The Greater Patagonian Trail is a diverse and challenging trail through the Patagonian Andes mountain range. It is one of the longest established walking trails in South America. The route is very remote, but has some flexibility - certain sections can be covered by packraft over water. Thru-hiking this trail is considered extremely strenuous and challenging. There are very few hikers who have completed the trail, and so information is sparse. Logistical concerns will be an ongoing issue for hikers. Additionally, literal trail-blazing is needed to determine the full route.
The GPT is a composite of different paths through the region. It is primarily composed of smaller trails that are maintained locally, but also travels through dirt roads, some paved roads, and has the option for packrafting across rivers or lakes. Much of the route traverses through numerous mountain passes of the Andes Mountains, which can be difficult. Since the trail is relatively flexible in nature, hikers can opt for easier or harder pathing if desired.
Water availability is one of the easier logistical factors on this trail. Although the trail does not pass through many deverloped areas with running water, there are numerous natural water sources such as streams and rivers. GPS data should contain information about points with water, so that can be used to plan ahead. It is still recommended to treat or filter all water sources.
For parts of the trail, local resupply is not a viable options. Instead, hikers will pass by local herdsmen who may have food available for sale. While the trail does not pass through many towns itself, it does contain roads to access nearby towns. Buses are available to get to these towns and resupply on food. Logistically, this is much more difficult than on trails with more foot traffic.
Weather can be especially dangerous on the GPT. Severe storms are very unpredictable, and heavy snow is a possibility even going into the summer. The most concerning areas are exposed portions of the trail, which are typically at high elevations. In some cases, it may be necessary to turn back, so hikers should keep careful track of their progress. Additionally, hikers should try to attain weather reports as often as possible to mitigate the potential risks.
The GPT is almost entirely unmarked, which makes navigation very difficult and potentially dangerous. A GPS of some sort is absolutely essential, and should be loaded ahead of time with map files of each section which are available for download online. Because the trail is so remote, there are few opportunities to recharge electronics, so spare batteries are recommended as well. As an absolute fallback, some hikers utilize handled satellite trackers such as the DeLorme InReach -- which can be invaluable in case of an emergency.
This trail is not maintained by any public authority, so hikers may not be aware of upcoming poor trail conditions. A GPS map is essential to finding alternative routes in case of emergency. Severe weather is an ongoing concern, especially at these high elevations. Hikers should avoid hiking in exposed areas if weather conditions appear uncertain. Both locals and tourists have died in this region due to severe storms. Wildlife does not generally pose a significant danger to hikers, but they should still be aware that larger mammals do live in this area, including cougars, boars, and foxes. General precautions apply, in that hikers should keep food stowed away, and exaggerate the threat to the animal if encountered.
The GPT is about the least popular long distance trail you could imagine. The route was originally planned out by Jan Dudeck in 2013, and since then it has attracted a sampling of adventurous thru-hikers. The primary source of information is what Jan has published online, so only the most experienced hikers would even attempt to hike most of the trail. The exceedingly remote characteristic of the trail makes it a real challenge, but also makes the trek more dangerous, especially for those hiking alone.
Jan recommends that hikers hike southbound, thereby starting at the northern terminus near Talca, Chile. The closest international airpot is in Santiago, Chile, and local busses can be used to get closer to the trail. Along the actual route there are some points where busses are available to access local towns for resupply, and those towns can then connect to wider transportation access if desired.
Hikers should expect to provide their own shelter for the vast majority of the trek. In some cases, there will be informal accommodation from villages along the way, though you'll need to enquire in the those local areas. When passing through the larger towns, developed accommodation will be more readily available, but this is not a frequent occurence.