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Torres del Paine National Park, in Chilean Patagonia, is known for its spectacular hiking trails, but the most iconic hike is to Mirador las Torres, a lookout at the base of the park’s three distinctive granite peaks.
Known as Torres del Paine, or the “blue towers”, these rocky peaks overlook a dazzling turquoise lake nestled in a mountainous valley. It’s a beautiful, hard-earned reward for those who complete the demanding day hike to Torres del Paine.
About the Mirador las Torres Hike in Torres del Paine National Park
The hike to Mirador Base de las Torres (lookout at the base of the towers) is the most popular hike in Torres del Paine National Park. The trail forms the eastern arm of the park’s famous W Trek and can be done as a day trip if you don’t want to hike the full W.
The trail passes through the scenic Ascencio Valley, roughly following the path of the Ascencio River, before making a steep climb up to Lago Torres at the base of Torres del Paine, the three granite towers from which the park takes its name.
The hike to the base of Torres del Paine officially starts at Hotel Las Torres, but if doing it as a day trip/not staying at the hotel, you’ll have to begin at the Torres del Paine Welcome Centre. From here, the Torres del Paine towers hike is just shy of 21 km/13 mi round trip and takes 8- 10 hours to complete.
The hike to Mirador de las Torres is rated difficult/strenuous and has an elevation gain of 901 m/2956 ft.
The Torres del Paine Hike- Our Experience Hiking to Mirador Base de las Torres
The hike to the Torres del Paine towers was the first segment we tackled in our attempt to hike much of the W Trek as day trips.
We started our day hike to Torres del Paine at the Welcome Centre where we had to show our park pass before heading out on the trail.
Leaving the Welcome Centre, the trail crossed over a road then passed through a flat grassy area before turning to follow beside the road leading to Hotel Las Torres. Already we could see the tops of the towers peeking up from deep in the valley.
My excitement went up a level once we reached the hotel because we were now at the official Torres del Paine trailhead. This would be the start of the most demanding and rewarding hike we did in Torres del Paine National Park.
After the hotel, the trail began a gradual descent towards a river crossing before turning right and heading into the Ascencio Valley.
Entering into the valley, the trail started its first ascent to higher elevation. I kept stopping to look behind me because there was a nice view of a turquoise lake in the distance.
Once we reached the top of this first climb, the trail levelled out and followed along a ridge above the Ascencio River. Straight ahead was a glacier-capped mountain welcoming us into the heart of the valley.
Soon we reached the Windy Pass (455 m/1493 ft) and had no doubt it was appropriately named. The wind in Patagonia is no joke (we saw RVs get flipped and car windows blown out) and this would be our first taste of the fierce gusts we’d battle during our Mirador las Torres hike.
The section of trail from Windy Pass to the Chileno refuge was one of my favourite parts of the hike. As the path gently wound down the side of valley there were gorgeous views of Rio Ascencio and the surrounding mountains.
At the bottom of the valley we crossed over the river and arrived at refugio Chileno, one of the accommodations on the trail. There was a tap outside where we could fill up with drinking water and around back there were toilets we could use for 500 pesos (less than $1).
It’s worth noting that the trail between the refugio and Mirador Base las Torres closes at 3:00 pm, so if you start your hike late in the day you won’t have much time to rest here. From the refugio it’s still 4 km/2.5 mi to reach the base of the towers.
We opted to hike through without a break because I wanted to get to the towers while the sky was clear (too many times I’ve had clouds conceal what I travelled so far to see and I did not want that to happen here!)
This next section of the Torres del Pain hike was largely unremarkable, climbing through a lengthy section of forest. The only thing I stopped to take a picture of was a small waterfall.
At the end of this forested trail we arrived at a rest area near the park ranger station. The view had opened up and we could now see mountains and a glacier, but the coveted towers were still hidden behind the valley wall.
There was another “gate” here informing hikers that the final section of trail to Mirador las Torres closes at 3:45 pm and the lookout itself closes at 4:30 pm. Wanting to have plenty of time to admire the towers, we again pushed through without much of a break.
The last leg of the hike was the most difficult and intense part of the trail. We had to navigate a steep pile of rocks and boulders all the while fighting to stay on our feet as some wicked winds whipped through the valley at high speeds. At the park gate, a ranger told us to expect gusts of 80 km/hr but I think what we experienced that day was even higher.
The wind was so strong that a girl in front of me (coming down the path) got picked up and thrown over the side of the trail. It was one of the most shocking things I’ve seen to watch her feet leave the ground as the wind pushed her from behind then dropped her out of sight. I thought I had just witnessed someone’s death, but thankfully she wasn’t injured too badly and there were a lot of people who quickly rushed to help.
After that incident I was very cautious, and a little nervous, because I was also being blown around quite a bit. Luckily we could hear the wind coming up the valley before it reached us, so this gave us time to lower our bodies and brace ourselves through the gusts.
The extreme winds got our adrenaline flowing, but the steep climb up the rock field got our hearts pumping. It was not only physically challenging, but also emotionally overwhelming as I excitedly anticipated getting a full view of the towers.
Once I came up over the final ridge of rock I could not believe my eyes. There they were, the three towers, Torres del Paine, standing mightily over a small turquoise lake.
“It’s so amazing!” I gushed at Mike who was coming up behind me, yet to see his first view of the lake at the base of the towers.
