Hiking enthusiasts are generally thrilled upon visiting Torres del Paine National Park in the southern Chilean region of Patagonia.
But for many, the most exciting prospect of hiking in Patagonia is the park’s famous “W” trek, which weaves alongside glaciers and lakes and through thick forests and mountains. This hike is well-known for its access to some of the most incredible viewpoints in the park. The only intimidating thing about it is the fact that it generally takes about 5 days and 4 nights to complete.
Hiking the “W” from west to east provides the best views of the gorgeous Cuernos mountains. This route begins with the more-or-less simple trail known as Refugio Las Torres to Mirador Las Torres, which guides hikers alongside a gorgeous river to the base of the Torres del Paine themselves. The first challenging dose of the “W” presents itself in the last portion of this trail, which features a range of large boulders. However, the view you’ll get of the Torres afterwards will be more than worth the struggle.
The next part of the hike, known as Refugio Las Torres to Los Cuernos, is more strenuous than the previous portion. At a point, you’ll be faced with a choice between the upper and lower trail. Choose wisely; many hikers get lost on the upper trail. The hike to Los Cuernos takes about 8 hours, and if some of the unexpectedly fierce winds characteristic of Patagonia swoop in, the trek will be that much harder. Take comfort in knowing that you’ll sleep extremely well that night at your campsite.
Valle Frances is the next trail on your itinerary. Many find it to be the most enjoyable part of the journey through the park, as it is surrounded by impressive glacial structures and incredible scenery.
The last portion of the trail begins at the Refugio Lago Pehoé and ends at the Refugio Lago Grey. It is a wonderful trail to end your journey with: relatively easy, with the same remarkable scenery that has followed you throughout the “W.” The glimmering lakes are a gorgeous and refreshing backdrop.
Regardless of the weather conditions during your adventure on the “W” trek, one thing is for certain: after the “W,” you’ll definitely feel accomplished—and exhausted! If you’re still looking for a challenge for hiking in Patagonia after this, check out the longer and more difficult Circuit, which encompasses the “W” as well as the backside of the park, between Refugio Grey and Refugio Las Torres.