The Route of Parks is a hiking route in Chile that connects 17 of the most iconic national parks and protected ecological areas.
Stretching for 2800 kilometres from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn, this long-distance hiking trail takes you through some of the most beautiful places in Chile.
It incorporates famous routes such as the Southern Highway with the Patagonian Channels and the End of the World Route.
The Route of Parks was created in 2017 after a donation of 408 hectares by the Tompkins Conservation. This created five new national parks, the Pumalín Douglas Tompkins, Melimoyu, Cerro Castillo, Patagonia and Kawésqar.
With the addition of the new national parks, the Patagonia Route of Parks leads through areas of protected natural habitats that amount to over three times the size of Switzerland.
- A variety of natural habitats, wildlife and plants.
- Glaciers and lakes
- Alpine hiking
- Pristine, rugged wilderness
- Local history and communities
If you are flying to Chile, there are three main airports at the north, central and south of the trail.
The nearest airport to the beginning of the trail at Puerto Montt is El Tepual, 18 kilometres away.
Balmaceda International Airport is the best for access to the mid-regions on the trial.
For the southern end on the trail, the Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport at Punta Arenas is recommended.
The roads are generally good along the route, allowing for vehicle access to many parts of the track. 4×4 vehicles are recommended to manage the terrain.
With 2800 kilometres to explore, this route is mostly hiked in sections.
You can choose day hikes, or short or long multi-day hikes, depending on how much time you have and what parts of the route you want to see.
If you were to attempt a through hike, you would need around 140 days. That is if you are able to hike 20 kilometres per day without taking any rest days. Realistically, to make the most of the trek, you would want to factor in lots of rest days and side trips.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
The Route of Parks is graded 2-3-4/5.
Some areas are easily accessible, while others are wild and remote.
The terrain varies throughout the trail. Some parts are flat and paved. There are some steep climbs and descents.
Paths may be loose and gravelly, muddy, or there may be snow and ice.
Hikers of all levels of ability can enjoy the Route of Parks, as there are many options.
There are some parts of the route that are short and paved that are great for those without experience, while others are in rugged back-country and are a challenge for keen hikers.
If you are planning a multi-day hike, you will need to be fit enough to carry supplies and sometimes camping equipment.
There is no required permit to travel the Route of Parks, however do have to register and pay a fee to access the national parks.
Guided or Self-Guided
There are many tour operators that offer guided walks along many parts of the Route of Parks.
Self-guided is also an option. Bear in mind that not all places will be well-waymarked, so being able to use a map and compass is recommended when hiking in remote areas.
Summertime bring the best temperatures, so choosing to hike between November to March means you will see most sunshine.
However, this is also peak hiking season, and there will be more people on the trail than at other times of the year.
The Route of Parks is vast, so even in peak season you will be able to find parts of the trail where you can find solitude if you prefer.
Due to the length of this route, there are many possible itineraries.
The best way to decide on where to hike, and for how long, is to choose an area that you like the look of that matches with your fitness level. From there you can plan your multi-day hike or day hike.
They accommodation available will differ depending on what part of the route you hike. For multi-day treks, expect to be camping or there may be hut lodgings.
If you choose day hikes that are closer to settlements, you will find a range of places to stay including hotels, B&Bs, eco-lodges and apartments.
There are some must-see sights along the Route of Parks.
The Alerce Andino National Park is the most northern, and is filled with lush forest landscapes, mountains and many lakes.
The alerce trees are related to redwood trees, and some of the huge specimens on the route are over 3000 years old.
If you like the idea of a wilderness trek with awesome glacier views and turquoise glacial lakes, then hiking in the Cerro Castillo National Park is not to be missed. You will also fine native forests and a wealth of wildlife.
Patagonia National Park is one of the most well-known along the Route of Parks. Here you will find diverse habitats that support wildlife, such as wetlands, native grasslands, and forests.
This national park is home to 10 percent of the global population of the endangered deer, Huemul. It is also well-developed for backpackers and tourists, with good campsites with facilities, lodges and an information centre.
Laguna San Rafael National Park is where you can get close to the San Rafael glacier. At 230 feet high, this wall of ice is something to behold.
You can also visit the highest peak in Patagonia, Monte San Valentine, as well as exploring the Marble Caves.
The Bernado O’Higgins National Park is one of the remotes and most difficult to access on the trail. Here you can experience the wilderness of native forests and glaciers, as well as a network of rivers and fjords.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Difficulty||2/5 - 5/5|
|Starts at||Puerto Montt, Los Lagos, Chile|
|Finishes at||Cape Horn, Chile|
|Length of route||2800 Km|
|Average time to complete||150 - 180 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Equipment needed||Camping equipment, food supplies, Poles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots|