Whether it turns out to be the most spectacular long distance trail or not, a new long distance trail in Chile is certain to capture the imagination of thruhikers all over the world. Interestingly, this epic trail is also set to become the lasting legacy of one of the most influential figures to grace the outdoor industry.
Doug Tompkins and Conservation in Patagonia
Douglas Tompkins, the founder of North Face clothing company, died tragically in a kayaking accident a few years ago. At the height of his powers, the business man purchased large quantities of land in the south of Chile and Argentina for the purpose of land conservation.
However, last year, his widow Kristine Tompkins agreed to donate this land to the Chilean government on the basis that the land would be then used to create a network of National Parks. As a result of this agreement, no less than 17 National Parks were created and a long distance hiking trail called the Patagonian Route of Parks would be used to connect them together. Needless to say, this is now the most famous long distance trail in Chile and South America.
Ten Million Acres and Connecting the Dots
Tompkins Conservation is the foundation that held this land until recently but the current executive director, Carolina Morgado is convinced that the trail itself will soon be recognized as the most spectacular long distance trail in the world.
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
On top of the one million acres donated by the Tompkins Conservation, the Chilean government has also decided to add nine million acres of federal land to the effort. With this in mind, the region is approximately the same size as Switzerland and now accounts for more than 85 percent of the protected land in Patagonia.
The Rich History of the Patagonia Route of Parks
The Patagonia Route of Parks begins in Alerce Andino National Park at the north tip of the Carretera Austral and ends in Cape Horn National Park. Incredibly, Carretera Austral was a roadway constructed in the time of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a means of traversing the immense wilderness regions of Patagonia.
As you might expect, this famous region is littered with pristine lakes, stunning snow spires and a very rich lineup of both fauna and flora. The Patagonia Route of Parks is also a combination of three seperate trails which can be explored individually – the Southern Way, the Patagonian channels and the End of the World Route.
As for the aspiring thruhiker, the length of the Patagonia Route of Parks (1,740 miles) is a daunting prospect and the equivalent of walking from Alice Springs all the way to the Indian Ocean – the entire length of the Australian outback.