Off the Grid South America

5 Trekking Routes in Torres del Paine | Chile

Photos of Chile - Torres del Paine

You can see Torres del Paine by horseback, day trip, or even by airplane if you’re feeling really lazy, but anyone who has trekked to it is in on a secret. A heavy pack, too many days of instant oatmeal, and cold nights of camping are the things that make sunrise at Torres del Paine worth it. Whether you go for the W Trek, the O Circuit, the Q Circuit, or any other trekking route vaguely shaped like a letter, the hard work of a trek will greatly enhance your experience in Torres del Paine.

Navigating the trail is the easy part – there is really just one path to follow through Torres del Paine. It is planning your Torres del Paine trekking route and booking campsites along the way that can be seriously confusing. The maps show vaguely defined distances and seemingly impossible trekking times. The internet is full of outdated information and the booking sites are kind of a disaster. But eventually, there comes a point where you just have to go for it. Most of the distances are possible if you’re willing to put in a long day. Worst case scenario you’ll become puma bait stranded between campsites after sunset. At least it will be an adventure, right?

Planning your trip to Torres del Paine? I did it (2017) and lived to tell about it. Below, you’ll find a map of the park, the most popular trekking routes, and suggested campsites to stay in along the way.

Map of Torres del Paine with Campsites

Campsites in Torres del Paine

The W-Trek

The Classic W-Trek | 5 Days

With just 5 days to spare, you can experience the highlights of Torres del Paine National Park (Glacier Gray, Valle Francés, and Torres del Paine). The trek is easy enough, and the campsites are strategically placed so you can do most of your hikes with nothing besides a daypack. The campsites and refugios are quite comfortable, and you’ll have access to indoor areas, electricity, and hot showers at most of them.

Best for: Hikers with limited time or trekking experience

Suggested Route: Gray > Paine Grande > Italiano or Frances > Torres

The Reverse W-Trek | 5 Days

The Reverse W-Trek has many of the same features as the Classic W, but rather than starting with the ferry to Paine Grande, you’ll camp your first day beneath the Torres del Paine.

Best for: Hikers that want to trek the W, but can’t book campsites for their preferred dates or who might need to stop early due to injury.

Suggested Route: Torres > Frances or Italiano > Paine Grande > Gray

Torres del Paine Trekking Routes - MeadowPros of the W-Trek:

  • Notoriety: This trek is the bucket list trek in Torres del Paine and you’ll get to see all the highlights
  • Accessibility: The W-Trek can be accomplished by hikers of most skill levels
  • Ease of Travel: Unlike the backcountry trip, you can buy or rent everything you’ll need along the way. 

Cons of the W-Trek: 

  • Crowded: The W-Trek is extremely easy to get to, and you’ll rarely find yourself alone on the trails.
  • Expensive: While there area few free sites along the W-Trek, the campsites and refugios are generally quite expensive, and some will require that you pay full board.
  • Advanced Reservation Required: The most popular campsites and refugios can fill up months in advance during high season. Be sure to check out our full post on how to book campsites in Torres del Paine.

The O Circuit

The Classic O Circuit | 8 Days

The O Circuit offers a glimpse into the park’s less traveled backcountry. You’ll get to experience all the park’s highlights, but you’ll also have a bit of solitude as you pass grassy meadows, lakes, and less accessible glaciers and mountains. The O Circuit is best accomplished in 8 days, but if you’re short on time and a very fit hiker, it can be done in as little as 6 days. The campsites on the backside are privately owned and much simpler than those on the W-Trek. Most require that you bring your own gear (tents, mats, sleeping bags, etc.) and facilities can range from flush toilets to holes in the ground. Perhaps the best part of the O Circuit is finishing up and feeling like you earned it!

Best for: Hikers with some experience (capable of hiking 6-11 hour days) and plenty of time.

Suggested Routes: Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Paine Grande > Italiano > Torres

Suggested Routes: Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray > Paine Grande > Frances > Torres

Suggested Routes: Paine Grande > Frances > Torres Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray

Read more about the O Circuit!

The Short O Circuit | 7 Days

The Short O Circuit can be completed in 7 days. Rather than taking it slow, you’ll want to get an early start most days and prepare for a couple of 30km+ hikes.

