Tucked away in the southernmost corner of Chilean Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of place.

The national park merits its reputation as a world-renowned hiking destination. It brims with classic routes with postcard vistas and lesser-known trails for solitude seekers. The hiking here ranges from easy to challenging, from short day hikes to long circuits of up to ten days.

There are many ways to experience Torres del Paine. Shoestring-budget backpackers rough it at campsites or in simple dorm-style refugios, packing in all their own food and gear. Mid-range travellers seek the convenience of a guided and fully supported adventure, as well as the company of a small group. Luxury travellers indulge in upscale resorts that offer private, tailored excursions into nature. There’s really something for everyone in the park.

This guide profiles the best-loved treks and hikes in Torres del Paine. We’ll brief you on each one, describing its highlights and intensity. When travel time is short, choosing the right hikes and activities is essential.

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The iconic Mirador Las Torres, one of Torres del Paine's classic hikes

The best treks & hikes in Torres del Paine

Top day and multi-day trekking routes

Torres del Paine National Park brims with hiking trails, viewpoints, and hidden treasures. The classic, best-loved hikes can be done as day trips or strung together as part of a more challenging multi-day trek.

But which Torres del Paine hikes lead to which iconic views? And how strenuous is each one? We’ve put together a practical side-by-side comparison of the Torres del Paine day hikes and multi-day treks to answer those essential questions.

Mirador las Torres hike

Best hike for: Classic views of the eponymous towers

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

Trek duration: 7-10 hours

Elevation gain: 900m

Start / end point: Park entrance or Puerto Natales

If you’ve ever seen a photograph of Patagonia, chances are it will have been of the three granite towers that give Torres del Paine National Park its name and distinctive skyline.

The day hike to Mirador Las Torres gives an up close and personal view of the towers from various angles, including from the dedicated mirador (viewpoint).

The hike to Mirador las Torres is 17km (11 miles) long and takes between 7 and 10 hours to complete.

It’s a moderate to intense hike. The final part leading up to the viewpoint is exposed and fairly steep and involves some boulder scrambling up rocky moraine.

For more of a challenge, it can also be incorporated into both the W Trek Trek and the Full Circuit trek.

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The W Trek

Best hike for: The definitive Torres del Paine hile

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

Trek duration: 4-5 days

Max. elevation: 1100m (French Valley)

Start / end point: Park entrance

Often listed among the world’s best treks, there’s no doubting the W Trek’s appeal.

Named after the shape it makes on the map, this multi-day hike introduces travellers to Torres del Paine’s most spine-tingling sights: from Glacier Grey to the French Valley and the three torres themselves.

The wonderful thing about the W Trek is the chance to spend days on end soaking up the magnificent views of glaciers, lakes and mountains which are nothing short of inspirational.

This is a 75km (47mile) hike which you can expect to take 4 - 5 days, although some tour providers plan for up to seven days.

It is rated at moderate to intense, and you’ll need to be prepared with good equipment. Hiking boots which are well broken-in are essential (note the emphasis on well broken-in!). It’s advisable to use hiking poles to lessen the strain on your knees on some of the more uneven terrain. Some hikers might wish to pack knee straps for extra support.

The W Trek is Torres del Paine’s most well-known. Consequently, there is a sharp spike in the number of hikers in the high season. If you are visiting during the southern hemisphere’s summer it’s wise to book your trek well ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Hotels can sell out, and tour providers tend to fill up their routes.

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Lake Pehoe, on the French Valley trek

French Valley and Lake Pehoe hike

Best hike for: Dramatic geology

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

Trek duration: 6-10 hours

Max. elevation: 1100m

Start / end point: Pehoé Lake

Torres del Paine’s splendid French Valley (Valle del Francés) is a naturally-formed amphitheatre encircled by sheer cliffs, hanging glaciers and dramatic rock formations.

The valley rewards hikers for their efforts with a 360-degree view of the park where the elements and scenery play off each other as if competing for your attention.

The hike is is approximately 17km (11 miles) in length and will take around 6 - 8 hours depending on how far you venture into the valley.

It’s another moderate to intense trail. Although it’s a technically easy hike, the length and changeable weather can pose a challenge.

Like most of Torres del Paine’s main sights, the French Valley is best accessed during the warmer months. As it gets cold, severe weather can come without warning and completely blanket the views of the valley.

