Torres del Paine Chile

Restoring the Base Torres Trail

The most popular of Torres del Paine’s trekking routes is the Base Torres trail. And for good reason. After traversing through plunging valleys and rocky slopes, adventurers are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the park’s centerpiece – the “Towers of Paine. These three iconic granite spires tower high above a turquoise lagoon at the crest of the trail.

During high season, the Base Torres trail can receive 1,000 hikers in a single day. This heavy foot traffic, causes significant wear and tear on the trail. As a result, the Base Torres trail is now severely eroded. Other factors, including the harsh climate, steep grades, and poor trail alignment only exacerbate these impacts.

Our Role

These degraded trail conditions not only pose a safety concern for hikers, they also impact the park’s sensitive ecosystems. Improving the Base Torres trail is an urgent priority requiring a large-scale, public-private effort. To address this challenge, the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund is teaming up with the Chilean National Forest Corporation (CONAF) and AMA Torres del Paine to implement a collaborative conservation project titled “Tu Mejor Huella para el Paine.”

This project will restore the Base Torres trail system. Tread will be repaired and constructed following sustainable design principles. Creating a sustainable trail system will reduce erosion, lessen environmental impacts, and minimize the need for continual maintenance.

Improved trail conditions will lead to a safer, more enjoyable visitor experience. At the same time, the rejuvenated trail will connect people with nature in an engaging and responsible way. Trail stewardship is key to protecting the long-term health of our national parks, particularly one as popular as Torres del Paine.

The Torres del Paine Legacy Fund

The Torres del Paine Legacy Fund is a travel philanthropy fund established by Sustainable Travel International in partnership with the Fink Family Foundation. Sustainable Travel International continues to manage the Legacy Fund’s on-the-ground efforts to ensure a more sustainable future for Chilean Patagonia.

Tu Mejor Huella Video

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Our Partners

  • CONAF
  • AMA Torres del Paine

Related Work

Engaging Students in Reforestation

Involving local schools in restoring Torres del Paine National Park’s native ecosystem after damage caused by several man-made forest fires.

Improving Recycling Infrastructure

Installing and supporting the expansion of the first recycling system in Puerto Natales, the gateway community to Torres del Paine National Park.

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Demonstrating the Economic Value of Panama’s Protected Areas

Tourism in protected areas is a growing economic activity in many countries. By drawing visitors out of tourism hotspots to more remote regions, protected area tourism can bring new benefits to rural communities and indigenous populations.

While protected areas provide significant economic value, there tends to be little data to actually back this up. Without reliable and quantifiable evidence, governments and communities may undervalue these natural areas and the benefits they deliver. As a result, important visitor management and conservation activities may be overlooked. Without these types of sustainability measures in place, tourism growth in protected areas can end up harming their fragile environments.

Our Role

One destination focused on developing sustainable tourism in its protected areas is Panama. The country’s 121 protected areas cover over 6.2 million hectares of rainforests, coastal reefs, and other sensitive habitats. An increasing number of visitors come to these areas for nature-based tourism experiences, such as trekking, snorkeling, rock climbing, and birdwatching.

In 2017, Sustainable Travel International conducted an economic impact study to determine the value of these natural areas. For this study, our team examined the economic benefits generated by tourism activities within Panama’s protected areas as a way to measure their value.

We began by reviewing Panama’s existing tourism data. This included more general statistics such as national visitor arrivals, protected areas statistics, and public use plans.

To supplement this data, we collected more specific data on tourism revenues linked to protected areas.  We surveyed businesses in Panama’s protected areas and their surrounding buffer zones. Five protected areas were included in this pilot study: Camino de Cruces National Park, Altos De Campana National Park, La Amistad International Park, Chagres National Park, and Soberanía National Park. Survey participants were asked to provide information about their business, including the services they offer and their revenues.

In addition to collecting data from businesses, our team also interviewed visitors to these areas. Through these interviews, we were able to gain a better understanding of who is visiting Panama’s protected areas, what they are doing, and where they are spending their money.    

The study findings paint a fuller picture of the different groups that are operating in and benefiting from Panama’s protected areas. It also quantifies the economic value of protected area tourism. An added benefit of this research approach is that it provides data not only on impacts at the national level, but also on the value generated for local communities.

The real impact of this data lies in its potential to influence destination planning and decision-making. By demonstrating the value of protected areas to the tourism industry, local communities, and the country as a whole, this data helps reinforce the importance of caring for these areas. We hope this data incentivizes improved conservation and leads to better visitor management in protected areas.

Our Partners

  • ALC Global
  • MiAmbiente
  • IDB
  • GEF

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Related Work

Panama

Learn more about how we’re helping Panama work towards a more sustainable future.

Land & Forests

Learn more about our work in other protected areas and how we’re working to conserve our world’s land and forests.

Header Photo Credit: Billtacular via Flickr

Students on Reforestation Trip in Torres del Paine

Engaging Local Youth in the Reforestation of Torres del Paine National Park

Located in Chilean Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park is considered by many as the 8th wonder of the world. This will come as no surprise to those adventurers who have been lucky enough to gaze upon the park’s jagged peaks and turquoise lakes. Of course, where natural beauty and adventure abound, people often do too. In the last four years alone, park visitation doubled, and in 2016 reached a historic record of 252,000. Unfortunately, Torres del Paine’s soaring popularity has also been accompanied by an increase in man-made forest fires. Since 1985, the park has lost one-fifth of its 242,000 hectares to fires, all of which were started by tourists. These fires devastated native Lenga tree forests and the habitats of already endangered species.