Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia – Circuit Trek (~80 mile loop)

A viewpoint in Torres del Paine National Park looking Northeast across Lake Pehoe.
A viewpoint in Torres del Paine National Park looking Northeast across Lake Pehoe.

*This trek is also known as the “Paine Mastiff Circuit” and the “O” trek.

 

Trip Overview: ~80 mile backpacking loop in Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile. The hike starts and ends at the Welcome Center near Hotel Las Torres. +/- 16,500 feet of elevation change with a starting elevation of 500 feet and a peak elevation of 3,800 feet. Highlights include dramatic granite peaks, massive glaciers, turquoise lakes, forested valleys, and views of the expansive Patagonia Steppe. We completed this trip over 9 days in December of 2017.

Overall map of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Overall map of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park. The red line is the backside of the Circuit and the yellow line is the “W” portion of the Circuit.

2017 CONAF map of Torres del Paine National Park (pdf)

Approximate elevation profile along the the Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine starting at the Welcome Center and going counter-clockwise around the park.
Approximate elevation profile along the the Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine starting at the Welcome Center and going counter-clockwise around the park.

*A note on maps, distances, and elevations: I have found that distance and elevation data for Torres del Paine National Park is highly variable depending on what resource you reference. Elevation change data is all over the place, and it is hard to find trustworthy numbers. Even the signs inside the park at often incorrect and deceiving. For this post I calculated distances and elevation data using GPS data, which I found to look reliable and match my expectations after completing the hike.

 

Links to skip General Information and go straight to trip reports:

Jump to Day 1: Welcome Center to Camp Seron
Jump to Day 2: Camp Seron to Refugio Dickson
Jump to Day 3: Refugio Dickson to Camp Los Perros
Jump to Day 4: Camp Los Perros to Campamento Paso
Jump to Day 5: Campamento Paso to Refugio Grey
Jump to Day 6: Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande
Jump to Day 7: Refugio Paine Grande to Camp Frances
Jump to Day 8: Camp Frances to Refugio Chileno
Jump to Day 9: Refugio Chileno to Welcome Center

 

General Information:

Permits: It is mandatory to attain all reservations for camping and refugio shelters prior to entering Torres del Paine National Park. If you do not have reservations for your trek, you will not be able complete the Circuit trek. Reservations fill up fast for the prime season (November-March), so you should book several months in advance (for the Circuit trek, the number of trekkers is limited to 80 per day). Outside of your camping reservations there is no separate permit needed to hike the Circuit. You simply pay the 21,000 peso (~$35) entrance fee when you arrive at the park and show proof of your camping reservations at several spots along the trek.

Shelter: If you book your campsites early enough, you will have multiple options for itineraries and can decide to hike the circuit over anywhere from 6-9 days. A map with the various campsites and refugios highlighted is shown below. Note that there are free campsites run by the Chilean government (CONAF) and there are sites run by two different private companies (Fantastico Sur and Vertice Patagonia). Prices for the accommodations run by the private companies range from ~$10 per person per night for camping to over $75 per person per night for a bed and meals in the refugios. Some of the refugios are now requiring people to purchase meals, even if you camp (Chileno and Los Cuernos require full board meals in 2017-2018). This adds a lot of cost and is annoying, but the only other option is to not stay at these sites and adjust your itinerary. As stated above, all reservations must be made in advance of entering the park!

Locations of the various campsites and refugios in Torres del Paine National Park.
Locations of the various campsites and refugios in Torres del Paine National Park.

The government run CONAF campsites are free of charge, but have the fewest amenities. They largely consist of tent sites, a three sided communal cooking shelter, unclean pit toilets, and water access. These sites are booked through the CONAF website and you can book sites up to 6 months in advance. The privately run establishments have more amenities and are nicer (see table below for a rough analysis of amenities). To book any of these sites, you can go to the Fantastico Sur or Vertice Patagonia websites or e-mail the companies via the contact information on their websites. We tried to book our refugios using the company websites in April 2017 for our trip in December 2017, but both online booking systems were undergoing maintenance and did not work.  We ended up e-mailing the companies a bunch of times and finally secured our accommodations in the middle of June. Hopefully in future seasons the companies will have better online booking systems in place!

Table with a rough breakdown of the amenities at the various campsites/refugios in Torres del Paine
Table with a rough breakdown of the amenities at the various campsites/refugios in Torres del Paine. Note that the availability of amenities may change over time and your experience may vary slightly.

Which camps you decide stay at will largely depend on how many days you have in the park, how much money you want to spend, and whether you prefer to camp or stay in shared bunks. A few example itineraries are as follows (we hiked the 9 day one):

  • 9 days: Seron > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Grey > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres
  • 8 days: Seron > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres
  • 7 days: Seron > Los Perros > Grey > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres
  • 6 days: Seron > Los Perros > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres
  • 5 days or fewer: good luck!

When planning your itinerary, I highly recommend including reservations at both Los Perros, and Paso (included in the 9 and 8 day itineraries above). I recommend this because you must hike over the John Garner Pass in order to get from Los Perros to Paso, and this mountain pass is occasionally closed due to bad weather (when we arrived at Los Perros, the pass had been closed for two straight days!). When the pass is closed, the CONAF rangers at Los Perros will not let you continue your trek. Since the weather over the pass is typically calmest early in the morning, you will want to stay a night at Los Perros so you can hike up the pass early the next morning. Booking a site at Paso the next day effectively builds an extra day into your itinerary. If all goes well and you make it over the pass as originally scheduled, you can stay at Paso and have a relatively easy hike from Los Perros to Paso. If the pass is closed one day and you need to stay at Los Perros an extra night, you can skip Paso the next day and hike directly from Los Perros to Grey or Paine Grande to get back on track with your itinerary. If you were hiking the 7 day itinerary, the extra day in your itinerary would be the stay at Grey. If you cannot make it over the pass one day, you would skip the night at Grey and hike all the way from Los Perros to Paine Grande. If you are hiking the 6 day (or a shorter) itinerary, you better hope the pass is open on the day you are scheduled to go over it…

We chose to do the circuit over 9 days and 8 nights because we did want not rush through the park wanted some flexibility in case the pass closed. Some people who had tighter itineraries were forced to turn around at Los Perros and head back to the Welcome Center because they did not have enough time to wait for the pass to open. This is the risk you take by planning a short itinerary.

When hiking the circuit, you must go in the counter-clockwise direction from Seron to Paso. It is most popular to enter the park at the Laguna Amarga entrance and spend the first night at Seron. Shown below are the distances between all the campsites on the circuit and some common viewpoints (miradors). Note that there is a third CONAF campsite near the Mirador de las Torres, but this site was closed for the 2017-2018 hiking season. I am not sure if/when this site will reopen, but if it does, it can serve as a free replacement for Chileno. Note that it is also possible to start your Circuit trek at Paine Grande, but doing so requires you to take a longer bus ride and a catamaran trip. There is no reason to do this unless you must because of itinerary booking issues.

Table showing the approximate distance and elevation gain between different points of interest along the counter-clockwise Circuit hike in Torres del Paine. The campsites we stayed at on our trek at highlighted.
Table showing the approximate distance and elevation gain between different points of interest along the counter-clockwise Circuit hike in Torres del Paine. The campsites we stayed at on our trek at highlighted.

