Where: Torres del Paine National Park
Distance: 76 miles | 123 km
Days to Complete: 6-11
Best Time to Hike: December-March
Typical Weather: High wind, rain
Permit: Proof of reservations required
Park Fee: 21,000 CLP/$31 US
Hiker Traffic: Moderate-Heavy
Resupply Options: Only on ‘W’ side
Cell Service: Spotty
I’d heard rave reviews about the stunning beauty of Torres del Paine’s ‘O’ Circuit, but I wasn’t prepared for it to take me to a transcendent new world.
Towering granite spires, sprawling glaciers, breathtaking mountain passes, intense and ever-changing weather — I experienced it all on every step of my six-day journey. Trekking Patagonia’s ‘O’ Circuit had exposed me to a completely different type of outdoor experience than I’d ever known.
Chile’s proudest national reserve – located in the far reaches of the Patagonian wilderness – is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. A quarter-million visitors travel to Torres del Paine every year, and now I know why.
Within Torres del Paine exist the captivating ‘O’ and ‘W’ Circuits, two multi-day hiking trails that bring trekkers face to face with some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes our world has to offer.
You can complete the ‘O’ Circuit safely and affordably during the 2022-2023 season. If I can pull it off without a guide, then so can you. Let me tell you exactly how I did it.
What is the ‘O’ Circuit?
In short, the ‘O’ Circuit is a 126-kilometer loop around the scenic Cordillera del Paine mountains within Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. The trail includes the famous ‘W’ Circuit (67 km), and wraps around the backside of the spectacular mountain range, eventually connecting to make a loop. I’ve included a map below to show you the routes for both treks.
The trail is full of challenges: steep inclines, long intervals, and notoriously erratic weather. To solo hike the ‘O’ Circuit requires a substantial amount of planning and preparation.
Most people choose to complete the trek in 7 to 10 days. Some hike it quicker, some take longer. I decided to hike the loop in 6 days, which is the fastest itinerary I would recommend.
There are three trailheads to choose from to begin the ‘O’ Trek: Grey (accessible by boat), Paine Grande (accessible by boat), and Las Torres (accessible by car or bus).
You MUST hike backside of the circuit (the ‘O’ portion) counter-clockwise. The hiker traffic on the backside of the mountain is drastically less than the front side, which is why it was my favorite stretch of the trek.
Booking Reservations for the ‘O’ Circuit Trek
The ‘W’ and ‘O’ Circuits are Patagonia’s most famous treks but only allow for limited traffic. Don’t risk getting turned away — make all your reservations months in advance. Procrastination might result in a booked up calendar.
BOOK YOUR RESERVATIONS BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE!
How to Make Camping/Lodging Reservations
There are three different websites from which you can book campsites and refugios (cabins with beds) online. Study the trail map, distances, and elevation changes carefully to plan your itinerary. You’ll need to visit two or three websites to book your entire trip.
Most campsites will turn you away if you show up without a reservation, and rangers won’t even let you onto the ‘O’ side of the trek without proof of camping/lodging bookings. Get creative with your itinerary if specific sites are full and entertain all options as you plan your trip.
All ‘O’ Circuit reservations can be made on the following websites:
Italiano Closed for 2023 season.
Paso Price: FREE camping! Amenities: Bathrooms, water. Not available: Electricity, showers, food, gear, supplies.
Torres Closed for 2023 season.
Dickson Price: Campsites starting at $9 US per night. Dorm bed starting at $37 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, re-supply shop, restaurant.
Los Perros Price: Campsites starting at $9 US per night. Refugios starting at $37 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, resupply shop, restaurant.
Grey Price: Campsites starting at $9 US per night. Dorm beds starting at $37 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, resupply shop, restaurant.
Paine Grande Price: Campsites starting at $11 US per night. Dorm beds starting at $57 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, resupply shop, restaurant.
Las Torres Central and Norte Price: Campsites starting at $11 US per night. Refugios starting at $116 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, re-supply shop, restaurant.
Chileno Price: Campsites starting at $11 US per night. Refugios starting at $116 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, resupply shop, restaurant.
Serón Price: Campsites starting at $11 US per night. Refugios starting at $116 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, resupply shop, restaurant.
Los Cuernos Price: Campsites starting at $11 US per night. Refugios starting at $116 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, electricity, gear rental, resupply shop, restaurant.
Frances Price: Campsites starting at $11 US per night. Refugios starting at $116 US per night. Amenities: Water, bathrooms, showers, gear rental, restaurant. Not available: Electricity, resupply shop.
Note: Above prices are for High Season (November-March.) Mid Season (September, October, April) is slightly cheaper. All reservations can be upgraded to ‘Half board and lodging’ (about $50 US extra) or ‘Full board and lodging’ (about $70 US additional.)
There are plentiful options to take guided tours where reservations, food, and gear are all provided. While I prefer to trek solo, join a private tour if reservations are full, you’re an inexperienced trekker, or don’t want to bother with carrying gear.
Recommended Torres del Paine’ O’ Circuit Itineraries
I completed the ‘O’ Circuit – plus 17 additional kilometers (10.6 miles) – over six days and five nights. Based on my experience, I’ve written a detailed six-day guide. Keep in mind, however, that most trekkers choose to spend 8-10 days hiking the ‘O’ Circuit.
Because of this, I’ve provided a list of recommended itineraries for six, seven, eight, nine, and ten-day trips of the ‘O’ Circuit. Pick an itinerary that suits you and start planning accordingly.
- Day One: Camp Las Torres to Serón (Hike Mirador Las Torres) – 32 km/19.9 miles
- Day Two: Serón to Dickson – 18 km/11.2 miles
- Day Three: Dickson to Paso – 19.8 km/12.3 miles
- Day Four: Paso to Paine Grande – 18 km/11.1 miles
- Day Five: Paine Grande to Frances (Hike Mirador Britanico) – 20.3 km/12.7 miles
- Day Six: Frances to Camp Las Torres – 14.6 km/9.1 miles
Distance Per Day: 20.4 km/12.7 miles
- Day One: Camp Las Torres to Serón – 13 km/8.1 miles
- Day Two: Serón to Dickson – 18 km/11.2 miles
- Day Three: Dickson to Paso – 19.8 km/12.3 miles
- Day Four: Paso to Paine Grande – 18 km/11.1 miles
- Day Five: Paine Grande to Frances (Hike Mirador Britanico) – 20.3 km/12.7 miles
- Day Six: Frances to Camp Las Torres – 14.6 km/9.1 miles
- Day Seven: Stay at Camp Las Torres (Hike Mirador Las Torres) – 19 km/11.8 miles
Distance Per Day: 17.5 km/10.9 miles
- Day One: Camp Las Torres to Serón – 13 km/8.1 miles
- Day Two: Serón to Dickson – 18 km/11.2 miles
- Day Three: Dickson to Los Perros – 11.8 km/7.3 miles
- Day Four: Los Perros to Grey – 15 km/9.3 miles
- Day Five: Grey to Frances – 20.5 km/12.7 miles
- Day Six: Camp at Frances (Hike Mirador Britanico) 14.8 km/9.2 miles
- Day Seven: Frances to Camp Las Torres – 14.6 km/9.1 miles
- Day Eight: Stay at Camp Las Torres (Hike Mirador Las Torres) – 19 km/11.8 miles
Distance Per Day: 15.3 km/9.5 miles
- Day One: Camp Las Torres to Serón – 13 km/8.1 miles
- Day Two: Serón to Dickson – 18 km/11.2 miles
- Day Three: Dickson to Los Perros – 11.8 km/7.3 miles
- Day Four: Los Perros to Grey – 15 km/9.3 miles
- Day Five: Grey to Paine Grande – 11 km/6.8 miles
- Day Six: Paine Grande to Frances – 9.5 km/5.9 miles
- Day Seven: Frances to Los Cuernos (Hike Mirador Britanico) – 17.8 km/11.1 miles
- Day Eight: Los Cuernos to Chileno – 16.6 km/10.3 miles
- Day Nine: Chileno to Camp Las Torres (Hike Mirador Las Torres) – 14 km/8.7 miles
Distance Per Day: 13.7 km/8.5 miles
If you choose to attempt the trek in six days as I did, know that your average day will include a considerable average distance (20.5 km/12.7 miles) and elevation gain (823 meters/2700 feet). If your body isn’t ready for these distances and elevation gains, do not attempt to complete the trek in six days.
