Funded and organized by conservationist Douglas Tompkins, this park covers nearly 375,000 hectares (800,000 acres) and shelters the largest—and one of the few remaining—intact alerce forests in the world. Alerces, the world's second-longest-living tree species at up to 4,000 years, are often compared to the equally giant California redwood. Tompkins, founder of the clothing companies ESPRIT and The North Face, owns two strips of land that stretch from one side of the country to the other. He tried to buy the parcel between the two halves that would have connected them, but the sale was fiercely opposed by some officials at the time who questioned why a foreigner should own so much of Chile. The Pan-American Highway, which trundles all the way north to Alaska, is interrupted here, though the government is pushing to expand the highway through Pumalín sometime over the next decade. Meanwhile, there does exist a well-maintained road stretching 60 km (37 miles) from Chaitén to the
northern entrance of the park at Caleta Gonzalo.
Parque Pumalín encompasses some of the most pristine landscape in the region, if not the world. There are a dozen trails that wind past lakes and waterfalls. Stay in excellent wooden cabins, or at one of the 17 campsites, or put up your tent on one of the local farms scattered across the area that welcome travelers. After the Chaitén Volcano eruption here in 2008, the main entrance to the park was moved to El Amarillo, some 30 km (18 miles) south of Chaitén. But one can still arrive via the more developed Caleta Gonzalo entrance to the north, where a ferry from Hornopiren can drop you off, and where the cabins and a park restaurant are located.
Chaitur Excursiones. This tour agency in Chaitén can help you with transport to and from the park. www.chaitur.com.