This article is the third in a series of five detailing each day of the W-Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park. The trek was completed starting with the Glacier Grey leg and going west-to-east, though it can be completed in the opposite direction as well.
The third day of a five-day W-Circuit trek will be your longest regardless of which direction you choose to tackle it in. You can expect an average of 10 hours of hiking on this day. You'll spend around 2.5 hours hiking from Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano, the base of the French Valley trail. Heading up the French Valley and back takes another 3-6 hours, this can vary quite a bit depending on your physical fitness and weather conditions. Italiano to the Cuernos campground and refugio takes another 1.5 hours, you can also choose to camp at Italiano and bypass Cuernos the next day by continuing on to Torres Central. You should leave Paine Grande shortly after dawn so you don't feel rushed later in the day.
Lago Skottsberg is along the trail from Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano. You'll see the aftermath of the 2011 fire that burned the forest in this area and was responsible for the open flame restrictions in the park today.
The French Valley can be prone to inclement weather that will block your view of anything. You may want to skip it if this seems to be the case. The staff at the refugios will have weather forecasts on hand. The valley is the middle leg of the "W" and if you follow it to the end you'll have a panoramic view of the mountains.
You'll follow the river for much of the French Valley ascent and will see glacial water pouring down from the surrounding peaks.
Mirador Británico is the final outlook in the French Valley.
An interesting beach with black and white rocks is located on the shore of Lago Nordenskjöld along the way to Cuernos.