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30 Tips for Hiking the W Trek in Patagonia (Self-Guided)

May 11, 2023

The W Trek in Patagonia is an adventure that every hiker should have on their bucket list! This 50 (ish) mile trek involves hiking to towering rock formations, catching a glimpse of a glacier and enjoying endless mountain and lake views along the way.

The iconic W Trek is located in Torres Del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile. One of the special parts about the W Trek is that there are inns along the way where you can sleep and eat. This means that you can enjoy hiking during the day and settle into a bed each night. Plus, you’ll have running water to take a hot shower! They offer full room and board services, so you don’t have to worry about packing in any of your food.

The view from riding the catamaran across Lake Pehoe. The water is a bright, aqua blue and there is a backdrop of mountains in the distance.
Views on Lake Pehoe

If you’re considering hiking the W Trek, booking it on your own and guiding yourself, I’ve put together a list of tips for a successful trip! This list includes several of the things I wish I had known beforehand.

For a more detailed guide with everything you need to know about hiking the W Trek, check out my full guide to hiking the W Trek. But for my top tips for the trek, keep reading.

This is based on my experience hiking the W Trek in December 2022 and January 2023.

Tips for Booking and Planning the W Trek

Here are my top tips for planning the W Trek and making sure that you book everything you need ahead of time.

A view of Mirador Las Torres on the W Trek in Patagonia. The view features 3 giant pillars of rock towering in the area with a lake in the foreground.
Mirador Las Torres

1. It is best to reserve your stay in the inns several months ahead of time. Many dates sell out quickly. It’s still possible to find last minute openings from cancellations, but you’ll have a better chance of getting exactly what you want if you book early. I booked about 6 months ahead of my trip.

2. The 4 inns that I stayed in for the W Trek (El Chileno, Los Cuernos, Paine Grande and Refugio Gray) are operated by two separate companies. Las Torres Patagonia owns El Chileno and Los Cuernos, while Vértice Travel owns Paine Grande and Refugio Gray. Therefore, you’ll need to book separately with each of the two companies.

3. You can and should leave any extra luggage you brought to Patagonia, but don’t need on the trek, at a hotel in Puerto Natales. Ideally, stay at the same hotel before and after the trek.

4. Make sure to book your entry ticket into the national park ahead of time and have the QR downloaded offline to show when you arrive.

5. You will also need to book bus transportation to arrive and leave the W Trek. Make sure to pay close attention to where the buses will drop you off and pick you up, because there are multiple stops within the national park. For my itinerary, I arrived at Terminal Laguna Amarga and left from Pudeto (Catamaran Paine Grande).

Tips for Transportation and Logistics on the W Trek

Torres Del Paine National Park is huge so it can be a bit confusing when it comes to deciding which bus stations to arrive at and leave from. These tips are related to the various entrances, logistics of options at the inns and some other general things to know.

Picnic tables placed on a lawn behind the welcome center for the start of the W Trek.
The start of the W Trek
Lydia hiking up the entrance of Los Cuernos. The building is wooden with an angled roof and has stickers on the window.
Los Cuernos

6. When you arrive on the bus to the Laguna Amarga entrance, you’ll need to get off the bus to scan your park entry ticket, collect your large backpack, get on a smaller shuttle bus and ride a few more minutes. That shuttle will take you to the actual start of the trek.

7. Bring cash to pay the shuttle bus at the beginning and the ferry to end the W Trek. The return ferry accepted USD and Chilean Pesos.

8. At the beginning of the trek, there is a welcome center that sells a bit of gear and food. It’s a great emergency option if you forget something. I recommend trying to bring everything ahead of time, but I saw several people purchasing trekking poles here.

9. Booking full room and board means that the inns will provide you breakfast, dinner and a packed lunch. This is a great way to save yourself the stress of packing in your meals. If you have dietary restrictions (I’m a vegetarian), let them know ahead of time via email. They did a great job accommodating different needs.

10. There are no fires allowed in the national park. If you’re cooking your own food, there are specific designated areas where you can use your camp stove.

