Top Patagonia Hikes: Torres del Paine National Park
Established in 1959, Torres del Paine offers the classic Patagonia hiking experience in one of the largest and most popular parks in Chile. Listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the trails offer similar terrain to Los Glaciares National Park, just over the border in Argentina.
In this three-part series we have described the top Patagonian hikes in Los Glaciares National Park, along the Route of Parks in Chile, and now complete the series with a look at the most rewarding hikes in Torres Del Paine National Park.
Mirador Las Torres, Torres Del Paine National Park
The eastern arm of the iconic “W” trek (see below), this trail is also a popular yet challenging day hike, offering close-up views of the North, Central, and South Towers, which rise as vertical spires with sheer granite walls over 2,500 feet high. Beginning with a gentle ascent along the Asencio River, get the first glimpse of the towers in the distance. Crossing a suspension bridge, the trail follows a ridge, skirting Mount Almirante Nieto with views of lakes behind you. Keep an eye out for local birds of prey: condors, black eagles, and caranchos. Take a quick break at Refugio Chileno and take in the view before you enter an old growth lenga beech forest. Coming out of the trees, the trail steepens up a rocky section close to the timberline, ending up at the lake near the base of Las Torres (the towers). This is one of the classic views of Patagonia, with the three towers rising behind the icy blue waters of Lago Torres. Descend back to the Asencio Valley along the same path.
Distance: 11 miles
Time: 8–9 hours
French Valley, Torres Del Paine National Park
This trail connects the eastern and western arms of the W Trek, and the standout viewpoint can be reached in a day hike. Again, you may begin the day with a ferry across Lake Pehoé, as this trail begins at the same point as the Grey Glacier hike, but heads in the opposite direction. The route follows the Valle del Francés, into the heart of the Paine Massif, skirting glorious alpine lakes, and traveling over rolling foothills with wildflowers in season. The cuernos (horns) of Torres Del Paine tower in the background. Ascend through beech forest over a steep rocky trail to a panoramic viewpoint taking in the French Glacier, Paine Grande, Los Cuernos del Paine, and Lago Nordenskjold. Return by the same route.
Distance: 12 miles
Time: 7–8 hours
Grey Glacier & Grey Lake, Torres Del Paine National Park
The massive sheet of blue ice that feeds Laguna Grey is the highlight of this hike. Depending on where you are staying, you may ferry across Lake Pehoé with views of the Cuernos del Paine or begin in the park. Enter a grassy sloped valley, gradually ascending to views of the mountains and scenic Laguna Los Patos, flanked by windswept conifers. Climb from the edge of this small lake, passing through lenga beech forest, getting views of the mountains, a glimpse of massive Laguna Grey, and crossing over a rushing river. At the top is a magnificent panoramic view of Laguna Grey with the glacier sprawling behind it. For a shorter hike, turn around here.
Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 4–5 hours
To complete the hike, descend steeply towards the Refugio Grey, crossing over a river. Continue along the moraine for close-up views of icebergs floating on the lake and the sprawling ice field of Grey Glacier before returning on the same trail. The Grey Glacier trail is the western arm of the renowned W trek.
Distance: 14 miles
Time: 8–9 hours
W Trek (Mirador Las Torres • French Valley • Grey Glacier)
For those looking for something more than a day hike, the full 4–day to 5-day trek is a Patagonian classic, taking in the full French Valley trail, along with the Grey Glacier, and Las Torres hikes. Named for the shape of the route, the trail runs up three valleys, taking in some of the most spectacular views of southern Patagonia. Much of the route can be accomplished with day hikes, retiring each evening to the comfort of a Patagonian lodge to fortify yourself with a delicious meal and celebrate the day’s accomplishments with a glass of wine.
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There are dozens of rewarding day hikes in Patagonia, and breathtaking mountain views can be enjoyed whether you choose an exhilarating trek or the easiest stroll. If you’re wondering which routes you should include on your trip, our Patagonia experts have personally hiked many of these trails (and more) and would be happy to craft custom travel or review our small group trips with you. Geographic Expeditions works with the top guides and most sumptuous lodges so you can get the most out of hiking Patagonia.
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Start planning your trip to Patagonia by calling our travel specialists at 888-570-7108.