Guide to the Campgrounds and Refugios of the O Circuit in Torres del Paine

The O Circuit is a 75-mile hike in Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile. And nope, I didn’t get my letters mixed up! If you’ve heard of the “W Trek”, that’s another hike in Torres del Paine! The O Circuit and W Trek are one-in-the-same for a portion of the trail, but the O Circuit is a little bit longer than the W Trek and you get to see a different side of the mountain range!

In this post, I’ll be reviewing all of the campgrounds on the O and W treks. I’ll go over what to expect, amenities, food, and more for each campground/ refugio on the trail.

I hiked the O Circuit in January 2023, and exclusively stayed at the campgrounds with my own tent and sleeping gear. But, campers do get to see the communal areas of the refugios, so I can give a little insight into those too!

Campground in Torres del Paine

Overview of the Refugios in Torres del Paine

I will be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect going into this hike! I am very used to backcountry camping in the western United States, where dispersed camping reigns supreme on backpacking trips. And in parks where there are designated backcountry campsites, they are usually undeveloped, maybe containing a pit toilet if you’re lucky!

Camping along the O Circuit actually spoiled me! All of the campgrounds had flushing toilets, potable water, and food for purchase. And most of them had indoor kitchen areas for backpackers. Talk about luxury!

As a backpacker in Torres del Paine, you are required to stay in designated campgrounds and lodging, no matter what. Dispersed camping is strictly forbidden. You are also not allowed to use a cook stove anywhere except in designated kitchen areas at the designated campgrounds/ refugios throughout the national park, due to concerns about wildfire.

What Is a Refugio?

A Refugio is essentially a hostel in the wilderness. The refugios in Torres del Paine are remote but have all the amenities of a front country establishment. The quality of the refugios varies along the trail, which I’ll dive into more on an individual basis below, but for the most part, they each have indoor and outdoor sleeping areas, a dining hall/ restaurant, indoor bathrooms with showers, a small store, and electricity! Refugios serve food as well, if you are purchasing a meal plan.

What Are the Names of the Refugios and Campgrounds?

There are two entities that run the refugios along the O Circuit. Las Torres (formerly: Fantastico Sur) and Vertice.

Las Torres runs Central, Seron, Frances, Cuernos, and Chileno, while Vertice runs Dickson, Los Perros, Grey, and Paine Grande.

CONAF (essentially the National Park Service of Chile) runs three campgrounds along the trail (Paso, Italiano, and Torres), both of which have been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CONAF campgrounds do not have facilities like the Refugios, and I will not be discussing them at length in this guide. They are rumored to be opening again for the 2023-24 season.

The Order of the Campgrounds & Refugios on the O Circuit

Beginning from Central, in counter-clockwise order:

  • Seron
  • Dickson
  • Los Perros
  • Paso – CONAF
  • Grey
  • Paine Grande
  • Italiano – CONAF
  • Frances
  • Cuernos
  • Chileno
  • Camp Torres – CONAF

How Much do Refugios and Campgrounds Cost?

The cost varies between the companies and the kind of lodging you are booking.

In 2023, the Las Torres campsites for a single occupant were $37 USD per night and $50 for double occupancy (so if you’re going with a friend, it will be cheaper for you to buddy up and share a tent). The per bed cost in the shared hostel rooms was $125 per night. Meal costs are additional expenses.

The Vertice campgrounds in 2023 cost $10 per night for camping, except at Paine Grande, which was $12 per night. Hostel beds are also less expensive than Las Torres, at $40 for Dickson and Grey, and $59 for Paine Grande. Bedding kits and fully equipped beds do cost more money though. Los Perros is camping only. Again, meals are extra.

The CONAF basic campgrounds are free. They have no amenities besides pit toilets and still require a reservation.

On my trip, I camped at Central, Seron, Dickson, Los Perros, Grey, Paine Grande, Frances, and Chileno and paid $153 total for all single occupancy campsites.

How Do You Book Campsites and Refugios for the O and W Treks?

