Donated to the APN by the Fundación Vida Silvestre and the Patagonia Land Trust by environmental philanthropists Doug Tompkins and Kris McDivitt, 62,000-hectare Monte León’s 30-kilometer shoreline and headlands are an ecological wonderland of copious wildlife and uncommon landscapes.
Little known and less visited, this former estancia is Argentina’s second coastal national park, after Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego  (similar reserves in Río Negro, Chubut, and Santa Cruz are provincial parks).
Monte León’s coastline is home to some 60,000 Magellanic penguins, as well as gray and king cormorants, snowy sheathbills, Patagonian crested and steamer ducks, Dominican gulls, and sea lions, while its interior grazes guanacos and rheas and shelters armadillos and liebres (Patagonian hares). The vegetation is primarily grasses and prostrate shrubs of the Patagonian steppe. There are also pumas as well as red and gray foxes.
Wildlife-watching is the principal activity at Parque Monte León, but the landscape is special: Where the tides meet the headlands, the sea has eroded deep caverns. Seen from the steppe above, La Olla (The Kettle) took its name from its almost perfectly circular opening, but heavy rains and seas caused it to collapse in October 2006.
Unlike much of the South Atlantic, the coastline here abounds with offshore rocks and stacks. Guano collectors worked one of these, Isla Monte León, by stringing a still-existing cable tram from the headland.
At low tide, exploring La Olla’s remnants and Isla Monte León’s base is possible, but be aware of the tides to avoid being stranded in a dangerous situation—the route is slippery, and the tide comes in fast. Try to descend about an hour before low tide—the RN 3 visitors center can advise on times.
Camping is possible at Monte León proper, but there are better accommodations at Hostería Monte León (RN 3 Km 2385, tel. 011/4621-4780 in Buenos Aires, www.monteleon-patagonia.com , US$210 s, US$320 d, with half board), the former estancia’s casco, which also arranges excursions to the shoreline.
While donating the estancia to the park service through their Patagonia Land Trust, Tompkins and McDivitt have retained about 330 hectares and left the hostería’s management to former owner Silvia Braun and her Swiss-Argentine husband, Juan Kuriger. The casco itself is a spacious, high-ceilinged beauty with four guest rooms and a small museum; much of the produce comes from Silvia Braun’s organic garden.
For information, especially on the tides and the state of the washout-prone road, ask at Hostería Monte León, where there are rangers stationed nearby (tel. 02962/49-8184 in Puerto Santa Cruz, monteleon [at] apn [dot] gov [dot] ar).
There is no public transportation to Monte León, which is 58 kilometers south of Piedra Buena  via paved RN 3 and graveled RP 63; if road conditions are bad, the gate will be locked.