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  • Writer's pictureBecca Jackson

Patagonia's W Trek, Torres Del Paine (2022/23 season) | The complete planning guide

Updated: Jun 9

So, you’ve read our O Circuit vs W Trek post and have decided the W Trek is the one for you. This post will now give you all the information you need to start planning and preparing for your trek.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Dramatic scenery between Paine Grande and Frances
 

Table of Contents

1 - What is the W Trek?

2 - Best time of year to hike the W Trek

3 - W Trek cost

4 - How to book your campsites

4.1 - How far ahead should I start booking campsites?

4.2 - Booking campsites

5- Which route to take for the W trek – Hiking west to east or east to west?

5.1 - Hiking west to east

5.2 - Hiking east to west

6 - Food at the refugios

7 - What food to pack for the W Trek

8 - Packing list - Equipment and clothes you will need for the W Trek

8.1 - Camping equipment and rental options

8.2 - Camping equipment hire costs in Puerto Natales

9. Torres del Paine National Park entrance fee

10. Checklist of things to do in Puerto Natales the day before your trek

11. Where to stay in Puerto Natales

12. Getting to and from the national park

 

1. What is the W Trek?


Just in case you needed a refresher! The W Trek is a 80km (50 miles) hike through Torres del Paine National Park & is typically completed over 4 or 5 days. The park itself spans a whopping 181,000 + hectares which is about 700 square miles! It is the most popular national park in this region, receiving over 250,000 visitors a year, the majority of which are from overseas. The stunning W trek gives you the opportunity to visit some of the major attractions in the park. You can hike your way up to the Frances & Britanico viewpoints, The Towers & get a glimpse of the magnificent Glacier Grey. You will walk along beautiful hillside trails surrounded by majestic mountains and spawling, startlingly blue lakes. The decision to hike the W trek is not one you will regret.


2. Best time of year to hike the W Trek


The Torres del Paine is open all year round, but if you wish to visit the Torres del Paine in winter hiking can only be done as part of a tour. The W Trek is available to self-guided hikers from the beginning of September until the end of the end of March. The summer is from December - February, & has the highest temperatures, longest daylight hours to enjoy the scenery & lowest rainfall. The main drawback of visiting in summer is that is correlates with the time of year with the most wind. The summer offers the best hiking conditions so as you can imagine attracts the most visitors, this means the trails will be at their busiest & camp sites book up quicker so it's best to book early!!


Whether you visit in peak season or the shoulders be prepared for everything, Patagonia is known for throwing 4 seasons in a day at you & we can testify to this!

Below is a graph showing the weather trends at different times of year in the Torres del Paine national park.


Torres del Paine Weather Graph

For those of you who prefer raw data, see below:

Precipitation monthly average (mm)

Average tempurature max (°c)

Average temperature min (°c)

Daylight hours

Wind speed ave Km/h

January

6

20

9

16

18

February

4

19

8

13

14

March

8

17

7

12

11

April

14

12

2

11

7

May

19

9

0

10

7

June

18

5

-3

9

4

July

16

5

-2

10

4

August

16

8

-1

11

7

September

6

10

0

12

11

October

9

14

3

15

14

November

3

17

5

16

18

December

4

18

8

17

18

3. W Trek costs


Here is an overview of our costs to help your decision (a more detailed breakdown is provided in the relevant sections). The prices are based on trekking the W Trek west-east as suggested below:


  • Park entrance fees – US$49 per person

  • Campsite costs – US$72 per person (we stayed on basic pitches everywhere, see campsites costs table below for more detail of prices on more premium budget).

  • Food costs - US$38.50 per person (all bought in advance at shops in Puerto Natales/ in the UK)

  • Meals/drinks bought at camps – US$70 (all completely optional/an added luxury that you could do without)

  • Equipment rental costs – US$148 for two people (see 'What camping equipment hire costs in Puerto Natales' for a breakdown).