I will tell you, I was so lost at first when planning my trip! I was lucky that my friend had already laid out the itinerary and the dates we were going to camp everywhere. So, let me try to help you not be as lost as I was!

First, you need to look at a map (see below), get the lay of the land, and see where the campsites are. Familiarize yourself with the order of the sites.

Second, you should think about how aggressive or laid-back you want your itinerary to be.

Third, think about keeping your route options open. You have a few itineraries you can choose from when planning the O Circuit. You can only travel counter-clockwise over John Garner Pass though, so keep that in mind.

  1. Start at Central with your first night at Seron.
  2. Start at Central with your first night at Chileno.
  3. Start at Central, do the Mirador Base Torres hike to start, and sleep at Central your first night.
  4. Start and end at Paine Grande.
  5. Start and end at Grey.

I went with option one. I didn’t really realize there were any other options when I was booking my trip. But, this kind of open-mindedness is necessary if your intended itinerary is already booked up!

For the W trek, you have a few options too!

  1. Start at Paine Grande with your first night at Grey.
  2. Start at Paine Grande with your first night at Paine Grande.
  3. Start at Grey with your first night at Grey.
  4. Start at Grey with your first night at Paine Grande.
  5. Start at Central with your first night at Central, doing the Mirador Base Torres hike during the day.
  6. Start at Central with your first night at Chileno.

While there is no central booking system for all of the campgrounds, a couple of websites may be able to guide you in booking in one place: Booking Patagonia and Torres Hike. I did not use either of these websites when I booked my trek, but after playing around with them a little bit they look cool and relatively user-friendly.

If you are interested in staying at the free CONAF campsites, you can look into booking those here. Note that the website is Spanish-only.

You can book all of the campgrounds/ Refugios that Las Torres owns here.

You can book all of the campgrounds/ Refugios that Vertice owns here.

When Should I Book the Campground/ Refugio?

I haven’t been able to find an exact date for reservations to be released, but it seems like they open reservations around the end of May. I was able to book my campsites on June 23, 2022, and had no problem securing the itinerary I wanted.

I did meet a few people on the trek who told me they booked too late (late summer, fall) for campsites and had to book the Refugio. I didn’t realize that camping with your own gear is the most popular way to do the hike, but it sounds like it is! It makes sense since that is the least expensive way to do the trek.

That being said, I would try to have your itinerary booked by the end of June, based on my experience.

Should I Camp or Stay in the Refugio?

I think this really depends on so many things! If you have your heart set on the O or W, I would book whatever is available for you to do this bucket-list trip!

In reality, this will most likely come down to budget, experience, and overall travel plans for most people. If you have a large budget, would be happy with staying in a “real” bed most nights, and don’t want to carry backpacking gear on the trek, then the Refugio route is the way to go! You’ll still have to stay in a tent at Seron and Los Perros, but it will be the rental tents that are already set up for you.

If you are on a budget and experienced with carrying your own backpacking gear, going campsite-only is perfect! The nice thing about this is you aren’t banned from inside the Refugios. You can still use common areas, shop at the small convenience stores at the Refugios, use the WiFi, take showers and use flush toilets, and cook inside the cooking rooms! Camping in Torres del Paine is far from roughing it, in my opinion!

Details on Every O Circuit Campground in Torres del Paine

Since I had no idea what to expect going into my hike, I knew I wanted to give back to the Internet a bit and help people see what the Refugios and campgrounds are like! So I took notes and loads of pictures at every single Refugio/ campground about the amenities and what to expect! Keep reading for all the insider information. Please note that I did not stay in any Refugio, so my notes are mainly about the campground and what to expect as a tent camper.