Pre and Post Trek Accommodation
After you have your ‘O’ Circuit reservations squared away, don’t forget to book accommodations for the days leading up to (and after) the trek. The best hotels and hostels fill up quickly in the high season, so book early to get your top choices for lodging.
I highly recommend staying in Puerto Natales, Chile during the days leading up to your trek. I made the mistake of starting in El Calafate, Argentina, and my ensuing bus trip to Torres del Paine took nearly six hours. It is possible to make the trip from El Calafate, however, so book your lodging there if it makes sense logistically.
Here are a few highly-rated hotels and hostels in Puerto Natales and El Calafate:
Puerto Natales Accommodation
El Calafate Accommodation
Cabañas de Nené
Accommodation is available for every budget in Puerto Natales and El Calafate. Don’t procrastinate when you are booking your lodging, however, or you may miss out on the hotel or hostel that best suits you.
Essential Gear for the ‘O’ Circuit
Torres del Paine, like most of Patagonia, is known for its notoriously windy and rainy weather patterns. Conditions along the ‘O’ Circuit can get downright intense, so you’d better show up prepared.
Click here for my current list of ultralight backpacking gear. I brought a very similar setup on the ‘O’ Circuit, which stood up impeccably to Patagonia’s harsh wind and rain. The base weight of my pack is 8.8 pounds (4.5 kg).
While every piece of gear you bring along is important, some pieces of gear are simply more important than others. These are those pieces of gear:
Lightweight & Comfortable Backpack
The Backpack I Used: Osprey Exos 48
Trekking the ‘O’ Circuit’s 76 miles of harsh terrain would be a brutal experience with an uncomfortable backpack, so make sure to bring along a pack that fits well and doesn’t hold you back. Don’t risk cheapening your once-in-a-lifetime trip with an uncomfortable bag weighing you down.
Sturdy Four-Season Tent
The Tent I Pitched: Zpacks Triplex
As I mentioned earlier, the weather in Torres del Paine can become nasty in the blink of an eye. Wind gusts nearing 100 mph (160 kph) are common on the ‘O’ Circuit, so bring along a tent that can stand up to them. A failing tent means a wrecked trek. I know from experience.
Burly Waterproof Hiking Boots
The Boots I Wore: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
Rain, mud, scree, steep ascents/descents, loose rocks, stream crossings – you’ll see it all along the ‘O’ Circuit. Bring a pair of rugged, waterproof boots that will hold their own against unpredictable conditions along the trail. The last thing you need is waterlogged feet or, worse, a rolled ankle.
Head-to-Toe Rain Protection
The Jacket I Recommend: Outdoor Research Helium II
The Pants I Wore: Outdoor Research Helium
Did I mention that it rains a lot in Torres del Paine? Be prepared to cover your body from head to toe in rain gear at a moment’s notice. Bring a rain cover for your backpack, also, to keep the rest of your gear dry. Windy rain will probably come at you from every direction at some point or another.
Trusty Pair of Trekking Poles
The Poles I Used: Cascade Mountain Tech
I met a backpacker who was having knee issues along the ‘O’ Circuit, and the pain eventually derailed her trip. Trekking poles give you four points of contact on the trail and take considerable pressure off your knees. Seventy-six miles in Patagonia is a long haul, so give your knees some support.
Keep your backpack as light as possible. Resist the temptation to pack excessively and only carry what you need. The less weight on your back, the better. Reference my backpacking gear list for a good idea of what you should (and shouldn’t) bring.
Gear Rental Options in El Calafate and Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales and El Calafate have several mountaineering and trekking stores that will rent out the gear you need for your hike. Backpacks, tents, sleeping bags – it should all be easy to find at these shops.
Here’s a helpful post for renting gear in Puerto Natales.
And here’s one for renting gear in El Calafate.
Of course, gear rental is expensive, so I always economize by bringing my own equipment. Researching and buying a lightweight setup ahead of time is an excellent investment in budget travel.
Getting to Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park hugs Chile-Argentina border in the Patagonia region of South America
The ‘O’ Circuit is tucked away deep in Patagonia, far from any major cities or hubs. Luckily, getting there is relatively easy and affordable. Direct flights from Santiago and Buenos Aires will get you to Puerto Natales or El Calafate – backpacking towns that are within a few hour’s drive of Torres del Paine.
From Puerto Natales, Chile
Puerto Natales is the most convenient launching point for those preparing to visit Torres del Paine. Affordable three-hour direct flights are available from Santiago.
From Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine is just a three-hour bus ride. Two daily buses depart from the main terminal – one at 7:15 a.m. and one at 11:30 a.m. I recommend using BusBud.com to buy tickets in advance.
From El Calafate, Argentina
If you are trying to reach Torres del Paine via Buenos Aires, flying into El Calafate is the fastest and most affordable option. Direct, three-hour flights depart daily from Jorge Newberry Airport.
Bus tickets from El Calafate aren’t available through commercial companies like BusBud.com or BusSur.com, because the trip requires a border crossing.
You can, however, purchase tickets through certain hotels and hostels, but they are rather expensive due to the border crossing. I paid $90 US (62,700 CLP) for mine through America del Sur Hostel.
Book your ticket a few days in advance to ensure you get the bus you want.
The trip to Torres del Paine takes at least five and a half hours from El Calafate – four hours of driving time and about an hour and a half at the border for passport control/customs. It took me almost seven hours to get from my hostel to the trailhead.
Plan to stay in Puerto Natales before your trek, if at all possible. You’ll save yourself money, time, and border-crossing headaches.
Many ‘O’ Circuit trekkers choose to hitchhike into Torres del Paine National Park from Puerto Natales or El Calafate – I saw dozens lining the road along the way.
Hitching a ride in Patagonia is extremely popular, so be prepared to compete with other travelers for potential rides. Find a suitable spot to post up, stick out your thumb, and cross your fingers.
Preparing for Patagonia’s ‘O’ Circuit
Preparation requires more than merely booking campsites and finding your way to Torres del Paine; this trek took much more time and effort than any other backpacking trip I’d ever experienced. It’s worth it, of course, so prepare early and often.
My Total Cost of Trekking the ‘O’ Circuit
A common misconception is that hiking the ‘O’ or ‘W’ Circuit is an expensive endeavor. While it certainly can be (some tours cost upwards of $4,000 US!), it is possible to pull it off affordably if you plan correctly.
Here are my approximate expenses (minus airfare) for the whole trek. I always try to be a frugal traveler and found it easy to complete this trek at a reasonable cost.
- Hostel in El Calafate: $22 US
- Tour bus to Torres del Paine: $90 US
- Park Fee: $31 US
- Campsite reservations: $48 US
- Catamaran: $26 US
- Packed food for six days: $78 US
- Restaurants/re-supply: N/A
- Hitchhiking to Punta Arenas: Free
My total expenses for the ‘O’ Circuit: $295 US
There are no ATMs in Torres del Paine National Park. Bring enough cash to pay the park entrance fee and buy any food, lodging, supplies, or transportation (catamaran, bus) within the park. Some shops accept credit cards, but the majority of businesses only accept cash.
