Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
20,759.00 ft (6,327.34 m)
Trail type
84.00 mi (135.18 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The "O" Circuit is a trail that circumnavigates Torres Del Paine National Park, a part of Patagonia region of Chile.  In conjunction with the "W" Circuit, this is an all encompassing adventure around the park. The "W" is a route independent from the "O" that many people who don't have 8 days for the "O" tend to complete.  Many rules have changes in reference to the "W" but the "O" is still a one direction trek with designated refugios and campsites.  There is two main companies you can directly make reservations for a campsite or refugio, Las Torres and Vertice.  They offer a range of options form just a site for your own tent to a full board stay at the refugio. They have options to rent a tent that is already set up for you with a sleeping pad and bag.

Day 1

After taking the bus from Puerto Natales to the Amarga Ranger Station, there is a shuttle (3000 pesos) to the Torres Del Paine Welcome Center.  Behind that is Refugio Central and Norte.  The trailhead for the "O" is on the gravel road between Central and Norte.  It's a little confusing as the first sign you see is an arrow pointing left of the road for the direction to Seron refugio.  Follow the gravel road  as it winds up the hill.  The trail leaves the gravel road at the access towards Eco Camp Patagonia.  This is a shared trail with horses as the trail continues up along the countryside. At about the 6 mile mark you have a great view of Rio Paine and begin the descent into the valley toward Seron.  After the descent and a few stream crossings, the trail enters a section about 1.5 miles long blanketed in Daisy wild flowers.  Seron is toward the end of these pastures.  At Seron is campsites, tents to reserve but there are no beds in the refugio.  There is separate showers and toilets for all to use.  Water from the sinks is said to be potable however, it is cloudy from silt.

Day 2

Begin the hike to Dickson sector and Dickson Refugio following the same trail though several more fields of Daisys. The trail follows the shoreline of Rio Paine which in several areas requires hikers to leave the trail for a short bushwack as the river can be swollen from glacier melt and rains covering the trail completely.  The trail climbs steeply at the 2.5 mile mark until you reach a bench overlooking Lago Paine.  The trail parallels high above Lago Paine for 2 miles. The trail is moderately easy for the next 6 miles until an overlook of Dickson refugio.  The last 1/4 mile is a very steep descent and a bit difficult.  There is a gate to close once at the bottom and the final walk to Dickson.  Dickson is one of the better refugios on the circuit with several buildings, indoor showers and flushing toilets.  There is beds in several dorm style rooms and campsites along with tents that can be reserved in advance.

Day 3

The circuit trail continues through the Dickson compound into the forest.  The trail turns sharply left after less than a half mile. amd gradually climbs through the forest for 2 miles until a sharp right into Los Perros valley.  The trail follows Rio de Los Perros up the valley with not many vistas until reaching  Cerroo Blanco Sur and the Olguin hanging glaciar.  While the actual trail is below the viewpoint for this glaciar, there is a trail that runs parallel to the circuit trail that offers a great view and leads back to the circuit trail.  At this point the trail is very near the water and soon you begin to see campsites at Los Torres.  There is a ranger station here that hikers are required to check in.  You will need to provide a passport number in the registration log.  Los Perros is on the primitive side compared to all the other refugios thus far.  There is only cold water for the showers and the toilet is often broken.  There is only tent sites here and a room where you can cook.  Vertice has just started offering dinner here however, it is extremely expensive for very basic food.

Day 4

Today is the section that is most talked about at all the refugios and campsite, the ascent to John Gardner Pass.  The final destination this day is Grey Refugio. This by far is the most strenuous day with 3800 feet of elevation gain and 5600 feet of descent.  A pre-dawn start is recommended.  The trail leaves Los Perros into the forest and begins to climb steeply on a wet, rocky and exposed roots trail. Once above treeline, the trail becomes consistantly steep with few switchbacks.  This pass is known for it's high winds and poor weather. However, after reaching the pass and begining the descent, the wind becomes more manageable. The views from the pass are incredible. The Grey glacier lays below with great views of Cerro Fortalez Chico to the immediate right and Cerro Blanco massif on the opposite side.

The trail switchbacks along the exposed descent and soon works back into treeline.  After that point is the most difficult section with a straight steep descent on exposed roots and rocks.  The next break is reaching Campamento Paso.  Several buildings are being erected along with the existing ranger station.  The trail continues to descend with still some very steep sections. There is three exposed long suspension bridges to cross gorges.  The suspension bridges are typically limited to 1-2 people crossing at a time.  The slats of the bridgeway are separated enough that a toe can easily get caught causing one to trip.  It is recommended to stowe trekking poles and hold onto the cables.  The last suspension bridge requires a down climb of a steep ladder once on the other side.  There is a very nice view point at the end of a short trail before the last suspension bridge.

The trail continues to descend to Grey Refugio.  There is a ranger station that you should check in with however, if you are staying at Grey refugio, you are checking in there.  Grey is by for the nicest of all the refugios, especially the dinning area.  They are well stocked with beer and wine.

Day 5

The trail leaves Grey refugio and is a moderate section of 7 miles.  More people are on the trail now with day hikers from Paine Grande as well as other completing the "W"  This is traditionally the last leg of the "W" Circuit.  The trail offers many great views of Lago Grey and Cerro Zapata and Cerro Ferrier.  The trail passes Paine Grande refugio so take the access trail on the right when the refugio is in view.  Paine Grande is the busiest refugio due to the ferry that brings in day hikers and returns people who completed the "W."  The tent site here have full exposure to the sun and weather.  There is also a small store with a variety of food items.

