Although the ‘W’ and the ‘O’ hikes are widely known as some of the finest in all of Patagonia, the other Torres del Paine trek, the ‘Q’, is an even more ambitious way of discovering the varied landscapes and breathtaking beauty of this famed national park. So if you’re planning your visit to Torres del Paine, consider taking the challenge of trekking the ‘Q’.
What you need to know about this Torres del Paine trek
The ‘Q’ is similar to the ‘O’ trek, but with an additional day at the beginning of the hike. This alternate starting point radically changes the order in which you experience the park’s highlights and, given that barely any hikers have even heard of this trek, it means you will be walking with far fewer other visitors on your first day of walking.
This trek begins at the final bus stop in the park (Administración) where a CONAF office requires all visitors to sign in. From here, a five- to six-hour walk along fairly flat ground grants some of the most splendid views and photographic opportunities of the Cordillera Paine rising majestically above Lake Pehoe – the iconic mountain shot that all visitors aspire to capture.
This path leads to Refugio Paine Grande where you camp overnight. The following morning, take the conventional ‘O’ route around the path in a counterclockwise direction towards Campamento Italiano and continue to follow the ‘O’ circuit around the park.
Trekking the ‘W’ and the ‘O’, you conventionally reach the most celebrated landmark of the park – the Paine massif above the bewitching sapphire lake – on the ultimate day. However, the ‘Q’ arrives here a few days into the trek and instead finishes with spectacular, panoramic views of Glacier Grey – a unique ending for this Torres del Paine trek. From here, you return to Refugio Paine Grande to take your transport back to Puerto Natales.
Getting to and from the ‘Q’ circuit
During high season, there are two buses from Puerto Natales (departing 7:30am and 14:30pm and costing between $10.000 and $15.000 CLP R/T) which take you to Administración where you can begin the ‘Q’.
When you have finished the trek, the catamaran ferry at Refugio Paine Grande will take you across Pehoe Lake to Puedto, where buses back to Puerto Natales leave at 13:30pm and 19:00pm and take roughly three hours to arrive.
- Leave as early as possible for this Torres del Paine trek to ensure that you arrive at Refugio Paine Grande to camp for the night. Even if you take the 7:30am bus from Puerto Natales, you will not arrive to the CONAF office at Administración until noon.
- The cost of entering the park is $30 USD ($18.000 CLP) and you are required to pay this at the first CONAF office you pass on the bus. You will need to sign in at each campground that you encounter in the park, even if you do not pitch your tent there.
- As with the ‘W’ and the ‘O’, bring sturdy walking boots and wet weather gear. For more information about what to expect, read our guide to Torres del Paine’s unpredictable weather.
- Be aware that as of late 2016, CONAF have started to limit the number of people walking the ‘O’ and ‘Q’ and only allow hikers to walk counterclockwise.
- Reserve ahead of time at the CONAF office in Puerto Natales to ensure that you will be allowed entry into the park.
- For further information about trekking in Torres del Paine, read our essential guide to visiting the park.
- Learn how to arrive at the park by vehicle and bus with our article about getting to Torres del Paine.