Weather in Torres del Paine
A calm day in Torres del Paine is a rare occurrence.
I found out quickly that weather from all four seasons is fair game on the ‘O’ Circuit during peak season, much like the majority of Patagonia. Be prepared for intense rainfall, brisk temperatures (0-13°C/32-55°F), and powerful winds that can reach up to 110 mph (180 kph).
Keep an eye on the conditions as your trek draws closer and prepare accordingly. WindGuru has, by far, the most detailed and accurate forecasts available for Torres del Paine, I highly recommend saving the upcoming week’s weather information before starting your trek.
Free Offline Trail Maps with Maps.me
Maps.me is a handy offline navigation app that has trail maps from hikes all over the world. I highly recommend downloading this app ahead of your trek. Sure, the trail is very popular and well-marked, but downloading offline maps provides an extra layer of security on top of a physical map.
The entire ‘O’ Circuit trail is available on the app and easy to follow, so download it ahead of time. Drop a few waypoints before you start the trek, so you know where specific destinations and landmarks will be. You won’t need cell service to use the maps.
Water Along the ‘O’ Circuit
The ‘O’ Circuit boasts plenty of clean drinking water along, almost all of which can be consumed safely without any pre-treatment.
I brought my water filter along in case I needed it, but never ended up using it. The water along the ‘O’ Circuit is glacier-cold, clean, and fresh – a testament to the purity of Patagonia.
Food: To Pack or Not to Pack?
There are plenty of grocery and backpacking stores to purchase food in Puerto Natales and El Calafate. I chose to fly all my favorite backpacking food out from the US so that I could plan out every meal ahead of time. On a given day on the trail, I’ll consume some combination of the following:
- Instant Espresso
- Energy bars
- Dehydrated fruit
- Prepackaged dehydrated meal
I packed all six days’ worth of food, but doing so isn’t necessary, as there are many restaurants and resupply stations along the trail. The food inside Torres del Paine is not cheap, so saving weight will end up costing you more money.
I typically ration myself around 3,000 calories a day. Plus, I always bring an extra day’s worth of food in case of an emergency. There are few things worse than running out of food in the middle of the wilderness.
Here’s a post I’ve written on how to meal plan and pack food for backpacking trips.
IMPORTANT: If you are crossing into Chile from Argentina, you’ll have to go through customs and border control, and they won’t allow you to bring any meat products, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit, or vegetables into Chile. A customs officer confiscated a block of cheese and a stick of sausage from my bag at the border.
Physical and Mental Preparation
Hiking 123 brutal kilometers (76 miles) in the harsh Torres del Paine wilderness is a formidable test of both body and mind. To prepare myself, I hiked, camped, and exercised regularly during the months leading up to the trek. By the end of the ‘O’ Circuit, I was absolutely beat, but still intact. I’m glad I prepared my body.
If you’re concerned that you may not be ready for the harsh terrain and distances ahead, start training now. Knees can act up, backs can give out, and gear can fail you if you’re not adequately trained — both physically and mentally — for the rough conditions of Torres del Paine.
Just a week before embarking on the ‘O’ Circuit, I trekked the Huemul Circuit in Argentina to get my body prepared. I highly recommend this trek.
I’ve gone on challenging treks with minimal preparation, and they don’t always end up going so well.
Here are the hiking distances between each stop along the way:
Leave No Trace
Always pack out everything you pack in!
The ‘O’ Circuit is an extremely clean and beautiful trail. Let’s all work together to keep it that way for the rest of the world to enjoy. There are no excuses for leaving waste behind.
If you feel like going the extra mile, fill a small adventure bag to help keep the trails clean.
Visit LNT.org for more information on keeping nature clean and unpolluted.
Now that I’ve covered all the preparation logistics you need, let’s switch over to my six-day trekking experience of the ‘O’ Circuit. This is where the fun begins.
Day One: Pehoé Boat Terminal to Camp Italiano
Distance: 18.5 km/11.5 miles
Elevation gain: 869 meters/2850 feet
Highlights: Lake Pehoé catamaran ride, Mirador Britanico
Ah, day one. The day the boots finally hit the trail. Months of preparation and anticipation are about to pay off. Reservations, weather forecasts, gear, food, training – it’s all in play now. It’s time to take the first step.
Much of Day One will be spent tangled up in getting to the trailhead. It’s a bit tedious jumping through all the hoops, but also completely worth it in the end. The views and scenery are magnificent right off the bat, setting the tone for the rest of the trail.
Take a Bus to Torres del Paine
I made the mistake of starting my adventure in El Calafate, Argentina. As I mentioned earlier, beginning in Puerto Natales, Chile is the smart way to go. You’ll save yourself a significant amount of money and time and won’t have to deal with a border crossing on the first day of your hike. Because I started the trek in El Calafate, I arrived at the trailhead much later than anticipated and had to adjust my itinerary.
My bus (which ended up being a tour bus) didn’t end up leaving town until nearly two hours past its scheduled time. And since it was a tour bus, it made regular stops along the way to Torres del Paine. I was at my wit’s end by the time I got off the bus. Such is travel.
Argentina/Chile Border Crossing
Part of the reason the ride into Torres del Paine took so long, was a very long stop at the customs and border control office on the way into the park. In all, it took nearly an hour and a half for our bus full of chatty tourists to get cleared through customs.
Checking in at the Administration Office
Whether you are arriving in Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales or El Calafate, it’s required to stop at the administration office on the way into the park.
The mandatory fee of $31 US (21,000 CLP) must be paid in cash! Don’t forget to bring enough money – I nearly screwed this one up.
If you’re hiking the ‘O’ or the ‘W’ Circuit, you must register at the park ranger station within the administration office before you start. The park rangers will need to see your reservations for every single night you plan on staying in the park. Be sure to have them at the ready, either on your phone or printed out. They’ll give you a map and a detailed list of the rules of the park.
Catamaran Across Lake Pehoé
If you want to start the ‘O’ Circuit at Paine Grande as I did, you’ll need to take a boat across Lake Pehoé. There are affordable shuttles for $4 US (3000 CLP) that will run from the administration office to the catamaran dock. Luckily, my tour bus dropped me off at the pier, so I didn’t have to worry about transferring to a shuttle.
The catamaran only departs five times a day, so be sure to check the schedule to find a time that works for you. There’s no need to book tickets in advance. The tickets are cash only.
Lake Pehoé Catamaran Information
To start the trek at Paine Grande, you must take a catamaran across Lake Pehoé to reach the campground/refugio area. There are no buses that drop off at Paine Grande.
Note: The information below is for December 1st through February 28th. Boats will run less frequently outside of these dates.
Departure Times (Pehoé → Paine Grande): 9:00, 11:00, 14:00, 16:15, 18:00
Return Times (Paine Grande → Pehoé): 9:35, 11:35, 14:35, 17:00, 18:35
Duration: 25 minutes
Price: 18,000 CLP ($26 US) one way/28,000 CLP ($40 US) round trip (cash only)
The boat ride across Lake Pehoé offers stunning views of Patagonia’s famous ‘Blue Towers.’ I was blessed with a sunny and clear boat ride, so the mountains were unobstructed by clouds. Have your camera ready, as the photos ops are endless.
Setting Up at Camp Italiano
Once you arrive at the Paine Grande campgrounds, it’s (finally) time to start hiking. Because the backside of the ‘O’ Circuit must be traversed counter-clockwise, your only option will be to begin hiking east along the trail, which will be easy to find.