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Stunning Glacier Grey

Grey Lake and Glacier Grey hike

Best hike for: Easy-going hike with stunning views

Difficulty: Moderate

Trek duration: 6 hours

Start / end point: Puerto Natales

Seen from afar or studied up close, the exquisite Glacier Grey is a true Torres del Paine highlight. Take in the ice monolith from its lookout point, then come up close and personal on a boat trip that brings you within metres of the intricate puzzle of blue, white, glass and turquoise ice.

After the hike you’ll board a small boat on Lake Grey to sail among the icebergs right up to the glacier’s ice wall.

This is a moderate excursion that takes roughly 6 hours (including the hiking and sailing), and a walk of approximately 11km (7.5miles). It’s fairly easy going and accessible to most travellers. Some operators will curtail the hiking section and spend more time on the boat.

As with the rest of Patagonia, the weather here is changeable and boat trips may sometimes be cancelled depending on conditions. Trips with fewer than the minimum 10 passengers may also be called off. Check with your operator on their contingency plans.

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Paso Los Cuernos hike

Best hike for: Shorter day hike

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Trek duration: 4-6 hours

Start / end point: Puerto Natales

This trail follows the northern shore of Lake Nordenskjöld between two accompanying and juxtaposing sights. On the one hand, the multi-shaded drama of the Cuernos (horns), jutting up into the sky; and on the other, the arresting blue of the lake.

The hike is approximately 11km (7 miles), making it one of the shorter options among the classic day hikes. It takes 4-6 hours to complete, depending on start and end points and hiking stamina.

The trail is rated easy to moderate, making it popular as a leisurely relief after more challenging hiking days, as a half-day challenge, or as an option for less experienced hikers.

It’s common for hikers to complete this trek between Refugio Los Cuernos and one of the park’s hotels. It’s also part of the W and Paine Circuit trails, so you’ll see regular traffic during spring and summer.

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See the full national park on the epic Full Circuit trek

Full Circuit trek

Best hike for: Epic challenges across all terrains

Difficulty: Hard

Trek duration: 8-10 days

Start / end point: Park entrance

If your hiking boots demand more, this is the trek 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 Full Circuit makes its way around the entire Paine Massif, taking in the same highlights as the W Trek – plus so much more.

This 120km (75mile) trek ranks as intense. It’s an 8 to 10-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.

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.

Torres del Paine trekking FAQs

Everything you need to plan your hike

What is the park entry fee?

Foreign adults (18+) pay USD $35 for a day pass or USD $49 for a 3+ day pass. There are concessions for teens and children. Entry fees can be paid by card at the bus station in Puerto Natales or in cash at the park entrance.

Day tours will not typically include the entry fee, but guided multi-day tour packages generally do include it. Check with your tour provider when booking.

What should I know about visiting in the low season?

Low season visitors are likely to find very few people on trails and lookouts, which is great if you are visiting the park in order to unplug and connect with nature. However, if you yearn for extra long hours of daylight for hiking, or plan to do other outdoor activities (such as kayaking, biking or fishing), keep in mind that these will not be available in the low season. Boat and catamaran schedules become more variable in the low season, affecting excursions like the French Valley and Grey Glacier.

Are there ATMs in the national park?

There are no ATMs in Torres del Paine National Park, so ensure you bring enough cash with you from the gateway town of Puerto Natales.

Do I have to prepare physically to travel to Torres del Paine?

The region has hikes and activities for most fitness levels. Trail options range from easy/moderate to intense multi-day excursions (such as the Paine Circuit). All hikers should feel physically prepared to hike over varied terrain for the length of their programme, carrying at least a day pack. (Porters will carry full equipment on organised multi-day programs.)

Should I be concerned about altitude sickness?

No. In Patagonia – unlike Peru’s Sacred Valley, for example – the landscape is both spellbinding and mercifully low-altitude. For reference, if you hike the W Trek the French Valley will be your point of highest elevation at only 1100m (3,608ft).

Where is the closest town?

Torres del Paine is 112 km (70 miles) north of Puerto Natales and 312 km (194 miles) north of Punta Arenas. The airport at Punta Arenas services flights from Santiago.

What does “Paine” mean?

“Paine” in the area’s indigenous language means “blue”, a colour you’ll relate to after spending your days alongside the national park’s glaciers, lakes and skies that don all of blue’s most beautiful shades.

Trekking & Hiking In Torres Del Paine

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.

Trekking & Hiking In Torres Del Paine

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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