  • Gas – US$6.50


Torres del Paine campsite costs by pitch type 22/23 season

Camp name(s)

Grey

Paine Grande

Central, Chileno, Frances

Cuernos

Booking company

Vertice

Vertice

Fantastico Sur - Las Torres

Fantastico Sur - Las Torres

Campsite

(2 people)

$20

$24

$50

$50

Campsite

(1 person)

$10

$12

$37

$37

Fully set up camp pitch (2 people)

$116

$120

$140

$140

Fully set up camp pitch (1 person)

$74

$76

$82

$82

Premium camp pitch (2 people)

N/A

N/A

$200

$200

Premium camp pitch (1 person)

N/A

N/A

$120

$120

Bunkbed/shared room (no sheets or sleeping bag)

$40

$59

$119

$119

Bunk bed/shared room (fully set up)

$92

$92

$125

$125

Cabin (2 people)

N/A

N/A

N/A

$400

Cabin (1 person)

N/A

N/A

N/A

$375

4. How to book your campsites


How far ahead should I start booking campsites?


Okay, so you are up for the challenge and want to start arranging your trip, the first thing to note is that the campsites can get up very quickly and quite far in advance. We were watching and waiting for the campsite websites to open for the season and booked as soon as they did. The W trek doesn’t generally need to be booked as far in advance as there is more availability than the O Circuit, but if you are not flexible on your dates it is a good idea to secure them as soon as possible. The companies usually open for bookings about 6 months before the hiking season starts, so around May.


Booking campsites


This is the most confusing part when it comes to organising your trip, so I have covered this in detail in a separate post.

5. Which route to take for the W trek – Hiking west to east or east to west?


You have two main options when it comes to planning your route for the W Trek, which once you have chosen between, you still have the option to alter your itinerary slightly to suit your preferences.


The first option is you can hike from west to east, which means you would get the catamaran from Pudeto and start your trek at camp Paine Grande, finishing at the welcome centre at the main park entrance. The second option is to hike from east to west, starting at the welcome centre and finishing at Paine Grand to catch the catamaran back.


Your choice may be dictated by campsite availability but if you do have the option to do either here are a few things to consider:

  • The catamaran cannot be pre-booked and is a case of first come first served. However, they do guarantee to get everyone across, so if the boat fills, they will charter another one but there may be a slight delay.

  • The bus to the welcome centre can be booked in advance.

  • The Towers, one of the main attractions in the park, will either feature on your first (east to west) or last (west to east) day. It is personal preference whether you want finish with this highlight or end on it.

Hiking west to east




We personally feel walking the route west to east and finishing with The Towers is the preferable option - save the best 'til last!


This route also gives you the best option for visiting The Towers for sunrise whilst keeping each day's hike length reasonable.








Day 1 - Catamaran to Paine Grande and hike to Grey


Total distance = 10.79km


Elevation gain = 371m


Difficulty = Easy


Approximate time taken = 3.5 - 4 hours


A reasonably easy walk with views across the Grey lake, which is dotted with icebergs that have broken off the glacier. As you reach the highest point you will be able to see the stunning Glacier Grey.

Set up at camp and enjoy the lovely bar area here.


Grey Lake, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Icebergs in Grey Lake

Day 2 - Camp Grey to Grey lookout and swing bridges - Hike to Paine Grande


Total distance = 17.22km


Elevation gain = 514m


Difficulty = Easy


Approximate time taken = 5 - 6 hours


Leave your gear at camp and continue on past camp Grey, across two suspension bridges to the glacier mirador. It's a 6.4km return walk but well worth doing to get a closer, more impressive view of the glacier. Plus the bridges are fun!


If you are feeling spritely & depending on what time you get into camp, you you could do this on day 1 instead.


Upon returning to camp, pack up your gear and walk back the c11km, the way you came yesterday to camp Paine Grande. Look our for the cheeky foxes around camp Paine Grande.