Camp Italiano is a comfortable 7.5-kilometer (4.7-mile) hike from Paine Grande. Once you arrive, check in with the park ranger and set up camp. Italiano is a free CONAF site with basic amenities, so don’t expect to find anything beyond a tent site, a bathroom, and water.
Put together a daypack with some water and snacks and get ready to see the first of two miradores (lookouts) of the Torres del Paine.
Mirador Britanico is the first of two magnificent lookouts on the front side of the trek. Getting to the lookout point requires a steep 5.4-kilometer (3.4-mile) ascent up the Frances Valley.
On the way up the valley, you’ll pass the stunning Frances Glacier, where it’s possible to hear the booming and crackling of slabs of ice breaking free and sliding down the face of the mountain.
The entire hike up the valley is stunning, and the breathtaking lookouts to the massive peaks are appropriate rewards for the tiring uphill march it takes to arrive.
You’ll descend on the same trail, which will serve as an early test for your knees. Take your time and use trekking poles if you brought them.
Note: Because of my late start, I was forced to hike to Mirador Britanico at the beginning of Day Two. This made for two long and brutal days in a row. Try to avoid that.
Day Two: Camp Italiano to Camp Las Torres
Distance: 16.6 km/10.3 miles
Elevation gain: 396 meters/1300 feet
Highlights: Frances Glacier, Lake Nordenskjöld
In terms of distance and elevation gain, Day Two will be one of the quicker days of the trek. For much of the day, gorgeous Lake Nordenskjöld will be on your right and the imposing Mount Almirante Nieto on your left. Because of its sheer beauty, Day Two was one of my favorite stretches of the trail.
All the logistics — hostels, buses, boats, reservations, border crossings, and packing — are finally behind you. Now you can spend the rest of the ‘O’ Circuit focusing on the stunning beauty, physical challenges, and the erratic weather of Torres del Paine.
Hiking Along Lake Nordenskjöld
It’s a joy to hike along Lake Nordenskjöld. There aren’t any more severe inclines, so it’s a comfortable, non-technical experience. Plus, the trail stays close to the shoreline of this pristine body of water.
The weather for most of Day Two was close to perfect. I experienced zero rain and only light winds on the path to Camp Las Torres. That’s when it hit me — the ‘O’ Circuit was a once-in-a-lifetime trek that was already exceeding my incredibly high expectations.
Setting Up at Camp Las Torres
As I passed Lake Nordenskjöld and made my way to Camp Las Torres, the wind started to pick up. The ‘O’ Circuit’s notorious Patagonian gusts flexed their muscles and pushed me around, so I put my head down and forged onward to find a place to pitch my tent.
Camp Las Torres is divided into two sections: Central and Norte. Check in at the ranger’s station to see which side to find a site on. Las Torres is luxurious with its hot showers, resupply stations, a restaurant, electricity, and gear rentals, especially when compared to Camp Italiano. It’s a great place to freshen up and recharge your morale.
Trekking Tip: Camping in High Winds
Even if the weather is calm when you arrive at camp, do your best to find a site that’s protected from the wind. Look for spots that are protected by bushes, rocks, buildings, etc. Don’t camp underneath trees, where you and your tent are susceptible to falling branches. Ask the park rangers about the forecast and plan accordingly. Torres del Paine’s winds are known for wrecking tents and ruining trips.
When I searched for a suitable site to set up camp, the wind kept howling. After a lot of head-scratching, I finally found a campsite that was shielded from the wind on three of four sides. Perfect. It was a tight squeeze to fit my tent in, but I was happy to have found the spot. Wind gusts that night reached nearly 100 km/h (60 mph).
I put in my earplugs, snuggled into my sleeping bag, and went to sleep early that night. I was about to face the most brutal day of the circuit in the morning.
Day Three: Camp Las Torres to Camp Serón
Distance: 32 km/19.9 miles
Elevation gain/loss: 1356 meters/4450 feet
Highlights: Mirador Las Torres, Paine River
If you want to squeeze the ‘O’ Circuit into six days as I did, count on some very long and tiring stretches. Today will be the longest and most exhausting of the bunch.
Day Three is an extreme challenge both mentally and physically, but the rewards along the trail are plentiful. You’ll soak in the most famous view of the trek, Mirador Las Torres, an unbelievable vista of the jagged granite peaks that photos just don’t do justice.
Note: If you want to make Day Three less daunting, spend the second night at Camp Chileno – this will cut 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) and considerable elevation gain off the start of your sharp incline.
A Brutal Morning
The rigors of Day Three will require an early start – preferably three or more hours before the sun comes up. The goal of most trekkers is to witness the sunrise cast light onto the sheer towers of rock. Apparently, this is quite the sight to behold, but I wouldn’t know. I slept through my alarm.
I chose to leave my tent wholly set up for my hike to the towers to save weight on the trail. Doing so was risky, but ultimately everything was intact when I got back.
The hike up to the towers is 9.4 kilometers (5.8 miles) of calf-burning ascent, which challenged me more than any other section of the trek. The further I climbed, the windier it got. By the time I reached the towers, the wind was whipping small gravel into the air and stopping me dead in my tracks. It was a real test of mental endurance but proved worthwhile in the end.
Mirador Las Torres
Here’s the ‘O’ Circuit’s vivid Torres del Paine postcard moment. Towers of granite shoot straight into the sky, cutting into the clouds. An ice-cold lake below collects the runoff from Glacier Las Torres. It’s a truly majestic view that makes you forgive the cold, windy, and draining ascent that brought you there.
All too briefly, I soaked up the view of the mirador until the wild weather (and my depleted snack supply) forced me back down the trail to Las Torres Camp. I was thankful for my trekking poles – they took the pressure off my knees for the duration of the long descent.
Torres del Paine’s Backside: Where the ‘W’ becomes the ‘O’
The crowds thin out considerably between Las Torres and Serón. You no longer have to share the way with ‘W’ Circuit hikers, so the trail opens up, and a sense of solitude sinks in. I encountered more horses than humans along my walk to Serón.
The scenery quickly changes once you start the backside of the trek. The trail is calm, flat, dry, and winding – a welcome break from the first half of the day. The broad River Paine snakes its way through the open valley, guiding the path towards the next patch of earth to set up camp and recharge.
Setting up at Camp Serón
By the time I got to Serón, the wind had picked up yet again. The forecast called for more powerful wind gusts of 100+ km/h (60 mph) throughout the night. Because of my late start, I arrived to find a packed campground.
I set up shop in one of the last spots available, secured my tent, and braced for another intense and windy evening. After a hot shower, I dozed off quickly and slept like a baby through a night of fiercely buffeting winds.
Day Four: Camp Serón to Camp Dickson
Distance: 18 km/11.2 miles
Elevation gain/loss: 472 meters/1550 feet
Highlights: Backside views of the towers, Camp Dickson
The hike from Serón to Dickson is far less challenging in terms of distance and elevation gain than the day before, but the weather will ultimately dictate the pace on this leg of the trip. I didn’t get so lucky with the rain and wind on this stretch.
Preparing for Harsh Weather
After I packed up camp, I asked the staff at Serón about the forecast. They told me to expect steady rain and wind throughout the day. I moved my rain pants and jacket to the exterior of my pack for easy access and started towards Dickson. The staff’s forecast would prove all too accurate.
Check the forecast whenever you have the chance. I’m glad I did.
A Harsh Slog Over the Pass
Fairly quickly after Serón, you will encounter a short but exposed pass that is notorious for its high winds. The elevation gain is mild compared to other portions of the ‘O’ Circuit, but the infamous Torres del Paine weather can make this section quite formidable.
