Grey Glacier: Incredible Day Hike in Torres del Paine
A one-day hike to Grey Glacier was challenging but also our favorite trek in Torres del Paine, an amazingly picturesque national park in Chile's Patagonia. Read our travel guide on how to get to the hike's trailhead from Puerto Natales, where to stay, what to pack and tips on how to best enjoy the hike to Grey Glacier without trekking the multi-day W Trek.
Many travelers who had the opportunity to hike one of the most famous multi-day treks in Patagonia, the W Trek often say that seeing Grey Glacier was one of the highlights along the way. We have great news for everyone who either cannot or doesn't want to hike in Torres del Paine National Park for a couple of days or for all of you, who same as us did not secure spots for the overly popular trek on time.
Fortunately, it is possible to see Gray Glacier on a one-day trip from Puerto Natales. It is a long and challenging day, but perfectly doable.
Yes, you can take a boat tour which will take you to the glacier, but we loved the raw beauty of Patagonia so much that we wanted to spend even more time walking along the lakes with floating icebergs and admiring the untouched nature.
Here's our guide on how to trek the Grey Glacier hike, how to get to the trailhead from Puerto Natales, where to stay before the trek, what to pack and other useful tips which will help you to enjoy your best day in Torres del Paine National Park.
HOW TO GET TO TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK & TO GREY GLACIER TRAILHEAD
Grey Glacier is in Torres del Paine National Park, and no matter if you plan on staying in Puerto Natales and travel forth and back every day or if you are going to stay in one of the few lodges within the park, you need to get to the park anyway.
From Puerto Natales, you need to take a regular everyday bus to Torres del Paine. There are several bus companies operating on the same schedule, so we think it doesn't matter what company will you choose, only make sure you'll buy a ticket at the bus station one day before departure to ensure there will be a spot available. Although it should not happen that all spaces are sold out, bus companies usually add buses depending on a number of travelers, so when you won't reserve your seat, they will not count with you.
Check out the up-to-date schedules, but usually, the buses leave Puerto Natales at 7 AM, 8 AM and then at 2:30 PM. The round trip ticket costs anything between CLP 10 000 - 15 000. The bus has three stops in the park. The first stop is Laguna Amarga, from where most of the park's visitors walk to the most famous sight in Torres del Paine, the Towers. You don't get out of the bus here unless you need to pay the entrance fee or your driver tells you to change the bus. The drive to Laguna Amarga takes approximately an hour and a half.
The second stop is Pudeto, and it is the place where you need to get off. The drive from Laguna Amarga with waiting for people who needed to buy a ticket took approximately another 45 minutes.
Here in Pudeto, you need to wait for a boat which will take you across Pehoe Lake to the trailhead. You will buy the roundtrip ticket on the boat for CLP 30 000. The boat schedule differs depending on the season, but you will most likely catch the transport across Pehoe Lake from Pudeto at 11 AM, which means you will start your hike around 11:30 AM when leaving Puerto Natales at 7 AM.
To get back from Pudeto to either Laguna Amarga or Puerto Natales, you need to follow your morning steps in reverse. Jump on a boat leaving 5 PM or 6 PM from Guarderia Paine Grande, and in Pudeto there should be already waiting bus scheduled for 6 PM. As you can see, it seems that 5 PM catamaran is the last one you can take in order to catch the bus (that's why we were so in a hurry during this trek), but apparently, this bus waits also for the last boat arriving at Pudeto around 6:30 PM. Always make sure that the driver waits here for the last boat so you won't miss your ride to Puerto Natales.
Our Tip: If you do not want to be dependant on public transport, you can rent a car in Punta Arenas (when traveling by air to Chilean Patagonia, this is where you land), and explore Torres del Paine on own.
ENTRANCE FEE TO TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK
The entrance fee we paid at Laguna Amarga's office (you can buy the ticket in advance in Puerto Natales on the bus station) for Torres del Paine is pretty steep, CLP 21 000 per person.
With this ticket, you can hike any multi-day trek within the park, or you can visit the park on three consecutive days from Puerto Natales.
It pays off to travel to the national park more than once because of the high cost.
In order to buy the entrance fee, you need to wait in a line for approximately 30 minutes, fill out several forms and show your passport (it is enough to have a copy or a printscreen in you phone).