Central

  • Check-in: At the kiosk across the small bridges behind the Refugio building. They will give you a sticker to attach to your tent.
  • Bathrooms: Flush toilets and four showers per gender. Hot water is available after 3:00 pm. Located next to the check-in kiosk. Do not flush your toilet paper, use the provided bins.
  • Charging electronics: Shared power banks were provided at the camping kiosk. Needed a USB-A cord to use. They had power at 7:00 am for me.
  • Camping location: Set your tent up anywhere where there’s an obvious camping space & not where there’s a no camping symbol. Tents were pretty much everywhere.
  • Dining area: There is a three-sided tent structure behind the bathroom building with multiple picnic tables for cooking. A few sinks for washing dishes, but I’d bring your own small soap and dish scrub. The sink water is potable for drinking.
  • Trash service: Trash and recycling cans are provided in the vicinity.
  • Chill, slightly party vibe. Workers were playing music most of the day until quiet hour.
  • Campsite is pretty separated from the Refugio by a few footbridges over a wash – probably water there at times but was dry currently.
  • If staying at the campsite but you purchased meals or want to purchase meals at the Refugio, go to the reception desk inside the Refugio, not the campsite kiosk.
  • Central has luggage storage available! You can inquire at the reception desk inside the Refugio.
Information about luggage storage
Refugio dorm rooms from the outside
Camping area mix of platforms and ground

Seron

  • Check-in: Inside the main building with picnic tables outside, not the domes. You’ll need to show your passport and Chile tourist visa ticket from immigration.
  • Bathrooms: One bathroom and shower per gender. There can be a line! The hot water is available later in the day, I think by 3:00 pm. Note: by 9 pm, the women’s room was out of toilet paper and nearly out of paper towels – so bring your own TP just in case!
  • Charging electronics: Shared power banks were provided, there were probably 8-10 USB-A ports in total. I did see a couple more power outlets around the main building. I’m not entirely sure when the power shuts off, but it most likely will eventually. Definitely ask the employees, and if you are charging things, be respectful of others and watch your stuff to make sure you’re not hogging charging ports. Take your stuff out when it’s sufficiently charged to make room for others.
  • Camping location: The camping area is a huge field. There is some wind protection towards the back and left side, so I’d highly recommend setting your tent up in that area. Though many other people will as well, so be prepared for neighbors! We were the first people to set up in our area and found our tents surrounded by other tents by late afternoon.
  • Dining area: There is a cooking tent with 2 picnic tables inside. It was too crowded to cook dinner inside of it, we cooked at the tables behind the bathrooms that had a slight awning – not that it was very protective when it was raining since it was also so windy. Luckily, it only rained for a minute. There was an outdoor sink for washing dishes – the water is potable so you can fill up bottles there too.
  • Convenience store: You can buy snacks at the check-in desk. It is a very small selection. Fuel may be available, but don’t count on it.
  • Trash service: Trash and recycling cans are provided.
  • WiFi: Yes, I overheard a group next to us saying it was slower than they thought so maybe not worth it to purchase here.
  • Trail goes directly into the campsite/ Refugio.
  • The indoor area/ dining hall for meal plan hikers is pretty small. There are two picnic tables directly outside of this building too. There was also a large bottle of sunscreen for communal use in the building.
  • You can use the dining hall to hang out in when they let you (I.e. no benches on the tables), they kicked us out at 6:20 in order to clean the area for the dinner service.
  • Campers have the option to purchase the actual meals – you just need to inquire at the check-in desk right when you get there. They also serve hamburgers and pizza on request during mealtime. See the posted hours when you get there.
  • Dinner service seemed like it was finishing up around 9 pm.

Dickson

Check-in with rangers first in the ranger cabin. They kind of give you an overview for the next hiking day to Los Perros camp.

