Hiking Las Torres
While the entire Torres del Paine park is incredible, the most iconic section, and the part it’s named for, is the towers. Some attempt actually climbing the towers themselves, but the latest couple who tried this were killed by an avalanche just before reaching the summit. You can see the towers in the distance as you drive through the park, but the most popular way to see them up close is to hike to the base.
It’s about an 8 hour round trip hike on average and I would classify it as challenging. Thankfully the altitude isn’t bad so there’s not much trouble breathing, but it’s pretty steep climbing in places and I was definitely tired out. There are two strategies for doing the hike.
The first is to stay in the hotel, refugios, or camp at the Las Torres location. There is a transfer bus that runs a few times a day from the Laguna Armaga entrance to this area (more on that in a future post). From here it’s about 8 hours and 18 kilometers of hiking round trip. Pros to this: There are bathrooms, including showers, snacks for sale and even a full restaurant here. Plus you can leave all your gear there while you do the hike and only carry a daypack up.
Option #2 is for anyone who wants to see the sunrise at Las Torres. This involves taking the shuttle to the hotel area and then hiking with everything up for about 3 or so hours. There is a campsite about 45 minutes to an hour from the base of the towers and this one is even free! However it doesn’t have all the amenities of the main area and you have to haul your tent and sleeping bag and all your gear up there. I personally think I would have been miserable attempting this so I’m so glad we reserved a campsite below.
We got up at 5am to start our hike in order to be back down with time to pack to catch the 2:00pm bus that heads back to town. If you miss this one, the next bus isn’t until 7:45pm t which would put you rolling into Puerto Natales at about 11:00pm. We were tired and wanted to get to our hotel in time to shower and relax and get to sleep at a decent hour. Plus I wanted to eat a big meal for dinner since we had been scrounging on snacks from the grocery store for the past couple days.
November is springtime and the sunlight hours are very long. At 5am the sun was already coming up so we started walking with a beautiful sky around us. Note: the trailhead is much closer to the hotel, it was probably a 15-20 minute walk from our campsite to reach the trailhead!
It was very easy to follow signs the whole way up the trail. We had waterbottles with us, but after about the first 90 minutes there are constant streams everywhere along the trail. And the water in Patagonia is the purest water I have ever tasted. You don’t need a filter at all, you can literally just fill up your bottle from the stream. This was super convenient so that we didn’t have to pack a ton of water with us and carry all the weight of it. Instead we just took about 1 liter each and kept re-filling along the way.
Again, I would recommend wearing layers. It was chilly when we started out in the morning but after about 15 minutes of walk I had stripped off all my layers and hat and gloves and was down to just my long sleeve shirt and pants. I wish I had a t-shirt with me because it heated up fast throughout the day. I was glad to have my shell jacket as the wind was strong at times, especially at the towers base, and the buff was excellent for keeping my ears warm from the wind without overheating from a hat. We also took our hiking poles with us and I’m glad we did.
On our way up we hardly saw anyone else on the trail. But as the day got later, and on the way down, the trail got a lot busier. Still it never felt crowded. There are also options for horseback riding up to the Chileno campsite (about 90 minutes – 2 hours up) and the horses will also carry your gear up or down for you. You can choose to stay at this campsite as well which is close to half way up the trail. That could be another option if you are set on watching the sunrise from the Towers. This campsite did have toilets and showers and a store with some snacks and picnic tables. Reservations required for the campsite.
It was a great hike and I would definitely recommend it. The first 90 minutes are pretty much all uphill. After that it goes between uphill and downhill the rest of the way. I thought I was going to shave a lot of time off on my way down (thinking it would be all downhill) but in actuality it was only a little shorter. I did the whole hike in about 7-7.5 hours so it’s really pretty close to saying 4 hours up and 4 hours down. Plus some time to admire the towers!
Use sunscreen and pack sunglasses! Once the sun came fully out it was hot and bright. Even with putting on sunscreen twice while hiking I came away with a sunburn on my face and neck. But the towers really are spectacular and the last 30 minutes of the hike is a lot of fun. It’s pretty much just bouldering the whole way over and across giant rocks. This was a little challenging as they weren’t many signs, just orange poles to follow. I got off track a couple times but was always able to find another pole within a couple minutes. It was definitely windy at the top but a good spot to eat some snacks and grab some photos.
If you’re going to go to the park I would definitely recommend doing this day hike. It’s tough, but if you’re in decent shape you should be able to do it. There is an option of hiring a guide in Puerto Natales who will transport you to the park and do the hike with you. But really this is totally unnecessary and you can do it on your own no problem. Don’t miss it!