Hiking & Trekking In Chile


The Torres Del Paine Full Circuit Trek

Taking on all Torres del Paine has to offer

Erin Walton Marcela Torres
By Erin Walton & Marcela Torres

If your hiking boots demand more, the Torres Full Circuit trek is the one for you. You’ll spend days with rivers, glaciers, mountains, and take in wild, rugged views which stretch out as far as you can see. The route makes its way around the entire Paine Massif, taking in the same highlights as the W Trek – plus so much more.

As you might expect, the terrain is diverse and because of the length of the trek and the fact that the number of hikers is (relatively) low, there’s more chance to enjoy some solitude along the way.

You will see all the W Trek highlights, plus the John Gardner Pass, the Dickson and Los Perros Glacier, and the Los Perros River Trail.

The Torres Full Circuit trek

Distance: Approx. 75 miles (120 km)

Duration: Eight to ten days

Start/end point: Amarga Lagoon ranger station

Difficulty: Challenging

Torres full circuit Los Perros in Torres del Paine National Park Patagonia Chile

Evening light near Los Perros Glacier on the Torres Full Circuit Trek

The route

The route begins at the Laguna Amarga ranger station and heads eastwards towards Camp Seron. The trail veers north to the Refugio Dickson, with views of the impressive Dickson Glacier, before proceeding to Campamento Los Perros.

The section from Los Perros to Refugio Grey involves crossing the challenging John Gardner Pass, the highest point on the trail, with stunning views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and Grey Glacier.

Following the Grey Glacier, the route heads south to Refugio Paine Grande, skirting the beautiful Lake Grey and Lake Pehoé. The trek then continues towards the French Valley, a detour that offers spectacular views of the Paine Massif.

The trail then brings you towards Campamento Las Torres, showcasing the beautiful Lake Nordenskjöld and the towering Cuernos del Paine. The journey culminates with a challenging climb to the Base de las Torres, the base of the iconic towers, before descending back to Laguna Amarga to complete the circuit.

A route less traveled

The Full Circuit is a relatively quiet route. Its hikers make up less than 5% of Torres del Paine’s visitors.

The most rugged parts of Torres del Paine are so remote that they were first included on maps only in 1930. The Circuit trail was pioneered in 1976 by British mountaineer John Gardner and Torres del Paine rangers Pepe Alarcon and Oscar Guineo.

The mountain range, Cordillera Paine, is 12 million years old, making it relatively young, geologically.


This 120km (75mile) trek ranks as challenging. It’s an eight to ten-day circuit along different types of terrain, and although it does not involve significant gains in altitude, it’s a demanding hiking experience.

There are no luxury hotels on the less-travelled side of the mountains, so hikers will stay in refugios for at least part of their journey. (Programme providers will make this experience very comfortable, however!) Even more so than on the W Trek, hikers absolutely must pack for unpredictable weather, taking special care to ensure their hiking boots are a good fit and well-broken in. Hiking poles are advised, as are knee straps for hikers who need them.

Need to know

The Full Circuit usually opens in November. It is closed in the colder months because trails can become obstructed and access unreliable. It’s far less hiked than the W Trek and is a real source of achievement and pride for those who complete it. But note: hikers should be fit and experienced.

About the authors

The Torres Del Paine Full Circuit Trek

Erin Walton

Erin is an Australian writer and translator who has called Chile home for over four years. After travelling through South America from Santa Marta to Ushuaia as an independent traveller, she moved back to Chile where she remains drawn to its always-varying landscapes. She writes for companies working in travel and tourism.

The Torres Del Paine Full Circuit Trek

Marcela Torres

Born in Santiago, Chile, Marcela is a journalist and local expert on outdoor travel. She’s earned a master's degree in tourism with an emphasis on ecotourism, operated a tour company, and co-authored a Spanish-language guidebook about Chile’s national parks. Her travel career has taken her all over South America, and she has also lived in Australia, Costa Rica, and the United States. Follow her coverage of tourism in Chile at tourism-people-nature.blogspot.cl

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