As soon as you enter Torres del Paine National Park you will be awe-struck by the landscape that surrounds you. The Paine Mountain Range cuts through the sky, while the turquoise waters 💦 glisten below. Torres del Paine roars with the sounds of the wind that rush through it at all times of the year. It’s unlike any place you’ve ever been before and it’s one of the most incredible. Hiking in Torres Del Paine is unbeatable.
I have dreamt of hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia for many years. When my parents decided they wanted to go on a 60th birthday trip here, I was ecstatic. We traveled throughout Argentina for 10 days before entering into Chile for a week. They graciously took my partner and I to stay in one of the most beautiful places on earth 🌎.
We stayed in the Explora hotel, which is situated directly in the middle of the park. This is a more pricey option, but if you are looking for a cheaper option there are hostels and campsites located in the park. You can learn more about them here.
If you are going to Torres del Paine, then you will most likely spend the majority of your time hiking. The most popular trekking trails are along the famous W trail. Many backpackers spend 4 days hiking and camping along this trail. You must make reservations for the campsites in advance, so you should plan ahead.
There are three areas that make up the “W”: the Ascencio Valley, the Francés Valley, and the Grey Glacier Valley. However, if you are looking for a fantastic list of day hikes, then look no further. Read about 4 of the best day hikes below, including parts of the “W” Trek.
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Table of Contents
Best Hiking Torres Del Paine National Park
1) Mirador Condor
There’s no time to waste when you visit this wild landscape, so you’ll want to maximize your time on the trails. On your first day in the park, you may want to go on a half day adventure. This hike is short and sweet, but offers stunning views of the impressive mountains.
The Mirador Condor hike is a steep hike that packs a punch 💥. Travel through the tall grass until you get to the climb at the end of the hike. Towards the top you will walk through a wind tunnel and at the lookout point the wind howls and it’s hard to stand upright! But, once you pass this point you will come out to a fantastic view of the horns of the mountains. On this short hike we were able to see magnificent vistas, a friendly armadillo, and a camouflaged lizard. It’s the perfect introduction into the park.
Mirador Condor Details
Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation: 741 feet
Type: Out and Back
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2) French Valley
On our second day, we opted to do a full day’s hike through one part of the W: the Francés Valley . This hike starts along the coast of turquoise Lake Pehoe before taking you around the deep blue Lake Skottsberg towards the Paine Grande and finally, to the stunning hanging glacier, Glacier del Francés.
Explora has a boat that runs from the docks at the hotel to the Paine campsite. If you want to get there on your own, you can take the catamaran from Refugio Peduto, which crosses the lake several times a day. The boat 🚤 gets crowded, because there are 8 hikes that leave from the campgrounds, so make sure to get there early and be back by the time the last boat leaves at 5. As soon as we got to the campsite, we took the trail to Camp Italiano, which is a 12.8 mile out and back trail.
This hike is listed as moderate, because it’s rather long and at points you will have to walk uphill, over rocks, and through a little mud. We were able to start early enough to avoid most other hikers, but there are times where this trail gets pretty crowded.
The trail follows the gorgeous lake for a while, but once you turn the corner you can see the glacier covered mountain. At the end of the trail, you have to cross a one person suspension bridge over the rushing French River and into the Italian Camp. If you walk a little beyond the camp there is a rocky outcrop that is a great spot to eat lunch and take a break while staring up at the beautiful glacier. You may even be lucky enough to see ice 🧊 falling off and hear the rumble of small avalanches.
Once you’ve had lunch, you can turn around and head back the way you came. We walked a little bit further to see a lovely fresh waterfall before we turned around. If you want more of a challenge 💪🏻, you can hike to the Britanico Lookout which is 2.5 miles further. Many individuals that do the W trek over multiple days will stop there for the night. We had a lovely guide from our hotel, who told us about the ecology of the hike along the way. However, this hike has plenty of signs and you can easily do it on your own. You do not want to miss exploring this area, because it’s stunning.
