You Can Now Visit 17 National Parks Along One Trail in Chile
Travelers can now follow a single 1,740-mile-long trail to visit 17 of Chile's most stunning national parks on one unforgettable journey. Called the Ruta de los Parques de la Patagonia (Route of the Parks of Patagonia), this path originates in Puerto Montt — the gateway to Chile's Lake District — and snakes all the way along the nation's southwestern edge to the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
The recently-opened, immense scenic route materialized after Kristine Tompkins (on behalf of the Tompkins Conservation) donated more than one million acres of land to the Chilean government. In response, the government “matched” this contribution by redesignating some nine million acres of federal land.
With these massive donations, it became possible for the first time to string together a collection of the most stunning and untamed lands in Chile. According to a new website dedicated to the trail, the Route of Parks incorporates three existing trails: the Southern Way, the Patagonian Channels and the End of the World.
Roughly 85% of Chile’s protected lands are now concentrated in Patagonia, and Carolina Morgado, executive director of Tompkins Conservation Chile, maintained that the route’s primary focus is on protecting the region's natural beauty. Tourism, she said, is what comes after.
"We want Chile to be internationally recognized for having the most spectacular scenic route in the world," Morgado said at a recent conference, "and thus become a benchmark for economic development based on conservation."
Adventurers lured to the bottom of the Earth to experience the extraordinary trail will encounter 60 communities and 24 distinct ecosystems along the way. The trail meanders through iconic parks such as Torres del Paine and Cape Horn, as well as new or lesser-known reserves like Kawésqar and Melimoyu.
The official website provides a series of suggested itineraries (ranging in duration from 3 to 13 days) for each region — the Lakes District, Aysén and Magallanes. Travelers who attempt them all will discover vast snowfields and glaciers; temperate rainforests and lunar-like volcanic landscapes.
To promote the trail, Tompkins Conservation, Patagonia and the Route of the Parks have partnered to award a nine-day trip for two along eight of the national parks linked by the trail. For your chance to win, write a story (in 101 words or less) describing how national parks have been "important in your life."
Upload the story, along with a photo, to your Instagram or the trail's Facebook fan page (@rutadelosparquesdelapatagonia) with the hashtag #rutadelosparques.