Heavy rain coupled with furious wind made for brutal conditions as I trudged through the most challenging weather of my entire trek. Beads of water stung my face like needles as the powerful Patagonian gales whipped and cut in every direction.
Then, in an instant, the wind and rain stopped, and a vivid double rainbow opened up over the trail. My frustration turned to amazement – a common occurrence on this trail.
After the pass, the trail flattens out on the descent to Dickson. You’ll need to check in at the Coirón ranger station and present your passport and camping reservations. There you will find covered picnic tables, making it a great place to stop for lunch.
Setting Up Camp at Dickson
The wind settled down after the pass, but the heavy rain persisted until I reached Dickson. I arrived at camp depleted and soaking wet, itching to set up my tent and retreat to my dry zone.
There’s a large, open shelter at Dickson to hang out clothes and, in general, escape the elements. I was among dozens of campers taking advantage of this dry oasis.
The refugios are also great places to dry out and recharge. I thoroughly enjoyed flipping through the guestbook and reading the vivid ‘O’ Circuit memories left behind from Torres del Paine trekkers of years past.
The sites at Dickson are fairly spread out, with some very scenic spots available for the taking. Once you set up camp, walk to Lake Dickson and soak up the magnificent views before night settles in.
Day Five: Camp Dickson to Camp Paso
Distance: 19.8 km/12.3 miles
Elevation gain/loss: 1204 meters/3950 feet
Highlights: Los Perros Glacier, John Gardner Pass
The eternal Patagonian beauty of Torres del Paine continues on Day Five as you reach the high elevation point of the trek, John Gardner Pass. At 1200 meters (3900 feet) in elevation, this pass is (surprise, surprise) known for its heavy winds. Try to reach the top anytime before noon, which is typically the calmest period.
Be sure to catch the sunrise over the mountains behind Camp Dickson before moving on towards Paso. It was one of the highlights of my trip.
From Dickson to Paso, I had a perfect mix of stunning scenery, solitude, and superb weather. It was my favorite leg of the trek.
Get an Early Start
Most trekkers are slow to leave Dickson. The most common plan of attack is to make the manageable 11.8-kilometer (7.3-mile) hike to Los Perros campground and stop for the day, saving John Gardner Pass for the next morning. Because of this, the early birds often have a quiet and uncrowded trail ahead of them.
I got such an early start and didn’t see another human for the first three hours. Rise with the sun, and have Torres del Paine all to yourself.
Checking in at Los Perros
It’s mandatory to check in at the Los Perros ranger station, even if you don’t plan on spending the night. Park rangers need to take down your information and give you the green light before you can proceed. On dangerously windy days, rangers will not allow trekkers to attempt the daunting mountain pass.
John Gardner Pass
Luckily, I experienced none of the awful wind that I had read so much about. The weather was perfect, and I was treated to spectacular views of the valley below as I slowly climbed in elevation. Glacial streams and cascading mini-waterfalls were everywhere as I approached the pass.
Once you reach the top, you’ll get your first view of Glacier Grey. A glimpse of this sprawling glacier is a sign of good things to come.
In my notes, I wrote that hiking John Gardner Pass “was like living in a dream.” This stretch of trail will always be one of my favorite lifetime hiking memories. I’m so grateful the weather cooperated that day.
The descent from John Gardner Pass is just as steep as the walk up, so prepare your knees for another tough test. Descend slowly, use trekking poles if you have them, and do not rush this stretch of trail.
Setting up Camp at Paso
The facilities at Paso reminded me a lot of Camp Italiano. Both campgrounds are free (thank you, CONAF) and offer bare-bones amenities. Tent sites, toilets, and water – that’s pretty much the extent of it at Camp Paso.
Paso sits at a higher elevation than any other campground on the ‘O’ Circuit. Be prepared for significantly colder weather and a higher probability of wind and rain. For me, night five was chilly and restless; sleep was hard to come by.
Day Six: Camp Paso to Pehoé Boat Terminal
Distance: 18 km/11.1 miles
Optional hike back to ranger station: 17 km (additional)/10.6 miles (additional)
Elevation gain/loss: 640 meters/2100 feet
Highlights: Grey Glacier, Lake Grey
It’s time to put a bow on Torres del Paine’s ‘O’ Circuit. This final day on the trail offers tremendous views of the massive Grey Glacier and the impressive length of Lake Grey. This last stretch of trail is breathtaking and relatively mild in terms of elevation gain – a perfect end to a most memorable trek.
It’s also possible to hike an additional 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) to turn your experience into the ‘Q’ Circuit. This very flat stretch of trail runs from Paine Grande back to the administration office, cutting out the need to take the catamaran back across Lake Pehoé.
Exhaustion, sadness, excitement, joy, frustration – I ran through the gamut of emotions on Day Six. What an utterly bittersweet day.
Day Six brings spectacular views of the imposing Grey Glacier, which is but a slice of the vast South Patagonian Ice Field that spans more than 12,200 square kilometers (4,700 square miles).
I recommend stopping at every possible lookout to soak up the enormous and humbling vistas. Along the way, you’ll cross three suspension bridges that dip with each step and sway with every gust of wind. Trust the bridge engineers and enjoy the ride.
You’ll soon reach Camp Grey, a great place to drop your pack, grab a quick lunch, and give your body a break. There’s a short trail to a lookout above the shoreline, a great spot to snap a few more photos.
Completing the ‘O’ Circuit in Torres del Paine
As you leave Camp Grey, you’ll climb one last incline, a modest 400 meter (1300 foot) gain in elevation. This stretch of trail is part of the ‘W’ Circuit, so it will be a bit more crowded than the backside of your trek.
Once you top out in elevation, you’ll slowly descend back near sea level as you return to Paine Grande and the Pehoé catamaran dock. Once there, you’ll have completed the ‘O’ Circuit! It’s time to take off your pack and grab a beer at the nearby restaurant. You’ve earned it.
Check the schedule and hop on the next Pehoé catamaran back to the administration office. From there, find a bus or hitchhike towards your next destination. Check the catamaran departures schedule in the Day One section of this post.
The ‘Q’ Trek: The Long Way Back
Not quite ready to say goodbye to Torres del Paine and the unrelenting beauty of the ‘O’ Circuit? Extend your adventure by skipping the catamaran and walking your way back, as I chose to do. By doing this, you’re turning the ‘O’ Circuit trek into the ‘Q’ Circuit, and soaking in more of Patagonia’s splendor.
The trail back to the administration office was nearly empty for the entire 17-kilometer (10.6-mile) haul – I only saw three other people the whole time. It was also very flat and straight, a huge relief since I was walking my longest day yet on the circuit.
The return hike along Lake Pehoé is spectacular. I turned around regularly to soak in the last precious views of Torres del Paine. Few people choose to hike this extension, but I highly recommend it to anyone who still has fuel left in their tank. It’s the cherry on top of a life-changing trek.
Hitchhiking to Puerto Natales
The bonus ‘Q’ Trek will eventually take you to a paved road that leads back to the administration office. From there, catch a bus or post up at an intersection and hitchhike like I did.
I stuck my thumb out and had a ride within 10 minutes. A Chilean man in his late 50s picked me up, and we chatted the entire way back to Puerto Natales while the Patagonian sun crept lower. I couldn’t believe it – I’d completed the famous ‘O’ Circuit in six exhausting and awe-inspiring days! When I got dropped off on the edge of town, I limped to my hotel, sprawled onto a real bed, smiled exhaustedly at the ceiling, and drifted off to a night of deep sleep.
