In 2016 following many issues surrounding the Circuito W Torres del Paine (better known as the W Trek) the year before the Chilean Government imposed new rules that you couldn’t hike the W Trek without having all of your camp sites booked in advance. Making this popular route really confusing and hard to hike without a pre-booked tour. In February two friends and I arrived in Puerto Natales with absolutely no clue on how the hell we were going to do the trek. But we actually managed to hike a good section of the W Trek and some other parts of the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine without pre-booking any campsites or having a guide. And even better, it was super easy, there weren’t many other tourists and we even saved some dollies! Here’s how we did it.
Before I get into the gory details, my first recommendation would be to hire a car. This will mean you can drive in and around the park as you please and you can carry four days worth of food and water and your tent and all of your camping gear. You’ll enjoy the hike so much more because you won’t be carrying heavy gear on your back. And you also won’t have to wait in massive lines for the bus, or pay the fee to take it.
where to get your gear
We hired all of our essentials – sleeping bags, sleeping matts, walking poles and cooking equipment from Rental Natales. Guillermo, the owner is so knowledgable about everything to do with the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. He even helped us planned our route when we told him we didn’t have any bookings. An absolute legend!
things to know about the parque nacional torres del paine
In high season entry to the park will cost you CLP $ 21,000 (around $30 USD). However what no one tells you is before 8am and after 8pm entry is free. Ding ding ding! Your car just saved you at least $30! This payment gives you a three day pass. Which means on the third night, you just need to be camped inside the park and then stay there until you want to exit for good. Therefore 3 days could be as long as five or six. We didn’t avoid the park fee, so this post continue on as if you paid it.
You also need to make sure you take your passport with you. As you need to show it to buy the ticket. At the time of buying the ticket you will be given a map. Cling on to that map for dear life as it has really clear directions to each of the spots I’m about to tell you about.
Alright, now that that’s over. Let’s get into the route…
Day 1 Torres Del Paine
Torres Del Paine is one of the most stunning views in the National Park. As you’ve most likely spent the night in Puerto Natales, set off nice and early as it’s at least an hour and a half drive to reach the park. Once you arrive park the car and head to the little office on the left and pay for your park entry. DO NOT wait in the huge line to your right. Being typical Brits my two mates lined up here for about 20 minutes until I pointed out that it seemed to be a line to nothing… It was in fact the line for the bus. Which we obviously didn’t need.
Once you’ve got your park entry (don’t lose this as you may need to show it again) jump back in the car and drive down the road to your right. And then follow the signs to the ‘Mirador Base De Las Torres’. You’ll know you’re there when you reach a fancy looking hotel and a big car park. From here it’s a 8 hour round trip hike to the Torres. The last hour up being the toughest.
Once you’ve finished the Torres Del Paine you’ll be absolutely exhausted. So jump back in the car and head to your campsite for the night – Serrano. This is a pleasant little campsite just outside of the boundaries of the park. You’ll have a really nice covered area with electricity to do your cooking and keep warm. And because it’s outside of the national park it’s a lot cheaper than a lot of the other camps at CLP $ 10,000 (or $14 USD).
STAY: Area de acampar Serrano
Day 2 Mirador Ferrier + LAGO GREY
You can sleep in a little this morning, before heading out on a pretty hike where you’ll see glaciers, Lago Grey and an awesome waterfall. Jump in the car and follow your map to Mirador Ferrier. From here you have two choices. Head left for a tough 4 hour round trip hike to Mirador Ferrier. Or head right for an easier stroll along Lago Grey where you can see the huge Glacier Grey in the distance. The hike around Lago Grey as about an hour and has some really pretty views.
Then, it’s time to head to your camp site for the next two nights, Pehoé which is inside the park. Pehoé is absolutely stunning. You can fall asleep with incredible views of a snow capped mountain range looming over you. On your way stop off at the Salto Chico waterfall. A huge raging waterfall that’s a quick ten minute walk from where you park. It’s really impressive and worth the quick stroll.
STAY: Area de acampar Pehoé
Day 3 Miradors Lago Torro & Condor
Start your day with a quick 1.5 hour return hike to Mirador Condor. And take in more insane views of the snow capped mountains and bright blue lakes around you. The after a spot of lunch it’s time to do the medium level 3 hour round trip hike to the Mirador Lago Toro. The walk will have you heading up a gravelly path which goes on forever. But you’ll know when to stop. Once you have the best view of the emerald water below you. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set.
STAY: Area de acampar Pehoé
Day 4 Miradors Frances & Britanico
And finally we finish with the biggest day of them all. The hike to miradors Frances and Britanico. For this trek you need to take the Catamaran from Cafeteria Pudeto 30 minutes to Refugio Paine Grande. The cost for the return ferry is $46 USD per person. Which I know is a little steep. But the views on your trek will be worth it. In high season the ferry leaves at 9:30 am every morning. And returns at 6:30 pm. But please double check these times as they may change. The drive from your camp site to Pudeto is about 30 minutes. So make sure you allow time.
Once you get off the ferry head to your right and start the tough 8 hour return trek to the miradors. The first one you’ll come along is Mirador Frances a huge glacier. And is the perfect spot for lunch. Sit here for half an hour or so and listen to the glacier cracking away on the inside. And watch huge chunks of ice break away and tumble down the valley.
Then it’s straight on to Britanico. The view here is incredible, which huge rock towers looming over you everywhere you look. Stop here for a quick snack. And then start quickly making your way back down as you don’t want to miss the 6:30pm ferry.
After 4 days of incredible hikes you might be pretty tuckered-out. So you can either choose to spend another night camping at Pehoé. Or head back to the warmth of Puerto Natales.