Suspension bridge, Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Suspension bridge with Glacier Grey in the background


Day 3 - Paine Grande to Frances via Frances & Britanico viewpoints


Total distance = 20.27km


Elevation gain = 947m


Difficulty = Difficult


Approximate time taken = 7 hours


The c7.5km walk from Paine Grande to Italiano (one of the free camps that is now closed but has toilets and somewhere you can leave your packs whilst you climb up to the Britanico) is easy. But the mirador hike is very steep, up rocky terrain and pretty hard going. The incredible views make it worth it though!


Back at Italiano you can collect your packs and continue on for 1.3km to camp Frances for a well earned rest. If you can't get a booking at Frances, camp Cuernos is a further 3.6km, so would extend today's hike but make tomorrow's shorter.


Mirador Britanico, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Incredible views at Mirador Britanico


Day 4 - Frances to Chileno



Total distance = 15.62km


Elevation gain = 765m


Difficulty = Moderate


Approximate time taken = 5 hours


A reasonably long day, but with beautiful lake views. There are a few steep climbs so have the snack at the ready!





The ideal plan is to head up to The Towers tomorrow morning for sunrise but it's a good idea to check the weather forecast with the rangers when you arrive at Chileno camp as they will be able to advise you whether the forecast is looking better now than in the morning. If the morning's forecast is poor, depending on what time you reach camp, you might want to consider heading up to The Towers that afternoon instead. Note - the trail entrance closes at 2pm.


Unfortunately, despite some cloud we were told the forecast would be far worse in the morning, so we headed up to The Towers that same day.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Stunning lake views on the way to Chileno

Day 5 - The Towers & Chileno to Central



Total distance = 14.34km


Elevation gain = 628m


Difficulty = Moderate


Approximate time taken = 5 hours


Hopefully the weather forecast was good for this morning and you can head up to the Towers for sunrise. The first 2km through the forest is easy but the last 2km are steep and very rocky. Going back down it a lot easier than the way up!


The walk to Central and the welcome centre is mostly downhill and easy enough taking about an hour and 45 minutes.


The Towers, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
The Towers

Hiking east to west



If you do decide hiking east to west is a better option for you you can click here to find maps for each day


As with the hiking west to east itinerary small changes can be made if you are struggling to get the campsite booking you need or if you want to change the daily distances.






6. Food at the Refugios


All the refugios over the option to book breakfast, packed lunches and evening meals so you could in fact not carry any food for main meals with you at all and just have some additional snacks.

This is obviously a more expensive option than bringing your own and cooking. We didn’t choose to pre-book any meals but we met lots of people who had, some had booked for just a few of the nights to mix things up a bit, rather than every night. The reviews were generally good, food was plentiful and filling but lacking in fresh vegetables (not a big surprise considering the remoteness of some of the camps).


Also most camps have a small shop selling things like soup, pasta, instant noodles, chocolate and some even have fresh eggs and hot sandwiches.


In addition to the shops most camps had a small restaurant/bar selling a couple of pizza options (usually a peperoni & a veggie option) and a beef burger for 14,000 CLP - 16,000 CLP (£14-£16/ 16.50US$/19US$) There was also beer and wine & fizzy drinks available at nearly every camp which we were really surprised about but we thoroughly enjoyed having a celebratory beer with our fellow trekkers after a hard days hike!


7. What food to pack for the W Trek


If like us you are on a budget and opt to bring and cook your own food, here are some tips to help you decide what to pack:


Tips for what food to pack

  • Consider the time of year you are walking and what temperatures will be like. You probably don't want to be carrying too much perishable food in the height of summer.

  • Try to pack lightweight food as you are going to be carrying it yourselves and you will not thank yourself for a really heavy backpack.

  • Go high calorie and energy rather than quantity of food - apples may taste great but the energy to weight ratio doesn't do them any favours!

  • Your meals will need to be one pot (unless you are going to hire and carry multiple stoves and pans!)

