Trekking with Toddlers in Torres del Paine, Chile

What we learnt on the W Trek with a 1 & 3 year old

  

In early February 2024 we, the Wayfairer founder and his wife, took our kids to Torres del Paine in southern Chilean Patagonia. It is near enough the ‘fin del mundo’ or end of the world as it is so far south. Since we normally live in the UK, which very much has a temperate climate in the Northern Hemisphere, this was a complete contrast, which is why we chose it. The warmest summer months for Chile are January and February, making this a “sensible” time to visit. As it turns out, the warmest months are also the windiest, with speeds reaching 170 km/h this is no joke. It was adventure travel at its best.

 

To begin any trekking in Torres del Paine one must begin in Puerto Natales. We arrived by Navimag Ferry, but others typically arrive by airplane, bus or car. Once in the lively small city of Puerto Natales, full of lovely hotels, boutique restaurants and cafes, shops and sculptures, it was obvious that there was a thriving tourist industry based on the natural beauties of Torres del Paine National Park. Think glaciers, snow-capped mountain peaks, jagged outcrops, grassy plains dotted with Guanaco (not to be confused with Alpaca) and immensely turquoise lakes. These words will never do the vast landscape any justice. We had read plenty of rave reviews of the National Park but it wasn’t until driving through the open flat wilderness spotting guananos with our toddlers towards the obvious enormous mountains on the horizon that we fully understood why people travel from every corner of the world to come and see this National Park. We truly felt it lived up to its reputation.

 

The Park itself is about 1hr 45mins from town, so your travel consultant will build your itinerary accommodation accordingly. The W Trek is the most famed route, known as being one of the best hiking trails in the world. Given we had toddlers in tow, we did not attempt the entire route, but we did walk the entire width of the W Trek. We took just two days with one night camping, but ideally we would have had four days and spaced out the hiking and seen more. We walked 37km, which we admit is a long way to hike on rocky undulating paths in not always favourable weather conditions. However, we also know how many adventurous people and parents are out there wanting to do the same thing, but lack insight and confidence due to lack of visibility of other parents doing it. We are here to help.

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Explore some of our itineraries including Chile:

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Luxury chile holiday

 

 

If you want to do some gentle hiking, or long-distance hiking with your family, whether that includes teenagers, children, toddlers or babies, with the right preparation and attitude, this route can definitely be suitable for you. Here is why: 

1. The W Trek is incredibly well marked

The signs dotted along the W Trek are exceptional, you literally barely need a map if you have a clear idea of where you are headed each day. There are very few sections that are “busy”, which we were concerned about after reading elsewhere online about how in peak season the paths can be busy. For some perspective, we saw people every 10 mins or so whilst hiking. There was no continual stream and never any queueing to pass narrow sections. Hiking the most iconic and popular routes in the UK’s National Parks in Peak Seasons, I cannot say the same thing.

Some of the path is shared with mules who have right of way, but we did not see any, which  was a shame as it would have been exciting for toddlers.

 

 

2. Camping in the raised tents was spectacular

This was not just a highlight of our trip to South America, but a highlight of our lives. The tents that are provided by the campsite are raised up on stilts to ensure that you can lay flat on the remarkably steep mountain slope. You reach the entrance of the tent by a little ladder and they are black-out inside. Our kids love camping and so they thought this was particularly exciting as we had never used a ladder to get into our tent before. The campsite also provide a high quality sleeping bag, suitable to -8 degrees centigrade, a proper bedroom pillow (not just a small uncomfortable inflatable camping pillow). Our welcome pack for the trek included a sleeping bag liner and travel towel too, so when packing for this trek, we didn’t need anything specific for camping.

The raised tents can only be booked per person, despite the person’s age, so whilst we as a family fit easily into one tent, we needed to pre-book two tents due to park regulations. They take over-tourism very seriously and we respect that. On a practical note though, two adults and two little kids can happily sleep in one tent which I am sure will be a comfort to many families who prefer to be in easy earshot of one another overnight.

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3. Pack for all seasons, expect wind and enjoy the spectacular changing scenery

You might not even be reading this because every hiker in the world will know to pack for all seasons, especially in Torres del Paine where it can hail, snow, sleet, rain, blow you off your feet and have you sunbathing all in the same day. However, we now truly understand the advice because the wind was strong. Saying this, it was not consistent, we had one full day with just a gentle breeze or stillness. It should not scare you off booking a trek in January or February, but do ensure your waterproof covers and kit is secure in high gusts. 

