Valle Chacabuco is a stunning piece of Patagonian Steppe that in recent years has been restored to its former glory. Home to the Parque Patagonia project, the valley offers stunning scenery and is a burgeoning home to wildlife. The history of the valley is linked to sheep and cattle ranching and was once home to a 700 sq km (270 sq mile) ranch. In recent years, the land has been purchased by Doug and Kris Tompkins, US outdoor clothing moguls and philanthropists who have the aim of creating a new national park.
After years of agricultural activity, the ecosystem had been damaged and many endemic species had disappeared. The couple set about turning this around, and by including the local community, have started to create a sustainable park that supports both local wildlife and the former ranch employees. Guanaco once again roam free here, a great example of the associated ecosystem that is beginning to return. The long term aim of the project is to hand all of this land and infrastructure over to the Chilean government as a national park for the future.
Visiting this part of Chile is an incredible experience, the beauty of the area now feels unspoiled and the project that the Tompkins' started some years ago, is finally coming to fruition in the way it which it was intended. The park is easily accessible from many of the lodges around nearby Lago General Carrera, or for those wanting a more in depth stay, the Lodge at Parque Patagonia provides superb accommodation in the heart of the valley.
The main draw is the superb scenery and there are numerous walking trails in and around the park — these range from intensive full day hikes of up to 23 km (14 miles) to more relaxed two- to three-hour hikes, it's even possible to camp overnight in the park. There are also numerous possibilities for outdoor activities, including mountain biking, fishing and birdwatching.
For those of a less active disposition, the route up to the Argentinian border at Paso Roballos makes for a scenic drive through the length of the park. Whether walking, biking or driving you will have the opportunity to see Patagonian wildlife in its natural habitat, including guanaco, condor and vizcachas. If you are keen to explore further afield there are opportunities to visit the stunning confluence of the Nef and Baker rivers and if you are prepared for a long day you can journey south to the small town of Caleta Tortel. Cut off from the world until relatively recently, the town is built out onto the lake and offers a glimpse into Patagonia's isolated communities.
Visiting this park really is a unique experience, and you leave feeling as though you have been to a place at the start of fantastic journey and transformation from damaged land to pristine Patagonian wilderness.
Suggested itinerary featuring Chacabuco Valley & Parque Patagonia
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Chacabuco Valley & Parque Patagonia