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  • Writer's pictureBilbo Baggins

A Fine Day-Hike selection of Torres del Paine

Other than the multi-day trekking in Torres del Paine experiences like the bold Full Circuit or the less demanding 5-day W-Trek, inside this beautiful and unique protected area of the Chilean Patagonia there are a few other options doable as half-day or full-day hike.

In the following article you’ll find a fine selection of short-to-medium-length trails which are entirely located inside Torres del Paine National Park, with some of them being part of our photo-hiking program of 3 or 5 days. Our Torres del Paine Hiking and Photographic programs have been created to suit to keen photographers who love doing a two-to-three-hour hike in search of different perspective for their pictures. If you’re one of those Torres del Paine is a mecca for this type of activity!

Los Cuernos Lookout

Distance: 4km roundtrip

Duration: 2 hrs

Difficulty: Easy

Let’s start with an easy nonetheless spectacular half-day hike, mirador Cuernos as it is known by our community, starts from the parking lot located near the waterfall Salto Grande. The trails passes nearby the waterfall that connects Nordenskjold with Pehoe lakes and winds through the rolling hills towards the edge of the lake. This area was affected by the 2011/12 wildfire and despite the vegetation has been re-growing in the last years we can still observe the skeletons of the burned notros and ñirres which formed the shrubland ecosystem of this area.

Photographer can find inspiration and new perspective among the branches of the barren and white trees and the azure waters of the lake.

As we approached the end of the trail Paine Horns (Los Cuernos) and Paine Grande are shown in all their imposing magnificence as well as the lower part of the French Valley.

Guanacos grazing on the recovered vegetation, in the background Los Cuernos del Paine

Condor Lookout

Distance: 5km roundtrip/ one-way

Duration: 2/2,5 hrs

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Mirador Condor is a small hill located at the eastern flank of Pehoe lake, right in the hearth of Torres del Paine National Park. There are two access points to this lookout: one being the parking lot of Hosteria Pehoe and the second the small parking area nearby Camping Pehoe. This gives you the opportunity, if you’re supported by a driver, to perform a one-way hike (the overall distance is going to be the same as a round trip); if you decide to do so we recommend you hiking from the campsite to the hotel (south to north) since by doing so you’ll be facing the mountains all along.

The beauty of this half-day hike relies on the incredible views of Pehoe lake which changes colour as you gain elevation and on the overall 360° degree view you’ll get once you reach the top of the hill; the vista spans from Sierra Baguales and Sierra del Toro mountain chains to the east, to the Andes and part of the Southern Icefield to the west. Along the trail you can observe interesting geological formations such as the conglomerate layers which are part of the Late Cretaceous Toro formation (we’re going to talk about this more in details on further posts in this blog), which are used regularly by the Andean Condors as a roosting area and sometimes as nests, thus the name Condor lookout!

Andean Condor nesting on the conglomerate rock of Mirador Condor, behind Paine Massif and Pehoe Lake

Aonikenk and Fauna Trail

Distance: 8km one-way

Duration: 2,5 hrs

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re a wildlife lover then this is the trail that suits to you. The Aonikenk or sometimes called “porteria-porteria” trail is an easy undulated path that connects the two eastern entrance gates of Torres del Paine and according to actual regulations can only be hiked with a Certified Guide from porteria Sarmiento to porteria Laguna Amarga. The ecological area that the trail crosses is the so-called Patagonian Steppe, dominated by low, cushion-like and prickly bushes such as calafate (Berberis microphylla), mata barrosa (Molinum spinosum) and mata guanaco (Anartrophylum desideratum); a perfect environment for birdwatching with chances to spot condors, crested and white-throated caracaras, Chilean flamingos, upland geese as well as different type of aquatic birds.

The area is also regularly patrolled by mountain lions due to the abundance of preys such as guanacos and hares, which sometimes seek shelter in the numerous over hanged rock formations of conglomerate that dotted the hills. In one of these small caves rock painting of the indigenous Aonikenk tribe have been discovered, dating back to 6000 to 7000 years ago. Either you’re walking this trail in the morning or at noon make sure to keep an eye on the wind gusts; the area is well exposed and in the Steppe the wind can get quite fierce.

A couple of Grey Fox along the Fauna trail

Sierra Masle Trail

Distance: 4km roundtrip

Duration: 1,5 hrs

Difficulty: Easy

At the extreme Eastern side of Torres del Paine lies a tiny and precious gem: Laguna Azul; a small blue cobalt lake located in a U-shaped ancient glacial valley in which the craggy shapes of the Towers reflect. Laguna Azul can be reached by vehicle driving East past Amarga gate and towards Paine waterfall. There is a former park ranger’s station in which to register and then you can proceed until a small camping area with basic facilities and picnic tables.

From this point an easy and with progressive incline hiking trail ascents towards a vantage point till reaching a huge boulder, an erratic rock dragged here by the tremendous forces of the glaciers more than twenty thousand years ago. From this beautiful spot you can admire the granitic walls of the towers which from this angle look quite slim and slender like needles.

You’re standing now where one of the first European visitors of Torres del Paine had the chance to observe Paine Massif back in the year 1879; lady Florence Dixie, a British traveller who’s consider the first “tourist” of this area, reached the banks of Laguna Azul on a four-week horseback riding trip from Punta Arenas to here and baptized the craggy peak Cleopatra’s Needles.

Cleopatra Needles aka Torres del Paine with Laguna Azul

Ferrier Lookout

Distance: 6km roundtrip

Duration: 3/3,5 hrs

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Ferrier is a mountain situated in the opposite side of Torres del Paine, together with mount Donoso they form a small chain separated from the Patagonian Andes only by the immense whiteness of the Southern Icefield. To get here you need to drive towards Grey lake, reaching Grey rangers station where you must register before starting this half-day hike. It’s a round trip hike so you can leave your car in the parking lot below where nearby you can find a cafeteria and restrooms, plus this is the area you can use to get access to Grey lake shore or beach as we call it, where you can get on a boat tour towards Grey Glacier.

The trail starts immediately behind the rangers’ house and after ten minutes begins to climb on a continuous steep slope (make sure to bring your trekking poles especially for descending). This a nice wooden areas with plenty of Austral Beech species such as the lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) and coigue (Nothofagus betuloides) as well as the evergreen maiten (Maytenus magellanicus) on which the Huemul Deer based its diet. Spotting a Huemul is quite difficult and rare, although if you’re looking for it you’re in the right sector of the park. As you quickly gain elevation the view start getting better and better, after one hour and half or two you should reach the Ferrier lookout. Be particularly careful in the last ten minutes since you’ll get above the treeline and the area is very exposed to the westerly winds. Today the Southern Icefield is all for you as well as Paine Mountain range.

View of the Patagonian Icefield with Pingo glacier on the left and Grey glacier on the right

Have a look at our 3-day Photo & Hike program:

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