Hiking the Appalachian Trail

6 Things to Know Before Hiking the Appalachian Trail


    The Appalachian Trail is the world’s longest hiking footpath and is one of the national scenic trails found in the United States. It runs for 2,190 Miles, crosses 14 various States, and attracts approximately 3 million visitors annually.

    But not all visitors manage to hike the whole trail though, and if that is your goal, there are a couple of things and tips that you need to know before you embark on your journey to help you get ready to do that:

    When to Hike the Appalachian Trail

    Because this is a long hike, then it might take you several months to hike everything, and you need to undergo various weather conditions because the climates in different states also largely vary.

    Timing and good research of your itinerary are important at this point. You also need to decide where you want to go, whether its from North to South or vice versa. Usually, most Appalachian thru-hikers would start from the South- in the Springer Mountain in Georgia. That’s because the hardest part of the trail is found in the northernmost section.

    It could also depend a lot on the weather as well- if you start your hike in the late winter and early spring, then you might have to start in Georgia to avoid cold and snowy weather conditions that you’d usually find in the north. If you decide to start your hike in the summer season, the temperatures and extremely high and the heat could be your enemy.

    Finally, if you’re planning to hike in the autumn, then you can start at Maine and head South, so you won’t have the harsh winter chasing you as you go.

    How Long Does Hiking The Appalachian Trail Take

    No matter what type of season you start with, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail would take you approximately 6 months.

    But nothing will stop you if you want to do that in less time. Currently, the record for the quickest time to complete the trail is 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. That’s less than two months, and you have to walk an average of 48 miles a day.

    Your pace is solely up to you, just don’t plan impossible timings, and give yourself enough time. This is a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want to ruin it for yourself.

    What Are The Things That You Will Need During the Hike

    Many people talked about traveling light, but as much as weight counts, when you hike the entire Appalachian Trail, you need a considerable amount of gear and clothes. The saying the “lighter the better,” is only true to some extent.

    While it’s still important the lightest gear that you can find out there, you should never sacrifice waterproof materials and temperature comfort for instance. Although a tent is relatively heavier, if you think that it will better protect you, then you should choose it, as long as the weight is bearable. That principle pretty much applies to all your gears.

    Also, some places can be a bit cold, so don’t forget to bring your clothes and warm jackets (ex: ccw jacket). Moreover, if there is something that will help you mentally and morally in your trip, then you could bring it as well, especially if it could help you get through some stressful and struggling moments in your trip. Keep in mind though that it might add a few ounces in your backpack.

    How To Be Mentally Ready During Your Hike

    You can train your body to be physically fit before you embark on your journey, but if you don’t train your mind to be resilient, some endeavors might be too much for you, and a lot of times, you might just want to quit.

    The most important thing that you need to do to stay focused while hiking the trail, set your expectations right, and be grateful for what you have. It might come off as a piece of useless advice to some, but sometimes, you would often forget how lucky you are to go on an adventure that most people would only dream about.

    Also, setting the right tone and the right expectations from the very start is crucial. What is success to you? What’s your goal? Don’t let someone question your own pace or your own choices. Instead, you need to hike your own hike!

    Hiking the Trail Without a Tent

    Hiking the Appalachian trail without a tent is actually possible- as long as you put in the right organization and planning. Not all hikers are aware of it, and not all will decide to risk it, especially because not having a tent means you can stop whenever you want to matter what your plans are.

    But just in case, there are approximately 150 huts in the AT, and you can use all of these for free. Not bringing a tent allows you to cut weight in your backpack, and it’s excellent if you think that you’ll be a lot happier with a lighter pack.

    But you need to know where these cabins are ahead of time because some of them are approximately 30 miles away from each other. So, do your research in advance and plan accordingly. These cabins should be able to provide you with fresh water, but it’s best that you still take a water filter with you.

    How Remote the Trail Is

    Many hikers think that the Appalachian Trail is a perfect example of a pristine environment in the wild that’s completely miles away from civilization.

    While it’s true that it has the most stunning, and remote natural environments in the US, it also crosses a lot of towns, busy roads, and inhabited places. On a positive note, this allows you to easily look for places to restock your supplies, fix any of your broken gears, and charge your batteries.

    Final Thoughts

    When it comes to hiking the Appalachian Trail, planning is absolutely vital at this point. So, research the trail as much as you can. Test yourself and your gear as well so that you’ll learn to adapt through different kinds of situations. Always be ready.


    About the Author Antonio Meltzer

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