Douglas Tompkins National Park

Northern Patagonia, Chile
  • Duration 12 days / 11 nights
  • Difficulty
  • Departures November to April


This trip visits two newer national parks in Chile: Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park in the northern area of Patagonia and to the south, Patagonia National Park. The parks were private reserves donated by the Tompkins Foundation to Chile to promote sustainable agriculture, assist local communities and promote conservation. Pumalín is primarily a humid, cold temperate forest ecosystem punctuated by the soaring Michimahuida and Chaiten volcanoes, the latter of which erupted in 2008. Rustic hot springs are within a short drive for soaking after long hikes. Patagonia National Park to the south protects grassland ecosystems, as well forests, mountains, and glaciers. The heart of the park is the Chacabuco Valley, an east-west valley that forms a pass over the Andes and a transition zone between the Patagonia steppe grasslands on the Argentina side and the southern beech forests farther west. The valley is a natural corridor for wildlife like Guanacos, Andean Deer, Rheas and Pumas and the park offers many easy hikes and wildlife options. The accommodation is the beautiful Lodge Chacabuco with a high standard of comfort and service and built with sustainability in mind.

Trip Highlights

  • Plenty of hiking trail options with very little driving.
  • Nights spent lodging in rustic chic cabins that border on luxury.
  • Immerse yourself in Jurassic Park-like temperate rainforest, populated with grand alerce trees, the second oldest in the world and known as the South American sequoia.
  • Contrasting landscapes fascinate with rugged volcanoes, fjords, glaciers, rushing rivers and natural hot springs.


Day 1. Puerto Montt.
Arrive at airport in Puerto Montt, the gateway to Patagonia and a major port town in Chile. Transfer to your hotel for a welcome dinner and trip briefing.

Day 2. Pumalin National Park.
Early flight from Puerto Montt to Chaiten, then drive north to arrive at Pumalín National Park. Around midday, we will begin our hike to Laguna Tronador, where we have the opportunity to wander through a forest of majestic, towering alerce trees, some of which are nearly 3,000 years old. A second option is a 2-hour hike on the Las Cascades Trail to visit waterfalls, followed by a 40-minute hike to the alerce forest. 

Day 3. Volcano Chaitén.
Today we take a short but steep hike up the flank of the Volcano Chaitén to a viewpoint affording a look at the volcano’s recent 2008 eruption, which caused significant damage to the surrounding forest and can be fully appreciated from this point. As a bonus, the views from the summit are electrifying, stretching out to the Pacific Ocean and with vistas of the surrounding fumaroles. 

Day 4. Michimahuida.
The Michimahuida trail is one of the least transited in the country, and it is a primordial, almost impenetrable forest and wetland of beech, twisted arrayán, and cypress dripping in moss, lichens, and billowy ferns. We’ll keep an eye out for hard-to-see wildlife such as the Magellanic woodpecker or the pudú, the smallest deer in the world. The trail ends with a lovely view of the Michimahuida Volcano’s west face, before returning on the same trail. 

Day 5. Puyuhuapi.
We’ll spend half the day hiking the Las Cascadas trail, followed by a 3-hour van ride south to the Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa for the evening. “The Waterfalls” trail is very scenic as it winds through an exceptionally dense, mossy rainforest, crossing rivers, climbing over rocks, and ending at a crashing waterfall. Once back at camp, we’ll jump in the van for the stunning drive south along the narrow, winding Southern Highway, until it unfolds into a grand ocean sound at Puyuhaupi, where we’ll board a boat for a quick ride to the lodge, well-known for its collection of hot springs overlooking the sound. 

Day 6. Queulat National Park and Coyhaique.
Today we’ll visit a little-known national park, Queulat, for a short, leisurely hike along a river and through temperate rainforest until reaching a lookout platform with picture-perfect views of a hanging glacier and its cascading rivers. After lunch, we’ll continue to south through changing Patagonian scenery to Coyhaique, the region’s largest city in the Aysén region, where we’ll spend the night and get a taste of local culture and cuisine.

Day 7. Patagonia National Park.
We’ll hop in the van early and drive to Patagonia National Park, with views along the way of Cerro Castillo National Park and the emerald Lake General Carrera, the second largest in South America. Before arriving to Chacabuco Valley, we will stop at the roaring confluence of the electric blue waters of the mighty Baker River and the milkier, glacier-fed Neff River. We’ll enjoy an early night at the cozy, attractive Lodge Chacabuco, in preparation for tomorrow’s hike. 

Day 8. Lagunas Atlas Trail.
Today’s day hike is a long one at 23 miles, but it will take us to the top of a mountain range that offers dramatic views of the Chacabuco Valley and the Jeinimeni Range and the northern Patagonia ice field. As the trail zigzags across the hillside to gain elevation, we will cross numerous small streams and then enter a thick beech forest. Here, the trek grows challenging for 4 miles, looping around gemstone lakes until descending back to the park’s administration center.

Day 9. Lago Chico Trail.
Today we will drive east on a bumpy road towards the border with Argentina to reach the Lago Chico Trail. The trail is lightly transited, and will take about half a day, looping around the eastern section of the park through a section of once-burned forest, then through grasslands and beech forest. The trail borders part of Chico and Cochrane lakes, and the reward is a stunning view of Mt. San Lorenzo, the second highest in Patagonia, and the Cochrane Range in the distance. 

Day 10. Valle Chacabuco.
We’ll spend the day in Valle Chacabuco, on a more leisurely walk/hike around lagoons and grassland ecosystems looking for wildlife and enjoying scenic views of the park. We will have opportunities to see guanacos, flamingos, black-necked swans, and perhaps the elusive austral pigmy owl or puma. 

Day 11. Aviles Valley.
Today’s trek will take us to one of the park’s most remote and dramatic trails, the Aviles Valley Loop. The hike covers grassland, groves, and rivers, and offers beautiful views of the valley with mountains as a backdrop.  Halfway through the hike we will cross a hanging footbridge that swings 100 feet above the Aviles River, continuing the hike and looping back to our point of origination.

Day 12. Balmaceda Airport.
After breakfast, we return to the Balmaceda Airport and bid farewell. End of Services.