Torres del Paine is full of many beautiful spots all throughout the National Park. One of those highlights is the Grey Glacier.
Located on the western side of the park, the Grey Glacier can be visited in a variety of ways. Whether that is on a day hike, multi day trek, kayak excursion, or glacier hike.
This guide will go through how to visit the Grey Glacier and help you decide what type of visit is best for your trip.
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1) Grey Glacier Facts & Overview
To start, below are some quick facts & and an overview of the Grey Glacier, and what it entails:
→ The Grey Glacier is a large glacier located in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Argentina. It is part of Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is the second largest contiguous extrapolar ice field in the world (you can get great views of the ice field from the Huemul Circuit in El Chalten).
→ While the glacier itself is an electric blue color, the surrounding landscape includes much grey colored sediment. The sediment makes its way onto the glacier and into the water, turning the lake & glacier a more grey color.
→ From a size perspective, the glacier measures 28 km long, 6 km wide, and about 30 meters in height. It makes up 270 square kilometers in total area.
→ At the base of the glacier, it splits into three parts as there are two pieces of land in the middle of Lago Grey (one of these land areas is used for the starting point of the glacier ice trek).
→ Lago Grey itself is going to be another highlight to view during a trip to Torres del Paine. The area of the lake closest to the glacier is full of smaller icebergs to view from the lakeside (or even from a kayak).
→ Is Grey Glacier Melting?: over the course of the years, there have been some rather larger chunks of ice that have broken off of the glacier.
It is estimated that during the last 30 years, the glacier has receded around 2 km. This is different than the nearby Perito Moreno Glacier, which has been shown to be holding steady in size.
→ Note that if you visit the glacier in any sort of way, you will need to pay a separate entrance fee to enter Torres del Paine National Park. This will cost around $35 USD or $49 USD for a 3+ day ticket.
→ If you enjoy your time around Torres del Paine, you may want to consider visiting other Patagonian cities during your trip. These can include experiences like hiking in El Chalten, or visiting Tierra del Fuego in Ushuaia.
2) Where is Grey Glacier Located
Grey Glacier is located within Torres del Paine National Park and can be visited by hike, boat, kayak, and more. To give you a better sense of the glacier and the main points of interest, I have included a helpful map below.
The main routes on the map include:
• Boat Ride from Pudeto to Paine Grande (black)
• Boat Ride from Hotel Lago Grey to Refugio Grey (blue)
• Hike from Paine Grande to Refugio Grey (red)
• Grey Suspension Bridge Route (green)
• Lago Grey Viewpoint Route (purple)
Feel free to reference this map as you read through the remainder of this guide.
3) How to Visit the Grey Glacier
In general, there are 4 main ways to visit Grey Glacier. It is possible though to take part of one or more of these depending on your interests and itinerary.
1) Multi Day Trek – W or O Circuits (views of the glacier)
2) Day Hike – Paine Grande to Grey (views of the glacier)
3) Grey Glacier Ice Trek – hike on the glacier itself
4) Grey Glacier Kayaking – views of the glacier on kayak from Lago Grey
In addition to these four, below are a couple alternatives to combine a few of the options:
Alternative #1: Mini Multi Day Hike
It is possible to visit Glacier Grey and include some of these activities by doing a “mini” multi day hike over the course of a couple of days. This would land somewhere between a day hike and multi day circuit.
You could simply trek to Refugio Grey (one of the several Torres del Paine campsites), hike around the area & visit some viewpoints/suspension bridges, take part of a glacier hike or kayak, and then hike/boat back out.
Alternative #2: O/W Trek Combo
Going off of that, you can also include one or more of the activities mentioned above during a multi day trek.
Just as one example, you can head on the O or W Trek, and spend an additional night in Refugio Grey (campsite that is located next to the glacier). During your extra day in the area, you can then take part of a kayaking experience or glacier trek, before continuing on with the circuit.
When we talk about a multi day trek or day hike, we are simply talking about enjoying Glacier Grey from various viewpoints (all marked on the map above). The main viewpoints to consider on a hike would be:
Suspension Bridges: north of Refugio Grey
Mirador Lago Grey: between Paine Grande & Grey
Lago Grey Iceberg Viewpoint: 20 minute hike from Refugio Grey to lakeside
4) How Do I Get to Grey Glacier?
Depending on your exact choice above will dictate how to actually get to Grey Glacier. In general though, there are a few main ways to get yourself there.
Hike from Paine Grande
If taking part of a day hike or doing the W Circuit, you will be hiking to the Grey Glacier from Paine Grande.
