How to do the W trek without reservations. Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia Chile. #torresdelpaine #trekking #outdoor

How to do the W trek without reservations in Torres del Paine National Park

How to do the W trek without reservations. One of the biggest highlights in Chilean Patagonia is to do the W trek in Torres del Paine National Park. But due to increasing popularity, more restrictions have been applied to the park, and now you have to make your reservations before arrival. Many visitors have experienced difficulties with the reservation system because you need to do it with 2-3 different companies or that some of the camping sites were sold out and some were not – making it complicated to do the whole trek. Or, that camping sites at Fantastico Sur exceeded the budget for many budget travelers because at specific campsites you are obligated to buy Full Board (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for an extra cost on top of the reservation of the campsite.

The best thing is to do the reservation in Torres del Paine months before, take time to figure out how it works, and do the reservation with anticipation to avoid some of the campsites being fully booked.

Many people ask if they can do the W trek without reservations. Yes, you can. You just need to do it a little bit differently, and I will tell you some ways of doing it the right way. I recommend you take a look at this map to get an overview of the places I mention in the article:

Map of Torres del Paine National Park


W-trek itinerary without reservations

Day 1

Are you taking the public bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine, the bus will stop at the Laguna Amarga entrance for visitors to show the QR entrance code. You will need to go back into the bus and continue to Pudeto. In Pudeto you take the ferry to Paine Grande.

You can see the schedule of the ferry here (at the bottom):

Walk from Refugio Paine Grande to Grey (11 km). It takes approximately 2,5 – 3 hours to get to Refugio Grey. Continue towards the hanging bridge (another 40 minutes) to get a better view of the glacier. There is also a viewpoint 10 minutes walk from Refugio Grey if you are too tired to take an extra 1,5 – 2 hours walk. Just follow the signs. Be sure you have time to get back before the last ferry leaves Paine Grande.

Walk all the way back to Refugio Paine and take a later ferry out of the park again. The buses usually have the same schedule as the ferry and will be waiting if the ferry is late.

You have now done the left leg of the W trek.


How to do the W trek without reservations. Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia Chile

From the closest Glacier Grey lookout

Day 2

Take the same catamaran in the morning from Pudeto to Refugio Paine Grande. Go towards Refugio Italiano (7,1 km). It is plain all the way and easy to walk. At Camping Italiano, go towards the French Valley. It’s about 1,5 km but going uphill. It will take you around 45 minutes.

If you have time and a lot of energy, I will recommend you to continue to the Britanico viewpoint. But look at the weather, if it’s snowy or cloudy the CONAF sometimes closes the viewpoint. Always ask them upon arrival at the CONAF office located at Refugio Italiano. If it’s all cloudy, you probably won’t see much either.

Go back to Refugio Paine Grande and take the catamaran back to Pudeto. You have now done the middle leg of the W trek.

How to do the W trek without reservations. Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia Chile. #torresdelpaine #trekking #outdoor

Britanico Lookout on a clear and beautiful day.

Day 3

Take the bus to Laguna Amarga and take the shuttle bus to the welcome center. If you have a car, drive all the way to the welcome center. Hike to the base of the Towers and back again. In total, it’s about 17 kilometers, and it takes approximately 4 hours to get up and some 2-3 hours to get down depending on your level. Now you have done the right leg of the W trek.

Congratulation! You did it! This is how you do the W trek without reservations at the campsites and refugios located on the route.

How to do the W trek without reservations. Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia Chile. #torresdelpaine #trekking #outdoor

The infamous Towers


Nice to Know information

The only part you did not do is the walk from the welcome center towards Refugio Italiano (passing Refugio Francés and Los Cuernos). It is about 10 km from the W-trek. You can do it if you want to use an extra day walking from the Welcome Center and all the way to Paine Grande and take the catamaran out of the park (or the opposite way around), but on this route, there aren’t that much to see. It will only be for the walk!

If you can get a campsite at Refugio Paine Grande, that will, of course, help a lot and give you some more time to do the trek on day 2. But this is the advice for you who didn’t get any reservations on the W trek.