  • Check-in: In the main building with covered deck. Desk opened at 1:00 pm, which is exactly when we arrived after leaving Seron at 7:15. Passport and tourist entrance ticket to Chile required. Check-in area also houses the convenience store.
  • Bathrooms: There’s a men’s & women’s bathroom. 2 stalls and 2 showers for women. No soap, paper towels, or hand sanitizer when we were there, but lots of toilet paper! Do not flush toilet paper. Not hot water in the sinks, but I believe the hot water for showers turned on at 2 or 4 pm, goes until 10 pm.
  • Charging electronics: There are outlets in the kitchen room. They originally worked, but around midday, there seemed to be a generator/ power issue And they were not working for a bit. But they started up again a couple of hours later. More outlets in this room than at Seron.
  • Camping area: Behind the check-in building and pre-set tents. The area is relatively protected within small trees and shrubs, but it can get incredibly windy here. We saw the wind rip through and pull tents up from their stakes, so stake down your tent well! Camping is not allowed at the beach.
  • Dining area: A room within the main building. There are 2 long tables and a sink & drying rack. Much better set up for cooking than Seron. Campers can stay in here all day too if the weather is bad, but should make room for people who want to use their stoves. You are not allowed to cook at the outdoor picnic tables, but you can eat there.
  • Convenience store: Packaged snacks, cold beers and soda, wine by the glass, and salami to purchase. You could also order pizza or a hamburger. There was a bottle of sunscreen on the counter for anyone to use.
  • Trash service: Trash cans are provided.
  • WiFi: No.
  • The Refugio is a separate building – meals for people who paid are served in their dining area, not the camper area.
  • There are 2 very nice and new-looking cabins that seem like they’re in the middle of building right before you get to the main check-in/ Refugio area.
  • Whole campsite/ Refugio is on the shore of Lago Dickson with really beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Main building at Dickson
Camping area at Dickson
The scenery at Dickson.

Los Perros

  • Check-in: Begins at 1:00 pm, but they will let you set your camping gear up before then if you arrive early. Passport and tourist entrance ticket to Chile required.
  • Bathrooms: Mens & women’s bathrooms. No hot water. 1 shower and 2 toilet stalls. Do not flush your toilet paper.
  • Charging electronics: Multiple working outlets in the dining area, which is open 24/7.
  • Camping area: Behind the pre-set tents within the Lenga forest. Very sheltered at this location, and the smallest camping area.
  • Dining area: Enclosed building attached to the check-in building and bathrooms. This room gets really warm when there are lots of people in it – which was awesome when I was there because it was absolutely freezing outside!
  • Convenience store: Very small and located behind the check-in desk. The packaged snacks are more expensive than at Dickson. The fridge was empty when I was there, so they could have cold drinks occasionally.
  • Trash service: None, all trash has to be packed out.
  • WiFi: No.
  • Has a covered porch but seems to get wetter than at Dickson. Picnic tables on the porch that you can eat at, but not cook.
  • No hot food here, and if you wanted the meals, those needed to be reserved before the start of your trip. You can’t walk in and ask if there are any more meal tickets.
  • The Refugio dining room is in a separate building.
  • Required check-out time of 7 am (different than the ranger’s instructions).
  • Short hike back to Laguna Los Perros – super pretty lake & glacier! If I didn’t have awful weather and a foot injury, I would definitely backtrack here for an evening walk.
  • Check in with the ranger cabin first. They had a list of names staying for the night, and you need to show your passport and tourist ticket. The ranger I had only spoke Spanish – but the most pertinent information was that we had to be climbing by 6:30 am since they don’t want people getting stuck at the top of the pass in bad weather. Interestingly enough, all of our worst weather has been in the morning hours on this trip.
Tents in the wet Lenga forest of Los Perros.
Sign for camp Perros