Torres del Paine’s ‘O’ Circuit: Final Thoughts
For weeks after the ‘O’ Circuit trek, I struggled to find a way to express what I’d just experienced. Now, nearly a year later, my writing is but a faint echo of those six glorious days. Words may fail me, but travel doesn’t.
In Torres del Paine, I’d traversed alongside towering granite spires, immense glaciers, peaceful waterfalls, serene mountain lakes, and endured a torrent of unpredictable weather. It left me with a powerful sense of unique beauty that is beyond capturing.
All the anticipation and preparation I put into that trek was repaid with a flood of profoundly vivid lifetime memories. The ‘O’ Circuit left me uplifted, humbled and hungry for more.
It will do the same for you.
One day, I’ll return to Patagonia to see what other wonderment lies on the horizon. In the meantime, I’ll continue exploring the earth and searching for other special places that will expand my soul. They’re out there and, by traveling, I can find them.
Ultralight Backpacking Gear I Used on the ‘O’ Circuit
Click here to view my current ultralight backpacking gear list.
Helpful Hiking & Backpacking Resources
- Essential Backpacking Gear: The Items I Can’t Hike Without
- What to Bring on a Day Hike: 10 Essentials + Checklist
- My 7.8 lb Ultralight Backpacking Gear List
- Budget Backpacking Gear: Affordable 10 lb Ultralight Kit
- Backpacking Food: Meal Plan Tips & Ideas for Your Next Hike
- Get Paid to Hike: 10 Jobs to Make Money on the Trail
- Best Gifts for Hikers: Unique Hiking Gifts for Any Budget
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Do you have any interesting stories or valuable advice about Torres del Paine’s ‘O’ Circuit or any other great hikes in Patagonia? Do you have any questions that the guide didn’t answer? Give me some feedback by leaving a message in the comments below!
Last Updated on April 9, 2023
52 thoughts on “Torres del Paine ‘O’ Circuit: Patagonia’s Top Trek (2023 Guide)”
Hi ive read the whole article,it was great and gave me a lot of insight and pretty easy to follow,my only concern is that when i checked other blogs,most of them said that you cannot hikr the O circuit during winter months,and i would be so disappointed if i would found out once i get there that i cannot hike it,its my goal to do the whole circuit,who knows when i will be ae to go back there again so i wanted to shoot for the bigger hike,since i can only go on july(kids are off school) i cannot make adjustment of my schedule.I hope you can help me on how to plan my TDP trek as smooth as possible,it can get a little bit of confusing especially if you are reading a lot of articles.thanks in advance
Glad the article helped you! I know what it’s like to try and complete a trip through several blogs all at once. It’s frustrating! That’s why I tried to create an article where you don’t need to leave the page to figure things out. You comment made me realize that I need to address “Hiking in the Off-Season” in my article. I’m going to add that to the article as soon as I know more. Unfortunately, I haven’t hiked the circuit in the winter, so I don’t have any real life experience. A guy named Nehpet Loway commented on my link in the hiking group and told me that he did the hike in the winter. I would recommend finding him on Facebook and asking him about his experience. I’m guessing he’d be glad to help!
Here’s the best article I found on trail conditions in the winter: https://www.swoop-patagonia.com/chile/torres-del-paine/winter I’m guessing the ‘O’ Circuit is doable with a good GPS map (maps.me), but I can’t guarantee anything. Again, talk to Nehpet Loway. Don’t talk my word for it.
Aside from talking to him, here are three pieces of advice I can give you without having gone on the trek myself:
1. Don’t go on the hike alone! Bring at least one hiking partner along with you and preferably bring a rescue beacon in case you get lost or stuck. If you are having trouble finding someone, join the Backpacking South America Facebook group.
2. Prepare for very cold and possibly snowy conditions. This hike can stay below freezing with high humidity, which are not conditions to be taken lightly. Make sure you have the right gear. The good news is that traditionally, the winter is less windy. The wind was the hardest weather for my to handle.
3. Have a Plan B and Plan C in place. If you get to Torres del Paine and are stopped from hiking the trail for whatever reason, you need to have a backup plan. It would be a shame to make a trip all the way down there and get turned away with nothing else to fall back on.
4. Plan on starting your trip at Los Torres Campgrounds. Unless the boats to Paine Grande and Grey run in winter, this seems to be your only option.
5. Make an 8-10 day itinerary for yourself. Six days seems a bit ambitious in unpredictable and un-maintained winter conditions. Take your time and do it right.
I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
wow, this post is really nice ……thanks for sharing …….
I was speaking with an official in the Vertice office this week and it is rumored that the CONAF Paso camp will not be open this coming season. Not confirmed, but rumored locally.
Thanks for the heads up, Terry! I appreciate it. I’ll keep an eye on the situation from afar and update the info if and when it becomes official. That’s a bummer they’re thinking about shutting Paso Camp down. Fewer campgrounds means it’ll be harder to book the trip (and more crowded on adjacent campgrounds).
G’day Noel. Thanks for this post. I am also planning the O Circuit in January, hoping to start from Paine Grande.
I am intending to get the bus in from Puerto Natales on Day one.
I know you took a tour bus that dropped you off at the catamaran. But do you know if there would be enough time once reaching Laguna Amarga and paying permit fees etc, then make the catamaran at Pudeto to Paine Grande, and then do the walk to Italiano, and up and back the Valle Frances in Day 1?
I figure if everything works on time, I might just catch the 1100 catamaran, and only start walking to Italiano once it gets there. If I miss the 1100 and have to catch the 1400 catamaran would there be enough time to walk up to Mirador Britanico and back to Italiano all in Day 1?
Hey, Keith! Glad you’re using my post to help start planning your trip. Sorry it’s taken me a few days to reply.
I think you should be able to pull off the 1100 catamaran if you take the 700 bus from Puerto Natales that will get you to the Laguna Amarga terminal at 900. That gives you two hours to make it from Laguna Amarga to the catamaran. There should be buses that will take you between the two. I did a mock search on BusBud.com to make sure this would work for you:
I recommend booking your tickets in advance, so you’re guaranteed a spot. I wouldn’t risk waiting until the last minute.
If you miss the 1100 and catch the 1400 catamaran, you should have enough time to walk to the mirador and back to Italiano. A lot of this depends on how strong/fast of a hiker you are. Any idea what your average pace is when you hike?
Keep in mind that, in Patagonia, the sun doesn’t set until 10:00 p.m. or later in the summmer, so you should have lots of daylight to work with. What month are you hiking?
With your itinerary, I think it’s completely possible to hike from the catamaran to Italiano, set up camp, hike to the miradores, and back to camp before the sun sets. You can always carry a headlamp if you’re worried about running out of daylight.
Let me know if you have any more questions! I’m glad to help.
THANK YOU so much for this very detailed post! I just completed my O circuit planning , and would love your feedback. I am planning on starting at Torres and waking up before dawn and hiking straight to Dickson, which is about 19 miles the first day. I am avid hiker and trailer runner/backpacker, but the possibility of rain and wind to delay my trip is a little concerning. Do you think this is a doable day? I appreciate your feedback!
You are very welcome, Julie! I’m glad you’re finding the guide useful.
Physically, I definitely think you can pull off that stretch of 19 miles on day one if you’re properly conditioned. From what I remember, there’s not a ton of elevation gain/loss during that stretch, so you should be good to go. I don’t think that’s what you’re worried about, though…
As far as the weather is concerned, there’s no telling what you’ll encounter. You could get lucky with a calm and rain-free day for that stretch as I did, or you could get assaulted by a constant downpour and insane winds like I experienced from Seron to Dickson. The weather in TDP is no joke, so be sure to prepare for it. My advice to you would be to make reservations at Seron just in case the weather derails your 19-mile day. Sure, it’ll cost you another $20 or so (if you book a campsite), but think of it as an insurance policy to help save yourself from a potentially miserable situation.