During the trek, the first guard station you will encounter (named Coiron) is located between Seron and Refugio Dickson. At this station you must sign a log book and show the ranger your reservation for either Refugio Dickson or Los Perros. If you do not have a reservation, the ranger will not let you through and will make you turn around. There are also guard stations at Refugio Dickson, Los Perros, and Paso. You sign a log book at these stations as well and must prove you have reservations for the Circuit trek. The afternoon before you are scheduled to go over the John Gardner Pass you should check-in with the rangers and ask if the pass is likely to be open in the morning. You can then prepare yourself accordingly.

Logistics: After securing your camping reservations, you should decide how you want to get to Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park. There are two main routes to the park, and they both involve getting to Puerto Natales, which is the jumping off point for the park. Option 1 is to fly into Santiago, Chile, take a 3.5 hour connecting flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas, Chile, and then take a 3 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales. Option 2 is to fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina, take a 3 hour connecting flight to El Calafate, Argentina, and then take a 5 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales (this involves a border crossing, which can take a while).

Primary routes for getting to Torres del Paine National Park.
Primary routes for getting to Torres del Paine National Park.

We chose option 1 and flew into Santiago in the morning (it was cheapest for us), grabbed an afternoon flight to Punta Arenas, and took an evening bus ride into Puerto Natales. When then stayed in Puerto Natales for two nights so we could rest up and buy supplies for the trek. LATAM and Sky Airline operate flights to Punta Arenas. Several companies run buses from the Punta Arenas airport to Puerto Natales and from what we could tell, the services were largely comparable between companies (Bus-Sur and Buses Fernandez are two options). It is advisable to book your bus tickets online before arriving to ensure you have a guaranteed seat.

Once in Puerto Natales, the final step in the journey is a ~2.5 hour bus ride that takes you to the Torres del Paine National Park entrance. You want to reserve your round-trip ticket to/from Torres del Paine at least the day before your trip to guarantee availability. The buses leave in the early morning so you can get to the park and start hiking on the same day. I highly recommend taking the earliest Bus-Sur bus to Torres del Paine, which  leaves Puerto Natales at 7:00 am. This is the first bus that arrives at the park entrance, so you are able to avoid long lines at the Laguna Amarga park entrance.

When  your bus arrives at the Laguna Amarga entrance, you will want to quickly grab your things, exit the bus, and get in line at the park office. In the office, you will fill out a couple forms, pay the entrance fee (21,000 CLP per person in cash), and watch a quick informational video about rules within the park. Once you finish that, hurry back over to the bus area and look for the Hotel Las Torres hiker shuttle. This shuttle costs 3,000 CLP (also cash, pay on board) and takes you from the Laguna Amarga park entrance to the Welcome Center (~1.2 km from Hotel Las Torres) where you will begin your hike. Note that a trail going from the Laguna Armarga Entrance directly to Camp Seron appears on some maps of the park. It more or less follows the Rio Paine and eventually meets up the trail that leads to Seron from the Welcome Center. If you take this trail, you can skip the Hotel Torres shuttle and start the trek right away. We did not take this trail though, so I cannot comment on whether or not it is well marked.

entrance_itin_table
Description of the steps needed to get to Torres del Paine National Park. You also must pay the 21,000 CLP entrance fee at Laguna Amarge in cash (or at least we had to in December 2017).

At the Welcome Center you can use the restroom and get ready to take off on the hike. They sell food and beer here, but you likely will not utilize these options until you arrive here again after finishing the hike! When ready, you begin hiking straight to Seron from the Welcome Center. Many other people may start hiking towards Hotel Las Torres, but do not follow these people (they are likely hiking the “W” trek) and instead head North on the trail that goes directly to Seron.

When you finish the Circuit, you will come back to the Welcome Center and wait for the Hotel hiker shuttle to take you back to the Laguna Amarga entrance. We had tickets for the 1:30 pm Bus-Sur bus from Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales, so we grabbed the first afternoon shuttle at 1 pm. I would advise booking an early afternoon bus ticket back to Puerto Natales (between 1:30-3:00 pm), because you will likely finish your hike early on the last day and will not want to wait around for your bus.

Supplies:

Clothes: When backpacking in Patagonia, you need to be prepared for all types of weather. We hiked right at the start of Summer and encountered rain, sleet, snow, beautiful sunshine, howling winds, and cold nights. I am not going to go over a full packing list (many other sites have these), but will just highlight the essentials. The most important thing is to bring two sets of clothing – one set of hiking clothes and one set of dry, warm clothes for camp. For your hiking clothes you will want:

For optimal comfort it is important to avoid cotton garments and only wear hiking clothes that dry out quickly. There is a high probability that you will get wet while hiking in Torres del Paine, and you want your clothes to dry out by the next morning. Some gear that you can probably skip and not bring includes: waterproof rain pants, gaiters , and plastic ponchos. Since the rain stops and starts quickly you will not want to constantly put this gear on and off. It is much easier to just wear a rain jacket and synthetic pants and expect to get a little wet. Since it is usually windy, you dry off quickly when it stops raining.

For your dry set of camp clothes, I highly recommend wool-based clothes. Wool is great because it doesn’t pick up funky stenches as fast at cotton or synthetic clothes. I had all wool layers for camp and didn’t have to wash any of my camp clothes for a full 9 days. Here is a list of camp clothes you will want:

Gear: Again, I am not writing a full packing list here, but will just list what we thought was very helpful:

  • Trekking poles (Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles) to save our knees
  • sunglasses (to protect from the sun and from wind and flying sand/dust)
  • strong tent (Alps Mountaineering Chaos 2 Tent) with rainfly, stakes, and guide lines (it’s windy, bring all your stakes!)
  • quick drying towel (Sea to Summit Pocket Towel)
  • a Sawyer Squeeze water filtration system (it is recommended to filter the water at the campamentos and refugios)
  • headlamp (lights in the cooking areas/toilets are only on at certain hours of the day)
  • garbage bags (to put your sleeping bag and camp clothes in so they stay dry if your pack gets wet)
  • power adapters for Chilean outlets (to charge your camera/smartphone at the refugios)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm (the UV index can be very high)

There was also some gear we brought that we ended up not really using. If we went again I would not bring the following:

  • solar powered lantern (the sun was up from 5am-10:30pm)
  • backpack rain cover (the wind is so strong it can easily tear off your cover)
  • backpacking chairs (we either hung out in our tent because it was too cold at night or used the tables/chairs provided in the cooking tents or refugios)
  • bug repellent (never used it since it was always too windy for bugs)

Food: We brought all of our dehydrated meals into Chile from the US. We declared the food on the customs form and had no issue bringing it in. Our favorite meals are biscuits and gravy for breakfast and pasta primavera, chana masala, and chicken casserole for dinner. We also brought in Shot Bloks (these provide a nice energy boost while hiking), tea, and some Nuun electrolyte tablets (nice for recovery after hiking). We did not want to risk bringing dried fruit or salami into the country and having it confiscated at customs, so we bought our lunch food in Puerto Natales.

