The W circuit is the circuit followed during the Pure Patagonia and Patagonia Panorama trekking trips. Travelers will stay in the standard domes at the EcoCamp for 4 nights and in the refugios for two nights when doing these trekking trips.
The magic of this circuit is that it includes many of the Park's highlights, yet accommodates hikers of all abilities. Hikers who want to go all day will find plenty of opportunities to do so. The joy of the W route is that it also accommodates hikers who prefer a more relaxed pace. There are plenty of options to cover moderate distances and enjoy the spectacular scenery, and still reach the next campground!
The W circuit for the most part avoids the difficult and taxing routes except for the last section to the Torres.
DAY 1: ECOCAMP - REFUGIO LOS CUERNOS
(Easy/Moderate difficulty, 7 hours, 16Km/10 miles, highest point 244m/800ft)
This morning leave the EcoCamp and set out towards the Refugio Los Cuernos. From here the view of Lake Nordenskjold is amazing, and the area is rich in native trees - Mires, Calafates and Motors. Then begin the more exciting part of today's hike, with many ravines and river crossings (somewhat challenging after it rains!). This section has many ascents and descents before finally leveling out. As you near the refugio, pass the entrance to Bader Valley (a paradise for climbers and one of the more hidden corners in the park), and finally cross a wooden footbridge over a little stream near the Refugio Los Cuernos, where you will settle in for the evening.
The Refugio sits at the base of Cuernos del Paine (2,600m/8528ft) in a zone protected by the wind and close to a stream. The view is wonderful; enjoy a relaxing evening with other hikers in this cozy spot nestled below huge mountains and beside a wild lake.
DAY 2: FRENCH VALLEY - REFUGIO PAINE GRANDE
(Moderate/Difficult difficulty - 8 hrs - 25km/15miles - highest altitude point 686m/2250 feet)
After breakfast, begin a challenging trek to Valle Frances (French Valley) along a steep trail that goes into the very heart of the Paine Massif. How deep you go depends on your groups’ rhythm - An active walk leads to the hanging bridge over the French River, located at the foot of the south-eastern face of the Massif, where there is a truly wonderful view. Then continue up the trail until reaching the upper section of the valley and admire the valley's entire group of geological formations: Hoja (Blade), Máscara (Mask), Espada (Sword), Catedral (Cathedral), Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin) and the magnificent Fortaleza (Fortress). Here picnic and rest for a while. An optional trek to Mirador Britanico is available as well, if the group isn't keen on resting.
Then descend through a rippling terrain of mixed grassland and light forest until reaching Refugio Paine Grande, located on the peaceful shores of Lake Pehoe. Here organize your luggage, relax and enjoy a replenishing dinner.
DAY 3: PAINE GRANDE REFUGIO - THE GREY GLACIER
(Moderate difficulty - 4 hours - 14km/9 miles - highest point 244m/800ft)
Today hike from Paine Grande Refugio along the shores of Lake Pehoe to the northern end of glacial Lake Grey. Enjoy a picnic lunch before boarding the boat that sails to the blue face of Glacier Grey. There's lots of time to marvel at this calving glacier during the boat ride across this lake, with its floating pieces of ice. From Lake Grey’s southern end transfer to EcoCamp.
Occasionally the weather may not permit sailing across the lake, or during Shoulder Season (October and April) the sailing might be cancelled if the required minimum of passengers isn't reached. In this case trek up to the sightseeing point offering a spectacular view of the Glacier. Then return on foot to Paine Grande and take a catamaran to Pudeto’s dock, from where you will be driven back to Ecocamp.
DAY 4 or 5: ECOCAMP - TORRES DEL PAINE
(Difficult, 10 hours, 21 KM/13 miles, highest point 914m/3000ft - elevation gain of 720m/2362 ft)
Time for a big breakfast and lots of enthusiasm - Your goal today is to complete the most famous trekking trail in Torres del Paine National Park!
Walk from the camp site towards Hostería Las Torres and join the uphill path to Ascencio Valley on the Tower's eastern face. Dry mountain spots, beech forests and small rivers line the scenic walk towards the valley. Your big challenge comes as you climb the steep moraine, a mass of boulders leading towards one of the world's most famous views overlooking the Towers.
The famous Torres del Paine (2,900 m/ 9,400 ft) consist of three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. After an uphill slog, the Towers eventually come into full view, rising majestically before you, with the glacial lake visible below. Is there any better place in the world to have lunch? After feasting on the view and your picnic, backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio Valley and return to EcoCamp.