Chile Opens New Patagonia Hiking Trail Following Tompkins Donation

Chilean Patagonia landscape
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Chile has unveiled a new hiking route through the region of Patagonia as a way to attract more tourism and raise awareness about wilderness conservation.

The Route of Parks spans across 1,740 miles from Puerto Montt all the way to Cape Horn. The route comprises three already existing hiking trails and links them into one contiguous route, the BBC reports.

The move was made possible by Tompkins Conservation, an organization founded by American billionaire and North Face and Esprit founder Douglas Tompkins and his wife and outdoor clothing line Patagonia’s CEO Kristine Tompkins.

Last year, the Tompkins Conservation donated a huge amount of land to the Chilean government. The land has provided the opportunity to set up a network of 17 national parks, which are now all connected by the Patagonian Route of Parks.

“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,” said Tompkins executive director Carolina Morgado.

The new trail encompasses three existing hiking routes – the Southern Way, the Patagonian channels, and the End of the World Route – according to its website.

The site also provides information on transportation and accommodation options, and “over 50 GPS-traced paths.” The region of Patagonia attracts nature lovers from all around the world for its breathtaking landscapes, bright-blue glacier lakes, striking mountains, and its varied habitat of flora and fauna.

The Tompkins bought hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Chile and Argentina since the 1990s with the goal to invest in conservation.

Then in 2015, Mr. Tompkins tragically died in a kayaking accident in the Chilean Patagonia. Two years later, his widow donated 408,000 hectares of land to the Chilean government with the purpose of creating five new parks.

“This is a key step to treasuring this giant source of biodiversity and safe keep it in the public interest,” said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at the time, according to the BBC.

Tompkins Conservation added that the move was considered “the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country.”

“I know that if Doug were here today, he would speak of national parks being one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realize, preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all of its citizenry,” Kristine Tompkins said.

Chile’s response was to turn 2 million hectares of reserves into national parks, and it now culminated in the creation of the Patagonian Route of Parks, which occupies around 11.5 million hectares.