Treks and hikes In Torres Del Paine

The best routes and how to do them

Torres del Paine National Park is full of must-see highlights, iconic 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. This summary table will help plan a trip that matches your hiking prowess and also ticks all your personal must-see boxes.

Torres del Paine day hikes at a glance

Hike

Highlights

Length

Difficulty

Popularity

Torres Base Hike To Mirador Las Torres

Viewpoint of the park’s iconic three granite towers

17km (11 miles)
7 -10 hours

Moderate to intense

Among the most popular trails in the park

French Valley & Lake Pehoé

360 degree view of the park, glacial calving of French Glacier

17km (11 miles)
6 - 8 hours

Moderate to intense

Popular but exclusive; Lake Pehoé catamaran (boat) subject to seasonal conditions

Grey Lake And Glacier Grey

Hiking and by-boat combination for up-close, dramatic glacier viewing

11km (7 miles)
6 hours

(hiking portion can be adapted)

Moderate (can be adapted)

Popular but exclusive; boat rides are subject to group size and weather conditions

Paso Los Cuernos

Viewpoint of the park’s iconic, gnarled “Los Cuernos” peaks

11km (7 miles)

4 - 6 hours

Easy to moderate

Among the most popular trails in the park

Torres del Paine multi-day treks at a glance

The W Trek

Glacier Grey, The French Valley, and Torres Base Hike

75km (47 miles) 4 - 5 days (can be extended to 7)

Moderate to intense

Torres del Paine’s most well-known route, high season sells out in advance

Full Circuit

All the highlights of the W Trek, plus wilderness areas surrounding the Paine Massif

120km (75 miles) 8 -10 days

Intense

Relatively quiet, represents less than 5% of the park’s visitation

Torres base hike to Mirador Las Torres

Patagonia's three towers up close

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).

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View of the towers in Torres del Paine National Park

Mirador las Torres highlights

The hike takes you around, and right up to, the jagged granite towers which loom over an impossibly blue-green glacial pool.

The trail follows the Ascencio River valley, one of the valleys that separate the massif and gives the Park so much of its texture, through native beech forests and across numerous streams.

If you’re lucky you might even catch sight of the Andean condor. Other wildlife includes guanaco (a relative to the alpaca and llama), the bizarre looking rheas, and cougar. You’ll probably need the support of a qualified naturalist guide if you’re serious about wildlife spotting.

In the run-up to the mirador, there is some scrambling through a glacial moraine, after which you reach the Mirador Las Torres to be rewarded by stunning views of the towers with the lake in the foreground.

The towers themselves are named somewhat unimaginatively: North Tower 2,600m (8,530ft), Central Tower 2,800m (9,186ft) and the South Tower 2,850m (9,350ft).

Move over, Chatwin

Patagonia’s most famous explorer, Bruce Chatwin, was beaten by over a century. His predecessor was the pioneering British traveller and war correspondent, Lady Florence Dixie, who is credited as the first foreigner to visit Torres del Paine. In her book, Across Patagonia, which was published in 1880, she called the towers “Cleopatra’s Needles”.

Mirador las Torres difficulty

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.

As with the rest of Patagonia, the weather is extremely changeable and you can expect showers, fog, and bright sunshine, often all in one day. Water, snacks and a packed lunch are essential, as is smart layering so you can adjust your clothing with the weather.

Need to know

The Mirador las Torres hike is one of the most popular trails in the national park and offers an accessible introduction to hiking in Patagonia. It can be completed as a day hike departing from either the park entrance or from Puerto Natales, although you’ll need transport to and from the park.

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

French Valley and Lake Pehoe

360-degree views of Torres del Paine

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.

Grey Lake and Glacier Grey

So close you can touch the ice

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.

What you’ll see

Most day excursions follow a trail that leads to a lookout point that affords stunning views of the glacier and offers a sense of its immense size.

Trips may or may not complete the entire walk, as the trail involves several ascents and descents that not everyone will be prepared for. Check with your operator.

Afterwards you’ll board a small boat on Lake Grey to sail among the icebergs right up to the glacier’s ice wall. From up close you’ll see countless hues of blue and impossibly complex ice structures. If you’re lucky you’ll see a glacial calving, where ice breaks off from the constantly moving glacier.

An icy legacy

The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is what remains of the ice sheet that covered southern Chile up until the last ice age. Of what was once 500,000 km³ (120,000 miles³) of ice, just 4% remains today. If you look carefully at the tops of the highest mountains you’ll notice the craggy geology looks very different to the smoother valleys below – this boundary marks the highpoint of the original ice sheet.

Difficulty

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.

Need to know

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.

Paso Los Cuernos

Taking on Patagonia's famous horned mountains

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.

