A Self-Guided Tour of Torres del Paine With Little Kids

Torres del Paine - Road to Park Curve

Torres del Paine With Kids

Want to explore the majestic Torres del Paine National Park, but aren’t sure what is possible with little kids? Then you’re in the right place.

We have three little boys three, six, and nine years old. Obviously, that precludes the epic multi-day hiking adventures through wilderness and glaciers that non-encumbered adults get to have. But that doesn’t mean we missed out!

We chose activities that we could do in one or two hour chunks. Some involved some serious hiking. Others you could drive straight up to a lookout point.

We split these activities into two consecutive days. A lot of time was spent stopping at the miradores [lookout points] along the road, which I won’t list here because they’re along the main route and easy to find.

This post is entirely child-centered. The difficulty rating is from the perspective of a 3-year-old. Our “time to complete” figures are what it actually took our family to complete the trails. That’s according to Google’s creepy moment-by-moment tracking that I can’t bring myself to turn off. The total duration included the hiking pace of a three-year-old, stops to pee in the bush, pausing to resolve disputes about who hit whom with a stick first, snack breaks, and stopping to take copious family photos. In other words, the times are realistic for a family with kids.

Driving to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales

The following route and hiking trail recommendations were made assuming you are exploring the park from the Chilean side. In that case, you are most likely staying in Puerto Natales. But of course there are also hotels within the park.

There many car rental companies in Puerto Natales, including a few that you can book online (like Europcar).

For South America, driving is relatively tame around here. We took an economy manual transmission car without 4×4 and had no problems on any of the roads. Just note that some of the roads leading up to and within the park had major potholes. So drive carefully in those areas.

It does take almost two hours to get from Puerto Natales to the park entrance, so make sure to take that into account when planning your day. The drive is gorgeous!

You will need to buy tickets in advance online. If you arrive at the park entrance without them, they will ask you to use an internet connection and your phone to purchase them before coming back to the park ranger.

Coming back you have two options. One is to go back the way you came, which is a beautiful drive. The other is to loop back to the East (as shown on the following map). It was a very interesting drive, since the landscape changes drastically on that side. It was also kind of annoying because much of the highway was under construction when we went and we drove more than half the way on gravel.

Road to Torres del Paine
Driving to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales. (Watch out for the potholes.)
Torres del Paine - Herd of Guanacos
While driving through the park, we saw herds of Guanacos grazing.

Our Recommendations on a Map

1. Lago Grey

3-YO Difficulty Rating: Moderate

Time to Complete: 1h 30m

Trail Description: Mostly flat. Some moderately difficult terrain around beach and bluff.

To get there, you must park your at Hotel Lago Grey. From there take a trail that crosses the bridge and comes out at a sandy beach. You walk left, up the length of the beach until you get to another trail along the bluffs. At the end of that trail you’re supposed to be able to cross along a sand bar in the lake that ends at an island. (Unfortunately, the water was too high for us to get to the end point). From there you can see the glacier.

When we returned to the hotel, we found a secluded spot along the lake where we could see the glacier from afar.

Torres del Paine - Glacier on Lago Grey
A very zoomed-in picture of the glacier we should have been able to see from a closer vantage point. Unfortunately, the water was high that day, blocking the sandbar crossing to the final lookout point.
Torres del Paine - Lago Grey
The beach trail at Lago Grey
Torres del Paine - Tree in Lago Grey
An artsy photo of a submerged bush we took from our picnic location near Hotel Lago Grey.

2. Mirador Condor (and Picnic)

3-YO Difficulty Rating: Difficult

Time to Complete: 1h 45m

Trail Description: A lot of hiking uphill. We had to carry the 3-yo part of the way. The other kids did fine.

Before making the climb, we ate lunch at the picnic tables near the trailhead. There we were surprised by a wild fox that suddenly appeared and timidly investigated us from afar before disappearing into the tall grass.

The hike takes you to the top of a cliff. Condors nest in the side, where you can see them take flight from time to time. The entire path offers increasingly breathtaking views as you ascend. This was the only hike where we had to carry the three-year-old part of the way. He could have made it, but he was acting his age.

