Chiloé National Park, located along the vast and desolate western coast of Chiloé Island in Chile, is rich with wildlife, including sea lions, penguins, whales and seabirds. It includes zones of dunes, temperate rain forests, swamps and peat bogs.
The National Park is divided into three areas:
- Chepu, in the district of Ancud
- Abtao, which belongs to the districts of Castro, Chonchi and Dalcahue
- a small portion that occupies the islet of Metalqui, with its colony of sea lions
The greater portion of the Park is in the foothills of the Chilean Coastal Range, known as the Cordillera del Piuchén. It includes zones of dunes, temperate rain forests, swamps and peat bogs.
A number of hiking trails have been established in the park:
- Río Chepu-Río Lar: 11 km (6.8 mi), approx. 5 hours
- El Tepual (interpretation trail): 0.75 km (.5 mi), approx. 40 minutes
- Dunes of Cucao: 1.4 km (1 mi), approx. 1 hour
- Chanquín-Cole Cole: 16 km (10 mi), approx. 5 hours
- Río Cole Cole-Río Anay: 5 km (3 mi), approx. 1.5 hours
- Chanquín-Río Grande: 15.5 km (9.6 mi), approx. 8 hours
- Castro-Abtao: 18 km (11 mi), approx. 8 hours
The climate in Chiloé National Park is wet and temperate. Annual temperatures average 11 °C (52 °F) and abundant precipitation is distributed uniformly throughout the year, varying between 2,500 mm (98 in) and 5,000 mm (200 in), according to the altitude.
The predominant vegetation in Chiloé National Park is that of the Valdivian temperate forests, a dense forest formed by perennial trees, shrubs and climbing plants.
These rain forests are made up of evergreen southern beech (Nothofagus) and some native conifers that include the alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), also called Patagonian Cypress.
Extensive bogs and swamps are found in the hills. The Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria), a very large perennial, is quite common.
The terrain is rich with wildlife and includes sea lions, penguins and seabirds along the coast. The coastal areas also host a population of pygmy blue whales, one of only a very few known foraging grounds in the Southern Hemisphere. Vast and desolate, this stretch of coastline is one of the most beautiful in Chile.
In this area, whales often enter into narrow fiords either to feed or rest. The area is also an important habitats for other whale species such as humpbacks, finbacks, seis and southern right whales.