The Greater Patagonia Trail (GPT) is awesome, but glance at Jan’s info and it is clear that the GPT differs significantly from other distance trails. If you like the AT, odds are you’ll enjoy the PCT or CDT. It’s difficult to make similar correlations about the GPT; the GPT is unlike many other long distance hiking trails.
If you’re considering an adventure along the GPT (note: I refer to it as “adventuring” not “thru-hiking”), first think extensively about your motives. Here are some truths from my experience to consider:
Truth #1: The suffering-to-reward ratio is high. Very high. Yes it’s beautiful, but you will spend far more time trudging through wet brush or road walking than you will cresting ridgelines. It rains a lot. The GPT does not provide beautiful panoramas every five miles like the PCT does. Torres del Paine, the famous mountain chain everyone associates with Patagonia, is not a part of the GPT.
Truth #2: It’s a route, not a trail. Despite the name, in the typical dichotomy of routes versus trails in the US hiking community, the GPT fits better in the route category. Jan has worked tirelessly to map a network of trails, roads, and bodies of water, but it’s simply illogical to try and hike them all continuously. There are breaks in the route’s continuity, unreliable transportation necessary to complete certain sections, and unpredictable weather. Some sections even parallel each other. Without any formal trail support association, parts of the GPT are no more than imaginary lines on a GPS. The GPT is not designed for “purists” who get satisfaction from completing every inch of trail or touching every white blaze. Can it be done? Probably, but why try and fit a square peg into a round hole?
Truth #3: There is no trail celebrity on the GPT. No one in Chile or Argentina knows what the GPT is. There are no trail towns with special rates for hikers. Although you may run into several kind locals willing to take you in for tea, there is no network of trail angels. You will be assumed to be another hostel-hopping backpacker traveling around the word, albeit a bit worse smelling. No one will know what you’re doing nor appreciate it.
Truth #4: There is no trail culture. Unlike the popular distance trails, virtually no one is hiking the GPT. In almost four months of adventure on the GPT, I encountered one other party doing the same. Even if there were more people out on the GPT, there is no shelter or hut network for people to congregate around. Expect to keep your stories to yourself and—especially if you’re hiking alone—to have a very isolated experience. While this may change in the future, the GPT’s social community as of 2017 (when we began our trip) is limited to a pretty small Facebook group. The social hiker will have a hard time finding friends on the GPT.
Truth #5: Chile and Argentina are expensive. This was by far my most expensive adventure to date; four months on the GPT was, by comparison, more expensive than my AT, PCT, or Te Araroa thru-hikes. Food and lodging are comparable to prices in the US. It is wrong to assume that because the GPT is in South America, things will be cheap. Gear is hard to come by and the few tourist towns with outdoor shops are quite expensive and boutique.
Still interested? These observations about the GPT are not intended to scare people away, but to make sure that future GPT hikers have realistic expectations about what they’re getting into. The GPT is great for a lot of people: explorers, section-hikers, beginning packrafters, isolation-seekers. If you’re still excited about the GPT, I encourage you to pore over Jan’s documentation. Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.