Best for: Fit hikers that are short on time or unable to book all campsites.

Suggested Routes: Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray > Italiano > Torres

Suggested Routes:Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray > Frances >Torre Torres del Paine Trekking Routes - Gloomy Morning at the Lake

Torres del Paine Trekking Routes - Forest

Torres del Paine Trekking Routes - Bridge

The Q

The Q| 9 Days

The longest route in the park is the Q – a trek that starts with a hike alongside Lago Pehoé before joining with the O Circuit. To begin the Q, you’ll take the bus to the third stop in Torres del Paine.

Best for: Hikers with extra time that want to maximize their time in the park.

Suggested Routes: Paine Grande > Italiano > Torres > Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Gray

Pros of the O Circuit or Q Circuit:

  • Uncrowded: Uncrowded is relative, but you’ll see much fewer people on the first few days of the O Circuit than you’ll see on the W Trek
  • Cheap: As you’re packing your own food and camping gear, most nights of camping only cost you $8-$12.
  • Best of Everything: As the O Circuit is an extension of the W Trek, you’ll get the benefit of doing both the backcountry and the more popular W-Trek.

Cons of the O Circuit or Q Circuit: 

  • Difficulty: The O Circuit requires some long days which feel a lot harder when you’re carrying all of your own gear.
  • Limited Points of Interest: As the highlights can be seen on the W-Trek, some of the scenery on the O or Q Circuit is beautiful but not particularly noteworthy.
  • Advanced Reservation Required: The most popular campsites and refugios can fill up months in advance during high season.

Heading to Torres del Paine? You might also like:

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Planning your trek through Torres del Paine? Here are 5 popular trekking routes along with recommended campsites to help you plan your trip!

Have you been to Torres del Paine? Which route would you recommend to people planning their trip? Share it in the comments below!

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  • Reply
    July 19, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    Hey, this is a super handy blog post. Thanks heaps for the effort of making the info clear (much clearer than the web). Im heading down there on friday to hike it in winter but so many conflicting reports about needing a guide for winter ad I am totally unable to book on conarf during july/aug. Is there a conarf office in puerto natales that I can go in and ask about camping? It’s doing my head in. Also, do you know if I could just hire a local guide from somewhere? I am pretty against dishing out pockets of cash for a tour when I have the experience and gear ready to go! Thanks in advance!

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      July 24, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      Hi Mandy. I found the info on TdP to be very confusing too, so I’m so glad that you found this helpful! The park should be stunning during winter, and I’ll look forward to your pictures!

      I apologize for all the vague answers, but here’s what I can offer:

      I found this post from a trusted rental shop in town ( indicating that a certified guide is required for winter treks as of May 1st. That being said, not all treks are as expensive as the packages you find online. Perhaps you can check with some of the agencies in town to see if you can share the cost of a guide with another small group? I can’t remember whether there was a CONAF office in Puerto Natales, but I do know people who made all their reservations in person – there is certainly a way to do it. To get some additional clarity before you arrive, I’d recommend reaching out to Erratic Rock – a gear rental shop in town – as they’ve been super quick and helpful with my questions about 2017. Good luck on the trek!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Hi there!
    Thanks for all the very good information. I have one question; How did you charge your Gopro / camera etc? Did you carry a power bank or did you charge at the camps.
    Kind regards,
    Ted and Rianne (going for the 0 circuit in nov/dec)

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      September 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Hi Ted & Rianne! To be honest, I used my camera somewhat sparingly. The easiest solution is to bring along extra batteries or a charging bank. There are outlets available in some of the refugios on the front side of the park (the W Circuit) but there’s often a long line to use them. Good luck on your trek!

  • Reply
    November 19, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Taylor. Reading that Torres is closed for the 2017/2018 season, which suggested route would you say would be the most “logical” one when it comes to the (reversed) W Trek? Planning to go in February. Thanks a lot! Nynke

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      November 20, 2017 at 7:50 am

      Hi Nynke! If you do the reverse W, it will be a challenge to see the Torres at sunrise since most of the campsites only allow a one night stay. Your options would be to hike to Torres day 1 and stay at Chileno or Central for the night. If you’re determined to see Torres at sunrise, it might also be possible to spend the night in Chileno, get an early start, then hike onto Los Cuernos or Frances in the afternoon? Would be a long day, but mostly downhill so you’d survive it! Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

      • Reply
        November 20, 2017 at 8:11 pm

        Hey Taylor. Thanks for your reply! Then I guess it would be easier in this case to do the “normal” W. And instead of staying at Torres Camping, probably staying at(overpriced) Chileno would be the only option to see the sunrise at Torres.