What you’ll see

This fairly flat hike holds a lot of appeal as it fringes Lake Nordenskjöld with its startling shades of blue.

If you’re looking for one of the best photo ops of Torres del Paine’s iconic peaks, look no further. This hike has it. Paso Los Cuernos hiking route holds some of the best views of the iconic Los Cuernos mountainscape.

Spotting “Los Cuernos”

How to recognise “Los Cuernos”? By their stripes and their shape. The picturesque cuernos are made of black slate sitting atop a grey granite base. This layered combination of colours, along with their twisted horn shape, win them their fame.

Difficulty

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.

Need to know

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.

The W Trek

Patagonia's best hike

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.

What you’ll see

This route speaks to each one of Torres Del Paine’s attractions: you can see the awe-inspiring Glacier Grey up close on a boat (there are many providers for you to choose from) as well as from other vantage points, from which you’ll be able to appreciate its immense size. This trek allows you to enter the hidden French Valley and to incorporate the Torres Base Trek – usually the final component on the last day.

There’s the Los Cuernos Trail to enthral you, and then you will surely lose yourself in the vibrant and dreamy blues of Pehoe, Nordenskjöld and Grey Lakes.

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.

Ancient secrets revealed

Torres del Paine is home to several different ecosystems, each with its own landscapes, animals and plants which are unique to the area.

The park is still giving up ancient secrets. In 2014, the fossilized skeletons of at least 46 dolphin-like creatures were found. These animals, called Ichthyosaurs (“fish lizards”) lived between 245 million and 90 million years ago. The fossils were revealed when rock faces, long hidden by ice, became exposed as glaciers melted.

Difficulty

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.

Need to know

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.

Full Circuit

Taking on all Torres del Paine has to offer

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.

What you’ll see

This trek takes you round the Paine Massif, viewing it from all angles. 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.

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.

Difficulty

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.

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.

Other excursions

Seeing Torres del Paine differently

While Torres del Paine is synonymous with hiking, its charms don’t end on its famous trails. Here’s how to see Torres del Paine differently: aboard a kayak navigating icy waters, from the strong back of a Criollo horse, while fly fishing and practicing mindfulness, or with bated breath observing stalking pumas and galloping wild horses.

Fly fishing

From calm lakes to dramatic whitewater rivers, let your mind float away as you cast your lines on Patagonia’s perfect waters. Great fishing spots include the Serrano River (whose waters flow from glaciers) and lakes between Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales. There’s also Grey River, Rio Azul, Lago Azul, and Del Toro Lake. The brown and rainbow trout, and Chinook salmon are just waiting for you. Some tours include farm stays and river descents on zodiac boats (they are inflatable but highly stable).

Horse riding

Day-long and multi-day riding excursions on Criollo horses are available from mid-November to mid-April. With a local guide, take in prairies (at a gallop if you are experienced!), lenga and ñire forests, Patagonia pampa and streams, savor a picnic lunch and take in the soul-stirring views. There are opportunities to stay in an estancia.

Puma and wild horse tracking

You’ll be accompanied by expert trackers and professional wildlife photographers, and the tracking programs work within current wildlife-watching guidelines. Moderate fitness is required as there is usually 2-3km of walking. Wild horse tracking provides real solitude in Torres del Paine, far from the popular trails. The specialized trackers are dedicated to the animals’ conservation in the National Park’s pristine mountains and valleys.

Kayaking

Kayak down glacier-fed rivers, past icebergs and to Torres del Paine’s glorious glaciers. Locations include Grey River and Serrano River with wonderful views of Tyndall and Serrano Glaciers. Or, in Grey Lake, kayak through the surreal wind and sun-sculpted icebergs shining an almost-impossible blue. You can also kayak the fjords north of Puerto Natales, corners few travellers see, a world of sea lions and birds. But this is for experienced kayakers only. There is also sea kayaking – descending the Serrano River to the sea and then driving back to Puerto Natales.

Wildlife

Pumas are a protected species in Patagonia. They are thriving thanks to the steady population of guanacos, the llama-type animal that they prey on. Pumas are also called mountain lions or cougars. But don’t worry about bumping into one on a trail -- they are very elusive and difficult to spot.

For fishing enthusiasts, a Chinook salmon can weigh up to 35kg (77 pounds) -- making them a great fly fishing challenge!

Difficulty

Trips are available to suit travellers’ abilities and levels of fitness. Most providers have multi-day programmes which would be better suited to people with an intermediate or expert level of ability. But there are also plenty of single-day experiences geared up to give beginners an unforgettable experience.

Need to know

Day-long and multi-day activities in Torres del Paine are gaining in popularity all the time. Most operate during the November to mid-April season. They are perfect for people who want to do something exciting and challenging other than hiking, and they show off Torres del Paine from different, although just as gorgeous, angles.

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