That said, I didn’t book any extra reservations along my trip. I simply dealt with the weather as it came. I got lucky with calm-ish conditions on my two longest days (20-miles and 24-miles), but I can’t imagine how brutal my experience might have been if the weather hadn’t cooperated.
Keep in mind that John Gardner Pass (between Los Perros and Paso) can get nasty and park rangers won’t let you attempt it if the weather is ominous. That could potentially delay you later on along your trip as well. (Not a common occurrence, but something to be aware of.)
You can check out all the TDP weather here: https://www.windguru.cz/542246 (the website is acting strange as I post this).
Let me know if you have any more questions! Hope this helped. You’re going to have a great experience.
Myself and three friends are planning on hiking the O Circuit in March 2020. We’re planning on doing the trek in 7 days, 6 nights, but are struggling a little bit with booking campsites, specifically through Vertice Patagonia. As far as we can tell, the website is forcing us to book all four of Dickson, Los Perros, Grey, and Paine Grande. We’d like to hike straight from Dickson to Paso without spending the night at Los Perros. It looks like you did this as well- did this provide any challenge when you were trying to book sites? It currently won’t let us book unless we have four different nights for the four different sites.
Also, we’re planning on bringing one four person tent. Do you think this would work based on the platforms/set ups you saw at the campsites?
Finally, were you able to buy fuel/white gas anywhere in the park or did you purchase it all beforehand?
Thank you SO much for this post- it’s been invaluable to us in our planning process!
Thanks for commenting! I ran into the exact same problem you did when booking sites, but I found a way around it. I had to send Vertice Patagonia an email (in Spanish) to tell them that I only needed to book a campsite for Dickson because I’d be hiking at a faster pace. They replied asking me to send them proof of my camping reservations for the night before and after, so I did, and they allowed me to book only one campsite (Dickson) through email. It took them a couple of days to reply to my initial email, so keep that in mind.
Here’s the email I sent them, word for word:
Hola, necesito un reservación para acampar al sitio de Dickson para la noche de 6 de Marzo. Ya tengo mi tienda y todo que necesito. Dígame que necesito hacer para la reservación por favor. Solo necesito un reservación para Dickson en la noche de 6 de Marzo y nada mas.
After a little back and forth, I had my site at Dickson booked!
Email me if you need any help translating/writing any emails to Vertice.
If memory serves me correctly, you shouldn’t have a problem setting up a four-person tent anywhere. I slept in a three-person tent every night and didn’t have any issues finding a flat spot to set up camp. That said, the later you arrive at camp, the fewer campsites you’ll have to choose from, so you may not find your ‘ideal’ spot with a larger tent every night. Start hiking early and make it a goal to arrive at camp at a reasonable time every day.
I never set up on an actual tent platform, although I do remember seeing some along the way. Can’t tell you with certainty if they’d fit a four-person tent or not.
Don’t try to buy fuel in the park, definitely purchase it beforehand. Grab it from Puerto Natales, El Calafate, or wherever else might be your ‘home base.’ Those towns will have plenty of backpacking shops.
Glad you’re finding the post useful. Let me know if you have any more questions!
My two son, 29 & 26 years old would like to backpack Patagonia 10 – 14 days with a private guide and cook.
I am 68 and would like a porter to carry my pack, my sons are capable of carrying there own packs.
We are an active family living in Vail Colorado the past 30 years. I’m thinking February / March for us to travel. I can be reached on my cell at 970-390-0627 to discuss details.
Thanks, Bob Borchardt
Hey, Bob. I would love to discuss all of this with you – I am very open to the idea. I just called and left you a voicemail, and I’m looking forward to hearing back from you. Thanks for reaching out!
Do you recall if there any campsites where you have to set up on a platform vs on the ground? On the Fantastico Sur website, it indicates “platform” for Francés, Los Cuernos, and Chileno. I know you didn’t camp at those refugios but I’m wondering if there’s no suitable flat ground there or something. Mostly wondering so that I can bring fishbone tent anchors as well as tent stakes.
From what I remember, some campsites offer platforms with tents that are already set up (these will generally cost twice what a normal campsite or an empty platform would cost) or empty platforms that you can set your tent up on. All of these campsites also had plenty of ground camping available as well. Platforms would be best for those with freestanding tents who are expecting harsh weather and wouldn’t be a great option for those with trekking pole tents.
Great post. Your enthusiasm is very infectuous and the pictures do a fabulous job too in fuelling my eagerness to do this circuit soon, maybe in 2023. I had not heard of that specific trail before, only about the national park.
Patagonia has always fascinated me. Ellie & I have been talking for years about going there, and ideally combining it with a very short trip to Antarctica, if possible (I wish it weren’t so pricey…).
So, if I understand your other post (about getting paid for doing what you love) correctly, then you did this trail twice, right? And you did that easier trek on the other side of the border as well. You are one lucky feller…
What is the fastest you are allowed to hike the O-Trek. I know there is a minimum # of nights they make you book- but I can’t find the number
That’s a great question… I don’t know. I do remember having to message one of the companies directly to book fewer nights than they were allowing. Their website only had booking options available for multiple campsites/refugios all at once. They made it happen for me; didn’t take long. Best of luck!
Can’t seem to book CONAF sites. Other blogs say you need to make an account on the CONAF website (https://parquetorresdelpaine.cl/) but I can’t see how to do that either. Any advice?
Shay, try this link, then click the button that says “Comprar o Reservar.” You should see an option to book for Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. I don’t have time to go through the signup process to see if it works right now, but I hope it works for you! Best of luck.
Please note that we tried to follow your route, however, it is only possible to start the O trek from Seron. We were lucky that the campsites were not busy as Vertice and Fantasico Sur allowed us to make changes.
Billy, I’m sorry to hear that you ran into issues with the route I recommended on this post. Can you please be a little more specific about “it is only possible to start the O trek from Seron”? What was your specific itinerary and where did you get caught up? If requirements have changed since I last hiked the ‘O’ in March of 2020, I’d love to know so I can update my post accordingly.
Sorry for any trouble you had out there, and thanks for your input.
Great article with lots of insights!
I did this 6 days trail in 1989 (32 years ago), I was extremely fit after an intensive militery service, and now I’m coming back with my son for 8 days of the same trail.
I was wondering if you’d do it again, would you still go fot 6 day or do it calmer?
Hey, Alon! Congrats in advance on making your second trip to Torres del Paine! I’ve actually hiked the ‘O’ twice… the first time was my 6-day hike and the second time I was leading a 10-day tour. The only reason I hiked in in six days to begin because I was having trouble getting all the permits lined up. I think eight days is the perfect amount of time to be out on the trail! If you’re traveling that far, give yourself a couple of extra days to stop and smell the roses. Cheers! Let me know how it goes.
Hi, doing some research for 2023, wondered if you came across rodents in the campsites and how you stored your food?
Hey, Karen! I didn’t encounter any rodents during the ‘O’ Circuit, nor do I remember anyone else talking about it. I did read online about people encountering mice, however. I stored my food outside of my tent in mylar bags that I found on Amazon. Hope this helps!
Hi! Thanks for posting all the information for the O Circuit and Huemul Circuit. I am planning on hiking both next early November in that order. I see that you did Huemul first on your trip. Would you recommend that order or do you think it matters? Thanks!