You can, of course, do the trekking the other way around, starting out with Base of The Towers.


Where to stay in the park without reservations

There are some different solutions depending on whether you have a car or not. If you have a car and want to stay somewhere cheap where you can put up your tent, then you can stay at Camping Pehoe. From there you can drive to Pudeto on day 1 and 2 to take the catamaran, and on day three you drive to the welcome center to do the base of the towers.

You can also walk from Pudeto, but it takes about 2 hours to walk, this is why it would be more convenient for you to have a car. It would make sense to stay overnight at Camping Pehoe on day 1 to day 2, but then you will have to take the bus out of the park on day 2 and then take the regular bus from Puerto Natales to the welcome center to do the base of the towers on day 3.

There are some other hotels in the park, e.g., Hotel Grey, Hotel Las Torres, Hostería Pehoe, Hotel Río Serrano but for all of them, you will need a car to get to Puedo or the welcome center to start the W trek. Many of these places also arrange these treks with a guide, but then it is another price as well.


Public buses to Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales

There are buses in the morning leaving from Puerto Natales towards the park. The regular buses from Puerto Natales start between 7 and 8 am. Everything can be booked online on buses fernandez or bus sur’s websites.

If you choose to stay in Puerto Natales, you will need to take the regular bus every day. It might be an easier solution than camping in Camping Pehoe without a car.

How to do the W trek without reservations. Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia Chile. #torresdelpaine #trekking #outdoor

You might be lucky to see the local gauchos working while going to the park


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  • Sophie February 10, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Perfect for an on the fly traveler like myself!

    • nanaregalah February 10, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      and we do have a lot of people here who prefers to be spontaneous and they suffer a bit here 🙂

  • Lieselot De Brauwer February 10, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    I’d love to this trek! Looks absolutely gorgeous. Good to know there are options to do the trek without reservations!

  • Kelly February 10, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    I love this. Not only is this trek stunning but its nice to know that you can avoid the reservation issue. I had this problem in Peru on the Inca Trail. I had no idea you had to book months in advance so i missed out. But thanks for inspiring me to get here.

    • nanaregalah February 11, 2018 at 12:48 am

      Yeah, seems like many popular places have become so popular that you had to plan ahead of time! Same with some mountain /volcano hikes around the world.

  • Mary February 10, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    Gorgeous pics! Seeing those gauchos seemed so cool too. Chile looks amazing.

  • Cherene Saradar September 24, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    Hey thanks for such great advice once again! I want to see the W but I will be solo and don’t want to camp or pay for a tour. So for this you recommend making Puerto Natales a base? And given the time tables you mentioned, there is enough time each day even for a slow hiker? LOL

    • nanaregalah October 9, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Cherene! sorry for my late answer, the season just started and its crazy haha 😀 There are some campsites outside the W trek, like camping Pehoe, but it would be better to have a car because else the logistics will be a bit tricky. The time schedule for the bus or the boat? I think you should make it without stress if you take the first boat and the last boat if you are talking about the boat schedule. Btw Camping Paine Grande is not that expensive, I think its almost the same as Pehoe and it would be more convenient for you instead of taking the boat back and forward, it isn’t cheap either.

  • Susan December 9, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    hi there– many thanks for your ideas. Is it possible to camp on your own with your own gear outside of the park? all the campsites inside and outside of the park are booked for us. We will have a car but hoping not to have to go back and forth to Puerto Natales each day. Not sure if it is possible to just find a spot and camp, or if it is possible to leave a campsite set up for several days. Thank you for any information!

    • nanaregalah December 17, 2019 at 6:45 pm

      Hi Susan,
      thanks for reaching out to me. Unfortunately no, this park is very strict about camping and fire because of its unfortunate history of huge fires caused by humans. You can only camp inside the campsites of Vertice, Fantastico Sur, Conaf and Camping Pehoe (which is located outside the W and O trek). If you have a car, I will recommend camping Pehoe! I think there is a camping site in some of the estancias as well, located just outside the park. Laguna Amarga camping. Also, Serrano has some camping if I am not mistaken. Best of luck!


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