  • Reply
    Amrik Rana
    December 13, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Taylor,

    First off thank you so much for your guides to making this trip, so much of whats available online is a mess!

    Just wanted to ask, most people seem to be opting for the reverse-W and starting at Torres, which I know is closed for the season 🙁 I was wondering if I wanted to do the W starting at Grey is it more difficult to get to grey from the entrance of the park and camp there for the night?

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      December 21, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      Hi Amrik. So glad it was helpful for you! If you want to start at Gray, you can take the morning ferry to the other side. Not difficult at all!

      • Reply
        December 23, 2017 at 11:00 am

        Awesome, was a bit worried as I’d already booked my campsites before asking but now can’t wait to get out there!

        Thanks again 🙂

  • Reply
    January 3, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Hi guys, excellent article!
    Unfortunately we only have 4 days in the park and we wanted to do a morning of kayaking, so we don’t really have the time to do the full W. Which parts of it would you recommend most?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      January 22, 2018 at 7:33 am

      Hi Guillermo. The highlight of TdP for me was definitely coming over the Pass and looking out on Glacier Grey! Also the French Valley is gorgeous. As the trail really only allows you to hike counterclockwise (the one exception being Area de Acampar Grey towards the glacier), anything along the W will be accessible within 4 days, and those are the real stars of the park anyway. Hope you enjoy!

  • Reply
    Colin Smith
    January 5, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    Hi Taylor, this is a great resource- thank you!
    One question- do you know if it is possible to do only the backside of the park? Basically to do the top part of the circuit and not the W.. We only have 5 days but many of the campgrounds on the W have already filled up.


    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      January 22, 2018 at 7:30 am

      Hi Colin. So glad you found it helpful! To answer your question, I would say yes, though I’m not sure how you would go about booking it! Both corners of the W Trek are accessible by bus/catamaran, so there would be no problem finishing early. Perhaps you’d have to work with the companies over the phone to set this up? Good luck and let me know how it plays out!

  • Reply
    Ashlee Woolfson
    January 7, 2018 at 1:04 am

    Hi Taylor!
    I am trying to find info on booking the bus from Puerto Natales into the park, and booking the catamaran, since I’m going in high season (February). Do you know how to do this? Or is it not something to do ahead of time?

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      January 21, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      Hi Ashlee, I’m almost sure you can just book it all locally! The busses leave 2x a day and the catamaran has quite a lot of space as well. If you’re unsure, you can call almost any hotel in Puerto Natales and they can probably snag a bus ticket on your behalf. Hope that helps a bit and enjoy your trip!

  • Reply
    January 16, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Taylor,
    I was planning to do the ” O Circuit” March 26th to April 2nd. However, I am having a hard time making reservations through Vertice Patagonia. There website isn’t allowing me to put in the dates to see if their is availability. I emailed them directly and was responded with an automatic email not relating to the problem I am having. I was wondering if you or anyone else has this issue and if their was another way for me speak with someone who could help me!

    Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Roshni Patel
    March 6, 2018 at 5:20 am

    Hi Taylor! Excellent article. We only have 3-4 days for Torres. Seems like W is the best route for us. Do you think of end of March or early April would be a good time?

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      March 12, 2018 at 6:40 am

      Hi Roshni. In that case, yes! The W-Trek is your best route since the O-Circuit it only one way and you couldn’t turn around. I went at that exact time, and had a fine experience! That’s just when the weather is starting to get a bit colder, but I had plenty of sunshine and mild winds on my hike. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply
    March 14, 2018 at 6:34 am

    Hi Taylor, what a great website you’ve put together, thank you! We are family of 4 looking to hike the O circuit in Jan 2019. We would want to take the longer trip, can you please suggest a camp site itinerary … or did I miss it on your site? Many thanks!

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