Since we did not want to carry around 9 days worth of food, we ate meals at two of the refugios. We bought dinner at Refugio Grey and we bought meals at Chileno. The dinners at the refugios are overpriced but they taste decent and are hot! If you want to buy dinner, you just need to tell the refugio front desk before ~4 pm to reserve a spot. You can also order box lunches from the refugios, but we found these to be very mediocre.  The refugios also sell dry food if you want to supplement your supply along the way. Note that they do not carry dehydrated backpacking meals, and instead carry things like pasta, beans, and packaged snacks.

Weather and Trail Conditions:

As I said previously, be prepared for all types of weather in Torres del Paine National Park. It was overall pretty cold for us in late December. Temperatures were comfortable while hiking, and we generally just wore a hiking shirt and a rain jacket. In the evening, however, the temperature dropped and the wind made things very cold. We typically ate dinner and then retired to our tent by ~8pm. It was also very cold in the mornings. Basically, do not expect to be comfortably lounging outside at camp until 11pm. It is more likely that you will seek shelter at night to escape the cold temperatures and wind.

Because the weather can change quickly, you should exercise some caution when hiking over the John Garner Pass and when hiking to the different miradors. Take the advice of the CONAF rangers and do not proceed if they advise against doing so. In bad weather conditions, the visibility can be terrible and it is easy to get lost. Also, do not get discouraged if you arrive at a lookout or mirador and the view is cloudy. Since the weather changes quickly, if you wait ~30 minutes odds are the clouds will temporarily clear!

The trails in the park are not very well-marked, but we never had any issues getting lost. Keep an eye out for orange posts and rocks that are painted orange as these mark the trails. The trails often split into two lanes and then meet back together, so it can be a little annoying deciding which routes to take. That said, the Circuit is really the only major trail around the park, so it is difficult to get too far off trail. Some of the sections of the trail are very muddy, so be prepared to get dirty. There are also several stream crossings that you must rock hop across.

Difficulty:

Given that we did the trek over 9 days and averaged less than 10 miles a day, it was not too difficult overall. The most acutely difficult section was going up over the John Garner Pass and then coming back down (it was super steep each way). There was also strong wind in sections that made things challenging. The hikes up to the miradors were steep, but you can do these without your backpack. In general, if you are used to multiday backpacking trips, you will likely be fine on the Circuit. There are no issues with high altitude, there is no technical climbing, and there is no advanced route finding required.

However, if you are new to backpacking, you will want to take precautions when hiking the Circuit. I would plan your itinerary such that you have 9 days to do the trek, and I would hike the trail with a group (hopefully with someone who has backpacking experience). The conditions can be extreme along the trail, so you need to be comfortable with steep trails and strong winds. At times the wind was so strong it was necessary to kneel down for stability, and we had to guard our faces from flying sand. One person even had a panic attack on the trail and had to be closely guided by two strangers. If you are inexperienced, not prepared for Patagonia weather, and go on the hike alone, you end up making strangers worry about you and take care of you. Know what you are getting into beforehand!

 

Trip Report for 9 Day Circuit Trek in Torres Del Paine:

Day 0: Preparing and resting in Puerto Natales

The day before our trek we took it easy and got ready. We first bought our lunch food and then bought the gas for our camping stove. For dried fruit and nuts, we found a small shop in downtown Puerto Natales with great dried apricots and tasty cashews. We then went to the grocery store and purchased salami, Pringles, cookies, and other snacks. For the camp gas, we stopped at one of the several stores that sell outdoor supplies downtown.  If you want to rent any backpacking gear, this would be the time do so as well.

In the afternoon, we attended an info session at Erratic Rock Hostel that talked about what to expect on the trek. The info session was helpful, but was not necessarily a must attend if you already feel prepared. While there I also purchased a map of the park. It is not totally necessary to have a map of the park, but it is good practice to always know the route you are hiking. The Laguna Amarga entrance did not have any maps when we arrived at the park the next day, so I was happy to have purchased one beforehand.

In the evening, we got a nice dinner and then headed home to pack up our backpacks. We made sure to put our sleeping bags and dry clothes in garbage bags before putting them in our backpacks. This was a tip we learned at the info session, and it helped keep our gear dry over the course of the whole trek. Simple relying on your backpack cover to keep things dry is risky because these covers are often pulled off by the strong wind.

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Day 1: ~8.6 miles; +1,200 feet; Torres del Paine Welcome Center to Seron Campsite

Map with the Day 1 route from the Welcome Center to Camp Seron on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Map with the Day 1 route from the Welcome Center to Camp Seron on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 1 hike from the Welcome Center to Camp Seron on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 1 hike from the Welcome Center to Camp Seron on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

The hike on the first day is not too difficult and comes in at just under 10 miles. After an initial steady climb in the first 4 miles, the trail descends and then levels out. The views along the trail are nice but not as spectacular as what you see in the next 8 days. The trail skirts around the mountains on this day, and in different sections you hike through meadows, a mossy forest, and along a river. This day’s hike took us about 4.5 hours. We got on the trail at ~10:00 am and arrived at camp Seron at ~ 2:30 pm. Along the way, we stopped for pictures several times and took a modest lunch break.

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Typical chaos at the Puerto Natales bus station as everyone gets ready to stow their bags and board the bus. (pictured: Kelty Women’s 60L Backpack)
The line that quickly formed at the Laguna Amarga entrance to Torres del Paine National Park. Everyone is waiting to pay the park entrance fee and watch the safety video.
The line that quickly formed at the Laguna Amarga entrance to Torres del Paine National Park. Everyone is waiting to pay the park entrance fee and watch the safety video.
On a clear day, you can see the Torre Towers from the Laguna Amarga Entrance. You hike up to the base of the Towers on the last day of this itinerary.
On a clear day, you can see the Torre Towers from the Laguna Amarga Entrance. You hike up to the base of the Towers on the last day of this itinerary.
After a short ride in the Hotel Las Torres hiker shuttle/van, we arrived at the Welcome Center.  The direct trail to Camp Seron is straight ahead in this picture towards the person in the pink jacket.
After a short ride in the Hotel Las Torres hiker shuttle/van, we arrived at the Welcome Center.  The direct trail to Camp Seron is straight ahead in this picture towards the person in the pink jacket. (pictured: Kelty Lakota 65L Red/Clay Backpack)
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Shortly after leaving the Welcome Center, you begin climbing a hill that leads to the Patagonia Ecocamp domes.  Just continue on the trail past the domes. (pictured: Vivobarefoot Ultra 3 Lightweight Campshoes)
Looking towards the Torre Towers which are hidden behind some clouds.
Looking towards the Torre Towers which are hidden behind some clouds.
The trail heads North and eventually wraps around the snowy peak you see on the upper left.
The trail heads North and eventually wraps around the snowy peak you see on the upper left.
Looking Southwest back towards Hotel Las Torres.
Looking Southwest back towards Hotel Las Torres.
Trail telling you approximately how far from Seron you are. This sign says you are 3 km into a 12 km hike. Take these signs with a grain of salt as most are inaccurate.
Trail telling you approximately how far from Seron you are. This sign says you are 3 km into a 12 km hike. Take these signs with a grain of salt as most are inaccurate.
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The trail then goes through a beautiful mossy forest.
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When you emerge from the forest you are treat to some nice views to the East.
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Along the trail there are several stream crossings. For all of them you can avoid getting soaked by carefully stepping on rocks. (pictured: Kelty Coyote 60L Women’s Backpack)
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Descending down in a valley towards a river. (pictured: Cascade Mountain trekking poles)
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The views kept getting better as we got closer to the river.
After you descend, you hike through a meadow that is filled with flowers. Unfortunately much of the trail is along a road rather than on a single track trail. (pictured: Osprey Atmos 65 Liter Backpack)
Horses hanging out in the meadow full of wild flowers.
Horses hanging out in the meadow full of wild flowers.
The trail meets up with the meandering river we previously saw from above.
The trail meets up with the meandering river we previously saw from above.
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The meadow is surrounded by snowy peaks.
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The first sign telling us we were getting close to Campamento Seron!
Camp Seron sits in a nice meadow that has great views of the surrounding mountains
Camp Seron sits in a nice meadow that has great views of the surrounding mountains. (pictured: prAna Women’s Halle Pant)
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We chose to camp under a tree to help protect us from rain and wind.  The site had a great view! (pictured: ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2-Person Tent)
The headquarters building at Camp Seron. Inside there was a table where you could play cards, but it mostly seemed to be occupied by camp employees. The camp store had some food and beer for sale.
The headquarters building at Camp Seron. Inside there was a table where you could play cards, but it mostly seemed to be occupied by camp employees. The camp store had some food and beer for sale.
View from Campamento Seron with snowy mountains in the background.
The next morning you hike towards the snowy mountains in the background.

