Torres del Paine: Restoring the Base Torres trail

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 Torres del Paine National Park. Photo: Torres del Paine Legacy FundTorres del Paine National Park. Photo: Torres del Paine Legacy Fund

By Jenny Tolep
One of Chile’s most prized possessions, Torres del Paine National Park is a hotspot for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts that currently draws more than 260,000 tourists annually. But sadly, this beloved park is threatened to be loved to death. Increasing numbers of visitors, plus the annual pounding the terrain receives from strong winds and rain, have the park’s trails quickly deteriorating. Without immediate action, the erosion will become too severe and the trails will be permanently damaged. 
In response, the “Tu Mejor Huella para el Paine” campaign (“Your Best Footprint for Paine”) has launched. The goal is to raise about 800 million chilean pesos (approx. 1.17 million U.S. dollars) to restore one of the park’s busiest pathways, the Base Torres trail. This trail takes visitors to the principal attraction of the park: beginning at Hotel Las Torres it takes hikers over bridges, through green forest and to the viewpoint at the base of the iconic towers that graces so many popular images taken of the park.
Experts say Torres del Paine’s trail system was never meant to support large-scale tourism. Much of the pathways were rather originally formed to enable livestock ranching, and not to meet the present-day standards required for sustainable hiking trails. The British Columbia, Canada-based Shuswap Trail Alliance is working with the local environmental group AMA Torres del Paine, Chile’s national forest and park service (CONAF), and Torres del Paine Legacy Fund to thoughtfully design a smarter, safer route for the Base Torres trail.

Base of the Torres. Photo: Torres del Paine Legacy FundBase of the Torres. Photo: Torres del Paine Legacy Fund

“The new Base Torres trail is going to be a lot more sustainable than the last,” said trail expert Jacob Brett in the initiative’s campaign video. “We’ll be using the latest international sustainable standards, but we’re also going to be designing the trail in a way that engages the user with the environment more and enhances their experience.”
With proper funding, the hope is trail maintenance and restoration can begin early next year. However, no specific dates have been set at this time. Experts plan to work in phases, attending the most urgent needs of the trail first. So far, several companies are coming on board as sponsors of the campaign, including Cerveza Austral and PROCREA.
Emily Green, director of Torres del Paine Legacy Fund, told Patagon Journal that improving this trails is important, both for protecting the ecosystem and ensuring a safe, quality experience for visitors. “I'm very happy to be part of an initiative of this scale that involves everyone improving the park,” said Green. “To repair and redesign the park's most important trail, for me it means a great recognition of the importance of trails in our protected areas and our connection with nature.”

To donate or get involved, go to the campaign website at