BP On The Ground: A Guide To Hiking In Torres Del Paine
Hiking through Torres Del Paine in Chilean Patagonia is, without a doubt, a highlight of any action-packed Patagonia tour.
Torres del Paine is a national park and a mountain range located in the southern part of the Chilean Patagonia, in the Magallanes Region. Its three distinctive granite peaks are a major attraction for outdoor enthusiasts visiting Patagonia and they tower over breathtaking and diverse landscapes, including glaciers, lakes and rivers. What’s more, the park has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and boasts a variety of beautiful flora and fauna.
The unique rugged landscapes make for unforgettable adventures, one of which our Travel Experts, Tyrone, embarked on recently. During his visit to Patagonia, Tyrone explored the incredible Torres del Paine National Park, hiking to famous landmarks and journeying through the magnificent landscapes along the famous “O Trek.” Here, he shares his experience exploring Torres del Paine…
The O Trek, Torres Del Paine
I trekked the iconic O Trek, also known as the Circuit, which is the most challenging trekking route in Torres del Paine National Park. Named after its circular shape, the trail covers the same trail as the W Trek but circumnavigates the central massif of the Paine mountain range.
The path passes by the iconic Mirador Las Torres, Valle Frances, Lago Pehoé, John Gardner Pass and the Grey Glacier and is usually completed in 8-10 days. While the terrain is challenging, with steep ascents, rocky paths and river crossings, the O Trek opens the door to some of Patagonia’s most spectacular sights.
While I did the multi-day trek with camping, many of the most iconic highlights and landmarks visited on this hike are also accessible on day tours, meaning you can witness some of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders while still enjoying comfort and privacy in your luxury accommodation. View our preferred accommodations and recommended activities for tours to Torres del Paine.
O Trek Day 1: Central To Seron
Distance: 14 km / 8 miles
Highlights: Gentle terrain
The trek begins at Central. While the views during this first stretch of the circuit didn’t match the rest of the loop, the flat terrain from Central to Seron offered a gentle welcome to the hike ahead – especially as our backpacks were at their heaviest on day one.
The Seron refugio offered plenty of space for all the hikers and as it was nestled in rolling hills, provided good coverage from evening winds.
O Trek Day 2: Seron to Dickson
Distance: 18 km / 11 miles
Highlights: Lago Paine & Lago Dickson
Day two of Patagonia’s O Trek was one of the highlights of the trail thanks to the stunning views and tranquil settings.
After conquering the first steep climb of the trek, about an hour into the trail, we witnessed our first glimpse of the glacial lakes Patagonia is famed for. Lago Paine emerged in front of us, framed by beautiful snow-capped mountain peaks.
As we continued past the halfway point, the path plateaued, revealing lovely flora and a variety of bird species across the plains of the park. Before reaching Refugio Dickson, there was a unique marsh reserve featuring a completely different range of vegetation that flanked the path.
A little further along, Refugio Dickson came into view with an astonishing backdrop of Lago Dickson and epic surrounding mountains.
O Trek Day 3: Dickson to Los Perros
Distance: 12 km / 7 miles
Highlights: Perros Glacier
We enjoyed a pleasant change in landscapes on day three as the trail transitioned into dense forests. The first hour involved a tough ascent through thick vegetation with some steep climbs but it was made easier by the melodious sounds of rivers that accompanied us. The crystal-clear waters were also ideal for dipping our feet in for help with some much-needed recovery.
The trail from Seron to Los Perros is also where you’re more likely to see puma – so keep your eyes peeled!
Before reaching Refugio Los Perros, we walked upon a striking green lake in front of the Perros Glacier. This marked the first glacier of the hike, and with it came the first remarkable experience of hearing avalanches. This was another definite highlight of this Patagonian hike.
O Trek Day 4: Los Perros to Grey to Paine Grande
Distance: 26 km / 16 miles
Highlights: Grey Glacier & John Gardner Pass & Lago Grey & Lago Pehoe
Fueled off adrenaline and anticipation of the challenge ahead, we woke up early to ensure we made it to our destination before the dark set in. Day 4 of the O Trek can take between 12-16 hours to complete, with the first leg from Los Perros to Paine Grande taking between 9-15 hours alone.