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Day 2: ~11.5 miles; +1,550 feet; Seron Campsite to Refugio Dickson

Map of the trail we took on Day 2 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Map of the trail we took on Day 2 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 2 hike from Camp Seron to Refugio Dickson on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 2 hike from Camp Seron to Refugio Dickson on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

On the second day of the Circuit trek, you hike to Refugio Dickson, which sits at one of the most beautiful locations on the trek. The refugio and campsite sit on a flat meadow that is adjacent to Lago Dickson and is surrounded by mountain peaks on North and South. The hike from Seron to Dickson is quite beautiful, and you follow Rio Paine almost the whole way. Along the trail you go over a modest pass and get awesome views of Lago Paine. Just be prepared for windy conditions as you traverse a ledge above Lago Paine. The day we hiked the winds were so strong we could hardly stand up straight without trekking poles. Luckily the wind died down once we descended closer to the level of the water. When you arrive at the refugio, you will first encounter a guard station. You check in there and prove you have a reservation. Then, you go to either the campground check-in or the refugio check-in. After checking in, I would advise taking a walk to the shore of Lago Dickson to see the floating icebergs and surrounding scenery.

We stayed in the refugio on this night to take a short break from camping. Having a bed was nice, but there are some logistical challenges of sharing a room with 5 other backpackers. It can be a hassle to quietly go in and out of the room and it is tough to pack and unpack your backpack in such a small space. The major benefit of the refugio was being able to play cards indoors next to a warm wood-burning stove in the evening. They also had power for a couple hours in the evening, which allowed us to charge our cameras. There were a couple things we didn’t like about the refugio experience though. If you want to cook your own food, you are forced to walk over to the campsite cooking area (which was in disrepair) and prepare your food there. We were allowed to bring our cooked food into the refugio to eat, but the staff made us feel like we were intruding on them by doing so. It also felt like the staff was waiting for all the hikers to go to bed, so that they could take over the common area and hang out among themselves. In hindsight, I would probably camp here since it’s a small refugio and feels a little cramped (Refugio Grey and Paine Grande are much larger).

This hike took us about 7 hours. We got on the trail at ~8:00 am and arrived at Dickson at 3:00 pm. Along the way, we stopped for pictures several times, took a modest lunch break, and took at a short break at the Coiron Guard Station.

Beautiful view of wildflowers and mountains in the morning as we set out on our hike from Campamento Seron to Refugio Dickson.
Beautiful view of wildflowers and mountains in the morning as we set out on our hike from Campamento Seron to Refugio Dickson.
At the beginning of the hike from Campamento Seron, the views are expansive (pictured: Vivobarefoot lightweight campshoes)
At the beginning of the hike from Campamento Seron, the views are expansive (pictured: Vivobarefoot lightweight campshoes)
The trail meanders along the Rio Paine.
The trail meanders along the Rio Paine.
The view along the Circuit trek from Seron to Dickson.
The view along the Circuit trek from Seron to Dickson.
About ~1.5 miles from Campamento Seron you begin to gain elevation and hike further up from the Rio Paine.
About ~1.5 miles from Campamento Seron you begin to gain elevation and hike further up from the Rio Paine.
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Looking back at the Rio Paine.
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Hiking up towards a small pass in the distance (pictured: Platypus 2 Liter Bladder)
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As we got closer to the pass and climbed higher in elevation the foliage started to change.
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At just about the 3 mile mark you reach the top of the small pass. The wind here was incredibly strong. The horizontal post in the picture is a trail marker. You see these every so often along the trail.
Just beyond the 3 mile mark you get your first glimpse of Lago Paine and the mountains behind it. We rushed down the next mile of trail to get out of the intense wind.
Just beyond the 3 mile mark you get your first glimpse of Lago Paine and the mountains behind it. We rushed down the next mile of trail to get out of the intense wind.
Looking North across Lago Paine.
Looking North across Lago Paine.
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As you get closer to the level of the lake the trail starts to go in and out of bunches of trees. (pictured: Green Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress)
Eventually you cross a boundary in the park. At this point you are crossing from the Seron section to the Coiron section of Torres del Paine.
Eventually you cross a boundary in the park. At this point you are crossing from the Seron section to the Coiron section of Torres del Paine.
The view gets better and better as you continue to hike down towards the shore of Lago Paine.
The view gets better and better as you continue to hike down towards the shore of Lago Paine.
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
The trail provides great views in this section with a forest below you on the right and mountains ahead and to the left.
Soon the trail goes down into the forest and escape the wind (pictured: Terralite Portable Camp Chair)
Then you come upon the Coiron guard station where they check your Torres del Paine Circuit reservations
Then you come upon the Coiron guard station where they check your Torres del Paine Circuit reservations. (pictured: prAna Zion Convertible Pants)
After the Coiron guard station, the trail towards Refugio Dickson was really beautiful!
After the Coiron guard station, the trail towards Refugio Dickson was really beautiful!
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Looking North at some small lakes in the meadow.
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As you continue, some new mountains appear ahead to the South.
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Eventually the trail goes through a marshy area.  There is a boardwalk to prevent you from getting muddy, but some areas are in bad shape (this is one of the sections in good shape).
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
After the meadow, the trail leads through for forested areas (pictured: Green Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress)
You then go up a modest climb between miles 10 and 11 before reaching this point where you get your first glimpse of Refugio Dickson in the distance.
You then go up a modest climb between miles 10 and 11 before reaching this point where you get your first glimpse of Refugio Dickson in the distance.
Refugio Dickson sits on a small flat area surrounded by mountains and lakes.
Refugio Dickson sits on a small flat area surrounded by mountains and lakes.
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When you arrive, you first check-in at this guard station.
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
After checking in at the guard station, we went to the Refugio to check-in and drop off our stuff.
The shared bunks are nice and warm, but there is not much space for your belongings (pictured: 0°F Premium Down Sleeping Bag)
We then walked over to the shore of Lago Dickson to look at the scenery. These are icebergs that have broken off the Dickson Glacier and have floated all the way across Lago Dickson.
We then walked over to the shore of Lago Dickson to look at the scenery. These are icebergs that have broken off the Dickson Glacier and have floated all the way across Lago Dickson.
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Looking along the shore of Lago Dickson.
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
On the shore of Lago Dickson.

