The W Trek is a world-renowned hiking trail that meanders through the iconic Torres del Paine National Park and is one of the highlights of Chilean Patagonia. Aptly named for its distinctive “W” shape, this trail covers more than 60 kilometers and features snow-capped mountains, turquoise glacial lakes, gushing waterways, serene sub-artic forest, and rocky mountains and outcrops. It’s the hike of a lifetime.
How to trek the W circuit Patagonia
You can do the W trek as a four-day, three-night trek, camping in the park along the route or staying in accommodation in the refuges (refugios) along the trail.
Or, it’s possible to do the treks as day trips. To do it this way, you stay in the hotels either in or near the park at the southern end and take the ferry across Lake Poehoe each day. Ferries leave from Pudeto Wharf at the southern end of the park. You just have to be careful and watch the ferry times if you opt to do it this way.
Starting the W Trail
Overnight trekkers start at the trailhead and entrance to the park, where you have to check in on arrival. You have to buy tickets to enter the park, which can be purchased online. Rangers are located throughout the park and can check if you have a pass.
The first leg of the W Trek takes you to the base of the towering granite monoliths, the Torres del Paine, for which the park is named. The views are astonishing, with the granite monoliths above and the turquoise lagoon below.
The route connecting the middle arm of the W follows along Lake Nordenskjöld as it leads you to the enchanting Valle del Francés (French Valley). This section is only moderately difficult and passes through surreal scenery, ancient forests and glaciers, turquoise lakes, jagged peaks, and cascading waterfalls.
The final leg of the W Trek is the awe-inspiring Glacier Grey, one of the most famous glaciers in Chile. This circuit follows along Lake Grey and is the most peaceful part of the W Trail, with the fewest visitors. Standing on the shores of Lake Grey, you witness massive icebergs floating gracefully in the water, and the glacier in the distance.
You can stay longer at Refugio Grey and organise adventure activities such as kayaking on the lake along Glacier Grey and ice trekking.
- Don’t miss a boat trip on lake Pehoé. It’s a beautiful way to see the views of the mountains.
- Try to carry as little weight as possible, but keep in mind that it is cold.
- Parts of the track are easy to do and fairly flat, but there are significant inclines as well, so it is still physically challenging if not as hardcore as the O trek.
- The air is cool and fresh – it sustains glaciers – so while trekkers should be reasonably in shape, it isn’t punishingly hot.
- Spring is a beautiful time to go, with flowers blooming throughout the park.
- Summer is the best time to go, with longer daylight hours and higher temperatures.
Accommodation options include camping with your own gear – the cheapest – camping organized by tour companies, which set everything up for you, and the more expensive option of staying in rooms in the refugios, which can be private or dorm style.
You can take your own food and use the communal kitchens at the refugios, buy supplies at the minimarkets or buy food in the campsite restaurants.
Whether you are an experienced hiker or a novice seeking an unforgettable challenge, the W Trek showcases the unparalleled beauty of Patagonia. So pack your sense of adventure and embark on the journey of a lifetime in the heart of Patagonia’s untamed wilderness.