French Valley Hike Details
Length: 12.8 miles
Elevation: 3,900 feet
Type: Out and Back
3) Alto del Toro
This next hike is perfect if you want to get off of the “W” trails, but still want to go on a stunning full day trek. We completed what Explora calls the Alto del Toro hike. All of the guides at our hotel said that this was their favorite hike in the entire park and that we should not miss it! Explora dropped us off at a trailhead that is set apart from the main trailhead. If you want to do this hike, it is also called Lago del Toro and there is a parking area near the trailhead.
The Lago del Toro hike is a circular, moderate 9 mile hike.You can choose to either go clockwise, which will take you down a VERY steep hill and to the lookout last or you can go counter counterclockwise where you will end up going up this same steep hill and see the lookout first. We went clockwise and our path started next to a calm lake and then we ascended over a mildly steep hill and into the wildflower 🌸 laden forest. As you walk through the forest clearings you will get views of the mountains beyond.
Once the forest ends, you will walk through a windy clearing and up a hill to get to the magnificent lookout. Up here you will experience winds of up to 40 mph 💨. At the top you will be treated to a 360 degree panoramic view of the park. To one side you will see the austere mountains and on the other your eyes will be delighted by the icey blue waters of Lago del Toro. It’s no wonder all of the park guides love this hike.
After you’ve gotten your fill at the top you will make your way down towards the incredibly steep descent. I took my time and even crawled on my butt a couple times, because the hill is quite intimidating. As we slowly made our way down, we spotted a large condor soaring above us. It eventually nested in a carved out area of the rocks above. It was an impressive sight to behold and a wonderful way to end this hike.
Quick Hike Details
Length: 8.8 miles
Elevation: 1,886 feet
4) Base of the Towers
We saved the best for last. Ever since I saw pictures of the glorious Torres del Paine on the internet, I knew that I had to see them in person. The park is named after the three granite torres or towers that jut into the sky. The towers can easily be hidden by clouds ☁️, so we tried to wait for a clear day to get the best view. The hike to the base of the towers was definitely one of the toughest I‘ve done. But, it was also the most rewarding. It’s my favorite hike that I have ever done. You must add it to your bucket list.
The hike is a difficult 12 mile journey out and back. You will gain a total of about 4000 feet in elevation, so make sure you’ve got your hiking boots and your walking sticks ready to go. The hike breaks into three different parts: a moderate grade walk up a rocky path, a wooded 🌳 path that goes past the Refugio Chileno, and finally a steep ascent over boulders to the lake where the towers appear.
While we definitely felt the path was difficult, we were able to make it up to the top within 3 hours. As we came around the bend of the rocky boulders, the view ahead stunned us. The towers take over the sky with their magnificent structures as they sit above the aqua lake below. It’s a one of a kind sight and I wish I could transport myself back to this very spot. We took pictures 📸 right away, which was incredibly lucky because within minutes the sky changed, the clouds covered the towers, and snow began to fall on us. We tried to eat our sandwiches as we crouched below boulders to shield us from the powerful wind. It was a crazy experience and one I will truly never forget.
This hike is the most popular one in the park, but we were lucky enough to leave early enough in the morning to avoid crowds on the way up. However, on the way back down we often had to step to the side and wait as groups walked through the mountains and over the rocks. You should get an early start if you want to avoid these waits. The hike back down was less tiring than the way up, but there were still moments where you had to convince yourself your feet could make it up some steep paths.
We ended up doing this hike at an extremely quick pace. The group got to the end within 5 hours and rejoiced! So, we stopped at the restaurant by the parking lot to celebrate with some well-deserved pizzas 🍕.
Quick Mirador Torres Hike Details
Length: 12.5 miles
Elevation: 3,418 feet
Type: Out and Back
You do not have to do the complete “W” trek to see the best sights in Patagonia. Spend your days hiking Torres Del Paine on these awesome day trails. You will see some of the most incredible places in the world. Make sure to add these to your bucket list!
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this guide to day treks in Torres del Paine
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