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Day 3: ~7.6 miles; +1,750 feet; Refugio Dickson to Los Perros Campsite

Map of the trail we took on Day 3 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Map of the trail we took on Day 3 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 3 hike from Refugio Dickson to Los Perros on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 3 hike from Refugio Dickson to Los Perros on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

On day 3 we had a relatively short hike that was not too difficult. There is a decent elevation gain, but you can finish the hike before lunch. Much of the hike goes through a beautiful mossy forest. Along the way there are a few lookouts that provide nice views of mountain peaks and glaciers. When you get close to the Los Perros camp, you are treated to a great view of the Glaciar Los Perros and its lagoon. After arriving at Los Perros you register at the guard station. The guards will tell you when you should be ready to leave in the morning to get over the John Gardner Pass (for us this was 6:30 am).

If you arrive at camp early and the weather is nice, you can also ask the rangers if they would be willing to guide you to the Glaciar Punta Puma. This glacier is ~2 hours away from Los Perros and can be reached on a day hike. We were told the trail is not well marked, so you need a guide or ranger to take you on the hike (this may or may not be true). We heard this was a fun hike because you can get very close to the front of the glacier and touch the ice! Unfortunately, the rangers were not hiking to Glaciar Punta Puma on the afternoon we arrived, so we decided not to go.

The camp at Los Perros is situated in a forest and does not have many amenities. Since we arrived to camp fairly early, we burned some time by hiking back to the Glaciar Los Perros to take some more pictures. We then retired to bed fairly early so that we could get an early start the next morning. This day’s hike took us about 4.5 hours. We got on the trail at ~8:20 am and arrived at Los Perros at ~12:50 pm.

The view looking South from the front porch of Refugio Dickson. Unfortunately, the clouds never fully lifted from the mountains while we were at Dickson.
The view looking South from the front porch of Refugio Dickson. Unfortunately, the clouds never fully lifted from the mountains while we were at Dickson.
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Looking Northwest at the beginning of the trek.
The trail quickly enters a forest and then begins to climb in elevation (pictured: Kelty Coyote 60L Backpack)
Looking back at Lago Dickson with the Glaciar Dickson in the distance.
Looking back at Lago Dickson with the Glaciar Dickson in the distance.
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Looking forward as we hike towards a dramatic mountain range.
Zoomed in view of the Glaciar Dickson that feeds into Lago Dickson.
Zoomed in view of the Glaciar Dickson that feeds into Lago Dickson.
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The view from the Mirador Valle de los Perros. This is about ~2.5 miles from Refugio Dickson.
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When the trail exits the forest you are treated to great views. (pictured: Vivobarefoot Ultra 3 Lightweight Campshoes)
The trail follows the Rio de los Perros in many places.
The trail follows the Rio de los Perros in many places.
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A large section of the trail is in a beautiful forest.
View of the Glaciar los Perros in the distance.
View of the Glaciar los Perros in the distance.
As you get closer to camp Los Perros, the trail opens up and provides some great views.
As you get closer to camp Los Perros, the trail opens up and provides some great views.
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We had to cross this sketchy bridge on the way. All the messages on the bridge said to “not pass” but there did not seem to be a better option. The river was pretty swelled and fast moving and would not have been an easy ford.
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The trail continues to climb towards the glacier.
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Eventually you are treated to a great view of the Glaciar los Perros.
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After you continue on the trail, you reach a junction that leads to a mirador.
The view from the Mirador at the Glaciar los Perros (pictured: North Face Venture 2 Jacket)
The final stretch of the trail going from the mirador to camp Los Perros (pictured: prAna Women’s Halle Pant)
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Approaching the guard station right before the Los Perros camp (pictured: Carbon fiber trekking poles)
The camp at Los Perros is tucked within a forest. There were a lot of annoying flies here, so it was not a great campsite to hang around in.
The camp at Los Perros is tucked within a forest. There were a lot of annoying flies here, so it was not a great campsite to hang around in.
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Our tent site had a great mountain view though (pictured: ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2-Person Tent)
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
The view out the door of our tent at Los Perros.

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Day 4: ~4.5 miles; +2,200 feet; Los Perros Campsite to Campamento Paso

Map of the trail we took from Los Perros to Campamento Paso on Day 4 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Map of the trail we took from Los Perros to Campamento Paso on Day 4 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 4 hike from Los Perros to Paso on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 4 hike from Los Perros to Paso on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

On day 4, we hiked over the John Gardner Pass on our way to Campamento Paso. The pass is awesome and provides great views on both the way up and way down. While you hike up to the pass you get 360 degree views of mountains. This section of the hike is very steep and cardio intensive. You also must hike in snow in sections, which requires careful footing. At the top of the pass, you are treated to your first views of the massive Glacier Grey. This part of the trail was one of our favorites. The size of Glacier Grey is hard to comprehend without seeing it in person. The trail then descends down towards the glacier before entering a forest and continuing to Campamento Paso. This portion of the trail is very steep and can be tough on your knees. However, the views of the glacier make it worth it.

This day’s hike took us about 4.75 hours. We got on the trail at ~6:00 am and arrived at Campamento Paso at ~10:45 am. We took a modest break at the top of the pass but did not stop for a lunch break. If the weather is not great in the morning, you should consult the CONAF rangers before heading up to the pass. The trail is not well marked, so hikers can easily get lost when visibility is low near the pass.