I quickly walked down to Lago Torres and took a ton of pictures of Torres del Paine. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to get to enjoy the towers without a cloud in the sky. Not taking many breaks during our hike to Mirador las Torres definitely paid off!
Once I got my pictures, we found a spot on the rocks where we could have lunch away from the crowds and enjoy this perfect view at the base of Torres del Paine. The colour of the lake complemented the grey granite towers so well it was like an artist painted the scene.
We spent an hour and a half admiring Lago Torres and the three towers. Even then, I still did not want to leave Mirador Base de las Torres, but I knew we had at least another 4 hours of hiking to get back to our car.
So, at 3:30 pm we began the return hike, following the same trail we came in on.
The winds were still whipping around so our hike down the rock pile was slow going. I would sit down every time a strong gust came, scared that I too would be blown off the trail. I was so relieved once we made it into the shelter of the forest, even though that meant sacrificing some views.
On the way down, we passed a ranger who was on his way to close the viewpoint at the base of Torres del Paine and usher away the remaining hikers. Once we reached the ranger station we found a rope stretched across the trail indicating it was closed for the day.
The remainder of our hike was uneventful but I still enjoyed the scenery in Valle Ascencio just as much the second time around. It’s always nice when a long hike has beautiful views to enjoy along the way, not just at the main destination.
Final Thoughts About the Mirador las Torres Day Hike
We really enjoyed the Torres del Paine hike and the view at the base of the towers was unforgettable. It doesn’t matter how many times I see a glacial lake surrounded by mountains it always makes me smile.
The hike to Mirador Base de las Torres is a great choice if you want to see iconic Patagonian scenery, but it’s not the trail to choose if you want to embark on a quiet, secluded hike. We much preferred the atmosphere of our hike in the French Valley and our hike to Grey Glacier, as these trails were not as busy.
Even though the hike to Mirador las Torres is on a heavily trafficked trail, we still consider it one of the best day hikes in Torres del Paine National Park.
Torres del Paine Hike Guide- Tips for Hiking to Mirador las Torres
Trail Details: Here is some information about the trail to Mirador las Torres so you can prepare for your hike.
- Type of Trail- Out and back
- Start and Finish Points- Torres del Paine Welcome Centre
- Distance- 20.7 kilometres/12.86 miles (starting from the Torres del Paine Welcome Centre, which is a little over 1 km from the official trailhead at Hotel Las Torres).
- Elevation Gain- 901 metres/2956 feet
- Difficulty- Hard/strenuous
- Time Required- 8- 10 hours
According to my GPS recording, the Mirador las Torres hike took us 8 hours and 9 minutes (not including lunch) at an average speed of 2.5 km/hr. We walked for 7 hr 22 min and rested for 47 min. Our average moving speed on the trail was 2.8 km/hr (max of 7.1 km/hr) and our pace was 23.36 min/km. These stats don’t take into account the 1.5 hours we spent at the base of the towers having lunch, when I paused the track recording. So in total, the hike to Torres del Paine took us about 9.5 hours.
Best Time to Hike: The best time to do the towers hike in Torres del Paine National Park is in summer (December to February) because of the warmer temperatures and long daylight hours.
Getting to the Trailhead: The Torres del Paine hike is on the eastern end of the park. The closest park gate is Laguna Amarga on Route Y-156.
- To get to the trailhead at Hotel Las Torres you will need to pass through the Torres del Paine Welcome Centre and show your park pass.
- There are buses travelling between Puerto Natales (the closest city to Torres del Paine National Park) and the Laguna Amarga station. The distance is about 110 km/68 mi and the drive takes about 2 hours. From Laguna Amarga there are shuttle buses running back and forth to the Welcome Centre (trip takes about 10 minutes).
Trail Closure Times: Use the following closure times to help plan your hike.
- Chileno Refuge- Trail closes at 3:00 pm.
- Guarderia Torres- Trail closes at 3:45 pm.
- Mirador Base de las Torres- Closes at 4:30 pm.
Facilities: The Welcome Centre at the start of the trail has public washrooms, a small café, and gift shop. You can also rent trekking poles there.
- The next services on the trail are at refugio Chileno. There’s a tap with drinkable water, washrooms (cost 500 pesos when we were there), and a bar and restaurant.
- The final services are at the Guarderia Torres ranger station where there’s a washroom. It’s a short walk off the main trail and we didn’t go check it out, so can’t comment on it.
Gear/What to Bring: You will need proper hiking shoes with sturdy soles because the trail is rocky and uneven in places, with some exposed tree roots. Hiking poles came in handy for the ascents and descents and were also helpful for bracing myself against the wind.
- Dress in layers because the weather in the mountains can change quickly.
- There’s not much shade on the trail to Chileno and no shade on the final climb up the rock pile, so wear sun protection.
Safety: This hike is physically demanding (especially at the end), so be sure to stay hydrated and take breaks as needed.
- Take your time navigating up and down the rock pile.
- The wind in Patagonia can be dangerously strong. If it’s pushing you around/making you unsteady on your feet, sit down or stop walking until the gusts subside.
Information was correct at the time of publishing, but can change without notice. Please confirm directly with service providers.
Accommodations in Torres del Paine National Park
For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Torres del Paine National Park and Puerto Natales. Please consider booking your accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!