's early, but I'm trying to hike this with my buddy in March-April 2015. I'm a photographer, so trying to go during fall colors.

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  16. Hi, I need help please! Trying to organize the W circuit and want to start from refugio Grey. My plan is to take the catamaran from Pudeto to refugio Grey but can't find any information regarding timetables or even if the catamaran goes to refugio Grey from Pudeto.
    Any help will be very appreciated!
    Thanks

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    1. Most people take the catamaran from Pudeto to Paine Grane and then hike to Refugio Grey. I'm not aware of a boat route from Pudeto to Refugio Grey.

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  17. Am considering joining a group planning to do the "W" and was curious if there are fishing possibilities along the trail.
    Thanks

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    1. Sorry Dave, I don't know anything about fishing possibilities in the park. Maybe another commenter does?

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    2. Dave, when are you planning to do your trip. I'll do the W trek in mid november.

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  18. Thanks for the info Steph! It most be possible to make it in 4 days, 3 nights. If you take a bus from Puerto Natales early morning and catch a boat to camping grey. After that it is possible to follow your route from day 2. Do you need to make reservations for all campings or are there any campings free of charge and without reservations on the route? It would be great if you have time to help me out. Thanks agains, Best regards Andreas

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    1. It's definitely possible to do the route in 4 days, 3 nights if you're willing to skip either Glacier Grey, Valle Frances or the Torres (it would be up to you what you're most willing to forego). If you skip Glacier Grey then I think your proposed route sounds great (I think what you're proposing is to take the catamaran to Paine Grande and hike from there to Italiano, skipping Glacier Gray -- if not can you clarify what you were thinking instead?). If you're a particularly aggressive hiker, you might be able to hit everything, but that's definitely not for everyone.

      We hiked without reservations and were fine, though it wasn't the peak season. I believe, but you should doublecheck this, that free campsites don't accept reservations (the free campsites are the ones not attached to refugious; Italiano is free). The others like Los Cuernos are paid, and I believe accept reservations (again doublecheck that).

      Hope that helps.

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    2. Thanks a lot for the answer Steph! I have following plan, and I hope it will work out :)
      1. Arrive with the Catamaran, leave the packing at Paine Grande and hike to the Gray camping and back again in one day.
      2. From Paine Grande to Italy camp, leave the bag, Valle Frances and back to the Cuernos camping.
      3. From the Cuernos camping to the Chilean camping.
      4. Climb the torres without big bag. Return to the start point on the east side and catch a bus back to Puerto Natales.
      I am not sure, but I think and hope it will work out :) I have to reserve the campings, which is really boring. So much better when you can take it spontanues.
      Based on your experience, do you think it is possible or will some of the days to long? Thanks a lot for your feedback!
      Best regards
      Andreas

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    3. That sounds great, I hope you have fun. The only part I'm not sure about is Glacier Grey and back in one day (because I believe you won't arrive via the catamaran until around 12-1pm). We had to skip that part of the hike because of bad luck, so I don't know one way or the other, but I would find someone who does just to be sure.

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    4. Andreas, did you end up doing the whole W in 4 days? Another commenter is asking about the same situation you were in.

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  19. Hi Stephanie, this is an incredibly useful thread, thank you so much for all this useful info! I have a query as well I am hoping you can help with: My Girlfriend and I are planning to do the W trek following El Calafate and Perito Moreno which we will complete on the 18th of Dec afternoon. We would most propbably want to do the 3 night, 4 days W tour like Andreas as we are a bit short for time. When we finish the W trek we are planning to go to either El Chalten or Bariloche and are not sure how long should we allow for this whole route from teh 18th onwards.. What is the best way to go from the end of the W treck (west part) to El Chalten or Bariloche and how long does it take?

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    1. Glad to help! I wrote more about bus options in this post (http://www.stephandben.com/2012/02/navigating-southern-patagonia.html). Regardless, I wouldn't rely too heavily on what I can tell you -- this is the sort of thing that changes often in Argentina so please confirm all of it elsewhere. I didn't go to Bariloche, but here's what I know about getting to El Chalten:

      If you go through Puerto Natales, you'll probably arrive there around dinnertime on the day you finish the hike. The next day you can take the ~6-hour bus to El Calafate. You might be able to continue to El Chalten the same day, but more likely, you'll take the ~3-hour bus the following day. A more expensive but quicker option is the Always Glaciers bus to El Calafate from TDP, which I mention in that post.

