Although the W trek, Patagonia is the region’s most famous hike, travelers might be surprised to learn that there are alternatives to this route through Torres del Paine National Park.
If you’re contemplating visiting one of the globe’s most celebrated areas of outstanding natural beauty, it’s worth answering the following four questions to see whether the W trek, or other routes, are best suited to you.
Are you comfortable hiking up to 15-miles (24km) in a day?
It’s possible to do the W trek in anything between four and six days, although most plan to hike it in five. If choosing to do the latter, you can expect to have one day of hiking for 15-miles (24km).
All of the other days involve shorter periods of time spent on the trail but it’s worth considering your levels of fitness and experience of hiking in mountains before committing to the W trek.
Luckily, along some parts of the route, including up to Refugio Grey, Mirador Frances and Mirador Torres, you can leave your backpack in camp, meaning you are only required to carry your lunch, water and any other essentials with you.
If you’d prefer to spend less time trekking, some hotels located just outside of the park offer day trips into Torres del Paine. These include transport and local guides and allow you to get a sense of the natural majesty of the area without as much hiking.
Are you happy to camp or stay in a dorm room?
Along the W trek, accommodations generally take the form of camping (either using your own equipment or some rented from the campground) or a bed in a shared dorm, which may contain up to eight people.
However, in some places, options are more luxurious. In Los Cuernos Refugio and Camping, for example, you can find private cabins with twin beds and at Hotel Las Torres, private rooms with facilities such as Wi-Fi and television are available.
If planning on hiking the W trek, it is important to be aware that facilities en route are fairly basic and you may be required to bring a sleeping bag as some of the accommodations do not include bedding.
Do you have the correct equipment and clothing with you?
You may be considering visiting Torres del Paine National Park as part of an extended vacation in the region, so think about whether you are packing suitable gear for use during your hike.
We’ve written in our essential guide to hiking in Torres del Paine National Park about the key items you need to bring, but the basic advice is to ensure that you have sturdy hiking boots, a waterproof jacket and a backpack suited to whether you are camping with your own equipment (a 60-70l is best in this case) or staying in dorm accommodation (a 30l-40l is perfectly sized for this).
If you plan on cooking for yourself rather than using the canteen facilities in the different refugios along the W trek, a camping stove and enough food for the trek are essential and will take up a lot of space in your rucksack.
Would you like more of an adventure?
For many, the W trek, Patagonia is a hike perfect in length and in its access to some of the park’s top attractions. For those looking for more of a challenge, the alternative treks in the park, the Q and the Circuit or O, are just the ticket.
While the W covers 48-miles (76km), the Circuit and the Q are routes with distances of 57-miles (93km) and 68-miles (110km) respectively, making them more adventurous and requiring more experience and a lot more preparation.
You must also carry all of your equipment, including tents, stoves and enough food for the duration of the walk which can end up being a considerable amount of weight to carry, although it is possible to eat in the refugios when you join the W at the end of the hike.
Further information about the W trek, Patagonia
Whether choosing to hike the W trek or the Circuit or Q, it’s important that you plan ahead and book your accommodations with the two companies who service the park, Fantastico Sur and Vertice Patagonia.
As of 2016, the number of hikers per day on the Circuit has been limited to 80 so you must also book your place with the park office in Puerto Natales.
- Important information about the weather in Torres del Paine National Park