Trekking & Hiking In Torres Del Paine

French Valley and Lake Pehoe

French Valley and Lake Pehoe
By Erin Walton

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. As you stand surrounded by the valley, the peaks, cliffs and glaciers will make you feel humble and small, and yet energised and intimately connected to your surroundings.

What you’ll see

To reach French Valley you’ll first take a catamaran journey across Pehoé Lake, followed by a 1.5 hour hike up glacial moraines towards the valley’s entry point. Some operators also include an easy detour to the Salto Grande waterfalls on the way.

Once in the valley you’ll be bowled over by the 360 degree view that envelopes you as you venture further into the valley until you’re fully encircled. The valley’s geology amplifies the groan and roar of glacial calving as ice breaks off the constantly flowing French Glacier.

You’ll get stunning views of the park’s most impressive formations: the Hoja (Blade), Máscara (Mask), Espada (Sword), Catedral (Cathedral), Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin) and Fortaleza (Fortress), plus views of Paine Grande, the highest mountain in Torres del Paine at 2,884m (9,462ft).

What’s that color?

The lakes of Torres del Paine get their otherworldly, milky-blue hues from particles of "rock flour”, caused by the steady grinding of rock and ice under the region’s vast glaciers and ice sheets.

Difficulty

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.

Need to know

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.

French Valley and Lake Pehoe

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.

French Valley and Lake Pehoe

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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