Grey

  • Check-in: The first building you arrive at from the direction of the pass/ glacier. There is a check-in window. You need to provide your passport and tourist ticket.
  • Bathrooms: Located next to the check-in window and dining area. Men’s & women’s with plenty of stalls, but no hot water in the sinks. Do not flush your toilet paper. Showers are in a separate building between the check-in building and the Refugio building. Do not count on soap to be available.
  • Charging electronics: Many power banks provided – USB-A ports only.
  • Camping area: The pre-set rental tents are in a separate area. When you are walking down the trail from the pass/ glacier, you’ll see the self-supported camper area first, followed by the rental tent area, then the camper check-in building. The camping area is large and protected from wind.
  • Dining area: Like Dickson and Los Perros, the dining room is attached to the main check-in building. It is slightly smaller than Los Perros, and the doors don’t open until 7:00 am.
  • Convenience store: Well-stocked with snacks, toiletries, a coffee maker, cold drinks, and fuel!
  • Trash service: Trash cans are provided.
  • WiFi: Yes.
  • Overall, super nice amenities!
  • The Refugio building is located next to the shower house. This is where the Refugio guests stay and check-in.
  • Refugio has a bar, seating area, and a restaurant. The restaurant is for the paying board guests, but anyone can sit in the bar. They have quite a few options for food including pizza and hamburgers. I did not order a pizza (regrettably), but the table next to ours did and it looked and smelled yummy. Pizzas are personal sized for hungry hikers – less hungry could share between 2 people. The seating area has leather couches and a wood-burning fireplace. It’s a great spot to relax and chat!
  • Refugio deck has Adirondack-style chairs to relax in.
  • The general Grey area has a dock where the Bigfoot Glacier Grey company has an outpost – you can book tours at the check-in desk in the Refugio building. Tours include kayaking near Glacier Grey and a crampon walking tour on the glacier! The outpost also has a dock where the ferry lands.
  • This would be an excellent place for a rest day if you wanted to take one.
Refugio deck
Camping area

Paine Grande

  • Check-in: Follow signs for camping check-in. The check-in office is next to the convenience store. Passport and tourist card are needed. We were able to check in at 11:30 am.
  • Bathrooms: Bathrooms are close to campsites. There are two buildings with 2 sets of showers and multiple toilet stalls each per bathroom. Do not flush your toilet paper, and do not expect shower soaps.
  • Charging electronics: Tons of outlets inside the Refugio.
  • Camping area: In a field behind the buildings. It is very windy here and there are small windbreaks built to attempt to block the wind. They do a mediocre job. Dust from the camp area gets on EVERYTHING in your tent – be prepared. Make sure to bring shoes (and mostly everything) into the tent with you as apparently there are some foxes that like to come around and inspect the area.
  • Dining area: Huge camper cooking building with sinks provided inside. This building opens at 7:00 am, but the worker opened it at 6:30 am when we were there.
  • Convenience store: Attached to the main Refugio building. Well stocked with lots of snacks and some gear items like fuel.
  • Trash service: Trash and recycling cans are provided.
  • WiFi: Yes. And, it reached the beginning of the camping area.
  • The campground/ Refugio is a slight detour from the trail, just follow the signs.
  • Situated right on lake Pehoe, the catamaran is here that runs to Pudeto.
  • The Refugio building is the biggest on the trail. It has dorm rooms, check-in for Refugio, a huge dining hall, and an upstairs bar area where you can buy drinks, pizza, and hamburgers. The house special pizza was pretty dang good! This building also has the camping check-in desk and a convenience store.
The main Refugio building with camping to the right. The lake is to the left.
Camping area at Paine Grande.
Campground check-in
Refugio check-in

Frances

  • Check-in: From the sign on the trail, you’ll go uphill and see a small kiosk on your left. This is the check-in booth for campers.
  • Bathrooms: From the sign on the trail, you’ll go downhill and see a large sink area on your right, continue just a few steps further and you will see a large building, also on your right. There are multiple toilets and showers. These were the nicest bathroom facilities on the trail! Liquid soap was provided in the shower stalls. Like all toilets, do not flush your toilet paper.
  • Charging electronics: The check-in kiosk has a few outlets and power banks. You can leave your things with them to charge until 9:00 pm.
  • Camping area: The camping area is up on a hill and on platforms only. I had no issues setting up my nonfreestanding tent. Plenty of rocks around for guylines and the platforms have hooks and nails around the sides to loop your guylines on.
  • Dining area: Picnic tables outside of the check-in kiosk. There is one structure built with a picnic table inside for protection from the elements. Luckily, it was a nice day for us, so we cooked at the completely outdoor picnic table. Not a lot of space here at all! You may have to limit your time to make room for others.
  • Convenience store: The check-in kiosk has a few snacks for sale. You can also walk all the way down to the Refugio area for more snack and drink options.
  • Trash service: None, all trash has to be packed out.
  • WiFi: Yes, but only works near the Refugio and the camping check-in kiosk.
  • The most awkward campsite/ Refugio. The trail passes through the middle of the area.
  • The camp is situated on a hill. The top part above the trail consists of the camping check-in kiosk, the camping area, and the cooking zones.
  • The stuff below the trail is still necessary for campers. The washbasins are down there, as well as the toilets and showers. There’s a small picnic table down there too next to the bathrooms for cooking as well.
  • Very far down below with views of the lake is the Refugio check-in building which also has a bar and serves the food for the Refugio guests, and the domes (Refugio cabins). We walked down there and it wasn’t very worth the walk back up, in my opinion.
Platforms at Frances campground. Yellow tents are rental tents.

