The ‘Parks of Patagonia’ is a new trail linking 17 national parks from Puerto Montt in the northern Lakes District down to Cape Horn in Tierra del Fuego, across 2,800km (1,700 miles) of Patagonian wilderness. Since the entire 222,000-acre property was turned over and now managed by the state, it has become part of Chile's national parks and subsequently now, a world-class hiking route.
This newly opened trail network now boasts one of the world’s longest hiking trails. While the ‘Route of Parks’ (as the trail is called in English)— isn’t as long as the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail or 24,000 kilometre Trans Canada Trail (the world’s longest), it is possibly the most scenic long trail in the world. It allows hikers to traverse and explore Chilean Patagonia’s most epic landscapes including, the backbone of the Andes Mountains, temperate rain forests, lakes, glaciers, several volcanoes, and some of Chile’s most famous trails such as the Carretera Austral.
Huge credit for this amazing trail network goes to Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine McDivitt Tompkins. Douglas founded the North Face and Kristine was the former CEO of Patagonia.
During the 1990s, the couple used their wealth to buy millions of acres of land in Chile and Argentina to protect it from being developed. Unfortunately Douglas died in Chile in a kayaking accident in 2015, however Kristine continued their conservation work and signed over much of the land they had acquired to the Chilean government in March 2017 to turn into national parks via their foundation, the Tompkins Conservation. It was enough to create five new national parks – the Cerro Castillo, Alacalufe, Pumalin, Melimoyu and Patagonia national parks.
Patagonia sees between 10 and 25 per cent rise in tourist numbers year on year as a boom in tourism has taken place, and the Tompkins conservation plan showed huge foresight in protecting the landscape. The greater conservation plan began in 2004 to start the process of 'rewilding' a landscape that had undergone extensive grazing by sheep and cattle ranches.
The newly announced ‘Parks of Patagonia’ follows a route that leads through grasslands, mountains and glaciers and gives hikers the chance to spot some of the unique wildlife such as the Andean Condor, Guanco Llamas and flightless Rhea. In addition to passing through the newly created national parks and along large stretches of the Carretera Austral – 1,240km’s (770 miles) of mostly unpaved highway created in the 1970s - the hiking route will also take adventurers through well-known national parks like the stunningly beautiful Torres del Paine National Park.
The executive director of Tompkins Conservation - Carolina Morgado - said in a recent statement on the foundation’s website:
“We want Chile to be internationally recognized for having the most spectacular scenic route in the world, and thus become a benchmark for economic development based on conservation,”
For more details and additional information on amenities, communities along the route, route maps and transportation the ‘Route of the Parks’ website has been collecting a range of resources for trekkers and adventurers. Currently the site is only available in Spanish, but an English version is being planned: www.rutadelosparques.org