      I don't know your schedule, but if you're doing Perito Moreno before Torres del Paine, you might want to think about visiting El Chalten then, as you'll have to pass through El Calafate to reach El Chalten from TDP. Unless things have changed, there's no direct option from TDP/Puerto Natales to El Chalten.

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  20. anks for this blog Ben and Steph and the previous comments made planning the trek a lot easier, We've just completed the trek so I thought I'd post some comments that may help others.

    - Whilst this trek is out in the Wilderness do not expect to be on your own, you will pass people in other directions or be passed by people every 10 minutes and much less at times. If you get going before 0800 things are a little better.

    -We did the trek from east to west I initially wanted to do it from W to E but the connections with the Glacier grey "ferry" would have added another day. I really wouldn't stress about which way to go we got lucky and the weather was good the day we saw the towers but then it crapped out for the next four days- even the most accurate grib weather files were pretty innacurate about this part of the world so go which ever way suites your schedule its all about luck.

    - The wind can be really brutal get a good pair of wrap around sunglasses that closely hug your face, use straps to hold them on, the winds were so bad that my wifes sunnies got blown off her face whilst she was was wearing them

    - the trek is possible to do in 3 nights and 4 days as we did it you will be doing around 20kms per day there is a bit of bactracking involved as it is not a circuit.

    - As at 20/11/2013 Campamemento Italiano IS open and i don't see any reason it would close, just a note Camp Britanico has no composting toilets for those of you who care, there is probably not a real lot of reason to stay at Britanico though.

    - credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, Las Torres, Cuernos, Paine Grande and Grey all had facilities, I never used them though and would still recommend bringing enough cash. US dollars are widely accepted.

    - It is possible to camp but have all of your meals at the refugios, if you are going to do this I would still recommend bringing some dense protein bars, jerky, nuts and the like that you can eat if you say want to camp at italiano where there are no services. We also wanted to get going earlier than breakfast started on most of the days which is generally 0700 or 0730.

    -My partner is vegetarian and we did not need to prebook meals as has been recommended on numerous sites.

    - Walking poles - everybody says that you really need them so we hired them and I actually never used them and believe me we had over 100kph winds so I dont think they are really essential they spent the whole time strapped to the side of my pack. When the winds really picked up the poles were flying around strapped to peoples wrists ready to take an eye out.

    - Pack covers are gret but more importantly get a pack liner as well, because regardless of any pack cover if it rains horizontally which it did for most of our trek then your stuff will still be dry.

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  21. - There is a ferry from Refugio Grey back to Hotel grey I would recommend booking it if you know the day you are going to finish at Refugio Grey (if you are going east to west), we were told we didn't need to book it and were very lucky to get on it is 90USD each and is well worth it becuase you get a great view of glacier grey.
    - just a note with the ferry you will need to organise a separate transfer from hotel grey to Administration to catch the 1800 bus back to Puerto Natales, we were told that there was a minibus that was constantly ferrying people back and forth, we could never find it so went to Hotel Grey and paid about 50 usd for them to drive us to administration, or alternatively I think buses Fernandez MAY go directly from Hotel Grey to Puerto Natales.

    -Im sure most reading this would be fairly seasoned trekkers/hikers/outdoorsy type people. We saw many people on this trek that were woefully un prepared a couple of general points. The weather in Patagonia can be brutally extreme, Ensure you have
    - quality hard shell jackets and rain pants
    - do not hike in cotton outer clothing especially jeans ( i cant believe the amount of people that were wearing jeans when it was bucketing down and really windy they were absolutely freezing when they go to the refugios)
    - protect and double protect your clothes and sleeping bags in your packs
    - ensure your tent can handle the brutal winds and driving rain, bring extra cord ( we brought about 12 metres of 6mm cord) and pegs to reinforce your pitching.
    You can do the trek regardless of your experience but get some advice from your outdoorsy mates if you haven't got a whole lot of time sleeping out under the stars it will be alot more comfortable and enjoyable for you

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    1. Thanks for adding this. It's great information for future trekkers.

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  22. Hi -- this is great information. We are doing a modified W in dec and I'm wondering about trying to see the sunrise over the Torres. We are staying at the Refugio Norte - so we will be at the bottom near the hotel. Right now I'm thinking we will need to hike up around 3:30 am if we want to see the sunrise. Is that reasonable? Can it be hiked in the relative dark? Is 3:30 am the right start time? Thanks!