 

 

 

 

4. Suitable with your favourite baby-carrier or toddler-carrier

There are no extreme ups and downs, nor any technical sections during this trek. Many hikers use walking poles but we did not, so as to have both hands free for parenting. Before embarking on your trek in Torres del Paine, we suggest you and your kiddo become confident using whichever carrier you prefer.

 

We opt for soft carriers, Toddler Tula and Pre -School Tula, as this is most comfortable and convenient for us with toddlers who like to hike too, when not napping, so it’s a lot of picking up and putting down. We use BundleBean fleece-lined rain-covers over our soft carriers. We also make sure the kids are wearing puddlesuits and hats when it’s particularly windy, cold or rainy.

Many parents enjoy the inbuilt sunshade, huge pockets and rain cover that come with the Osprey POCO, just keep in mind this is a much bulkier item and if you have numerous kids, this might not be feasible in terms of space management.

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5. The path was dreamy for little hikers too

We bought hiking boots for the kids specifically for this trek and that was excellent. We would typically have used wellies, but for the peace of mind that the footwear would stay put all day, we recommend lace up hiking boots even though they are only young. The path was generally narrow enough for one person, but at times wider for adults to walk alongside their kids. It was not just well marked, but relatively easy in that it had limited bouldering, stable rocks, bridges to cross rivers and no horrendous steep craggy drops.

 

 

6. Nature games in stunning landscape genuinely avoided tantrums

 

Believe me if you will, but we managed our long-distance W trek without tantrums. Whenever the kids wanted to hike, we encouraged it. When they wanted a snack or picnic we found a flat area where they could run without being told no (i.e. not next to any drops). We built into our day plenty of play stops (or rest stops for us parents) where they enjoyed puddle jumping, stone throwing into rivers, sticking throwing off little bridges, flower smelling (avoid flower picking as most are spiky), filling up water bottles with icy cold glacier water, or just singing and jumping.

 

 

7. The picnics were lovely

You know your kids best, so bring the ideal pick-me-ups that will make them sing with delight when they see it. Our picnics provided by the campsite/refugio were lovely and included trail mix, chocolate, fruit, eggs, sandwiches and empanadas, so you won’t be without treats, but having a couple spare will go a long way during those extra tired moments.

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8. Kids and babies are rare on trail

We did not encounter any other babies or toddlers, but we did see another family with kids under 10 years of age who were walking confidently. At one refugio café the staff explained that they had seen only one other baby during the entire season so far. These kind of facts scare me, as I don’t like to feel we are doing anything unusually difficult or risky. However, I think it’s not due to the actual task and more due to lack of knowledge made available to parents that if you have experience hiking with your little ones and kids, this route is perfect. If you like the idea of doing something different, then this is a win for you.

 

 

9. Feel like Paw Patrol or James Bond at the end

If you hike East to West as we did, you will return to your bus/vehicle at the end of your W Trek by Catamaran boat transfer, then on a coach (big bus). This was something our toddlers were looking forward to for their entire trek. The process is slow, as it involves a wait for the catamaran and then for the bus, but there are cafes to buy food, drink and hot chocolate, toilets, space indoors to shelter if needed or grassy plains to kick a little ball around.

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10. Our Lasting Impression

 

Seeing the experience of the W Trek through the eyes of a child really enhanced our own enjoyment. We felt a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction, as any adult would, but to know that we have broadened the horizons and confidence of our kids while they are still in their formative years, really brought a newfound sense of happiness.

 

It cemented our belief that babies and kids can and should hike with their parents. Our little girl of just 21 months learnt how to say “I am big strong girl and I am hiking” which speaks volumes to the sense of confidence it instilled in her. Allowing kids a chance to join in on an activity in a location that is very adult-centred empowers them. In turn, it empowers the parents too to get out there ‘despite’ having kids.

 

We felt incredibly safe and despite being in a remote region, we felt connected to society due to the refugios along the route. The scenery was spectacular, exceeding my descriptive skills, and the sense of freedom and adventure make it one of the highlights of our lives.

 

If this inspires you and your family, get in touch with us today to start planning your Torres del Paine hiking experience in Chile.

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