Last February my fiancée and I hiked the “circuit” in Torres del Paine National Park, of Patagonia, Chile.
It’s a beautiful trail with lots of diversity and “awe” moments. I’d recommend it to anyone. Unless you hate speaking Spanish and/or the outdoors in general.
I’m not here to sell it to you though. This is a more of a guide. So, here’s how we did it.
We packed the basic backpacking shit. Shelter, food, and warmth. Leave you micro spikes and ice axe at home. It’s an easy trail and non technical, plus going off trail is prohibited.
Good rain/wind gear and tent is most important. The winds are STRONG and it can rain at any moment.
Purifying water is a good idea but not necessary. I drank it straight but use common sense.
We both wore Salomon trail running shoes, no fancy boots. I get sweaty feet and like’em to breathe. It’s usually pretty warm in February (high season) so don’t go too crazy with layers and gear. Wet feet won’t end your life, this is not WW1. Just pack light, walk in wet shoes, and sleep in dry socks.
I’m glad I brought my RAV4 solar panel and external charging station. I carry a lot of unnecessary gadgets (DeLorme, GPS, iPhone, GoPro, and Suunto Watch) and plugins are few and far between. If you do find a plug in at the campground there will most likely be a line for it. This is a popular trail.
We brought all our food from home and we carried enough for 9 days. Daily rations were 2 oatmeal packs each for breakfast, cliff bars and trail mix on the trail for lunch, and 1 dehydrated (Mountain House) meal each for dinner. This was more than enough. When we got the cravings we bought snickers, Pringles, and booze at the campground shops.
We each carried 100k pesos. A beer on the trail was 3000-5000 pesos so plan your budget off of that. Sleep and food is a luxury, beer is a must.
Fly to Santiago.
Fly to Punta Arenas
Bus to Puerto Natales (buy fuel)
Bus to administration center
Walk the 4 miles or shuttle it to las Torres campgrounds and lodge – where trails starts and ends.
We did it (easy pace) in 7 days with 40 trekking hours. We got 2 radically different mileage readings from my Suunto and Garmin GPS. So I skipped the mileage reading and logged how many hours each section took us.
Las Torres – Chileano
5 hours to towers and back to chileano
It was sunny when we arrived so we headed straight up to camp chileano, pitched our tent, and continued on to las Torres. If it’s a sunny day take walk to the towers cause the clouds like the hug them in less than perfect weather. We did not camp at Las Torres camp because it is very popular and we assumed it would be full.
Most people on the trail are doing the “W” and starting from Paine Grande to finish at Las Torres. Best way to do the “full circuit” is to start in Las Torres cause it’s 1 less bus ride you have to negotiate.
Anyway, we made it to the towers and watched the sunset then walked back to Chileano to sleep. In the morning we got called out by a ranger for cooking near our tent. You’re supposed to cook at designated tables near the rangers hut and kitchen. This rule goes for every campsite in the park.
Chileano to Serron
4 hours 20 minutes
We retraced our steps back to Las Torres and officially started the circuit by heading towards Serron. From Las Torres to Serron is private land and there are trash cans provided at Serron camp (there are no trash cans at national park camps, you must pack out trash there). We finished the day 1 by 1500 covering roughly 12 miles. We could’ve pushed on to Dickson but I’m glad we didn’t. Mosquitos were pretty bad there. Better to sleep in Serron and skip Dickson all together. It’s a big day but worth it in my opinion.
Serron to los perros
Serron to Dickson was very beautiful. Wake up early for this one and catch it with the rising sun.
When you get to Dickson, keep going, unless you like mosquitos. It’s all climbing to Los Perros but better to knock it out today than to pair it with the pass tomorrow. Los Perros also has a slackline and a well stocked shop. Sold me.
Los Perros to Paso
Short but steep day of climbing up the pass (rocky) and down the other side towards glacier grey (also rocky). This is what most people consider the highlight of the trek, but me….I think it’s all good. Anyway, take your time on this section cause Paso is a dump. No reason to linger there. Paso has one shitty hole in the ground toilet and no shop. If you have energy I’d move on to Refugio Grey.
Paso to Paine Grande
5 hours 40 minutes
Beautiful day walking along the glacier. When the glacier fades into the Lago Grey you have reached Refugio Grey. We detoured here to visit the refugio and eat lunch at the lake side. If you’re going to swim anytime during this trek this would be the place to do it. You’ll know you’re close to Painge Grande when you pass the small lake.
Paine Grande is the starting place for the “W” trek and is very crowded, but there are alot of tent spots so no need to rush. There is a big shop (chocolate, pringles, beer, dried fruit) and a restaurant.
Paine Grande to Francis, up Francis Valley, and back
6 hours and 30 minutes
The walk from Paine Grande to Italiano is flat and fast. The views of the approaching valley Frances are pretty good so remember to look up.
We decided to pass up Camp Italiano because 1). it’s crowded, and 2). there is no beer there. Camp Francis (20 minutes away) has beer and food. Worth the walk. We pitched our tent at Francis then returned to Italiano and headed up the valley with a box of wine in hand. 3/4 the way up the valley we were out of wine and energy so we returned to camp. We got a good enough view from a rock we found.
Francis to the finish
Last day of the circuit and it finally rained on us. Didn’t ruin the views though. Arriving at Las Torres we were depressed to be finished so we decided to camp another night and hike up to the towers again. We wanted to rent horses to ride up but that service was unavailable. To be honest I don’t think we could have afforded it. The Las Torres lodge is pretty damn expensive.
I loved this circuit. The trail is easy, the views are different everyday, the rangers are few, the crowds are easy to avoid, there is water all along the trail, beer is stationed perfectly, and there is no mad rush for camp spots.
I think we planned the route perfectly because anything less would’ve been too much down time.
If you have any questions please ask.
Here is a link to our Trip Video