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  23. Hi Steph!

    What a great blog and also love all the helpful comments added by other trekkers! Having just completed the W (West to East) we thought we would add a couple of points that might help others out where we failed.

    - Campamento Torres IS OPEN, despite what the sign at Refugio Chileno says. Don't fall for the lie as we did! We had planned to stay at Camp Torres to do the early trek for the sunrise over the Torres, but when we arrived at Chileno, the employees there told us that Campamento Torres was closed due to sanitation issues, so we would have to stay at Chileno and pay $6,000pp, which we did. We later walked up to Camp Torres to find it was open, with no sanitation issues at all. Other campers returned to Chileno and demanded a refund and were refused. If you have the stamina, I recommend continuing the trek up to Campamento Torres to check it's open rather than relying on what they tell you at Chileno.
    - As well as extra ropes to secure the tent in the wind, we also asked Erradic Rock for some additional tent pole protectors in case any of our poles broke. They loaned these to us for free.
    - If you are planning to walk from Refugio Los Cuernos to Campamento Torres in one day and want to make an early start, pack breakfasts that can be eaten on the go and don't need to be warmed/cooked, as the cooking area doesn't open until 7.30am. We didn't realise this and having only brought muesli and powdered milk for breakfasts, we had to nibble on our lunch for breakfast as we liked to start walking early in order to enjoy the trail on our own and set our own pace.
    - If you are travelling from a non-South American country, bring plenty of plasters/band aids/blister protectors as these are hard to come across in most South American countries. We used a pack of 5 on the first day alone and wouldn't have been able to continue the walk without them. Or failing that we met one guy who had wrapped masking tape around his feet as he didn't have any plasters.
    - Hot chocolates for dessert are amazing and worth the tiny bit of extra weight. It will warm you up (particularly in Campamento Italiano where the cooking area is outside and it was starting to snow) and reward you for a hard days hike.

    Finally, it's worth noting that the trek is difficult, but achievable even if you are complete novice hikers as we were. We were more than a little intimidated by the trek and by a lot of the comments/blogs that others had posted, but we made it, even with a bad knee! You can see our experience on our blog if your interested - http://countthememoriesnotthemiles.com/2014/01/30/trekking-w-trail-torres-del-paine-patagonia/

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    1. very useful information, thanks for sharing! We are planning to do the W hike in March next year. Can I ask you about the difficulty of the hike? Where there any parts where you felt it was dangerous, for example ridges with precipice on both sides or walking along a rock shelf on a cliff? thanks!

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    2. I felt fairly comfortable on most parts of the hike. I believe the hike to Campamento Torres had a valley on one side, but nothing too scary. Of course, it could be totally different in bad weather, high winds, etc. But in good conditions, I wouldn't rank it as that difficult.

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  24. Hi!

    Thanks for all the great info and tips! especially the comments area :)
    Curious if anyone rented any tents/equipment? especially tents or walking poles - do they let you take it with you for the whole trek or you can only use it while on site? If you can take it with you, where do you return it if you end up your trek on a different side of the mountain?

    Sorry if that's too obvious, but couldn't find such info anywhere and I'm not bringing my own tent....

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    1. We didn't rent a tent so I don't have any definitive answer here. I don't know if they let you carry the tent from site to site, but if you're going to go through the hassle of carrying a tent around with you, you might as well rent one in Puerto Natales (it will be a lot cheaper). I know Erratic Rock rents gear (and probably many other places). I think the main appeal of renting stuff from the refugios is lightening your load.

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    2. The tents available to rent at the campgrounds stay at the campground. As noted above, that's the exact appeal - you simply show up, and they have the tent all setup and ready for you. When you leave, you just leave the tent up and the staff take care of tear-down. Of course, that means you have to have bookings for each night on the trail, and makes deviating from your plan almost impossible, but it is a great convenience if it works out for you.

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    3. Great, thanks, that's what I was looking for! Looks like Erratic Rock is the place I'll be heading for my gear :) Cheers all

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  25. Hi there! Headed down next week and trying to figure out how to see the most in the area with only 3 days. Can you get good views of the Torres from the French Valley?

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    1. This is the view: http://anneandspace.com/post/43950775137/view-from-the-mirador-britanico. I don't remember which peak is which, but French Valley is not the place to go for good views for the Torres.

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  26. Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for all of the information. Very helpful in planning my trip.