Cuernos

I did not stay here, so here is an overview of what I saw from my bathroom stop here and walking through the area.

  • Campground is right on the trail/ seems scattered around the trail area.
  • The deck and main building are really nice – great views of Lago Nordenskjold.
  • Indoor bathrooms and showers are also nice – similar to other Refugios, but not as nice as Frances.
  • The cooking room is attached to the main dining/check-in/ Refugio building. Kind of looked like a converted barn from the outside. Big and lots of picnic tables.
  • Cabins were visible from the trail heading toward central. Looked like very nice buildings!
  • WiFi was available.
  • Snacks were available at the check-in counter.
  • Not sure about garbage – seems like the Las Torres sites do not provide trash services (except for Seron).
  • Overall seems like a nicer place to stay than Frances. If doing the O or W going towards central, I’d opt to stay here instead of Frances. But, I’d stay at Frances if doing the W towards Paine Grande. It sets you up better for the Britanico climb. Or you can stay at both – do the Britanico climb the day you stay at Frances (you’d just have to backtrack a little bit – like 0.3 miles).

Chileno

  • Check-in: Check-in for camping starts at 1 pm. Camp platforms are assigned based on arrival time, so if you want to be lower down the hill, get there early. The check-in booth is the large green building slightly uphill from the main Refugio building.
  • Bathrooms: In the green building next to the camping check-in window. There is an attendant outside since day hikers have to pay if they want to use these toilets! They are very observant and can tell if you are a backpacker or day hiker. Bathrooms do close for cleaning. No men’s/women’s separation, just a bunch of individual stalls and showers.
  • Charging electronics: There are outlets and charging areas all throughout the main Refugio dining room.
  • Camping area: Camping is on platforms up on a hill. Platforms are assigned at check-in.
  • Dining area: Camper “kitchen” is in the main Refugio building dining room. It is limited to a white table in the corner where you can use stoves. You can’t use stoves anywhere else or at your tent platform/ outside on the picnic tables. You can eat at the picnic tables outside or on the inside table that doesn’t have a “reserved” sign on it. We were not kicked out of the dining room – but did leave at 7 pm when the first Refugio dinner seating began.
  • Convenience store: Small snack selection at the Refugio check-in desk inside the main dining area. There is also hot kitchen food served during certain times and beer on tap. Kitchen food selection will vary (like hamburgers on the menu, but not available). Quesadilla was weird… had Mayo and meat in it and very little cheese… and was served with sides of ketchup and Dijon mustard… I couldn’t tell if I was being trolled or not, but it was food!
  • Trash service: Cannot leave behind any garbage. Must take everything back to town – or at least the entrance center where the busses do the drop-off/pick up as there are trash cans there.
  • WiFi: Yes.
  • Many picnic tables outside – lots of day hikers all throughout the day. It’s actually a really fun place to people-watch!
  • Water spigot is outside the Refugio building near the Chileno sign for potable water.
  • The check-out time is 9:00 am here. If you are going up to Mirador Base Torres for sunrise, make sure you are back in time to take your tent down before 9:00 am!
Chileno Refugio building.
Chileno camping platforms.

I hope this guide helps you plan your campgrounds for the O Circuit! If you have questions about anything here, leave a comment down below!

Pin For Later!

Similar Posts