HIKE TO GREY GLACIER
First, we must tell you that if you plan on hiking in one day from Guarderia Paine Grande (it is where the boat will drop you off) to Guarderia Glaciar Grey (the closest viewpoint of the glacier), you need to walk 22 kilometers in either 5.5 hours (in case like us you want to catch the boat at 5 PM), or in 6.5 hours (when you want to risk to travel with the last boat leaving for Pudeto at 6 PM) which is quite challenging because the trek's profile goes up and down all the time, and the path is incredibly windy.
We took half an hour break for lunch with the perfect views, and later had to run on the way back to be at the port on time. The good news is that the trek is very scenic, and you can walk as far as you want, for example to the place called Mirador Grey from where you also get splendid views and then you can turn back any time you want.
Grey Glacier is a retreating glacier in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, and although we hope it won't melt anytime soon, you better hurry to see it.
The first section of the trek climbed steadily but not steeply up, and when we reached the edge, we saw the beautiful Lake Grey for the very first time.
The views were stunning, especially when we could see small icebergs floating on the surface.
We carried on along almost flat path for a while, and at this time the strong wind started to pick up and did not stop for the entire day, which made the hike even more challenging.
Approximately after six kilometers, we got to the Mirador Grey, from where is yet another rewarding view of the glacier in the distance. It is the point where you should check what is the time and how much energy you have left because you can either continue or decide to return.
From here, the trail went quite steeply down which was welcoming at that moment, but we knew that we would need to climb the same hill on the way back which was not a very pleasant thought. When we descended, the trail again continued up and down until we emerged in front of a Refugio where travelers with a reservation can either sleep in a hut or in the campground.
From here we had less than one kilometer left to get to the viewpoint right in front Glacier Grey.
When we got there we snapped some pictures, had lunch with a couple we had been meeting on and off along the trail, and then had to quickly set off on a journey back.
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MIRADOR SALTO GRANDE
After we got by boat back to Pudeto, we had some time before the bus departure, so we decided to go to Mirador Salto Grande, a powerful waterfall set against a backdrop of wonderful pointy mountains.
From the parking lot, it was another two kilometers to the waterfall uphill and then two kilometers downhill, so we think it is better to go see the glacier first in the morning and then you can decide if you still have enough energy and time before the bus leaves.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ONE-DAY HIKE TO GREY GLACIER
Be ready that the hike to Grey Glacier all together with transport from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park will take you all day. You will leave Puerto Natales at 7 AM and arrive back around 9 PM. You need to bring with you water, snacks (there are a restaurant and cafeteria at Pudeto where the bus stops in case you are hungry), and extra layers of clothes because weather in Patagonia is unpredictable.
Here are five essentials you should pack with you for one-day Grey Glacier hike.
Rain Poncho | It can start raining any time of the year in Patagonia's mountains, and rain poncho will protect you and your valuables as well.
Waterproof Jacket for Him & for Her | Wind in Patagonia is so strong, especially during summer hiking season, that you must pack a quality waterproof and windproof jacket otherwise the day could be quite miserable.
Bandana | Bandana is a great little thing you can use against dust, wind and sun.
We've also written an in-depth Patagonia packing list about what to pack when planning on traveling to Patagonia and what to leave behind.
WHERE TO STAY BEFORE HIKING TO GREY GLACIER
You have three options on where to stay before or after hiking to Grey Glacier.
Hotel Lago Grey | If you want to spend an exceptional night by the lake in Torres del Paine National Park with outstanding views, there is an option to reserve a room in Hotel Lago Grey which is quite luxurious accommodation on the lake's shore. When staying here overnight, you do not need to rush to complete the trek plus you can start much earlier than other one-day trekkers arriving from Puerto Natales.
Refugio Paine Grande | Hikers trekking multi-day W or O Trek need to book either Refugio or campground well in advance, but it is possible that you'll be able to secure your spot for only one night as cancellations occur. Bunk beds or camping spots must be booked via company owning the site Vertice Patagonia.
Puerto Natales: We based ourselves in Puerto Natales, from where we took two one-day trips to the park, and we think it was at the end cheaper and perfectly doable. We've handpicked three hotels in Puerto Natales for every budget:
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
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