Torres del Paine “W Trek” Day 2: Refugio Chileno to Refugio Cuernos

I can’t wait to tell y’all about my favorite day of the trip – our beautiful hike from Refugio Chileno to Refugio Cuerno.  This was Day 2 of our East-to-West W Trek in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

We woke to a chilly morning around 6:30 and got dressed and packed since breakfast wasn’t served until 7:30 AM; you can request earlier breakfast, the campers often do, but you might miss out on any hot items like eggs.  We consumed all of the standard breakfast – a small bowl of corn flakes, bread with butter & jam, eggs and hot tea (coffee or cocoa is available too).  Oh, and generally there is some extremely sweet juice served – guava? – that I gave to David.


We enjoyed chatting with some fellow hikers that came all the way from Sydney and didn’t get started until 9 or 10 AM; we weren’t in a rush since it would be a shorter hike today.  It snowed a little over breakfast, but then shaping up to be a beautiful day!  We took a “shortcut” to Refutio Cuernos that I’d recommend: you can either hike all the way back towards the Hotel Torres area then hike west, or you can cut across the mountainside.  After about 25 minutes into your hike, you’ll see a fork in the road, and you go right towards Cuernos for the shortcut.  We liked it for two reasons: one, it was short; two, it was much, much less crowded than the main trail. 


We lucked out on the weather; it was still quite windy in the open areas, but nice and sunny most of the day.


Here is what made this one of my favorite days: while we were on our own crossing a stream, this sweet Australian Shepherd came out of the bushes to greet us, and then started following us.  Being the creative engineers we are, we named him “Perro” (aka dog en Español).  He was very nice and had a chain around his neck, so we assumed he was lost and trying to get back.  We decided we’d take him to the next refugio to see if they could help.


{ Perro, I would have taken you home if I could!! }

Oh yeah, the views were sort of amazing also! 


When we saw other hikers, we kept asking “Es tu perro?” meaning “is this your dog?”, because we had already signed a paper saying that we were certainly not allowed to have domestic animals with us in the park.  No one recognized him though.


Suddenly we came upon more animals – horses!


They were beautiful and all around us!  Continuing on we were loving the turquoise lakes against the red flower called “firebush”.  The colors on this section of the hike are unreal – bright red firebush, teal lakes, and dark mountain peaks.  We were told firebush is native to the pacific rim areas – Chile, New Zealand and Australia, back from the Pangaea days.


After a couple more hours of hiking and some stream crossings, we finally came across a Chilean guide that saw the dog and quickly asked if it was ours.  Of course we said no, and he started making some whistles that Perro recognized.  He said Perro was a ranching dog that must have strayed from home.  He said he could take him back to the Las Torres area and motioned for Perro to come with him.  Perro went to him, then ran back to us about 3 or 4 times.  I was so, so sad to tell Perro “NO” and to go with the guide.  I wanted to take Perro home, but I knew the guide would take care of him best.


After our sad goodbye to our hiking buddy, we continued on through a maze of firebush.


We followed the lake and getting great views of the “Cuernos” peaks, or horns in Spanish. 


Mid-day we stopped for lunch near a stream with a nice view.  Lunch was more of the same: a heavy Ciabatta sandwich which “you could kill a small child with if thrown” as described by our fellow hikers, an apple (or orange if you’re lucky), granola bar, chocolate bar, and hefty bag of trail mix.  It was actually all very good energy for as much as we were hiking.  My sandwich was cheese, hearts of palm, mushrooms, and random veggies, and David got a rotation of meat each day – chicken, beef or turkey.


After lunch and a few more stream crossings, we continued on the trail; there’s not much elevation, one large hill maybe.  We couldn’t see the cabins for some time, but enjoyed more of the Cuernos:

IMG_9766_ 2_ 3_tonemapped.tif

Finally in the distance we saw our cabins!  So to explain, Refugio Cuernos (also run by Fantastico Sur) has a main refugio, campsite, and a number of private cabins.  The cabins fit two persons, cost a little extra, and need to be booked in advance.  Yes, we booked a cabin! 


After 4 hours or so of hiking we checked in at the refugio and were told our cabin was “2nd from the waterfall”.  How many times in your life do you get accommodations next to a water fall?!  The cabins were quite adorable.  A skylight view of the Cuernos, front porch view of the lake, and a waterfall out the back.


