Torres del Paine National Park: Hiking the W trek

Ever since we booked this, I have been impatiently waiting to make it to Torres del Paine National Park and start the W trek, a 4-day beauty of a hike!


Our GPX track holds all of the details for each day’s hike. The W trail can be completed in both directions. We started in the east, because it seemed like the least logistically challenging for us to plan at the time. Now that we know more, I would say it’s neither more or less challenging. We did take the less popular, more expensive, longer option of booking the boat from the Grey Refugio back down to the westmost point of the park.

DayStart pointEnd pointMileage/ElevationViews
Sunday, February 12, 2023Puerto Natales,  Hostel Last HopeChilenos Refugio8.8 miles
+3000’ -2200’
Torre del Paine
Monday, February 13, 2023Chilenos RefugioCuernos Refugio12.9 miles
+2900’ -4000′
Sunrise at Torre del Paine Cuerno del Paine Lago Nordenskjöld
Tuesday, February 14, 2023Cuernos RefugioPaine Grande Refugio14.1 miles
+3000′ -3200′
Frances Valley Lago Skottsberg Lago Pehoé
Wednesday, February 15, 2023Paine Grande RefugioPuerto Natales11.1 miles
+2500′ -2400′
Lago Grey Grey Glacier


Day 1: We started on the east side and walked up to Chilenos. This was a busy trail, as we were one of the last people on the shuttle. We made it up to the refugio and took a short break, dropped our bigger packs for a lighter summit pack that I made Spence carry, and headed up to the base of the mountains for the park’s most famous view. The lake was a beaut, but the mountains were being shy behind their clouds. While we wanted to stay longer, the snow and wind were a little too brisk. We went back down to the Chilenos refugio for the night, where we met other hikers and passed the evening with good conversation.

Day 2: We woke up at 3:30 to start a little after 4:00 for the sunrise hike back up to Torre del Paine. We made it to the lake around 6:10 and stayed until 7:00 before the freezing temps sent us on our way, despite the fact that we hadn’t seen the mountains. Half an hour after we left, we saw the clouds clear and decided to walk up again to see if we could catch the view. It was worth it, as we did finally get to see them clear of clouds for a few minutes! The rest of the day was meandering back down and heading west towards Cuernos. We finally had a bit of luck with the sun and found ourselves soaking in the rays while we hiked next to the stunning Lago Nordenskjöld. We finished up the day by treating ourselves to a snack of pizza at Cuernos and chatting with new strangers along the way.

Day 3: Another early morning, we had bad weather forecasted and wanted to get to the Brittanico lookout in the French Valley as early as we could. We stopped quickly at Italiano to exchange our full packs for a small summit pack so we could move even faster. Unfortunately when we got there, our views were mostly covered by the ever-present clouds. We found a little shelter and tried to wait it out for 1.5 hours, but had no luck. The rest of the day was a mild walk to Paine Grande, with baby hills and a spectacular view of the brilliantly blue Lago Pehoé.

Day 4: We started early so that we had enough time to hit a viewpoint of Grey Glacier that a French couple told us about before catching our 2:00 p.m. catamaran ride around the glacier. This view of Grey Glacier was one of our favorites from the entire hike, and I loved crossing the two suspension bridges. We rushed back to wait for our boat to arrive and took a tour by water  to get closer to the glacier. After arriving back at the base of Lago Grey, we waited a few hours for our late bus to show up. We still made it back to our hostel around 10:00 p.m. that night.


They say you can have four seasons in a day here in Patagonia, and we experienced that most days. Every minute, the weather can look completely different. We learned that on our Torres del Paine hike and attempted to be patient with other viewpoints, but it didn’t work out for us. We just had unlucky weather for most of our trip. The only thing I can recommend is that you try and build in extra time to either wait at a viewpoint or save enough energy to try for a second run up to Torres del Paine like we did. Even if it’s completely covered by clouds, it could open up 30 minutes later.

I recommend getting comfortable reading Wind Guru’s forecasts. This is the most accurate (even though it’s not all that accurate) data you can get for the weather. Don’t take it too literally and more as a likelihood of when you might have a better chance of clear skies.


We arrived in Puerto Natales via bus from El Calafate late in the evening and stayed at Hostel Last Hope. You can walk from the bus station to downtown Puerto Natales where most of the hostels are. The next morning, we hopped on our pre-booked bus leaving at 7:15am to get to the park. There were several buses that left around the same time (7:00 and 7:10), and you should be able to find a way to book a bus there if needed. We then were dropped off at Laguna Amarga, where we showed our entrance tickets and stood in line for the shuttle bus that would take us to the start of the trail. Since we were on the last bus out, we had to wait 20 to 30 minutes before getting on a shuttle. You can’t prebook this shuttle and it costs 3,000 pesos per person (about $4 per person) in cash.

The last day of our hike took us to Lago Grey, where we booked the catamaran and bus back to Puerto Natales. We stared our boat tour at 2:00 pm and didn’t make it back to Puerto Natales until 9:45 pm.

Things we wish we would have known

  • You can avoid some of the day-hiking crowd up to Torres del Paine if you take the earliest bus. There were 7:00, 7:10, and 7:15 bus options available on the day we went. We recommend trying to book the earliest one and getting in line for the shuttle right after you get into the park so you’re first on the trail of the Puerto Natales crowds.
  • You can buy a park entrance pass at the gate. They accept cash and credit.
  • You can drop your backpack at Chilenos and Italiano to carry lighter summit packs for bigger elevation days (days 1 and 3).
  • Water is readily available and does not need to be filtered. You can pull from any river or at your refugio.
  • If you can’t book a spot at Chilenos, it is possible to start in Puerto Natales and do the Torres del Paine trek up and back down to the Central refugio. It will be a bigger day than what we did, and doesn’t really allow for you to opt for a sunrise hike unless you want to add 9 miles and over 2,000’ gain and loss to your second day.
  • Bring the slip of paper you get at the Chilean border called the PDI. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a 20% tax on your reservation. You may be able to get reimbursed for the taxes later if you email them with a copy of it.
  • Depending on what you book at the refugio,  you may need to bring our own sleeping bag. Only fully equipped and deluxe campsites don’t require a sleeping bag. Rooms inside the refugio do not provide sleeping bags. They’ll charge upwards of $50 per night if you don’t have one. Similarly, if you plan on taking a shower, bring a lightweight towel you can use — or rent one for $7 at each refugio.
  • You don’t need to bring a stove or fuel if you just need hot water for backpacking meals. Every refugio had hot water available for our backpacking meals.
  • You can book meals at Chilenos while you’re there, but Cuernos requires you to book in advance because of its remote location. You can however still pay for the other offerings they provide outside of dinner hours (8 to 10 pm) such as pizza, sandwiches, and quesadillas. 
  • Deluxe campsites do not come with meals or pillows.
  • You can use a credit card at the refugios. WiFi is available but you have to pay about 8,000 pesos per hour (about 10 dollars per hour). You also have the ability to charge items, even if you’re staying at a campsite.

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