After a muddy ascent in the first hour, we had to make our way through a thick layer of snow which lasted until the other side of the pass. It was a grueling challenge for the legs and some walkers were sinking to their knees without crampons. The weather added another layer of difficulty as we faced strong winds, hailstones and snow. We were starting to understand the time expectations; in some sections, even the fastest trekkers were moving at just 1 km or ½ mile per hour speeds.
When we could keep our heads up long enough to take in the views, we were rewarded with delightful vistas that resembled a wintry fairytale. Then, once beyond the challenging part and over the pass, we saw the impressive Grey Glacier.
Grey Glacier extends nearly 30 km in length and 6 km in width. It’s one of the largest in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the world’s second-largest contiguous extrapolar ice field.
Then we started the deep descent, a challenging one or two hour downhill walk with the opportunity to luge through heavier parts of snow. We were gifted with occasional glimpses of Grey Glacier through the trees which provided a pleasant break after the tough scenes near John Gardner Pass.
The path eased off after the descent and we continued on a flatter path that was a little easier on the legs and provided exciting views. We arrived at three suspension bridges that span across huge gaps formed by rivers created from the melting snow high above in the mountains.
We made it to Grey campsite, and almost to the end of this long and challenging day. Refugio Grey marks the start of Torres del Paine’s famous and more popular “W Trek.”
The journey continued to the next port of call: Paine Grande. This path is notorious for its strong gusts in the afternoons at the most exposed points along the coast of Lago Grey. The task was made easier by the fact that it is one of the flattest sections of the entire park. The Paine Grande campsite is located in a picturesque setting with Lago Pehoe on one side with breathtaking sunsets in the evenings, and towering, rugged mountain peaks on the other.
O Trek Day 5: Paine Grande to Los Cuernos
Distance: 23 km // 14 miles
Highlights: Valle Frances & Mirador Britanico & Lago Nordenskjöld
Day five started with a trail to Valle Frances. We followed the base of Cerro Paine Grande to the valley; what started as a convenient flat walk soon transitioned into a steeper ascent after a couple of hours.
The view from Valle Frances was another highlight of the O Trek as we witnessed glaciers yielding to the spring heat, causing multiple avalanches. Throughout the day, large chunks of ice and snow regularly break off, especially during sunny spells.
We then embarked on a steep yet rewarding hike to Mirador Britanico which provided a beautiful panoramic view of jagged peaks in the distance. After the descent back down, we continued east along the base of Cordillera del Paine. Along the path, we heard the unbelievable sounds of avalanches while also enjoying breathtaking views of Lago Nordenskjöld on the opposite side.
This section includes some steep descents before reaching Los Cuernos which was the least windy campsite in the park. Its elevated location offers a perfect vantage point for viewing a beautiful sunset in the distance.
O Trek Day 6: Los Cuernos To Chileno To Central
Distance: 26 km // 16 miles
Highlights: Base Of The Towers & Lago Torres
The final day began with a gradual climb towards Refugio Chileno along a trail with multiple river crossings, some with bridges and some without. Throughout this section, we also saw regular avalanches.
From Chileno, we embarked on the journey to the most visited attraction in the park: Torres del Paine. What started as a gentle climb became a steep rise before finally we made it to the windy Base Of The Towers that loomed over Lago Torres. The Base Of The Towers is the holy grail of the park and it was easy to see why.
Hiking In Torres Del Paine: The Blue Parallel Way
Blue Parallel prioritizes privacy, comfort and luxury while offering exclusive experiences and extraordinary outdoor adventures in the most beautiful regions of the world.
It is possible to visit Torres Del Paine and experience some of Patagonia’s most striking sights on daily excursions tailored to you, all from a luxurious lodge in Chilean Patagonia with a privileged location near or inside Torres del Paine National Park.
The Best Day Tours In Torres del Paine
Your Blue Parallel Travel Expert will recommend hikes and outdoor activities based on your fitness level, ability and preferences and create an itinerary of epic adventures bespoke to you. Some of our recommended activities in Torres del Paine include:
- Laguna Azul: a perfect introductory hike, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the North, Central and South towers. You’ll visit the lake, hike through forest, walk past barren Patagonian steppe and witness indigenous wildlife. On the way back, take a transfer to Paine Waterfall.