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We saw a fox relaxing near our Los Perros campsite in the morning.
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
We set off on our hike at 6:00 am to get up to the Pass before weather became an issue.  The first part of the trail is in a forest. (Kelty Women’s 60L Backpack)
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There are occasional views when the forest thins out. The trail continues to climb for the first 2.75 miles.
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
The footing is less than ideal on this trail. There are lots of root to negotiate and many small streams you must cross. If it rains the night before, expect the trail to be very muddy and wet. (KEEN Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoe)
Eventually you ascend above the forest and begin hiking on rocks and talus. This is the view looking back towards Los Perros.
Eventually you ascend above the forest and begin hiking on rocks and talus. This is the view looking back towards Los Perros.
The view looking to the left while heading towards the John Gardner Pass.
The view looking to the left while heading towards the John Gardner Pass.
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As you approach the pass, the trail meanders through an open basin surround by peaks. This section of the trail can be very hard to follow in bad weather. (pictured: Green Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress)
Looking at a hanging glacier to the right as you hike towards the John Gardner Pass.
Looking at a hanging glacier to the right as you hike towards the John Gardner Pass.
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Eventually the trail got snowy in patches and was a bit hard to follow.  Orange poles and occasional orange painted rocks marked the trail. (pictured: prAna Zion Convertible Pants)
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Climbing a steep snowy slope on the way up the pass. We tried to follow footsteps left from the ranger who went up the pass earlier. (pictured: Wool Beanie)
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Example of the orange pole markers and the orange rocks along the trail. (pictured: Cascade Mountain trekking poles
The trail became almost completely covered in snow as we got closer to the top of the John Garner Pass.
The trail became almost completely covered in snow as we got closer to the top of the John Garner Pass.
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The final ascent to the large marker at the top of the pass! (pictured: prAna Women’s Halle Pant)
Once over the John Gardner Pass, you get your first view of Glacier Grey!
Once over the John Gardner Pass, you get your first view of Glacier Grey!
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Taking in the view of the massive Glacier Grey. (pictured: Vivobarefoot lightweight campshoes)
Looking South towards the end of Glacier Grey.
Looking South towards the end of Glacier Grey from the top of the John Garner Pass.
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Panoramic picture showing the full size of the glacier.
The trail makes its way South and traverses the pass as it descends towards the glacier (pictured: North Face Denali Thermal Beanie)
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Once the trail enters the forest, you must go down countless steep stairs.
Some sections through the forest are very pretty (pictured: Adidas Terrex Fast GTX Hiking Shoe)
At a viewpoint along the trail you can get another good glimpse of Glacier Grey (pictured: Camelbak Omega HydroTanium Reservoir)
Hiking up to Campamento Paso.
Hiking up to Campamento Paso.
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After setting up our tents at Paso, we hiked ~5 minutes further down the trail to a viewpoint (pictured: Everest Designs Earflap Wool Hat)
View of Glacier Grey at Sunset from the viewpoint by Campamento Paso.
View of Glacier Grey at Sunset from the viewpoint by Campamento Paso.

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Day 5: ~5.8 miles; +800 feet; Campamento Paso to Refugio Glacier Grey

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Map of the trail we took from Campamento Paso to Refugio Grey on Day 5 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 5 hike from Paso to Refugio Grey on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 5 hike from Paso to Refugio Grey on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

This day’s hike took us about 4 hours. We got on the trail at ~10:00 am and arrived at Refugio Grey at ~2 pm. Along the trail you are treated to some great views of Glacier Grey. Overall, the hike was pretty easy, and we hiked at a leisurely pace. Along the way the trail mostly follows a ridge above the glacier. There are three suspension bridges you must cross. These looked newly constructed and seemed very safe. If you are scared of heights, they may be pretty scary though!

We stayed at Refugio Grey in a shared bunk this night and also bought dinner at the refugio. Having a hot dinner was great, and we really liked Refugio Grey. The staff was great, the showers were hot, the room was clean, and the refugio had a nice lounge area to hang out in. There was also a full bar at Grey and the bartender made very good Pisco Sours. If you are going to stay in one refugio, I recommend staying at Grey!

We did not book any excursions, but you could do so and stay an extra day at this refugio. Some excursions include hiking on the glacier or kayaking in the water near the glacier.

The beginning of the hike goes through the forest (pictured: KEEN Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoe)
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Once the trail exits the forest, you get great views of the glacier. (pictured: Kelty Lakota 65L Red/Clay Backpack)
Further along the trail you get your first glimpse of the large iceberg that calved off Glacier Grey in November, 2017.
Further along the trail you get your first glimpse of the large iceberg that calved off Glacier Grey in November, 2017.
The trail goes through part of Torres del Paine National Park that was burned in a 2012 fire.
The trail goes through part of Torres del Paine National Park that was burned in a 2012 fire.
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Crossing the first of 3 suspension bridges that cross large ravines
View of the large iceberg near Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine.
View of the large iceberg near Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine.
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Looking back along the trail. Glacier Grey extends deep into the background (pictured: North Face Denali Thermal Beanie)
The iceberg off Glacier Grey and a view of the large Lago Grey
The iceberg off Glacier Grey and a view of the large Lago Grey
The trail then goes back into the forest for a bit (pictured: Patagonia LoPro Trucker Hat)
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Crossing the 2nd suspension bridge.
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Enjoying the view of Lago Grey from a viewpoint (pictured: prAna Zion Convertible Pants)
A condor soaring above the mountains in Torres del Paine National Park.
A condor soaring above the mountains in Torres del Paine National Park.
Eventually the sun came out and the sky turned blue. A view of Glacier Grey from the trail.
Eventually the sun came out and the sky turned blue. A view of Glacier Grey from the trail.
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Small icebergs that have broken off the glacier and collected near the shore.
The final stretch of the trail goes back into the forest. You then pass the Grey campground before coming upon the Refugio.
The final stretch of the trail goes back into the forest. You then pass the Grey campground before coming upon the Refugio.
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Arriving at Refugio Grey (pictured: Carbon fiber trekking poles)
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View from the front porch at Refugio Grey. If it is not raining/windy, this would be a great spot to relax.

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Day 6: ~7.1 miles; +1,300 feet; Refugio Glacier Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Map of the trail we took from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande on Day 6 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Map of the trail we took from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande on Day 6 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 6 hike from Refugio Grey to Paine Grande on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 6 hike from Refugio Grey to Paine Grande on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

This day’s hike took us about 4 hours. We got on the trail at ~9:00 am and arrived at Paine Grande at ~1:00 pm. We hiked at modest pace and took several short photo breaks along the way. This hike is another fairly easy one. Throughout the hike you are treated to nice views of Lago Grey. There are also look outs where you find views of Glacier Grey when you look backwards. As you approach Paine Grande you will see the turquoise blue Lago Pehoe. It is a very beautiful area.

When you arrive at Refugio Paine Grande, there is a trail that travels Southwest along Lago Pehoe. The trail climbs up a hill and provides great views of the Cuerno mountain range across Lago Pehoe. I highly recommend doing this short trip after you have dropped off your packs and eaten lunch.

On this night we stayed in the refugio in a shared bunk. Paine Grande was one of the more expensive refugios. The room and showers were fine, but nothing amazing. The primary feature of this refugio is its location in a very beautiful area. There is also a bar on the second floor, which has a great view of the surrounding mountains. If you decide to camp at Paine Grande to save money, be prepared for strong winds. The campground is set in a beautiful location but is exposed to lots of wind.

