Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A 1,700-mile trail that runs through the Patagonian wilderness, connecting Puerto Montt to Cape Horn, is now open in Chile.
The Route of Parks trail was created by Douglas Tompkins, a U.S. billionaire who founded the Tompkins Conservation. Also the founder of the North Face outdoors company, Tompkins died in a kayaking accident in Chili in 2015.
His widow, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, donated the land featuring scenic lakes, waterways and habitats rich with plants and wildlife to the Chilean government last year. Tompkins had bought the land in hopes of preserving it. The foundation called it "the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country."
"We want Chile to be internationally recognized for having the most spectacular scene route in the world, and thus become a benchmark for economic development based on conservation," said Carolina Morgado, executive director at Tompkins Conservation.
Kristine Tompkins said the 10 million-acre park system is a "real model to do large-scale conservation and create national parks in a public-private way."
The addition expands Chile's national park lands by nearly 40 percent and provides protection for pumas, condors, flamingos and endangered deer species native to the region.
This new Patagonian trail ranks among the top 5 long-distance hiking trails in the world, including The Great Trail that stretches almost 15,000 miles across Canada.