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Patagonia has some of the most striking landscapes on earth. With giant mountains, glaciers, and lakes at every turn, it’s a paradise for adventure seekers. The region is home to many of the world’s most beautiful national parks – including Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile.
Trekkers come from all over the world to complete the famous W or O loop in Torres Del Paine. While I would have loved to do this, due to poor planning and time constraints, I could only do day hikes. But the day hikes in Torres Del Paine are no disappointment – and not an easy feat!
This post will go over what you need to know about completeing the Base Torres Viewpoint Trek in Torres Del Paine national park.
Puerto Natales is a city in Chile considered to be the gateway to Torres del Paine national park. Although it’s two hours away from the park via bus if you aren’t sleeping inside the park on overnight treks, you will likely return here to sleep.
The city is small but I enjoyed my time there, you can walk along the coastline viewing the mountains across the water.
There are some nice bars and restaurants in town but not much hiking to do nearby. I think you’d get pretty bored after a day or so here.
Trekking in Torres Del Paine National Park
Most people who come to Torres del Paine National Park do the famous W hike which takes 4-5 days. Because this park/trek is so popular, you have to book camping reservations or tours in advance.
I had not done this since I am planning my trip day to day, but upon arriving in Puerto Natales I asked around about the possibility of doing the hike last minute. And it turns out that it is more possible then people would have you believe – keeping in mind that I was also there at the tail end of busy season.
However last minute trekking usually require you to do it on your own and can still be costly as the park camping rates are in line with the popularity. I hemmed and hawed about doing the hike by myself, but to do it cheaply I would have had to rent all my gear gear and hike with it, or pay insane prices to stay in refugios throughout the park.
As much as I love camping, the truth is I’m not really that experienced at doing it by myself. Well I’m sure I would have met people in the park, with the combination of the dismal weather forecast and my own unpreparedness, I decided now was not the time to channel my inner Cheryl Stray and embark on my first multi-day hiking solo adventure.
With all that said, you can actually hike two of the main trails that people do as part of the “W” treks as day hikes (you just have to go up and down on the same day). So that’s what I did!
Trekking Base Torres Viewpoint Trek
Base Torres Viewpoint Trek is the section of the W trail that people either end or begin with. It leads you to the three Torres (towers) which are one of the most striking landmarks in the park.
- Distance: 18km
- Duration: 8 hours
- Total Altitude Change: 120 – 870 MSNM
Getting there from Puerto Natales
From Puerto Natales you have to catch a bus at the main depot. It takes about two hours to get to the park entrance. If you are going on a day hike you must catch the 7:30am bus otherwise you won’t have time to hike and get the last bus back from the park, which leaves at 7:45pm.
Once you get into the park, you have to pay the entrance fee which is $21,000 pesos ($30 USD). The entrance ticket is valid for three days, so you return on that ticket to do other day hikes.
To get to the trailhead for Base Torres Viewpoint Trek you have to catch a mini bus from the park entrance, which costs 3000 pesos/$4 USD. You coulkd walk from the entrance but it’s 7km of unexciting road so I wouldn’t recommend spending your energy on that before the trek
By the time you get to the start of the trailhead it’s almost 11am so you really need to stick to schedule as it takes four hours each way. At the start of the trek there were so many people on this trail I was a little annoyed, as one of my favorite things about hiking is to be in solitude with nature. But after about an hour the crowds start to disappate and it becomes more enjoyable. The views along the way are so beautiful!
The first three hours of the hike are relatively moderate, taking you through beautiful views of the snow-capped mountains and gorgeous forests.
I was surprised at the difficulty in the last section/hour of the trek. It had only started snowing in the park a couple of days before (start of winter season), but the whole section was already covered in snow/ice. This section is quite narrow as you have to climb up rocks, and they are very slippery!
The summit of the trek is stunning, as you approach the turquoise water set against the incredible mountains. While I was there the famous Torres were partly covered by the clouds, which apparently is still decent, as often they can not be visible at all.
I waited around with some others hoping the clouds would dissipate until a park ranger told us it was time to go back. They actually close off the entry to the top part of the trail around 3:30pm.
Coming down from the summit was a bit of a road block as everyone left around the same time and was walking slowly going down the narrow, icy path. But once you get back to the forested section it clears out again.
Hiking back was pleasant as it’s mostly downhill and I met some nice people to chat with on the way back. We also saw these beautiful hares on the way back, and made it just in time to catch the last mini-bus back to the main bus into town.
After chatting with others who had completed the trek in terrible weather, I felt pretty relieved with my decision to just go for the day hike. It was a great introduction to the park and someday I hope to come back more prepared to tackle the W trek.