Torres del Paine - Condor
A condor in flight.
Torres del Paine - Fox
The wild fox that paid us a visit while we ate lunch.
Torres del Paine - Peak of Mirador Condor
View from the peak.

3. Mirador Salto Grande and Mirador Cuernos Hike

3-YO Difficulty Rating: Easy \ Moderate

Time to Complete: 2h 30m

Trail Description: Well groomed trail that is mostly flat. The only difficulty is its length. We promised chocolate if the three-year-old did the whole trail himself. He succeeded.

This there-and-back hike required the biggest investment of time. But it was well worth it! It was our favorite and most memorable hike.

Very quickly, you reach the Mirador Salto Grande. An other-worldly waterfall cutting through a pristine hillscape of shrub covered rocks.

The rest of the hike covers a flat or lightly hilly trail. We stopped by the lake to bottle and drink some of the ancient melted glacier water. The boys skipped and pranced through the sublime panorama, stopping to pick calafate berries along the way. We witnessed an avalanche from afar and spotted a guanaco up close.

Torres del Paine - Salto Grande
Salto Grande.
Torres del Paine - Cuernos Reflection
The water was clear, cold, and delicious.
Torres del Paine - End of Cuernos Trail
End of the trail.

4. Cascada Rio Paine

3-YO Difficulty Rating: Easy

Time to Complete: As long as you want to stay and take pictures.

Trail Description: You drive right up to it. Very little walking.

The Cascada Rio Paine is a short walk from the parking lot. Located at the top end of our driving route, it’s a great stop for the end of the day when you have a car full of exhausted kids (and parents). You can stroll around and take pictures of this mind-blowing natural wonder to your heart’s content.

Then drive back, find a nice restaurant in town, and eat one of those tasty local roasted lamb dishes. You earned it!

Torres del Paine - Cascada
Cascada Rio Paine.
  • Matt

    Matt is a software consultant by day and a wide ranging hobbyist at night. He enjoys baking, art, music and lives for travel experiences. But what gets him out of bed in the morning is fresh roasted coffee.


Matt is a software consultant by day and a wide ranging hobbyist at night. He enjoys baking, art, music and lives for travel experiences. But what gets him out of bed in the morning is fresh roasted coffee.

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10 Responses

  1. Rachèle Robert says:

    Thank you so much for all the great content. We are currently in Chile for a month with our sons (4 and 7) and headed next to Puerto Natales. 🙂 Super helpful!

  2. Emma says:

    Thank you for this! We are heading there soon with our toddler. Can I confirm that the “time to complete” is for both ways (there and back?)

  3. Anna says:

    Hello, Matt! Great post, thank you for the information. Did you do all of those hikes in 1 day or was it a multi-day trip?

    • Matt says:

      On the first day we spent a lot of time stopping at little waypoints and spent a lot of time having our picnic and hiking up Mirador Condor. After that we drove around and scoped out places we might want to visit. The next day we did the full loop and visited the everything else. We actually stopped at a lot of other places that I didn’t mention in the post, just stuff that caught our eye, or the kids just needed to get out and stretch their legs. You pretty much couldn’t go wrong anywhere you stopped, but the places I mentioned were the most memorable.

  4. Ali says:

    Thank you so much for this article. We are headed there in a few weeks with a 2&4 year old. I was worried we were just going to subject them to a tough couple of days but I am so glad we are hiring a car and self driving now! You’ve really put my mind at ease and I am so excited about the adventure!

  5. Tessa says:

    Thanks for these tips! I have older kids that hate hikes. Looking for shorter trails and I’ll tell them if a 3 year old can do it, they can do it too!

    • Matt says:

      Our kids don’t exactly like hiking for its own sake either. They love to horse around though, which often makes them forget they’re hiking. I’ve also noticed they get “tired” when they are bored, having no correlation with difficulty of terrain. Torres del Paine has some of the most beautiful and interesting scenery (and animals) so maybe they’ll enjoy it despite themselves. Best wishes on your trip!

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