- Cleopatra’s Needles: embark on a horseback riding excursion in Torres del Paine, following in the footsteps of Lady Florence Dixie who dubbed the mountainous landscape as Cleopatra’s Needles in 1878.
- Base of the Torres: attempt the strenuous yet popular hike to the base of the Torres with your private guide. Enjoy close up views of the Torres and the glacial carved lagoon.
- Paso D’Agostini: this 14 km/8.7 mile hike starts from the Laguna Verde entrance, a charming wood of lenga trees. This superb hike is away from the crowds and boasts impressive views of the Paine Massif, Lago del Toro and the Paine River.
- Mirador Cumbre: boasting 360-degree views of the park, this short yet relatively challenging trek offers views of the Paine Massif, the Horns, Lago Nordenskjöld, Sierra Baguales and Sierra del Toro.
- Valle Francés: considered by many to be one of the most outstanding sections of the W and O treks, this privately guided hike to Valle Frances showcases enormous granite rock faces, commanding peaks and a 360-degree view of the center of the Paine Massif. This activity includes a catamaran ride through Lago Pehoé that gives a beautiful view of the massif.
- Lago Sarmiento: an expert naturalist will guide you on a light walk to the shores of Lago Sarmiento and the edge of the national park. The most interesting aspect of this walk is the thrombolites, geographic formations which are several million years old and are only found in three locations in the world!
- Glacier Grey: located on the opposite side of the park, the journey to Glacier Grey showcases some of the most beautiful viewpoints the park has to offer. Your expert guide will walk you along Valle Pingo where you’ll enjoy wonderful views of the landmark from a distance, as well as icebergs that have broken off and traveled to shore.
- Hunter’s Trail: enjoy the consistent backdrop of the Paine Massif while embarking on this light, picturesque hike. Stop and observe ancient wall paintings of the Aonikenk people and witness guanacos, foxes and condors as you journey to the entrance of Laguna Azul.
- Alto de Toro: start with a steep trail overlooking the majestic Paine River before moving toward the mountain range, traversing ancient woodland. Continue your climb to a vantage point boasting breathtaking vistas of the Paine massif and its encircling lakes.
- Mirador Condor: this activity starts at the shore of Lago Pehoé, before continuing through the beautiful ñirre and lenga forests to Mirador Condor where you can witness these magnificent birds gliding above the striking landscapes.
- Mirador Sierra del Toro: cross the turquoise waters of the Paine River before ascending up mountains to vistas of Lago Del Toro, Paine River, and Serrano Pampa.
- Lago Nordenskjöld: enjoy an easy hike from Salto Grande to Lago Nordenskjöld while taking in views of the Paine Grande and its hanging glaciers, and local wildlife.
Spend your days exploring the best trails, embarking on hikes away from the crowds and visiting iconic landmarks with a private guide, before returning to your luxury accommodation located in the most incredible setting.
The Best Luxury Accommodation In Torres del Paine
Imagine waking up to mind-blowing views of the imposing Torres del Paine mountain range looming in the near distance, or unwinding in a spa influenced by the surrounding natural settings after a long day of outdoor activities, or being able to embark on custom adventures right from your luxury base…
Blue Parallel has three preferred luxury accommodations for Patagonia tours to Torres del Paine:
- Awasi Patagonia: Located within a private reserve next to the National Park, Awasi offers magnificent views of the Torres del Paine peaks and Lago Sarmiento while promising superior comfort and privacy. It also boasts a fantastic restaurant with seasonal produce and local flavors.
- Tierra Patagonia: Deep in the heart of Chilean Patagonia, alongside the rugged terrain of Torres del Paine, Tierra fits into the landscape with subtle style. Here, enjoy expansive views of the park from your apartment, the spa and the restaurant.
- Explora Patagonia: Set within the national park, Explora is perched on the shores of the glistening Lago Pehoé. Its unique architecture is complimented by cozy rooms and an exquisite spa.
Tailor-Made Itineraries To Patagonia
Discover the enchanting landscapes and epic outdoor adventures in Patagonia with a bespoke, luxury tour…