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Heading out from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande (pictured: Osprey Atmos 65 Liter Backpack)
Looking back at Glacier Grey
Looking back at Glacier Grey
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Looking forward at wildflowers along the trail. Much of this area was burned in the 2012 fire.
Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve
As you continue, the trail starts to provide nice views of Lago Grey (pictured: Vivobarefoot Ultra 3 Lightweight Campshoes)
The trail skirts on the top of a drop-off that leads to the Lago Grey shore.
The trail skirts on the top of a drop-off that leads to the Lago Grey shore.
Looking back to Lago Grey and Glacier Grey from the Mirador Lago Grey.
Looking back to Lago Grey and Glacier Grey from the Mirador Lago Grey.
View of Lago Grey and some icebergs
View of Lago Grey and some icebergs
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Mountains on the opposite side of the trail (looking Northeast).
The trail passes Laguna Los Patos, which has several small islands
The trail passes Laguna Los Patos, which has several small islands
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The trail then moves inland and goes through a previously burned forest
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Looking backwards to see the mountains in the clouds
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Descending down into the valley that eventually leads to Paine Grande (pictured: Platypus 2 Liter Bladder)
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As you continue into the valley you catch a first glimpse of Lake Pehoe (pictured: Kelty Women’s 60L Backpack)
The large refugio at Paine Grande
The large refugio at Paine Grande
The campsite at Paine Grande has a great view, but is very windy
The campsite at Paine Grande has a great view, but is very windy
Amazing turquoise blue water of Lake Pehoe
Amazing turquoise blue water of Lake Pehoe
Walking on the trail along Lake Pehoe to take some photos (pictured: Pentax K-50 Weatherproof DSLR Camera)
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Amazing view of the mountains in Torres del Paine National Park (pictured: North Face Venture 2 Jacket)
View of the Cuerno mountains from across Lake Pehoe.
View of the Cuerno mountains from across Lake Pehoe.

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Day 7: ~13.2 miles; +2,950 feet; Refugio Paine Grande to Mirador Britanico to Camping Frances

Map of the trail we took from Refugio Paine Grande to Camp Frances on Day 7 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Map of the trail we took from Refugio Paine Grande to Camp Frances on Day 7 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 7 hike from Paine Grande to Frances with a side trip to the Mirador Britanico on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 7 hike from Paine Grande to Frances with a side trip to the Mirador Britanico on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

The hike on day 7 is fairly tough. This day’s hike took us about 8.5 hours total. We got on the trail at ~7:30 am and arrived at Campamento Italiano at ~10 am. We then hiked up to the Mirado Britanico (arrived at 12:30 pm), ate lunch, and hiked back down to Campamento Italiano (arrived at 3:30 pm). The hike from Italiano to Frances took roughly 30 minutes and we arrived at ~4 pm.

The hike to Italiano is relatively flat and provides some great views.  It was snowing when we hiked this section, so the views were limited. In nice weather, this would be a very beautiful section of the trail. When you reach Campamento Italiano, you should leave your heavy pack near the ranger station. You do not want to lug your full pack up to the Mirador Britanico! You definitely will want to hike to this mirador – it is one of the best views in the Torres del Paine. Along the hike you will see glaciers, nice views of the river, and many peaks.

After you get back to Italiano, the final section of the hike to Frances is easy. Frances was a nice campsite with new bathrooms and showers. You must set your tent up on a wooden platform, which can be a bit challenging on the first try. However, they let you cook your food on your platform, so this makes up for it (at all other campsites you must cook in a designated mess tent).

Looking West across Lago Pehoe at the start of the hike
Looking West across Lago Pehoe at the start of the hike
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The trail traverses around the base of mountains providing great views (pictured: Green Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress)
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It was snowing on the Cuernos mountains on the morning we hiked. Unfortunately, the clouds obscured the view for most of the hike. (pictured: KEEN Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoe)
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We could see the snow moving in quickly.  Eventually it caught up to us…
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The trail alternated between exposed open areas, scrub brush, and forests (pictured: Terralite Portable Camp Chair)
As you approach Campamento Italiano, you get your first up close views of the Cuernos mountains.
As you approach Campamento Italiano, you get your first up close views of the Cuernos mountains.
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You cross a bridge before reaching Italiano (pictured: prAna Zion Convertible Pants)
Many people leave their heavy packs at the Campamento Italiano Ranger Station.
Many people leave their heavy packs at the Campamento Italiano Ranger Station.
The trail to the Mirador Britanico starts off through a forest.
The trail to the Mirador Britanico starts off through a forest.
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Quickly the trail begins to climb and the footing becomes less certain (pictured: North Face Venture 2 Jacket)
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The trail moves in and out of the trees.
There are great views of Lago Nordenskjold when you turn around and look to the South.
There are great views of Lago Nordenskjold when you turn around and look to the South.
To the West you get a view of the Glacier Frances.
To the West you get a view of the Glacier Frances.
Snow was blowing off the mountains, which made them look smokey as the sun came out. This is the view from the Mirador Frances (about 1/3 of the way to Mirador Britanico).
Snow was blowing off the mountains, which made them look smokey as the sun came out. This is the view from the Mirador Frances (about 1/3 of the way to Mirador Britanico).

 

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The trail then continues to go in and out of the forest. The snow on the ground made a really cool contrast between the white and green.
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Soon you reach another opening and viewpoint (pictured:  Pentax K-50 Weatherproof DSLR Camera)
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Looking to the North
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After continuing further, you encounter another viewpoint. The sun began to come out of the clouds at this point in the hike.  (pictured: Everest Designs Earflap Wool Hat)
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When you reach this final section, you are only a short scramble away from the final mirador.
View from the Mirador Britanico looking East at the Cuernos del Paine.
View from the Mirador Britanico looking East at the Cuernos del Paine.
View from the Mirador Britanico looking West at the Cordillera Paine.
View from the Mirador Britanico looking West at the Cordillera Paine.
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After grabbing our packs at Italiano, we set off to Frances (pictured: Wool Beanie)
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The trail to Frances goes around the backside of the Cuernos mountains.
A nice view of Lago Nordenskjold.
A nice view of Lago Nordenskjold.
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The check-in office at Frances.
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Our tent set up on one of the France platforms (pictured: ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2-Person Tent and GSI Outdoors Stainless Cup/Pot and Sawyer squeeze filter)

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Day 8: ~10 miles; +2,500 feet; Camping Frances to Refugio Chileno

Map of the trail we took from Frances to Refugio Chileno on Day 8 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Map of the trail we took from Frances to Refugio Chileno on Day 8 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 8 hike from Frances to Refugio Chileno on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 8 hike from Frances to Refugio Chileno on the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

The hike on day 8 took us about 6 hours and was tough. The hike has a lot of steady elevation gain and is moderately long at 10 miles. We got on the trail at ~8:30 am and arrived at Chileno at ~2:30 pm. Along the way we shot many pictures and took a lunch break. I believe the hike felt so tough because much of the elevation gain is between miles 7 and 9. Also, near the end of the hike it was extremely windy and tough to hike. The hike is beautiful, but plan for a reasonably long and tough day.

Much of the hike meanders near the edge of Lago Nordenskjold, providing great views across the lake. The trail makes it way all the way down to a beach at the shore of the lake. Then you begin to gain elevation and eventually you reach Refugio Los Cuernos, which makes for a nice spot for a quick break. There are bathrooms and an amazing view of the surrounding mountains. After leaving Los Cuernos, the trail moves inland a bit. This section of the trail has great views of the Cuernos mountains to the North and the lake to the South. Eventually you will reach a sign pointing towards the shortcut to Refugio Chileno. You want to take this shortcut as it bypasses Hotel Las Torres and saves you a couple miles. After the turnoff for the shortcut, the trail begins a steady climb to the valley that the Rio Ascencio flows through. It is likely to be windy in the valley so be prepared. The trail then continues to gain elevation while traveling up the valley. In the last 0.5 miles you make a steep descent and end up at Refugio Chileno.