    I do have one question - when booking refugios, how far in advance did you book? Did you book online? My wife and I are planning on doing the W starting January 1.

    Thanks in advance for the help!

    Adam

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    Replies
    1. Hi Adam, sorry to for the delay -- I was motorcycling through Oregon. Unfortunately, I can't help much with your question. We camped and didn't have reservations (we were there in a shoulder season so it wasn't as crowded). I would guess that Jan. 1 will be crowded and the sooner you book the better, but that's just a guess.

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  27. Hi there,
    Thanks for such brilliant advice. As I'm planning on staying at refugios rather than camping, I'm wondering if you think the hike from Gray-Grande-Cuernos would be too much for one day if I leave Valle Frances for the next day?

    I'm thinking of staying the first night at Gray, then stay 2nd/3rd at Cuernos (hiking the Valle Frances on 3rd day) then onwards to Chileno and Las Torres on the 4th/5th days. It's either that or stay in Grande on Day 2 and hike Valle Frances to Cuernos in one day (or split that up into yet another day). I have a slight knee injury so don't want to over do it, but also want to be hiking for more than just a couple of hours each day.

    I haven't been able to find much research of people staying only in refugios doing west to east to see what the best thing to do on the 2nd-3rd day is.

    Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy to help. I may not be the best person in this case though, as I didn't hike the Grande-Grey stretch (due to equipment problems). Personally, I would worry that Grey-Cuernos in one day was overly ambitious (24km/8.5hrs). During times of the year when you have more sunlight, it's certainly doable. As I remember it, the Grande-Italiano stretch is pretty flat and easy. The Italiano-Cuernos stretch is a little tighter, with a bit more up and down, but still not that difficult. The Valles Frances is more difficult than either of those. I think that Grande-Valle Frances-Cuernos on the third day is the most common way to do it when staying in refugios, but again that's pretty long, so it's probably up to you which option you prefer. For that one, this thread has a pretty detailed account: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g670171-i12474-k4170631-Torres_del_Paine_Info_Offered-Torres_del_Paine_National_Park_Magallanes_Region.html

      Delete
  28. Any suggestions if we have 2 nights and 3 days?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hm, if it were me, I would decide which of the three highlights I'd most like to see (Torres, Valles Frances, Glacier Grey), prioritize that and look into whether there's a less common day hike to add in if you need more to do. But it depends how you like to hike. If you wanted to get in as much as possible, one option would be:
      Day 1: Up to the Torres and then camp at Cuernos.
      Day 2: Cuernos to Italiano
      Day 3: Valle Frances back to base

      But honestly, you have to be moving pretty fast for this to be realistic, and I'm not sure I even feel comfortable recommending it.

      Another option would be:
      Day 1: Catamaran to Paine Grande to Italiano, with the Valle Frances
      Day 2: Italiano to Cuernos
      Day 3: Torres back down to base

      The benefit of that option is that you could lose the Valle Frances if you had to, and you wouldn't do that much backtracking.

      Delete
    2. Stephanie,

      Thank you for your blog, it’s great and has been helpful in planning the part of my trip in the Patagonia.

      What would you do if you had a 5th night in TDP? Or would you complete the “W” in 4 and do something else with the 5th night? Below is my tentative itinerary with a to-be-filled gap between the 7th & 8th day. The route/lodging is what Erratic Rock suggested for a 4-night/5-day trip. I am 25 and hike quickly (I take a lot of pictures though) so I’d prefer to avoid going deliberately slow and/or sitting around to fill the time unless spending the additional time in the park is worth it.

      Any suggestions/edits would be greatly appreciated.

      Day 1: (El Calafate) Perito Moreno Glacier
      Day 2: Bus to Puerto Natales (Erratic Rock)
      Day 3: Bus to TDP; boat/hike to Refugio Grey
      Day 4: Hike to Paine Grande
      Day 5: Paine Grande to Britanico to Los Cuernos
      Day 6: Los Cuernos to Chileno
      Day 7: Chileno to Torres to Laguna Amarga and out of the park…

      Day 8: Must be in El Calafate by 10-11pm to catch 2am flight back to Buenos Aires.

      Thanks again and best of luck on your future travels.

      Delete
    3. Hmm, there may be a day hike that you could add in somewhere, but I don't know enough personally to suggest one. There are also non-hiking activities in the park you could consider (there's horseback riding, I think there might be boating options).

      Also, if it were me, knowing that things in Latin America don't always run smoothly, I wouldn't cut it too close in planning my return to El Calafate.

