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437-463 José de Moraleda

Trailblaze in Chile

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The Chacabuco Valley, the heart of the future Patagonia National Park, is like many places in Patagonia: remote. It’s a roughly five-hour drive from the Balmaceda airport, and at least a day by bus. But there are oh so many reasons to make the trek. When it officially opens later this year, it will mark national park number 37 for Chile, brought about by Conservación Patagónica. Eventually, the park will be completely energy-independent—the first such park in the world.

Within the park’s borders, you’ll find acres of grasslands—one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems—stands of southern beech trees, hundreds of species that have adapted to the arid environment, and wildlife such as guanaco and the endangered huemul deer. There’s a six-bedroom, estancia-style lodge and restaurant, made from local materials (stone quarried in the Chacabuco Valley, floors made with refurbished wood), plus two campgrounds. Hiking is the draw in this remote region, particularly the Lagunas Altas trail, which winds 14 miles around alpine lakes.

Photo courtesy of Conservación Patagónica. This appeared in the January/February 2015 issue.