Then I was kicked out so that David could take pictures – sad face! (David loves this shot)


Here’s a tour of the cabin – one room with two twin beds and a small stove.  We even got bed sheets, towels, and soap!  That was pretty exciting.  The cabins share their own  bathroom and showers (with hot water) in a separate building.


After cleaning up and some napping we ventured back to the main lodge.  Yes, I like my short naps, and it was warm inside!


Oh, yeah, and funniest thing is the reason that we booked the cabin in the first place was that it had a hot tub.  We thought it would be totally amazing to dip in the hot tub after a long hike.  Well it turns out it is more of a luke-warm tub.  It was heating the whole day but never got hot enough to want to get in!  I was not about to don my swimsuit and jump into the barely warm water while it was cold outside!  I can’t imagine anyone uses this, but it certainly is a good marketing scheme.


There is a short path separating the cabins and main lodge.  The main lodge is a little like a ski lodge – quite crowded!


We went inside for the afternoon and joined our fellow hikers for some hot tea and cocoa (powdered).  We got to better know the group of Israeli ladies traveling the same route, and I was totally amazed and inspired by them.  I’ll mention them again later, but there were four ladies in their 60’s and one in her 70’s doing the same hike with packs!  I was so impressed.  They trek together every year and at home do walks together weekly.  I truly hope to be doing something similar at that age!!


I got a great travel tip from one of the ladies: before the trek she had bought ginger, lemon and avocados at the local grocer.  She could have her ginger-lemon tea (she used a pocket knife to shave the ginger) and she could add avo to her toast in the morning – I am on the same page as this smart lady!

There were two dinner times since there wasn’t enough room for all the trekkers – we chose the earlier one of course; we were hungry.  I was convinced by a fellow hiker to try the Calafate Sour, a drink made with local berries and Pisco, a liquor that is popular in South America.  Pisco Sour is the more common variation, it’s yellow and is very much like a margarita; I thought the Calafate Sour was really good.

Below are the eats from the evening: the Calafate Sour, vegetable soup main course (plus white herb bread), the cupcake-like dessert, and the entrees – I had lentil bean burgers with veggie rice, and David had a pork chop with the rice.  I really liked the lentil burgers and would make it again if I had the recipe!  David thought the pork was quite dry.


All in all a good meal and good company!  Our only issue of the day was that we had to wait many hours for a guy to come light the stove to warm the cabin.  It was pretty cold and we didn’t have matches.  After multiple requests to the lodge, a teenager finally came and lit the fire.  I was asleep quickly as usual, but David and I both woke up at midnight sweating!  This was unthinkable as our fellow hikers were freezing their bums off in tents (they were really, really cold that night we were told).  Anyway, we didn’t feed the stove any more, and I fell back to sleep soon enough. 


If you notice, it is still really light late at night – we are so far south that it seemed to stay light until around 10 or 11 PM.  I’m sure the farther into December you get the lighter it is. 

Next is Day 3 where we trek through the French Valley and onto the West side of the park.

5 thoughts on “Torres del Paine “W Trek” Day 2: Refugio Chileno to Refugio Cuernos

  1. That cabin is perfect! So neat! I’m on the same page and you and that woman… I always travel with a couple avocados (and gluten-free bread) for avo toast (one of my favorites!). Great idea on the fresh ginger, too! Once again, absolutely stunning photos!

  2. I”m looking to do an itinerary about the same as the one you have described. Would you do this itinerary again? What is a ballpark budget for an itinerary similar to this?

    1. Hi Brandon – yes, we loved this itinerary, but we did need the help of agencies to set it up. We used Walk Patagonia for the Argentinian side and Dittmar for the Torres del Paine Area. If you have to cut back, Torres del Paine is a must see, but I loved El Chalten also. If we had not had limited vacation we might have been able to organize the travel ourselves and not have such a tight schedule, but we were a bit time crunched getting everywhere! I am not sure how much we spent overall, but it was quite expensive since it’s a lot of air travel and time traveling in general. Hope this helps!

  3. So did you do breakfast and dinner there and bring food for your lunch along the way? Did you make your sandwiches ahead of time? Where did you buy all that food? What about their drinks -are they super expensive too?

    1. Hi Caroline – we did breakfast and dinner at the refugios and they packed a lunch (always sandwiches & snacks) for us each day. You could choose what meals you paid for, and we just paid for all of them upfront. The alcohol was pricey but not terrible; I guess we expected that it would be as it must be difficult to transport it in. We also had our own came lbacks we just refilled with water at the refugios.

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