Chile launches epic hiking route through Patagonia region

A new hiking route has been launched through Chile’s Patagonia region.

Created to attract more tourists to the area and improve awareness of the need for conservation, the Route of Parks run from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn – a distance of 2,800km in total.

The area is known for its lakes and rich array of wildlife and plants.

The trail was funded by US billionaire Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine.

The North Face and Esprit co-founder, who died in a kayaking accident in Chile three years ago, set up the Tompkins Conservation foundation, which bought up great swathes of land in Chile and Argentina in order to preserve it.

Mr Tompkins’ widow Kristine, the former CEO of outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, signed over a large amount to the Chilean government in 2017 with the idea of using it to make a series of connected parks and trails.

The land was used to create 17 national parks, all of which are connected by the new hiking trail, encompassing a huge area around the size of Switzerland.

It’s the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country, according to Tompkins Conservation.

“We want Chile to be internationally recognised for having the most spectacular scenic route in the world, and thus become a benchmark for economic development based on conservation,” said Carolina Morgado, executive director at the foundation. 

The Chilean president called the Route of Parks an “unprecedented preservation effort”.

Mr Tompkins rejected capitalism later in life, preferring to use the great fortune he’d amassed to help preserve the environment. According to his foundation, he had come to see the very consumer culture his company was part of as “another destructive manifestation of an industrial growth economy toxic to nature”.

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