Tips for Hiking the W Trek

These tips are about the actual W Trek trail. Learn a bit about the type of terrain, the weather, what to wear and more.

Several hiking backpacks placed in outdoor shelves at the base of French Valley.
Bag storage before hiking into the French Valley

11. Bring a small, package daypack along with your larger bag. There are some opportunities to stow your larger bag and take only your smaller pack for the most difficult potions of the trail.

12. The areas to stow your larger bag are typically shelves with no place to lock anything up. I don’t think that theft is common, but avoid leaving anything valuable.

13. When it comes to the backpack size to carry everything you need for 4 nights and 5 days, I thought that a 40L backpack was perfect.

14. Since you’ll be carrying a somewhat heavy pack and hiking on mountain terrains, it is best to have sturdy hiking boots that provide ankle support.

15. Be prepared for all types of weather, especially windy conditions. Dress in layers and make sure to bring a hat and gloves even if the forecast seems warm.

16. Each inn has the daily weather forecast. Look for the print out or you can ask about it at the front desk. It’s helpful to know the wind and rain conditions for the day before heading out.

17. Certain areas of the trail close in the afternoons because the rangers want to make sure no one is camping overnight in places they’re not allowed. For example, hikers had to start hiking down from Mirador Base Las Torres by 4:30PM. Make sure to not start hiking too late in the day and pay attention to signage about this.

18. Very few areas of the trail were difficult or had anything technical. The few areas of the rock scrambling included on the way up to the base of the Towers and on the trail between Refugio Gray and Paine Grande. Overall, the terrain was easy to hike and the trail was well maintained. But there is a lot of elevation change and some steep areas.

19. I found the trail to be very easy to follow. However, it is best to have the offline map downloaded on All Trails to make sure you stay on track and follow your progress on the long days.

20. The most crowded portion of the trail (by far) was hiking to the base of the towers. I did this segment on day one and then saw much fewer people the rest of the trek.

21. Hiking to the suspension bridges beyond Refugio Gray was a real highlight for me, but it’s not technically part of the W Trek. Plan to allow some time for this!

Tips about the Inns on the W Trek

These tips cover what to expect in all of the inns. I discuss credit cards, wifi, the atmosphere and more.

A bowl of a cornbread dish served for dinner at El Chileno. Large glasses of beer also sit on the table.
Dinner at El Chileno
A plate of food that includes potato wedges, salad, baked beans and a sushi roll. There is a Calafate Sour cocktail next to the meal.
A New Year's Eve Meal from Los Cuernos

22. You can book excursions for Glacier kayaking or Glacier trekking that leave from Refugio Gray. However, they are subject to cancellations due to weather. I booked kayaking but it was canceled due to the wind (and hadn’t happened in over a week).

23. There are plenty of outlets and power in all of the inns to charge your devices. However, power is usually turned off in the entire inn overnight.

24. You can pay for wifi at each of the inns. If you want to do this, make sure you know your login for Paypal without needing the internet. Or, just enjoy spending a few days offline!

25. Bring a packable towel for showering at each of the inns. Some of the inns will rent you a towel but it’s not guaranteed.

26. All of the inns had hot water for the showers.

27. All of the inns accept credit cards for things like alcohol and extra food.

28. Spend time in the evenings hanging out in the bar areas and getting to know the other hikers. The social environment in the evenings is one of the best parts of the trek!

29. One of the inns, Los Cuernos, offers the option for private cabins for two people. All of the other inns only offer shared dorms and the amount of beds per room varies on location. Camping and renting a tent is also an option.

30. The Lago Grey Catamaran is more commonly canceled due to wind than the Lake Pehoe Catamaran. While you could end your trek with either boat, most hikers use the Lake Pehoe Catamaran. It is cheaper, more reliable and brings you to a location that is easier to return to Puerto Natales from.

Final Thoughts

Hiking the W Trek is an epic adventure that is sure to make your trip to Patagonia into the trip of a lifetime. Whether you are considering W Trek or already have it booked and are trying to get some questions answered, I hope this helps you plan your trip.

For more Patagonia guides, check out these blogs:

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