The W trek is a multi-day trek through Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia (see below for details on how to get there).
It’s called the “W” trek because the walk traces the shape of a “W”.
There are other legs that you can add on to do a whole circuit, the “O”. There is also a “tail”, best done as you enter the park, which together with the “O” makes a “Q”.
If you only have a couple of days, you can just do the legs on both sides of the “W”.
So, what are the W Trek Highlights and What Do You Need to Know About Them?
There are several highlights to the W Trek, but the main ones are:
It’s a steep 45 minute walk to the view point from Campamento Torres, (with lots of boulders to climb over at the top) . Most people try to get there for sunrise or sunset but that’s difficult to do unless you’re camping at Campamento Torres or El Chileno. You can leave any big bags you’re carrying at Campamento Torres if you want.
2. The walk along Lago Nordenskijold with beautiful views of the lake.
3. The walk up through Valle del Frances to Campamento Britanico (see the heading photo above).
The walk takes you past a glacier, through forests and several streams from Campamento Italiano. It’s a steep climb with lots of boulders to climb over along the way. The view down the valley from the top on a clear day is spectacular. If you’re walking en route from Cuernos to Paine or vice versa, you can leave your big bag leaning against the ranger’s office in Campamento Italiano. This will allow you to walk up to the top of Vallais Francais with just a day bag, water bottle (there are several places to refill along the way) a couple of snacks and a camera.
Bear in mind that the way up to Campamento Britanico can be “closed” in the afternoon. It was closing at 2pm when we were there in late March. This means that if you are not at the top by 2pm, a ranger marches you down the mountain and stops you from getting to the top. (We heard of people being turned away when they were just metres away from some beautiful views!) If the weather is clear, the views are breathtaking from the top so try and get there by 1pm at least.
4. Views of the Patagonian Icefields on your way to Refugio Grey and then seeing Glaciar Grey on your way from Paine Grande is pretty amazing.
5. The walk up from Guarderia Puedeto to Mirador Cuernos is worth doing with some stunning views of the lakes.
The tail from the CONAF Administration office to Paine Grande also offers superb views of the mountains, perfect for starting your trip heading in to the park.
How hard is the W Trek?
How hard you’ll find it depends on several factors – the weather, the trail conditions, how much sleep you’ve had, how you’re feeling, what gear you’re wearing, and how heavy your pack is. The same section can be easy one day, harder the next, easy for one person, difficult for another. Parts of the “W” trek are steep and quite challenging, a lot of it is up and down but nothing that a reasonably fit person can’t do.
You might also want to read the following posts on the W Trek: