The Paine Circuit: a classic trek

by Alister POOLE on August 7, 2009

The Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is home to one of the best long distance treks in the world. This classic hiking trail is known as the Paine Circuit, and backpackers from around the world make the journey to South America each year to hike through the dramatic Patagonian landscapes.

The Circuit is roughly 65 miles in length and requires 8 to 10 days to complete. The entire route is lined with amazing scenery that is distinctive to Patagonia, including beautiful valleys with glacial lakes, stunning mountain vistas, and the legendary Towers of Paine, three unique rock faces carved out of pink granite.

Trekking the circuit independently is easy, as a solid infrastructure is in place to assist backpackers in getting on the trail. Shuttles run on a regular basis, and there are a number of trailheads from which to begin the trek, with access near Puerto Natales, and El Calafate.

You have to carry everything you’ll need so packs tend to get heavy. You’ll need a stove, sleeping bag and clothing for all weather conditions. You can choose to stay in your own tent for free, or pay a nominal fee to stay in the assorted cabins, that are found along the trail.

One of the great aspects of hiking this trail is that it gives you the sense of a high altitude trek, although the highest pass is just 4071 feet. But the hike can still be a challenge, as the weather can strike at any time, with high winds and heavy rains making conditions very uncomfortable.

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