Photo by john_vorhees on Flickr.
Since a hiker-caused wildfire broke out in Torres del Paine in late December, 2011, some tourists have put their visits to the park on hold, because they weren’t sure just what they’d encounter. However, recent press releases by CONAF, the Chilean parks service indicates that while parts of the park are out of commission, other parts are still ready to receive visitors.
Historically, many people have hiked the part of the park called the W, which starts either at the Torres side, or the Lago Grey side, and continues down again, past and up the Valle Francés, and then down again and up the other side. With the fire, the west-most leg of the W is not currently accessible, since the fire started on the trail on the way from the Paine campground up to Glacier Grey. This was the first part of the park to be closed, and will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The Valle Francés is now open to hikers, but not to campers, which means people will have to camp at the campsite at Los Cuernos to visit the Valle Francés. That campsite is developed (not rustic) camping, and is run by the concession Fantástico Sur, and does not have unlimited space. The area of the park to the east of there is open and functioning as usual.
CONAF reports in its most recent communiqué that the following areas are open for hiking.
You may enter the park via Laguna Amarga, Laguna Azul, Portería Sarmiento and the CONAF Administration (from the entrance on the Cueva del Milodón side), and from there drive to the Guardería at Lago Grey.
The areas in the park that may currently be hiked are the following:
-The trek to the base of the Torres from the Torres side of the park, estimated at 8 hours
-The trek from the Towers entrance to the Cuernos section, estimated at 5 hours
-The trek from the Towers entrance to Serón, estimated at 4 hours.
-The trek from Serón to Dickson, estimated at 6 hours.
-The trek from Dickson to the Los Perros sector, estimated at 5 hours.
-The Laguna Azul circuit trek which goes to Victorina and Dickson
-The trek from the Italiano to Britanico camping, with lodging allowed only at the Cuernos section
The change in access for the park will change some of the views, and shunt more trekkers onto the larger circuit, and off of the better-traveled W circuit, but there still remain large swathes of the park that are still in good shape and are ready to receive hikers.