Dehydrated meals can be pretty tasty, extremely lightweight and easy to prepare (you just add boiling water) but are not the cheapest option and not as widely available as pasta and rice!

  • It is a good idea to start the day with something filling like porridge, and always nice to end the day with a hot meal.


8. Packing list - Equipment and clothes you will need for the W Trek


Organising your gear and packing for the trek may feel a little overwhelming, but don't worry we've put together the ultimate packing list to make sure you have everything you need. If you have hiked before chances are you will have a lot of the items, but if not we've given some good examples to help you purchase what you need. There is also the option to rent the camping gear in Puerto Natales, so you don't necessarily need to buy everything new.

Camp Paine Grande, Torres del Paine National Park,Patagonia, Chile
Camp Paine Grande

Camping equipment and rental options


If you are travelling to Patagonia on holiday you may choose to bring your own camping equipment with you, however, if like us you are travelling more long term, hiring the equipment is easy and affordable and saves you having to carry camp gear the whole time you are travelling.


Puerto Natales is full of places you can hire camping equipment from but the equipment will vary in quality and price. We didn’t hear any horror stories from fellow travellers about bad camping equipment so it really comes down to a bit of personal preference, ease and cost. We hired the main items such as tent, sleeping bags and roll mats from Yagan House (another hostel) & the smaller items such as cooking equipment and walking poles from Erratic Rock* The only reason we went to two different places was the due to the cost.


*You may have read about Erratic Rock on other blogs – the owner, a really nice American guy used to give a talk at 3pm every day sharing his knowledge of the National Park and tips for the W & O circuits. This talk no longer takes place but the guy is still there and is more than happy to chat and answer any questions you may have. He does have some camping equipment to hire but is winding up this part of the business and therefore hasn’t invested in any new stuff since Covid and is really open about how his tents and sleeping bags may not be the best out there now but he is a great back-up option if you are struggling and cheap to hire walking poles and cooking gear from.


Camping equipment hire costs in Puerto Natales

Here is a breakdown of what we paid to hire the items:

Item

Price per day

Three-man tent

8,000 CLP / US$9.50

Sleeping bag

4,000 CLP / US$4.70

Roll mat

1,000 CLP / US$1.20

Stove & cooking equipment

1,500 CLP / US$1.80

Trekking poles (pair)

2000 CLP / US$2.35

9. Torres del Paine National Park entrance fee


You need to buy your tickets to enter the national park at least 24 hours before entry. The fee if you are entering the park for 3 days + (you will need this for both the O Circuit & W Trek) is $49 USD. Tickets for the Torres del Paine National Park can be purchased from the CONAF website.


10. Last minute checklist in Puerto Natales


Most people enter the national park from the town of Puerto Natales which sits about 115km south of the welcome centre at the entrance to the national park. We based ourselves here for 2 nights prior to our trek which gave us plenty of time.


11. Where to stay in Puerto Natales


We stayed at both these hostels and would recommend both as budget friendly options.


Hostal Lili-Patagonicos

We would highly recommend this hostel, beautiful comfy rooms, nice common lounge & fabulous breakfast of cereals, fruit, self-cook eggs and waffles. This is the perfect place to prepare for your trek. The hostel also offers camping equipment rental we didn’t go with them as we found a cheaper option (see Camping equipment & hire options section), but we did see lots of others renting from them and didn’t hear any complaints.


Hostel Last Hope

Not the most encouraging of names and not quite as nice as Hostal Lili-Patagonicos (which is literally next door) but perfectly nice, comfy and clean. Breakfast is also included here, only yoghurt and cereal, toast and cheese but better than nothing.


12. Getting to and from the Torres del Paine National Park


Getting to & from the national park has a couple of different options depending on where you start your trek from. Rather than making this huge post even longer we decided to put this in a separate post. Click here for all you need to know about getting to & from Torres del Paine National Park.

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