By: Heather Keys
Based in Chile’s Patagonia region, Torres del Paine National Park spans over 1100 square kilometers and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
The incredible geological features of Torres del Paine—its glaciers, mountains, and lakes—were shaped by glacial and tectonic activity over millions of years. Among its more prominent features are the Paine Massif (part of the Andes mountain range), Grey Lake, and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. You’ll also find many animal species here—most famously the Andean condor, the world’s largest flying bird—as well as gray foxes, pumas, guanacos, and much more.
There are many hiking trails throughout Torres del Paine National Park for travelers of all skill levels, and you can choose from shorter, half-day hikes to more adventurous, multi-day treks. Here are a few options to check out:
The W Trek
Named for the W-shape of the trail you’ll follow, this four- to five-day hike covers a distance of about 70 kilometers. It’s one of the most popular hikes in the park, and for a good reason! A few things you’ll see are:
- Grey Glacier: Among the most iconic views in Torres del Paine, this glacier spans six kilometers and is over 30 meters high
- French Valley: This gorgeous valley has panoramic vistas of the Paine Massif
- Lake Nordenskjöld: A sizeable glacial lake with bright blue waters, named after the Swedish explorer Otto Nordenskjöld
- Lake Skottsberg: Another beautiful glacial lake located near Refugio Paine Grande
- Lake Pehoé: A vibrant lake that serves as a central point in the W Trek, with the Paine Grande Mountain looming in the background
- Refugio Los Cuernos: A cozy mountain lodge at the base of the Cuernos del Paine, offering a comfortable resting spot for hikers
- Base Torres: The base of the iconic granite Torres del Paine towers
The O Circuit
Lasting six to 10 days and covering 110 kilometers, the O Circuit takes you around the entire Torres del Paine National Park. It’s a great alternative to the W Trek if you’re looking for something more challenging and remote—a few stops along the way include:
- Paso John Garner: A tough mountain pass with panoramic views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and the Grey Glacier
- Glaciar Los Perros: A small, beautiful glacier tucked away in a secluded valley, accessed via a short detour from the main trail
- Paine River: Throughout the trek, you’ll follow the Paine River, with has beautiful views of the Paine Massif along the way
- Lake Paine: A glacially-fed lake surrounded by rolling hills and situated along the eastern section of the O Circuit
- Cerro Paine: A mountain that dominates the park’s landscape
- Lenga and Coigüe Forests: Throughout the O Circuit, you’ll travel through old-growth forests of lenga and coigüe trees, where you can spot native wildlife such as the Magellanic woodpecker or the South Andean deer
- Serón Campsite: A peaceful campsite along the eastern section of the circuit
- Dickson Campsite & Refugio: Located near the Dickson Glacier, this campsite and lodge has fantastic views of the glacier’s terminus and the surrounding valleys
- Campamento Los Guardas: This remote campsite is located near the John Gardner Pass and offers amazing views of the Grey Glacier and the surrounding mountains
Other Hikes in Torres del Paine National Park
A few other hikes that you may be interested in while planning your adventure to Torres del Paine National Park include:
Lasting one or two days, the base trek covers about 18 kilometers and takes you to the base of the Torres del Paine towers. You’ll start at the Welcome Center and ascend through the Ascencio Valley. If you stay overnight, you’ll love the Refugio Chileno, a cozy mountain lodge along the trail.
Lazo Weber Trek
Another hike lasting one to two days, the Lazo Weber Trek is about 13 kilometers long and takes you through the Lazo Weber Valley, where you’ll see fantastic views of the Paine Massif, Laguna Verde, and the Paine River Waterfall.
Mirador Cuernos Trek
This one-day trek takes you to the Mirador Cuernos viewpoint, where you’ll get spectacular views of the Horns of Paine.
Mirador Condor Trek
Another relatively short hike at about an hour or two, this trail takes you up to a viewpoint offering panoramic vistas of the Paine Massif, Lake Pehoé, and the surrounding valleys.
Valle del Silencio Trek
A more challenging two-day hike, this trail leads you through forests and glacial valleys—the highlight of this trek is the Valle del Silencio, a serene and secluded valley.
Salto Grande Waterfall Trek
This short, easy hike takes you to the Salto Grande waterfall, where the waters of Lake Nordenskjöld cascade into Lake Pehoé.
Cerro Paine Trek
A more challenging full-day hike and horseback ride, this trail takes you up Cerro Paine—expect a steep ascent!
Cerro Castillo Trek
For experienced hikers seeking a multi-day adventure outside of the park, the Cerro Castillo Trek is a fantastic option. This four- to five-day trek takes you through the Cerro Castillo National Park.
Torres del Paine National Park is a stunning destination that promises awe-inspiring views, distinctive plant and animal life, and tons of adventure—if you’re ready to start planning your dream trek here, join the Frayed Passport community to get insights and advice from fellow travelers!
Featured image by Tilo Mitra on Unsplash