If you aren’t familiar, Paine Grande is one of the “sectors” of Torres del Paine National Park. Here you will find a refugio and campsite that is utilized on multi day treks.
Getting to/from Paine Grande will entail two logistical parts:
1) Bus from Puerto Natales to Pudeto (check bus schedules)
2) Catamaran from Pudeto to Paine Grande (check catamaran schedules)
You should aim to take the first bus of the day from Puerto Natales, and catch the catamaran that will take you across Lake Pehoe to Paine Grande. From there, you will be able to start your hike/trek.
Note that if taking part of a day hike, you could also simply drive yourself to Pudeto and catch an even earlier boat from there. Check out Rentalcars.com for car rental options!
Alternatively, you may also be hiking into Paine Grande from Sector Frances if doing an east to west W Trek.
Here is a quick recap of logistics based on a few different options:
Day Hike Logistics: 1) bus/drive to Pudeto, 2) catamaran to Paine Grande, 3) round trip hike from Paine Grande to Grey, 4) catamaran to Pudeto, 5) bus/drive to Puerto Natales.
W Trek West to East Logistics: if taking part of the W Trek from west to east, your first/second day will involve the Grey Glacier.
1) Bus to Pudeto, 2) catamaran to Paine Grande, 3) hike to Glacier Grey, 4) overnight at Refugio Grey. The following day 5) visit Glacier grey suspension bridges, and 6) hike to Paine Grande as you continue the circuit.
W Trek East to West Logistics: if taking part of the W Trek from east to west, your last couple of days will involve the Grey Glacier.
1) Trek in from Frances/Cuernos to Paine Grande (overnight), 2) trek from Paine Grande to Glacier Grey + suspension bridges, 3) overnight in Refugio Grey. The following day 4) hike back out to Paine Grande, 5) catamaran to Pudeto, 6) bus to Puerto Natales.
Hike from Los Perros
This option pertains to those that are taking part of the O Circuit (which can only be completed counter clockwise). If doing so, on your 4th day of the hike, you will hike from Los Perros campsite over the John Gardner Pass and onto Refugio Grey.
Along the way, you will pass by several viewpoints and suspension bridges before spending the night at the refugio. The following day you will continue the loop as you head to Paine Grande, and then to the eastern side of the park.
Boat from Hotel Lago Grey to Refugio Grey
While many people take the catamarans to/from Paine Grande, it is also possible to take a boat directly to the Grey Refugio. Each day there are boats that go back and forth along Lago Grey from Hotel Lago Grey.
These are usually best used for those that are taking day trips into the National Park and just want to do a glacier ice hike or kayaking tour (or for those that want to do a short overnight trip to Refugio Grey).
You will find that the boats are timed up with these tours, so it is a very convenient way to go about your day.
Check out: Lago Grey Boat Schedules
Logistical Note: As a day trip from Puerto Natales, it may be difficult to time everything up with the busses. While some busses do stop at Hotel Lago Grey, the timing for a day trip just may not work out (feel free to check the latest schedules though).
Instead, you may be better off either staying at Hotel Lago Grey, asking the hotel set up transport, or having a rental car that will get you to/from the hotel.
You can also use these boats if you want to do a day hike just around the immediate vicinity of Refugio Gray.
You can take the boat from Hotel Lago Grey to the refugio, hike around the area, and then return on a boat back to hotel. Remember though, if opting for a bus, you will need to ensure bus schedules align with the boat schedules.
Now that logistics are covered, let’s go through the main ways to visit Lago Grey during a visit to Torres del Paine – multi day trek, day hike, kayak, and glacier hike.
5) Multi Day Grey Glacier Trek
One of the more popular ways to visit Grey Glacier is to take part of a multi-day trek. Most notably that would be either the O Trek or the W Trek.
The O is an 8 day circuit that heads all around the entirety of Torres del Paine, while the W is a one way 4-5 day trek that just focuses on the front side of the park.
As part of either one of these treks, you simply will get to view the glacier from afar as you make your way along the trail.
If you decide on the O Trek, you will be visiting Glacier Grey from the counter clockwise direction, coming in from the Los Perros campsite.
The route heads over the John Gardner Pass, and then all along the glacier itself. You will get some stunning views all around, as you head across three suspension bridges and onto Refugio Grey.
The following day you can visit the short trail to view Lago Grey from up close (light purple line on map), and then hike to Paine Grande, where you will get views of the glacier from further away. From there, it will be continuing on with the circuit to places like Valle del Frances and Mirador Las Torres.
