One of the world’s longest hiking trails is now open in Chile, connecting 17 national parks stretching 1,700 miles from Puerto Montt in the north to Cape Horn in the south. While the Route of Parks—as the trail is called—isn’t as long as the Appalachian Trail (2,189 miles) or the Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles), it allows travelers to explore Chilean Patagonia’s most epic landscapes, including the Andes Mountains, temperate rain forests, lakes, and several volcanoes.
This massive route is all possible because of the conservation efforts of Douglas Tompkins, the late founder of The North Face, and his wife Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia. In the 1990s, the couple used their fortune to buy millions of acres of land in Chile and Argentina to protect it from being developed. Although Douglas Tompkins died in a kayaking accident in 2015 in Chile, Kristine Tompkins 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.
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Since then, five new national parks have been created from the donation, including Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park, Melimoyu National Park, Patagonia National Park, Cerro Castillo National Park, and Kawésqar National Park. Three more national parks—Hornopirén National Park, Corcovado National Park, and Isla Magdalena National Park—have been extended thanks to the Tompkins’s efforts.
In addition to passing through the newly created parkland and along large stretches of the Carretera Austral, 770 miles of mostly unpaved highway created in the 1970s, the route will also take travelers through well-known national parks like Torres del Paine.
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“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,” Carolina Morgado, executive director of Tompkins Conservation, said in a statement on the foundation’s website.
To help travelers navigate and plan a trip along the route, a new website has been launched at rutadelosparques.org with suggested itineraries, as well as information about the communities and each national park the hiking trail touches. The site is currently available in Spanish, but an English version is also being planned.