Chile Opens Spectacular 1,700-Mile Trail, Connecting 17 National Parks

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A man hikes along a trail in Torres del Paine National Park in the Chilean Patagonia. Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

For anyone who has already tackled North America's longest and most beautiful trails, there's a new path beckoning from South America. A new 1,740-mile hiking trail has opened in Chile. Stretching from Puerto Montt in the north to Cape Horn in the South, the trail connects 17 different national parks, offering travelers access to the Andes Mountain, forests and even a few volcanoes.

This trail, called the Route of Parks is the result of the conservation efforts of Douglas Tompkins, the late founder of The North Face, and his wife Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia. The couple purchased millions of acres of land in Chile to preserve it. In March 2017, McDivitt Tompkins donated swatches of land roughly the size of Switzerland to the Chilean government so that land could be sed to add to or create new national parks.

Five national parks, Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park, Melimoyu National Park, Patagonia National Park, Cerro Castillo National Park and Kawésqar National Park, were created, and three more, Hornopirén National Park, Corcovado National Park and Isla Magdalena National Park, were expanded.

The Route of Parks will also take travelers through established parks, like Torres del Paine National Park, pictured above.

"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. The Route of Parks is a protected heritage of all Chileans, and its 17 national parks are a challenge and an opportunity, as much for the more than 60 communities that live near them as for those who visit them," Carolina Morgado, executive director of Tompkins Conservation Chile, said at a conference organized by Imagen de Chile.