Hiking and driving in Torres del Paine

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is one of the most spectacular national parks in Chile and of course in South America. UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve in 1978 and it is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful and authentic places on the planet. National Geographic also named this park as one of the most beautiful places on Earth in 2013.

Mountain peaks, cascading rivers, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and incredible wildlife, this park has a lot to offer to every kind of traveler. It is a very well known destination for hikers and backpackers, but it's also a favorite spot for adventure and nature lovers. But if you don't like to walk, just don't come here!

We only had two full days at the park so we did a mix of driving and hiking which gave us an overview but also a little bit of detail of this amazing natural park. To arrive into the Park we drove from Puerto Natales (around 120 km) until one of the park entrances: Laguna Amarga. This was a very scenic drive, specially in the last 60 km. Since we were staying at Las Torres Patagonia Hotel, we decided to explore that side of the park first (after paying of course an entrance fee of 18,000 $CLP per person).

Road views before entering the park


Torres del Paine view


Cascada Paine

We drove to Laguna Azul stopping at Cascada Paine, a pretty waterfall set in a wide valley against a backdrop of the Torres Del Paine. The falls are impressive but what set them apart are the peaks in the background that grant you spectacular shots. Requires only a couple of minutes walking so this place is highly accessible to anyone (if you have a car of course).

Laguna Azul was our second stop, a beautiful crystal clear water lagoon that offered us a great view of Torres del Paine. No need of trekking to see the famous Paine towers with its incredible granite peaks reflecting in the lagoon. We stayed for a while enjoying the atmosphere and having lunch with great views!

Mirador Cuernos Trail


Mirador Cuernos Trail


Mirador Cuernos view

After lunch we went for a relatively short trekking at Salto Grande and Mirador Cuernos. Salto Grande is the biggest waterfall in the park and it's easy to visit with just a small bit of walking involved (around 20 minutes in total). This powerful waterfall is approximately 15 m high and drains the waters of Lake Nordenskjold and the Paine River into the majestic Lake Pehoé. From the waterfall we started the trekking to Mirador Cuernos that took us in total 3 hours (walking + admiring the views + taking several photos on the way). The terrain is fairly flat with only one steeper part, and we could always see the Cuernos ("horns") of Paine in front of us. There are several viewpoints during the trail but the end of the trail viewpoint is the one closest to the horns and the pictures taken there are fantastic! Being closer to the horns allowed us to appreciate better the geology that formed the massif. We returned along the same path with the horns at our back and the sapphire lake on our right.

Driving at Torres del Paine national park


Grey Lake & Glacier trail


Grey Glacier

Next day we drove all the way to the Grey Lake (from Base Las Torres it took us around 1.5 hours since it is all unpaved road). Flowing into the lake it’s the glacier with the same name: Grey Glacier, which can be seen on a relatively short walk (around 3 hours in total – going and coming back). We left the car at the parking space and we walked through the forest and then through a pebbled beach viewing the glacier from a certain distance and seeing small icebergs floating around the lake. It was not an easy walk at the beach because of the strong winds. We also hiked the small peninsula after the beach, which gave us even better views from the lake and the glacier. Grey Lake is a beautiful lake with more than 500 meters of depth and surrounded by the incredible Paine Mountain.

Driving at Torres del Paine


Salto Chico waterfall


Salto Chico trail views

We also stopped at Pehoé and Sarmento Lakes. Both have viewpoints close to the main road so it is possible to go there easily not requiring any kind of trekking.

Last but not least was Salto Chico trail. A trail we didn’t know existed (does not come in the park official map) but probably the one we liked most. Salto Chico is a small waterfall draining the aqua-bluegreen Lake Pehoé. But the best parts were the gorgeous peaks and mountains behind the waterfall, a scenic image we would not forget easily! There are several boardwalks around, all of them with tremendous panoramas of Cuernos del Paine and Pehoé Lake. We walked for around 1 hour stopping for several pictures, videos and just for admiring some of the best views we saw at Torres del Paine National Park. And we were alone all the time while doing this short trail. Only the marvellous nature and us!

Driving


Cuernos del Paine


Glaciers & Mountains


Guanacos & Mountains

Next stop: El Calafate (Argentina)

 

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10 Comments

  1. I really like your writing style, good information, thank you for posting D.

  2. I am stealing your itinerary! We have the same timeframe and these hikes seem ideal to experience TdP in just two days. Thanks for all the detail!

    • Happy to be of help Courtney! Hope you had a good experience! Its one of our favourite places on earth!

  3. thank you so much! this info is not easy to find among all the sites for expensive tours. really appreciate it!

    • HI thank you for the info. Did you run into gas problems?

      • No, but you have to calculate it carefully because inside the park there’s no gas station. We filled the tank before in Puerto Natales and then on the way to El Calafate (Tapi Aike – around 100 km from the inside the park). And the gas station in Tapi Aike is really expensive! Our car used petrol, just for you to know. General rule of thumb: you should always fill the tank when you get close to half!

  4. Looks fabulous, think i’ll steal some of your ideas as well !! – thanks 🙂
    Can you tell me how long the round trip hike took from car park to Salto Grande to Mirador Cuernos and back to car park please?

    • Hi there! Thanks for your message 🙂
      That hike took us approximately 3 hours but I think you can do it faster since we spent some time taking pictures and admiring the awesome landscapes.

  5. Thank you so much for this. I’ve been looking for some reviews in TdP using a car and short walks instead of 5-day campings… Im gonna stay in a hotel 60km north of Puerto Natales (and 45min from Laguna Amarga)the closest I’ve found to TdP that I can afford, I only have 3 days and wanna do day trips. I’d love to do the same hikes u did. Do you think it should be ok, considering the 45min drive every day back to the hotel?

    • Hi Andy. Thanks for your message! Yes, you can do the 45m drive daily and still do these short trips. Of course it will be more exhausting but I think no one gets tired when driving in TdP. Try to wake up early to be in the park around 9am. In average each of these walks will take you 2-3 hours and even the driving is beautiful in the park. You will love it!

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