Torres del Paine “W Trek” Overview

Finally we were starting the first day of our 5-day hut-to-hut hiking trip in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (you can see our full Patagonia itinerary here).   The 5-day trek is called the “W trek” since it’s shaped like a W, and warrants an overview.  It can be trekked east to west (this is what we did) or west to east.  It can be done without a guide if you get your lodging/itinerary figured out, though we did see many groups with guides as well. 

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{ map source }

Lodging: For lodging, you can either book a bunk bed in a Refugio, a campsite with a tent set up, or a campsite and bring your own tent.  We chose to book refugios for the whole trek; most of them were bunk-bed style with 6 or so to a room; I’ll detail each of the stays in upcoming posts.  There are options to rent bedding, but we carried our own sleeping bags and the huts supplied pillows.  I would recommend booking as early as possible; we booked in the summer and got the lodging we needed, but a number of people we met had to alter their hike or do tents for some nights because the lodges were completely full.  You can also do a longer 9-10 day full trek around the park, but after talking to other trekkers that did it, it requires a lot of time, and the more spectacular views are on the W, though the backside is much less crowded.  

Lastly, the refugios on the West side of the Park (Chileno & Cuernos) are run by Fantastico Sur, and the refugios on the East side of the Park (Paine Grande & Grey) are run by Vertice Patagonia.   We much preferred the service, food, and lodging of Fantastico Sur and found the west side of the park to be the prettiest, so if you are sort on time, I’d stay on the west side – but if you want to do the full W trek, you will likely use both companies.

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{ Refugio Cuernos Dining Area }

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{ A typical room with bunks at Refugio Grey }

Food: The refugios all served hot dinners, breakfasts, and packed lunches.  Through the travel company, Dittmar Adventures, we booked all our meals so we wouldn’t have to worry about bringing food in and out of the park or cooking ourselves.  I’ll document each meal in upcoming posts, but in the park, you get what you get – there are few options apart from vegetarian or not.  All the food is packed in by horse or by boat, so as you can imagine, there are lots of powdered and flour-based meals.  Even the coffee, milk and hot chocolate is powder-based.   You can also buy alcohol and snacks at all the refugios. 

I chose the vegetarian option for the whole trip.  A sample menu of the vegetarian option is below: breakfast of eggs, toast and corn flakes (not pictured), a packed lunch with a cheese sandwich and snacks (always some trail mix and chocolate), and a dinner of mashed potatoes, veggie burgers and a few vegetables.  Most dinners are three course with a small soup & bread, the main course, and a dessert.  There was only one instance where my vegetarian dinner was really bad (they served me rice and wilted lettuce as a meal), but other than that I was fairly impressed.  Yes, there was a lot of white flour consumed – a little irregular from our normal diet, but we needed the calories while hiking.

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{ A sample menu of the veg option }

Weather/Season: We did the W Trek on the last week in November, which is early summer in Patagonia, and considered shoulder season; high season is December through February.  It was not too busy, but there were enough people that I would recommend avoiding high season if you can.  The weather is variable, but we were pretty lucky with sunny days and not too strong wind – bring layers!  We did this with a windbreaker, a fleece, long & short sleeve tech shirts, a good pair of waterproof hiking pants, a warm hat, and gloves and this was sufficient.  

I can’t wait to tell you more about the fantastic and diverse scenery in this park! 

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9 thoughts on “Torres del Paine “W Trek” Overview

  1. Hi Brittany.

    Loved reading your post on Torres Del Paine. My fiancee and I are planning on doing the W trail for
    our honeymoon. I had a few questions:

    1. How physically demanding is this trail? How much in shape do you have to be?
    2. Are the trails clearly marked? (i.e Distances between refugios?)
    3. You mentioned you booked all your meals with refugios. How much was that per person / per day?
    4. I read about your nightmare with the bus cancellations at the end. Is that common?

    Thanks for your help! If its easier you can email me.

    Tim.

    1. Hi Tim! Congrats on your upcoming marriage and how fun for the honeymoon 🙂
      1. I did not think it was terribly physically demanding, just long – i.e. no big training required. Being fit is helpful, but as long as you are okay carrying packs it isn’t too bad. The most elevation I can remember was the first day going to the Torres del Paine lookout.
      2. Yes, they were easy to follow minus one or two stream crossing that were a little confusing. There were wooden signs sometimes to show distances.
      3. Our meals were included in the overall cost so not sure, but you can see an idea of individual meals for Fantastic Sur establishments here: http://www.fantasticosur.com/en/rates/
      4. I don’t know how common it is since it was our only experience there, but I’ve heard bus difficulties are more common in South America than other places. I wouldn’t let this deter you though!
      Let me know if you need anything else 🙂

  2. Hi Brittany,

    I am travelling to Patagonia in Feb next year, and intend to do a w-trek. In your opinion, would it be easy to do a w-trek without a guide for a solo traveller? I have no prior hiking experience, though am not really physically unfit.

    Thanks

  3. Hi – great that you are going to Patagonia! I think it is a very doable trek for a solo traveler (and going to the huts you will meet people along the way). The confusing part without a guide will be getting all the tickets, reservations and times lined up for buses and refugios – we used a tour company for that. The hiking is not that difficult or technical, but the only thing since you mentioned you do not have hiking experience is making sure you have the right gear. The weather there is extremely variable so you will want to be prepared with layers, boots, a good pack, etc. Hope this helps!

  4. I’ve just come back from a trip to Torres del Paine and your advice and blog posts were so useful in all our planning and preparation! We had the best time, thank you so much! xxx

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