Around the world, countries have created new national parks to preserve the planet’s last pristine bastions. Early adopters can experience a kind of solitude that’s impossible to come by elsewhere.
Patagonia National Park, Chile
The Lagunas Altas Trail is one of those ridgeline hikes that makes you feel like an eagle in flight—or in my case, a condor. On my left, the Andes’ sharp summits claw at a cloudless sky. To my right, a pair of black-necked swans glide across a turquoise lake. This well-marked path is the signature day hike in Patagonia National Park, so it should be mobbed with admirers, like Chile’s better-known Torres del Paine National Park. There, hikers on the iconic “W” route shuffle along in a conga line of traffic. But Patagonia National Park was only created in 2019, after the North Face founder Douglas Tompkins and his wife, Kristine, bought massive swaths of ranchland over several years and donated it to the Chilean government. With time, the masses will add this stunning park to their bucket lists, but today I see just six other trekkers along the 14-mile loop.