Hey, Jen! I’m glad you found my guides useful. You’re going to have a hell of a good time backpacking in Patagonia. I’d probably recommend hiking the Huemul Circuit first, since it’s about half the length of the ‘O’ Circuit. Maybe give your body a few days to recover, and tackle the ‘O’ Circuit after that? I figure you could knock out the smaller one first, rest, and head into the ‘O’ with your hiking legs beneath you. Let me know if you have any more questions!
This is the best info on the trail I have found! Thank you for sharing! I was about to book then saw this and loved your 9-day itinerary. I am doing a ‘modified Q’ – taking the Bus Sur to Camping Pehoe to take in Mirador Condor, spend 1 night there, then walk 7km up to the ferry dock the next morning to Paine Grande and continue with the O circuit, counterclockwise. I didn’t see anything on the booking sites that would not let me do that (per your update on having to start at Central). Any red flags you can see on my plan? Would love your feedback!
Thanks for the kind words, Karen! I’m glad you found my guide useful. I don’t see any red flags with your itinerary, but definitely do some more digging into whether or not you’re allowed to start at the Pehoe boat dock. Refer the the comment above you from Billy, and you’ll see that he was apparently turned away. I emailed him privately and he confirmed that he was only allowed to start at Seron. Anyhow, I hope you have a wonderful trip. Let me know how it goes!
Hi, I connected with Fantastico Sur and shared the order of my campsites – no issues. Your sample itineraries are all possible still. eg Starting at PG, do the W circuit then continue with the O and exit at PG to do the Q section and end at Administration. The only restriction / requirement is counterclockwise on the O circuit. I also booked directly with Vertice & FS instead of Booking Patagonia or Hike Torres which have pre-set W and O routes. Yay! I’m 99% set!
Hell yeah, Karen! Let me know how the trip goes. I’d love to hear about it once your done.
Hi Noel, great post. This information is very handy. We are looking into completing the O-circuit next season (2023). While I feel comfortable with the booking/logistics and physical ability to complete the mileage, I still have terrain reservations. I have an irrational fear of heights and am a bit concerned with suspension bridges and cliff ledge/overlooks coupled with high winds. Have you had any experience with this situation within your group? I’m trying to give myself some peace of mind before I take the leap and book. Cheers!
Hey, Michelle! I’m glad you find my post useful, and I’m excited for you to visit Torres del Paine in 2023. I totally understand your fear of heights, especially on suspension bridges and cliff ledges/overlooks. That said, the suspension bridges are extremely sturdy and well-made. I have never crossed them in high winds, but I’m 100% sure they would stand up to the task! I can’t recall any sketchy ledges/overlooks, either, so even if/when there are high winds, you won’t be in any danger. Take very deep breaths as you cross the bridges, face your fears head on, and you’ll be good to go. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
Awesome post, it helps so much! Couple questions I have:
I am planning on doing this trip with a group of 3-4 (myself included) in March 2023. When viewing the new Fantastico Sur website that it redirects you to, it seems that it will cost $37 a night for a campsite on ground (double site 1 person). In your post you said it would be $11 per night. Am I looking at the right reservation place? Is it $37 a night?
Also, we are hoping to all sleep in the same tent, a 3-4 person tent. Does this mean we can just reserve one “campsite on ground” through Fantastico Sur for each night, or would we have to reserve 3-4 campsites? If we want to bring 2 tents, would we have to reserve 2 “campsite on ground” per night, or could we put both tents on 1 campsite?
I’m also confused on what Fantastico Sur means when they say “campsite on ground double site 1 person” vs “campsite on ground double site 2 person”. I’m looking for the cheapest campsites for the 3-4 of us, and don’t need any accomdations (we’ll bring our own tent, food, etc.).
Thanks for the help and clarification, and thanks once again for such an awesome and straight forward post about the O trek!
Thanks for reaching out, Wyatt! Glad you like the post.
Eek, it looks like the prices have skyrocketed since I updated the post for last season. It’s crazy that they have tripled! Supply and demand at work, I guess… I’ll make sure to update the post again with current prices when I have a chance. Thanks for pointing this out.
To answer your second and third questions: I’m not sure, but it seems as though you’d need to book two “Campsite on ground – Double site two people” if you plan on having four people. When checking in with Fantastico Sur, they’ll probably want to see that your reservations correspond with the amount of campers you’ll have. I’m not sure, though, so my best advice would be to call/email them to get a more definitive answer. Sorry I can’t be of more help in this regard!
Good luck in your trip planning! It’ll all be worth it.
Feel free to reach out with more questions.
Awesome, thanks for the reply Noel!
Couple more questions:
Do you think leaving Puerto Natales on the 7:15 am bus and hiking your Day 1 itinerary from Las Torres to Seron is reasonable in a day? Or should we camp at Las Torres that first night after travelling to the park, then hike to Seron the next morning?
Where is the administration office at? Is it near Las Torres?
Thanks again, Wyatt
Shoot I also meant to ask the question:
Do we have to buy a reservation into the Torres del Paine park through the CONAF website? Is this mandatory to even be in the park?
Thanks again, Wyatt
I’ve just had contact with “contactchile” and “erratic rock” (they do the daily informational stuff @ their hostel). They told me that it’s still possible to start the O-Trail from Paine Grande – just because you’ve written a friend told you its only possible from las Torres. Just as an Information for all the other trekking-people out there 😉 Kind regards, Mevion
Thanks for the heads up, Mevion! I’ll update the article soon with this new information.
Based on your experience, would you be able to tell me how many gas canisters will be necessary to bring for the 8 nights in the park? for one meal at each campsite I gess.. I know you did it in fewer days, but I would have an idea though adding one or two more uses.
You should be good to go with only one canister. If you do run out of fuel, which I doubt you will, there are plenty of extra canisters that have been left behind at the refugios. Don’t worry, you’ll be good!
Thanks for the useful info. I am planning a trip for March 2023 but can’t find any way to book the CONAF sites. Patagonia Travel seemed to charge a hefty mark-up over the direct sites for Fantastico Sur and Vertice, so I’d prefer not to use them. Any thoughts? Thanks, Tony
Hmmmmm… Just poking around and it looks a little more confusing to book those sites than it once was. I found this page, which seems promising. Does that help at all?
Great article! Thanks for posting. I’d like to go straight from Central to Dickinson on my first day. Will the park rangers allow you to show that you first campsite is Dickinson on the first day? (I have the rest of the sites booked as well.
You shouldn’t have any problems whatsoever, as long as you stay exactly where you’re supposed to stay on a given night and have all of the necessary paperwork on hand for anyone who may ask. Have a fantastic trip, Christian!
Thank you for the inspiration and the nitty gritty details!
You’re welcome, Kathryn!
Thanks for the helpful article!
I’m of thinking of doing the same 19.9 miles hike from Camp Las Torres to Serón and hiking Mirador Las Torres in the middle. How long would that take? You said you started late, what time did you start and did you get to Serón in the dark? I’m wondering what’s the latest I can start from Camp Las Torres.
It depends how fast of a hiker you are, but I imagine this would take anyone pretty much all day long. Luckily, the sun stays out for a long time in Patagonia during the summer. Get an early start, keep a good pace, and you’ll be good to go! Have fun out there.
Really helpful guide, thank you! We booked our flights to Argentina pretty late and are now looking for campsites in late March. Since both Frances and Cuernos are booked out, we thought about hiking straight from Paine Grande to Torres Central (while skipping the Mirador Britanico). Any thoughts on that?
Should be around 24km of relatively flat profile according to my calculations.
Thanks and best regards
Though it would be a bummer to miss Mirador Britanico, I think you could pull this off pretty easily if you’re an experienced backpacker in decent hiking shape. Glad the guide helped you out! Let me know how your trip ends up.