Day 6

The trail leaves Paine Grande toward Italiano Campamento.  After about a half mile, the trail splits.  To the right is a sign "Solo Intaliano" and no signage if you continue straight along a more worn path.  The trail on the left is a more direct route to Italiano Campamento.  The trail on the right is about 1.5 miles longer however it offer better views of Lago Skottsberg in the foreground of Cerro Paine Grande.  The trail on the right also is less crowded as many day hiker take the route on the left because they are doing an out and back to the French Valley.  The Solo Italiano trail winds through the heart of the 2012 forest fire damage with a newly constructed boardwalk through the marsh areas.  Both trails come together just at the newly constructed suspension bridge across Rio del Frances.  The new Italiano Campamento is much bigger than the original with toilets and a place for hikers to drop their pack for the trek up the French Valley.  Drop your back here for the 7 mile round trip.  This is the middle leg of the "W" Circuit.  The start up the French Valley is in a Lenga forest.  soon you reach the original Italiano Campamento structure and the decommissioned bridge.  Keep right as the trail climbs and eventually comes out onto the morain and then back into the forest.  About the 2 mile mark, the trail reaches the popular Mirador Glaciar Frances, a hanging galcier on the side of Cerro Paine Grande.  The views on both sides of the valley are incredible.  The trail continues back into the forest and meanders up to Mirador Britanico.  This view point has been moved to a shorter distance.  Enjoy the incredible views! Turn back  the way you came to exit the French Valley.  Pick up you pack to get back on the "O" Circuit trail toward Frances refugio.  Note here: the distance to Frances refugio is wrong.  There is signage that states it is 2 kilometers away but it is only about .5 kilometers.

At Frances refugio, there is tent sites and dome shelters with running hot water and showers.  Two access the domes and resturant, it is a steep descent off the "O" Circuit trail.  The tent sites are located just off the trail, so no descent.  It is not recommended to push through to Cuernos refugio even though signage has it at 3.5 kilometers, it is just over 4 miles.

Day 7

From Frances refugio to Cuernos refugio is close to 3.5 miles.  All signage is wrong and in some case just give the distance in time. The trail is easy to follow with many up and down sections.  Along the way are great views of Lago Nordenskjold.  Cuernos refugio has table and a small store.  Many upgrades have taken place at this refugio. Continue on passing Cuernos and much of the same terrain for another 3.5 miles. The trail splits here at Laguna Inge.  There is a sign stating "shortcut to Chileno refugio on the left.  To the right is the trail to Central refugio and the visitor center.  Stay right if only completing the "O" circuit.  To the left is the final leg of the "W" Circuit.  Follow the left trail for about 2 miles. The trail crosses a meadow then climbs steadily until meeting up with the traditional "W" Circuit trail to Chileno.  In a short distance the trail reaches Windy Pass, which lives up to it's name.  About another mile on a well define trail is Chileno refugio.  There are tent sites both raises and on the ground as well as dormatory style beds in the refugio.  as with all refugios, reservations are required.

Day 8

It is recommended to leave well before sunrise for a chance at seeing the alpinglow of Las Torres. The trail starts off flat as it works through the forest along Rio Ascencio and soon will cross the river.  The trail is a steady climb through a Lenga and Beech tree forest.  At about two miles the trail becomes very steep as it borders a morain and the forest.  Once the trail leaves the forest and crosses the morain, watch for wood arrows directing the way.  The are is now roped off to discourage exploration beyond where the park service wants you to view the towers.  Incredible view once at the top of the morain with the laguna in the foreground.  Descend the way you came back to Chileno refugio.  It is 6 miles round trip from Chileno to Mirador de Las Torres and back.  After lunch or a break return on the trail to Windy Pass and follow down to the Torres Del Paine visitor center.  From Chileno to the vistor center is 4 miles.  This completes the "O" and "W" Circuits!

Important notes:

  • Shuttles run frequently from the visitor center to Amarga where the buses to Puerto Natales stop.  Buses to Puerto Natales are limited. You must have a bus ticket in hand to for the desired time you want to return.  If you do not have a ticket, you can purchase one from the bus driver if a seat is available for 10,000 pesos.
  • Mileage/kilometers are often wrong. Do not rely on any distance posted.  Refugio workers typically will not tell you the distance rather, they tell you how many hours to the next refugio.
  • If you purchased a meal plan ahead of time from the refugios serviced by Las Torres, they are not very good. It is helpful to have some packs of condiments.
  • Quiet times at the refugios is 11pm.  However, this seems to only apply to backpackers as the staff stop working at 11pm and begin to party.  Several can be loud past 1am due to the staff.
  • Trekking poles are recommended.
  • Most refugios have a small general store.  Strangely enough they are well stocked in condems but do not sell sunblock.
  • Refugio showers do not have soap or shampoo contrary to what Las Torres states.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round





Incredible scenery. Well defined trail. Water throughout trek.


Difficult descent from John Gardner Pass. W section is getting over crowded.

Trailhead Elevation

652.00 ft (198.73 m)

Highest point

4,485.00 ft (1,367.03 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Geologically significant
Bird watching
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site



Nearby Adventures

Torres del Paine National Park


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