      Delete
  29. Best information I found so far for people trying to organize a trip by themselves! My question:
    On the map I see 3 entrances/guardarias: Lago Grey, Pudeto, Laguna Amarga
    How are these connected by buses, vans, minibuses to each other and to Puerto Natales?
    Any website with information? Would be great if someone had times of buses and boats.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Back when I went, BusSur, Buses Gomez, and Buses Pachecho operated daily buses to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales. I think they all had websites with times, and the hotels can also help book them. Here's the catamaran schedule: http://www.torres-del-paine.org/catamaran.html.

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  30. Hi Stephanie. This blog has been extremely useful. Thank you for that.

    As some other people here, I am planning on doing the trek in 4 days (3 nights). Can you tell me whether the following itinerary makes sense? The reason I am doing West to East is so that we can wake up early on the last day to go to the towers at sunrise.

    Day 1: Bus from Puerto Natales to Pudeto. Pudeto catamaran to Paine Grande. Hike from Paine Grande to Grey and back to Paine.

    Day 2: Paine Grande to Valle Frances to Cuernos.

    Day 3: Cuernos to refugio Torres up to Camp Torres.

    Day 4: Wake up early and go to Towers. From Towers back to Refugio Torres. Take bus from Amarga to El Calafete.

    We are experienced hikers and hiking for 7-8 hours in a day is totally fine with us. Also, do you recommend any bus service from Amarga back to El Calafete?

    Does the itinerary make sense?

    Many thanks for your input.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the itinerary makes sense. The part I would be most worried about is the first day because you won't have an early start. I think it will be about noon when you get off the catamaran (check that, I'm not sure), in which case you'd have to cover 22km that day in only half a day. I suppose though that you could leave most of your stuff at Paine, which would enable you to move more quickly.

      Maybe some others who have done the hike in four nights can chip in?

      Delete
  31. Thank you Stephanie for the quick response.

    Any advice on the bus from Amarga to El Calafate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always Glaciers used to run a direct bus for about US$45. They also run a much more expensive round-trip tour, but it's possible to just book the bus one-way to El Calafate. When I was planning my trip, they were quick to respond on email.

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    2. Edit: They used to run a bus for $45. I don't know if they still do.

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  32. Any suggestions on where to leave items that we don't plan on taking along the W Trek, but need for the rest of our trip after TDP? Just some extra clothing and footwear. I heard there are lockers in the Refugios but do they rent this out for 5 days? Thank you much!

    Best,
    T

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We left our stuff at our hostel in Puerto Natales, which seemed pretty common. I'm not sure about lockers at the refugios.

      Delete
  33. Hi Stephanie - great blog and thank you!

    I'm going to be traveling solo and want to do the following. However am so confused that they only have VÉRTICE GREY SHELTER available and everything else sold out. And that is located at the end of the W Circuit.
    http://www.verticepatagonia.com/packages/w-trekking-classic

    Is it common for people to just stay in one place the whole 4/5 days and just do day hikes. With no other accommodations, how is one suppose to do the whole W circuit? I'll be heading there next early January and i may have been to late to make bookings?

    Also, because my flight arrives on a Sunday at 2:30pm, i wont get a chance to collect my pass, debrief etc until the next day. I guess I will need to make my own accommodations in Puerto Natales until the next morning. What is the hostel you stayed at?

    Any other advice for a single woman traveler to TdP is greatly appreciated! Thanks much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amelia, I'll answer your questions as best as I can, but I seriously suggest that you do more research on your own. I found TDP is be a very confusing trip to plan (so much information, from so many different sources, with so much to figure out), and it sounds like you don't yet have a good idea about what's involved with a trip there. To answer your questions:

      1. Vertice runs half of the refugios, Fantastico Sur runs the other half, so check out their availability too (http://sales.fantasticosur.com/index2.php?ENG=English). The free campsites (Italiano, Britanico and Campamento Torres) don't take reservations. You are late with your planning, but you still have options.

      2. We ran into a few people who were staying in the big hotel at the base and doing day hikes. Anyone doing the "W" or the "Circuit" moves each night.