Learn More: O Circuit of Torres del Paine
Seeing the Grey Glacier as part of the shorter W trek is also an option. Instead of coming in from Los Perros, you will be passing by the glacier at the beginning or end of you trek (depending on which direction you are headed).
Unlike the O trek, the W can be done either from west to east or east to west.
When you do reach Refugio Grey as part of the W, you will be able to drop your stuff off and continue on to some of the suspension bridge viewpoints.
Depending on your preferences, you can head to one or all three of the suspension bridges before turning around. It seems like the popular option is to head to bridge #2 and then back to camp.
Similarly to the O, you will also get to experience more views of Glacier Grey from afar during the trekking portion between Grey and Paine Grande.
Learn More: W Circuit of Torres del Paine
6) Grey Glacier Hike (One Day)
Taking a day hike is also a possibility if you do not want to take part of a multi day trek. There are a few different options to choose from, depending on how long you are trying to hike for. Similarly to the multi day hikes, this will entail just viewing the glacier from various viewpoint spots.
1) Paine Grande to Grey Round Trip Hike
The most popular way to go about a day hike is to take the first bus (or drive your rental car) from Puerto Natales to Pudeto, and take the catamaran out to Paine Grande.
You can then take part of a round trip hike from Paine Grande to Grey. Here you will get great views of the glacier as you hike towards Grey, and you will also be able to visit the lakeside for close up views. It will be very difficult to get up to the suspension bridges though due to the extra mileage.
This will be a longer day hike coming in at 14 miles round trip (Paine Grande to Grey, and back to Paine Grande), so do be aware of your timing to catch that last boat back from Paine Grande.
2) Paine Grande to Mirador Lago Grey Round Trip Hike
Some folks may just head to the Mirador Lago Grey (situated on the map right between Paine Grande and Grey).
This still gives you a great view from afar and would only entail 7 miles of hiking for the day.
3) Hike Nearby Refugio Grey
Lastly, you could also utilize the Hotel Lago Grey boats to do a day hike (just be aware of bus schedules).
This way you could take a boat right to Refugio Grey, hike to the suspension bridges, and then hop back on the boat at day’s end to the hotel.
7) Grey Glacier Ice Hike
Instead of viewing the glacier from afar, you also have the opportunity to actually hike on the glacier itself.
These tours involve a short zodiac boat to the island in the middle of the lake, before putting on crampons & getting on the ice.
For the next several hours, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the glacier from up close and hike all around the ice.
You can join a tour by Bigfoot Patagonia that runs these glacier tours from nearby Refugio Grey. These tours run twice a day – 8:00AM and 2:30PM. Expect to pay around $170 for a 5 hour experience
You can join a glacier hike tour in a few different ways:
1) One option is to just take part a day trip to Refugio Grey (boat from Hotel Lago Grey to Grey), do the glacier hike, and then take the boat back to Hotel Lago Grey. With this option you will most likely need a rental car, have private transport, or stay overnight in the hotel itself.
2) If you are taking part of a multi-day trek, you can also add on a glacier hike. This for example would entail spending an additional night at Refugio Grey in the middle of your trek. You can then take part of the glacier hike on your extra day, before continuing on with the O or W.
3) Another option is to take part of a mini trek, as you spend a night or two at Refugio Grey. This will give you the chance to hike around the area and then also to take part of the glacier ice hike.
8) Grey Glacier Kayak
You can think of a Grey Glacier kayak ride in the same way you would as the glacier hike. The kayaking tour is run by the same company, Bigfoot Patagonia.
This can also be completed as a day trip, a mini trek, or you can add it onto a longer multi day circuit.
A kayaking experience takes around 3 hours altogether as you get to explore the waters just nearby the massive glacier walls. Kayaking among the icebergs with Glacier Grey out in the distance is sure to be a fantastic experience to take part of.
These tours also run a few times a day – 9:00AM, 11:00AM, & 2:00PM , and cost $100 USD per person.
For both glacier hike and kayaking excursions, always be sure to check the website for latest prices and schedules.
Grey Glacier Boat Tour
I will also point out, that you can also simply take part of the boat ride to/from Refugio Grey from Hotel Lago Grey.
The round trip ride will be around 2.5 hours as you get a relaxing ride across the lake, and get up & close to the glacier itself.
I hope you now have a better sense on how to go about a trip to the Grey Glacier of Torres del Paine National Park. If you have any questions or comments about the glacier, feel free to add them in below.
Also, don’t forget to check out the other Patagonia itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!