As we mentioned yesterday, Torres del Paine is the national park in Chile’s Patagonia which is named after it’s three mountain peaks (the “Torres”). These granite towers are the symbol of Chilean Patagonia, and are what explorers first wrote about regarding Patagonia. They are what made the park famous worldwide.
Therefore, we couldn’t resist the urge to get up close. While visiting Torres del Paine, there are a few ways to get close to the Torres: either a multi-day hike (5 or 8 day “O” and “W” treks) or a day hike.
Given that we were somewhat limited on time, we decided on the one-day Mirador los Torres hike.
Everyone warned us that it would be cold, so we layered the clothing on: base layers, sweaters, wind breakers, hats, and gloves.
However, within minutes of our ascent, we were sweating and losing layers at a rapid rate. Soon we were comfortably walking in a light sweater and wind breaker. Despite the unpredictable weather in Patagonia, our day couldn’t have been more perfect!
The hike starts in cowboy ranch land, with fields of horses and wildflowers. The gentle incline makes this a fairly relaxing part of the hike. And the little bit of wind in the air results in clouds that look perfectly wind-swept:
As the ranch land fades into a distance, you head up into a large valley where the elevation gain slowly begins. Here, horses would pass by carrying goods up the road.
As you hike along the trails throughout the national park, there are many warnings forbidding the use of fire. This includes a mandatory video to watch upon entry into the park which threatens fees and a potential prison sentence if caught starting a fire. This is because a number of significant man-made fires have destroyed much of the park in the past.
In 2005, a Czech backpacker started a fire that burned for over 10 days and destroyed over 155 square kilometers of the park. Not only was the backpacker fined after the event, but the Czech government also provided aid and donated $1 million USD to reforestation efforts.
There is evidence of these fires – the most recent of which was in 2011 – throughout the park, where large fields of dead trees remain.
Anyways, the last part of the Mirador los Torres hike is the hardest. A final steep climb of 1000 m is done in the last kilometer of the hike. But the views are so worth it, as the climb takes you right to the base of the Torres, where a glacier lake sits at the bottom:
Distance: 18 km (round-trip) | Vertical: 1000 m | Difficulty: Intermediate
The Mirador los Torres hike is an out-and-back hike. The initial portion of the hike has a steady climb to a rangers station. From there you continue up the river bed to the base of the Torres. From the base you do most of the 1000 m vertical over the final 1 km. When you reach the top there are sweeping views of the Torres and the glacier lake below. There are camping options available along the trail for those on multi-day treks.