      3. We stayed at the Erratic Rock hostel. There are plenty of options.

      Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  34. Hi Stephanie and everyone else!
    Thank you for posting such useful information on your blog. My boyfriend and I are trekking the w trek in March 2015. Is March considered as 'peak season'? Also, we're considering camping. We know that the weather is very changeable and can be below 0 at night but will it still be bearable/comfortable? Thank you. Helen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. March is considered a "shoulder" season, meaning the weather is normally OK and there are fewer crowds. We hiked in March. We got lucky with the weather -- it was probably in the high 30s/low 40s F at night and it was comfortable. I'd say the wind was much more "extreme" than the temperature when we were there.

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  35. Hi!

    I wanted to know what you think the minimum backpack capacity is for a comfortable hike. I have a backpack that is on the smaller side, and I'm considering renting because I don't know if I'll be able to fit everything in it, and I've been told it's best to not have anything strapped on due to the winds. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hi!

    What is the minimum backpack size for a comfortable hike? I have a backpack that is on the smaller side, and am considering renting because I've been told that it's important to be able to fit everything, including sleeping bag and matt, into the bag due to the wind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, but I don't think I'll be able to be much help here. We were hiking with two people, and I don't know the exact volume of our packs. My original pack broke and my rented pack was definitely on the small side, but Ben's pack was a decent size. But we also had Argentine sleeping bags that were much bulkier than what you can get in the U.S. for the same price. Sorry, I wish I could give you a better answer.

      Delete
  37. Hi there. my husband and I are planning to hike either the O in Jan/Feb 2016 but I am having difficulty finding good info so I can book suitable refugios along the way. I know that if doing the O, after the W's refugios, we will have to camp which is no problem. We just don't want to carry everything for a solid 9 days. Can you give me a guide line per day - with the names of the refugios we should consider. We are in our 60's but are strong hikers and can do 6 hours a day if necessary. e.g. Day 1 - start at ........ hike 12 km's to Refugio .......... and so on. I hope this makes sense. Many thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Change of plan from message above. We are going to do the W - camping at the camp sites that you suggested - but probably using their tents to avoid carrying our own. However Campapento Italiano being a free camp, does not have 'equipment' to rent - so that means carrying our own tent. Can you suggest an alternative campsite that would work doing to W in 5 days and 4 nights. I look forward to hearing from you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure what direction you're planning to hike, but I'd advise looking up the routes of people who used refugios, that will give you the best idea of how to split your days.

      Delete
  39. If anyone is interested, you can also do shorter, less stressful, less demanding hikes. http://earthlychow.com/torres-del-paine-patagonia-in-2-12-days-cheap-and-comfortable-trekking-hints-preparation

    ReplyDelete
  40. trying to book the "w" for mid April 2016. Do you need to book campsites ahead if your carrying everything (shelter and food)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michael, see the earlier comment threads for discussions of camping reservations. It depends what you're most comfortable with.

      Delete
  41. Hi,

    I’m planning in doing the W Trek West-to-East in December, following the Erratic Rock route (staying in camps). I’ve been able to book all the campsites we need except for Cuernos the third night.

    Do you think staying two nights at Italiano instead would work? Would the hike from Italiano to Camp Torres the next day be a bit much?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hi Michael, I am trying to book campsites for the Erratic Rock W route as well (in Dec too! :) ). What are the campsites you booked? I've been trying to find the order of stops/camps I need in order to book so any help would be AWESOME! I was thinking of just winging it but I think pre booking will be best

    ReplyDelete
  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Great blog with lots of info. I am posting a question that has already been posted, but never answered. Is fishing allowed while hiking the O (self guided). I enjoy fly fishing and know that there is supposed to be some fantastic fishing within TDP. All information I can find is on organized fly fishing tours, nothing on fishing on your own along the hiking route. Has anybody fished there, or seen any fishermen?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Hi guys,
    Thank you for the blog, really well done. We are planning to hike the "w" and around el Chalten in mid-April. I couldn't find any good or bad comments about the weather. Do you have any idea of what we can expect.?
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're approaching winter and the weather is going to be a bit iffy. Some figures here: http://www.ecocamp.travel/News/Which-time-year-best-suits-your-Patagonian-adventure

      Delete
  46. We just did this hike and followed your advice, in short, it's great (both the trip and your advice)

    ReplyDelete
  47. Thank you for all this fabulous information. Perhaps you can advise me. I am having difficulty finding information for my needs My husband and I, 60 and 62, would like to visit with an itinerary adjusted to our capabilities. I am afraid we might not be able to handle the W route as it is typically done. We would like to stay anywhere from 4 to 7 days, stay at hotels and take day hikes in the 3 mile range. With those limitations, is it worth going? Do you have suggestions for drive-and-short hikes? Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, we didn't do any drive-and-short hikes. 3 miles is a pretty limiting cap in TDP.

