The famous trail to Torres Base, in Torres del Paine National Park, is one of the most hiked in Patagonia. However, over time, the trail has suffered inevitable erosion. In order to control and improve the state of the trails in the Park and lead the design and construction of new trails, an alliance was formed between Las Torres Reserve, Conservation VIP, CONAF and Torres del Paine Legacy Fund, to work together with the same goals.
March 2022. One of the most iconic natural landscapes in Chile is Torres del Paine National Park. It is considered the 8th Wonder of the World and a must see for lovers of nature, adventure and the great outdoors. Visitors are attracted by the pristine nature, incredible scenery, unique activities, and authentic Patagonia experience.
The most popular activity in the Park is for visitors to hike to the Las Torres Base Viewpoint. The trail stretches 10 kms, into a valley, crossing rivers and through woods, surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes, flora and fauna. It passes through some incredible lookouts before reaching the final spectacle – the three imposing granite towers.
This is why the construction of new durable and environmentally friendly trails is so important for Sustainable Tourism in the Park.
For Mauricio Kusanovic Olate, executive director of Las Torres Reserve and president of the Reserve´s NGO – AMA Torres del Paine – ” hiking trails are vital for protected areas and one of our priorities is to move towards long lasting sustainable trails. Most of the trails in the National Park and Las Torres Reserve were originally created by and for animals that live there, and so they are not designed for sustainable usage or to withstand the climate and dynamics of the mountain”.
In 2015, the NGO AMA Torres Patagonia contacted experts in sustainable trails from Canada to professionally evaluate the state of Base Torres Trail. Jacob Brett (Sutra) and Veda Roberge, members of the Shuswap Trail Alliance, completed the evaluation with the conclusion that in order to maintain a sustainable conservation of the natural environment, parts of the trail needed to be redesigned and redirected.
With the Canadian team´s analysis, and the need to work on the building of a new trail, a campaign was developed to raise awareness of the importance of trails in the National Park and to raise necessary support funds. The start of the construction was originally set for 2020, however due to the pandemic this date had to be reprogrammed for this year.
While the project had to be paused during the pandemic, Las Torres Reserve worked on developing important partnerships, with the common goal to conserve and rebuild the trails in the park. In 2021 we partnered with Conservation Volunteers International Program (Conservation VIP) a program dedicated to restoring trails and which is led by experts who travel to destinations around the world, collaborating with the locals and with their expertise on trail building.
Conservation VIP has been going to Torres del Paine for more than 15 years, working hand in hand with CONAF and the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund on emblematic projects such as the building of: bridges in the ravines of the Paine Massif Circuit; the French Bridge; footbridges on trails in the Dickson sector and finally the Skottsberg trail between Paine Grande and Francés. In other words, they know the park and its needs perfectly well.
The partnership went on to incorporate 10 international experts from the United States, led by Conservation VIP, who were happy to collaborate and lead crews to begin the construction of the new trail.
“For us this is a flagship project that allows us to continue supporting and working with local companies and organizations. We know how important it is to have sustainable trails in Torres del Paine, which is why we wanted to be part of it” says Garry Oye, director of Conservation VIP.
Other partners in this endeavor include LATAM Airlines and Cerveza Austral, who are part of the “Your Best Footprint” Campaign and the commitment to sustainable tourism.
Although this is a long term project and it will take years to build the whole trail, the important first step has been taken. A new section is being built at the head of the famous trail to Las Torres Base Viewpoint, that will be approximately 3 kms long and several sectors of the current trail will also be repaired.
In order to take full advantage of the international expert´s stay in Las Torres Reserve, a program was created to teach local volunteers sustainable trail construction techniques based on international standards and certify their knowledge.
“We live in a region with many national parks and so it´s important to protect them into the future. This program gives the locals the opportunity to learn how to build sustainable trails, which is really relevant for the people who live here” assures Mauricio Kusanovic.
It is important to mention that all the work being carried out in Las Torres Reserve has been approved by the Environmental Evaluation Service, to ensure that all the work applied contributes to the conservation and improvement of the trails. The new trail will meet the highest international standards in its construction and protect the impact on the natural environment.