10 tips on How to Hike Torres del Paine National Park

I had so many questions when researching how to hike Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. As an Aussie, the landscape and climate was unlike anything I’d experienced before. If you’re planning on visiting the Torres del Paine national park, here are my 10 tips to prepare for the epic W trek hike.

Want to know how to hike Torres del Paine? You may also be interested in: A Complete Guide to Hiking the W trek.

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How to hike Torres del Paine

1. How to hike Torres del Paine: Don’t hike after dark

How to hike Torres del Paine safely: hiking the W trek after dark is dangerous, due to risk of falls or injury. There are also pumas in the park and they are most active in the very early morning or at sunset. But you’re less likely to see them on the main hiking trails. Plan your days so that you arrive with ample light to pitch your tent before the sun sets.

2. Book early

Knowing how to hike Torres del Paine for thru-hikes or multi day treks as the Torres del Paine becomes more popular involves a bit more preparation. There are more and more people hiking the W trek and accommodation is books out quickly. Make sure you have made all necessary reservations, including those at campsites, well in advance. Campsites and lodgings are managed by three separate companies and reservations can be made at CONAF, Vertice Patagonia and Fantastico Sur. During the peak season (Summer) aim to book at least 6 months in advance.

3. How to hike Torres del Paine: Fitness

The W trek is classed as a moderate hike and most hikers complete the 80 km trail in 5 days. There is a lot of up and downhill hiking over slippery rock paths and there are some river crossings. But no technical hiking skills will be necessary.

Train at home wearing the gear you plan on taking and carrying your full backpack. Find terrain near home that includes up and downhill sections to strengthen your leg muscles.

Dean on trail Atlas Introspective

4. How to hike Torres del Paine: packing

When deciding what to pack & how to hike Torres del Paine, consider the type of trip you will take & the time of year you plan to visit.

The weather in the Torres del Paine is unpredictable. Sudden weather changes mean that you need to pack clothing and gear to suit strong wind, sun/ heat, rain and potentially snow. Good quality hiking boots are essential as the rocky paths can get slippery. Also, bring hiking poles to help with stability and to protect your knees.

Backpack rain covers may not be sufficient in strong wind. Some hikers chose to bring an over the head, body and hiking pack poncho. Personally I kept all of my belongings inside dry sacks within my backpack and wore both a rain jacket and wet weather trousers.

Fiona turquoise lake Atlas Introspective

For more information on packing & how to hike Torres del Paine and travel gear:

5. Prepare for cold nights

It can get very cold at night. You’re camping next to glaciers after all! Pack a thermal mat for under your sleep mat. I’d never needed one before but all the other hikers I met on the trail had them. I was extremely cold at night and wished I had more suitable gear. We hiked the W trek in October and most evenings I slept in all my clothes, in a 3 season sleeping bag and under an emergency thermal blanket. I recommend packing a 4 season sleeping bag and / a sleeping bag liner if hiking the W trek in the shoulder season. You will need gear suited to alpine conditions if hiking in Winter.

6. Layers, Layers, Layers

Pack layers. Layers will keep you comfortable during changing weather conditions throughout the day and also keep you warm at night. I prefer to wear merino hiking clothes, such as Icebreaker. Not only is it great at regulating temperature. It doesn’t hold on to odour so you can wear the same clothes throughout the trek and carry less clothes.

Campsite Day 2 Atlas Introspective

7. Navigation & how to hike Torres del Paine

Experienced hikers can confidently hike the W trek without a guide, as the trail is well sign-posted. Navigate the trail by following the orange markers, ribbons, and arrows painted on wood throughout the national park.

It’s best not to hike alone for safety reasons. Find a hiking partner if you can.

8. How to hike Torres del Paine: Meals

Unless you have booked accommodation in the dorms or refugios, meals aren’t included in your reservation. You can purchase a cafeteria style meal if you are camping, but you must let the staff know in advance so they can prepare enough food. Note: sometimes they run out. All campsites/ refugio’s we stayed at had a small shop where you could buy camp meals.

All food purchased in the Torres del Paine is priced at a premium as all stock needs to be carried in on horseback. If you are travelling on a budget, consider purchasing all your food in Puerto Natales beforehand.

If you’re planning on eating dehydrated meals on the hike, please remember that fires are only allowed at designated places. Lighting a camp stove or Jetboil outside of these areas is punishable by substantial fines and possible jail time. This is taken extremely seriously as in 2005 and 2011 tourists visiting the Torres del Paine National Park started fires that each destroyed over 15 000 hectres of the parkland and killing thousands of animals

9. Book a return bus ticket

Unless you’re doing the hike as part of a tour, you’ll reach the national park by catching the bus from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine National Park. Most of day 1 is spent getting to the starting point of the trail, so aim to catch the earliest bus available. In addition to the bus journey, you will stop and sign in to the visitors centre and watch a safety demonstration video. This can take up to an hour on a busy day. You’ll be asked to show your passport when you sign in, so make sure you have it handy. If you are hiking from West to East, you then catch the catamaran to Paine Grande.

horses TDP Atlas Introspective

When you book your bus ticket, purchase a return to ensure you have a seat for the return journey. Those finishing the hike at the Torres del Paine, should refer to the Hotel Las Torres shuttle bus ahead of time to make sure it coincides with your bus ticket.

Read on for more about Getting to the Torres del Paine National Park.

10. How to hike Torres del Paine: The O trek

Day 5 TDP Fee Atlas Introspective

If 5 days in the Torres del Paine National Park isn’t enough, consider the O trek. It’s less popular and rustic so you’ll have a more thru-hiking experience. Most people hike the O trail in 8-10 days. The camp sites at the back of the Torres del Paine are more basic than the W so you will need to carry your own tent, sleeping gear and food.

Read on: Getting to the Torres del Paine National Park, and What to pack for the W trek.