      Delete
  48. We are 4 couples between 45 and 55 years, without trekking experience, some in good physical shape and other not that much, we are trying to evaluate the difficulty level of trekking the W in 5 days and cannot find an answer. is anyone have an input on that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trekking the W in 5 days is, at a minimum, a medium difficulty hike if you're carrying all your supplies. About 50 miles in total, 10 miles per day, not something that could be easily done by people who are not of shape and have never trekked. It gets easier if you stay in refugios and don't complete the whole route.

      Delete
  49. Hi Stephanie and other TdP trekkers,

    My partner and I (both experienced hikers and trail runners) will be going there at the end of January 2017, and I have two questions:

    SPEED: did you run or walk? We normally run during our hikes, except when the gradient gets too steep. So we were wondering how we should calculate the times between camps/refugios, and whether they are realistic (we tend to be 2x as fast as the suggested times on marked trails in Europe and the U.S.). Maybe it is not feasible to run the trail because of its terrain, or would you say that it is?

    WHAT TO BRING: we will be staying at the refugios and travelling as lightweight as possible - trail running shoes but with enough protective clothing. Will we need energy food and extra water, or can you get filling food (bread, cookies, fruits...) and water at each refugio? And sleeping bags are a must?

    We are hoping to do the W-route in three days, and wonder whether you think that that is possible (40k per day is not a problem):
    Day 1 --- Administración - Refugio Grey
    Day 2 --- Refugio Grey - Británico - Refugio Cuernos
    Day 3 --- Refugio Cuernos - Mirado de Las Torres - Las Torres Central

    Thanks again for this amazing forum, and I plan to contribute to it upon my return.

    Siegfried

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The biggest factor impacting time will be the weather. We took ~4 hours for one leg (I think from Cuernos to Chilleno) but friends took 10 hours because of ridiculous gale force winds that pushed them 1/2 a step back for every step forward! The trail itself is very doable, and well trod. Going past people will likely be what slows you down as well.

      Re: Sleeping bags -- this varies by your accommodations. Some provide, some don't and it depends on what you order. That being said, I preferred to have my own...
      Re: food - yes you can get day snacks etc from most of the refugio's but the pricing is...well pricey and the quality is marginal. My preference was to carry my own day snacks because I'm picky, and I could be more efficient weight wise, but if you don't want to carry much that is certainly a typical option

      As for your schedule, I think the timing and all is likely fine...we didn't stay at grey (we walked out to a look out point at the mid-way) but otherwise did the W in 3 nights as well. But..i would consider metering your speed as you might want more time to enjoy some things.I guess it is a choice on speed vs time at specific locations, although weather really determines things. We loved the French Valley -- but the day we planned to go it was closed because of floods so we went the next day. Flexibility is going to be the key.

      Delete
    2. Natala's response is spot on. And thanks so much to everyone for all the advice-sharing here.

      Delete
  50. Hi stephanie
    Very inspiring blog and thread
    I have a question about camping when there is no more room available on the official campsites , can you just pitch your tent elsewhere?
    can you hide off trail away from the rangers?
    we are going at peak season and there is no more room in the private camps and the confab are too far apart.
    thanks for your help ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hi All,

    Thanks for the amazingly useful info here. We have three days and two nights in TDP and were wondering if the following schedule was sensible:

    Day 1
    Puerto Natales to TDP: 07:30 - 10:45
    Catamaran to Paine Grande: 1200 - ?? (not sure how long this takes)
    Hike Paine Grande to Camp Grey

    Day 2
    Hike Camp Grey to Camp Italiano

    Day 3
    Hike Italiano to Britanico to Grey
    Catamaran at 18:30 to get the bus to Puerto Natales at 19:00 (are the catamaran/bus timetables synced??)

    Also, if things take longer than planned, is it possible to stay at camp sites along the way without pre-booking?

    Many thanks
    Imran

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Imran, Glad it's useful! I think that's a doable route, as long as you're aware that your last day is quite long (30km). I also assume that for Day 3 you mean: Hike Italiano to Britanico to Paine Grande (not Grey). I don't know the current info on whether catamaran/bus timetables are synced, but someone else might.