The campsites at Chileno are wooden platforms like those at Frances. Many of the platforms were on very steep hills, which made them tough to access. There were also hot showers and bathrooms, which were nice. Chileno had a very nice lodge that we hung out in at night and drank some beer and played cards. It had a wood fire and power outlets where we charged our phones. We had to purchase our meals at Chileno, and the food was fairly mediocre. That was unfortunate, but the only alternative was to stay at Las Torres and have a much longer hike the next day.

View of Lago Nordenskjold from the trail not far from Frances
View of Lago Nordenskjold from the trail not far from Frances
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The trail meanders alongside much of Lago Nordenskjold (pictured: Platypus 2 Liter Bladder)
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Every once and a while you should stop and look back to take in the view (pictured: prAna Women’s Halle Pant)
Eventually the trail meets up with the shore of Lago Nordenskjold and you hike along the rock beach
Eventually the trail meets up with the shore of Lago Nordenskjold and you hike along the rock beach
After the trail starts to move inland, you get great views of the mountains near Refugio Los Cuernos
After the trail starts to move inland, you get great views of the mountains near Refugio Los Cuernos
The view shortly after passing Refugio Los Cuernos.
The view shortly after passing Refugio Los Cuernos.
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The trail moves further inland and climbs over the small pass on the upper left of this picture
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Hiking over the small pass with mountains to the left (pictured: KEEN Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoe)
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Hiking through a small valley.
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For much of the trail there are mountain views to the left
Looking back with Lago Nordenskjold in the background (pictured: Chaos Summit Cadet Hat)
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More mountain views along the trail
Sign marking the "shortcut" trail leading to Refugio Chileno
Sign marking the “shortcut” trail leading to Refugio Chileno
Looking back at Lago Nordenskjold as the trail begins to head North
Looking back at Lago Nordenskjold as the trail begins to head North
Looking forward as the trail heads towards the Rio Ascencio
Looking forward as the trail heads towards the Rio Ascencio
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Mountains to the left of the trail
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View from the trail looking Southwest
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View from the trail looking Southeast
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The trail steadily climbs up and over a ridge before heading into a valley (pictured: Foldable backpacking chair)
The trail heading up the valley to Refugio Chileno. It was very windy here.
The trail heading up the valley to Refugio Chileno. It was very windy here.
From Refugio Chileno you can see the tips of the Torre Towers.
From Refugio Chileno you can see the tips of the Torre Towers.
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Our campsite at Refugio Chileno was on a hard-to-access slope (pictured: ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2-Person Tent)

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Day 9: ~9.8 miles; +2,250 feet; Refugio Chileno to Mirador de las Torres to Welcome Center

Map of the trail we took on Day 9 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Map of the trail we took on Day 9 of the Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 9 hike from Refugio Chileno to the Welcome Center with a side trip to the Mirador de las Torres.
Approximate elevation profile for the Day 9 hike from Refugio Chileno to the Welcome Center with a side trip to the Mirador de las Torres.

This day’s hike took us about 7 hours. We got on the trail at ~5:45 am and arrived at Mirador de las Torres at ~7:15 am. We took a break and ate a snack at the mirador and then headed back to Chileno, arriving at ~9:15 am.  We spent an hour packing up our tent and eating some more breakfast. We set off for the Welcome center at 10:30 am and arrived at ~12:15 pm.

This makes for a long hike, but you are able to finish early in the day if you get off to an early start. Some people choose to hike up to the Mirador in the dark so that they can see the Torre Tower towers light up at sunrise. Because the sun rises very early in the summer, you may have to leave camp at ~3 am to catch sunrise. We wanted some extra sleep and decided to leave at 5:45 am. We only took day packs and left our tent on our platform.

The hike up to the mirador is a steady climb for the first 2 miles. In the third mile it gets steeper and there are many large rock steps you need to negotiate. The tough hike is worth it though because the mirador has a great view of the Torre Towers. It was cold and windy at the mirador, so we did not stay too long. When we got too cold, we headed back down to Chileno and packed up our camp. The final trek from Chileno down to Hotel Las Torres is a somewhat unremarkable 3.5 mile descent. You likely will encounter many hikers coming up the trail from the hotel and from the Las Torres Refugios.

Eventually you reach the Hotel Las Torres and then must hike a bit longer to reach the Welcome Center. At the Welcome Center we freshened up a bit, bought some beer, and ate a quick lunch before catching the shuttle to Laguna Amaraga. Once you reach Laguna Amarga, you find your bus and start the journey back to Puerto Natales!

The trail to the Mirador de las Torres starts off at the edge of the Rio Ascencio behind Refugio Chileno. The sky was just starting to clear when we left at 5:45 am.
The trail to the Mirador de las Torres starts off at the edge of the Rio Ascencio behind Refugio Chileno. The sky was just starting to clear when we left at 5:45 am.
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The trail quickly begins to climb up away from the river. The beginning of the trail goes through the forest.
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15 minutes into the hike you reach a sign welcoming you to a new region of the park.
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Then you continue to climb (pictured: North Face Venture 2 Jacket and Smartwool Liner Gloves)
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Eventually the trail leaves the forest and you get nice views.
Hiking on the section of the trail near Campamentos Torres (campsite closed). (pictured: Icebreaker Women’s Long Sleeve Top)
A steep section of the trail with a view of the top of the Torre Towers
A steep section of the trail with a view of the top of the Torre Towers
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The view as you get closer to the mirador
The view at the Mirador de las Torres in Torres del Paine National Park. We were able to capture a rainbow crossing in front of the towers.
The view at the Mirador de las Torres in Torres del Paine National Park. We were able to capture a rainbow crossing in front of the towers.
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The view from closer to the edge of the water.
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A panoramic view of the area
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A view of the trail on the way back down to Refugio Chileno.
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Hiking through the forest on the way back (pictured: Everest Designs Earflap Wool Hat)
Strong wind blowing dust off the hills in the valley near Refugio Chileno. You want sun glasses to protect your eyes from the dust.
Strong wind blowing dust off the hills in the valley near Refugio Chileno. You want sun glasses to protect your eyes from the dust.
Hiking on the trail that leads from Chileno down to Hotel las Torres.
Hiking on the trail that leads from Chileno down to Hotel las Torres.
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The view looking Southwest at the expansive Patagonia hills
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Near the bottom of the descent, the trail heads towards the river
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The trail then crosses a bridge over the Rio Ascencio (pictured: Wool hiking socks)
Looking back to the Northwest to get a last view of the mountain (pictured: Patagonia LoPro Trucker Hat and prAna Stretch Zion Pants)
The trail then heads towards the Hotel Las Torres
The trail then heads towards the Hotel Las Torres
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Once you pass the hotel, be sure to look back to see the view.
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There is then a short hike to the Welcome Center where you can grab refreshments and catch the hiker shuttle to Laguna Amarga (pictured: KEEN Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoe)
Final view of the mountains from the Las Torres Refugio and Welcome Center area
Final view of the mountains from the Las Torres Refugio and Welcome Center area

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One Reply to “Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia – Circuit Trek (~80 mile loop)”

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