      Delete
    2. Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for the incredibly quick response. Sorry, yes I did mean Italiano to Britanico to Paine Grande on day 3. Is there another way out of the park on Day 3, maybe from camp Cuernos or close to that? That way we can avoid the double route and make day 3 shorter.

      Sorry if I'm asking very obvious questions, it's a little confusing. And sorry for saying sorry too much, I'm British :).

      Thanks
      Imran.

      Delete
    3. Given that itinerary, I think that's the shortest way out of the park. An alternative route would be:
      Day 1: Catamaran to Paine Grande - Hike Paine Grande to Italiano (7.6km)
      Day 2: Hike Italiano - Valle Frances - Cuernos (21.5km)
      Day 3: HIke Cuernos - Hosteria Las Torres - Bus out of park (11km)

      Also, I think the catamaran ride is ~20min.

      Though I also realized I did the math wrong and Day 3 on your itinerary isn't as long as I said.

      Personally, I'd prefer having my longest day be the middle day when you're not trying to catch a boat/bus.

      Also, read up in the comments a bit because others have devised creative itineraries.

      Delete
  52. Hi Steph,

    Thanks for your suggestion, I think it might be the most sensible given we have effectively a full day and two half days at the park. I will have a read of other suggestions on the site also.

    This has been very helpful. Many thanks.

    Imran.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Has "Camping Las Torres" been renamed? The closest I can see on Fantastico Sur is "Camping Central".

    Would you recommend perhaps staying at Camping El Chileno as a compromise to going all the way back up and down on day 1? Or is the hike to El Chileno still quite difficult for the first day? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Hi,
    How do you see the possibility to see sunrise at Mirador Base Las Torres when you overnight at Refugio Torre Central? (Chileno full). I will be there late March. I read the sunrise is about 8 a.m. As I see I need 4hrs to get there. Is it possible to trek at night? Do people do it? Does this make sense to get up at 3:30 and trek there? Is it doable and safe?
    Thanks,
    Maciek

    ReplyDelete
  55. Hello, I want to make sure Im looking at this right. So if I do your "backwards" route I'd start in the SW corner, the bottom of the green line? So day one I'd hike out and then come back. Day 2 I'm thinking about hiking all the way to Italiano. Then I could potentially leave my camp up and hike up and down the blue trail and stay a second night at Italiano. Day 4 hike to Greys and Day 5 hike out? Is that correct? Doable?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's definitely doable, and yes, you would start in the SW corner (the bottom of the green line). But I believe you're only allowed to spend one night in the free campgrounds like Italiano.

      Delete
    2. The system allowed me to select back to back nights. Hopefully those reservations hold. Great write up, thanks for the info!

      Delete
    3. FYI: http://www.verticepatagonia.com/torres-del-paine/news/reserva-para-acampar-reserve-camping

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    4. But you were able to leave your stuff during the day at Camping Las Torres and stay there twice? Maybe this was before they made reservations mandatory?

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    5. I believe the one-night restriction only applies to the CONAF campgrounds.

      Delete
  56. Hi Stephanie, thanks for the blog! Amazing how many people, myself included, still find it useful years later!

    Question, I don't quite understand why you don't find it feasible to do East to West in 4 nights/5 days? Could you elaborate?

    I will be traveling in November with 3 people in early 30s and mom in early 60s, all in great shape. I've read that some prefer starting East and getting the towers our of the way first as its more difficult? I should also mentioned we will be driving from Calafate in the morning - should we allow a whole day for this and go to Puerto Natales or drive directly to the park to start hiking?

    Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can definitely do East to West in 4 nights/5 days. I was simply arguing for the benefits of doing Mirador Las Torres without a daypack. But if you prefer to East to West in 4 nights/5 days, you definitely can.

      Take a morning bus to the park:
      Night 1: Campamento Torres
      Night 2: Los Cuernos (do Mirador Torres)
      Night 3: Italiano (do Valle Frances)
      Night 4: Refugio Grey

      I didn't drive, so I can't offer much advice, other than to say that I'd personally plan to start hiking the next day. You could get delayed at the border, you could forget to buy something essential, etc.

      But you could also do exactly what we suggest: Drive to the park that day and camp overnight at Hosteria Las Torres, then do the Mirador the next day without packs. But again, I don't really know how long the drive will take.

      Delete
    2. Hi Stephanie,
      I just realized that I didn't mention that we will not be carrying gear with us, meaning the itinerary doesn't work because of campamento Italiano. Could you suggest a route that works with refugios?
      Thanks!

      Delete

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