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Hiking the Appalachian Trail - The Complete Guide for Beginners in 2022

Jan 6th 2020

Hiking the Appalachian Trail - The Complete Guide for Beginners in 2022

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is certainly not a leisurely walk in the park. This 2,193-mile stretch of land, nature, and wildlife is not for the faint of heart—it requires thorough research, rigorous preparation, and exceptional fortitude and resilience. Despite how intimidating that may sound, beginners can scale the Appalachian Trail’s numerous mountains and treat themselves to some of the most gorgeous views on earth. That journey begins with a single step: reading this resource page.

These are just some of the things you need to know: the trail’s history, the hike sections, how much money to prepare, gear needed, safety guidelines, and accommodations. If you want to read other specific sections, the table of contents has links you can click for faster navigation.

Take note that the information in this resource page will change from time to time to accommodate updates, ensuring that the content remains relevant and accurate. While this resource may not be the most exhaustive work on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, this should provide you enough helpful information to make your preparations. For clarifications, comments, and other concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.

CONTENTS[ hide ]

The Appalachian Trail Information

What Is the Appalachian Trail?

Traversing 14 states, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, or the Appalachian Trail, is one of America’s most famous long-distance footpaths. The whole journey is 2,193 miles in length, showcasing the grandeur of nature including breathtaking valleys, meadows stretching as far as the eye can see, many mountain peaks and miles upon miles of forest. The Trail was opened to the public in 1937 and now accommodates short-term hikers, section hikers, and thru-hikers.

Appalachian Trail Statistics

Do you know that completing the Appalachian Trail hike is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times?

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL HISTORY

The Appalachian Trail’s history, just like its geographical coverage, is long and full of remarkable changes. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the proposal for the hiking trail was first presented in 1921, but the Trail was not technically completed until 2014 when a final major stretch was formally acquired and received permanent protection. To this day the Trail continues to evolve as more land is acquired or routes are slightly altered, often for conservation or sustainability reasons. In 2020 the Trail will officially be a few more miles in length than in 2019.

A UTOPIAN REFUGE

In 1921 a man named Benton MacKaye introduced his proposal for a hiking trail that would traverse the Appalachian Mountain range. Being a regional planner, he dreamed of a long-distance trail that would challenge hiking proponents of his day. Not a fan of the changing pace of life during the 1920’s, MacKaye thought of the Trail as a way to reconnect with the land- a Utopian Refuge of sorts. He also wanted to establish self-sustaining camps near the Trail so visitors could appreciate the peaceful humility of mountain living.

It was said that the inspiration for the project dawned on MacKaye while he was perched on a treetop at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. One would guess that the inspiration came from the view, but colleagues describe MacKaye’s vision as more political and philosophical than pragmatic, largely influenced by the significant changes that transpired after World War I.

The Industrial Revolution brought about rapid economic growth, but the United States was still reeling from the effects of World War I. The clash between rural values and urban values culminated in the rise of the temperance movement and the Prohibition era, and the rise of gangsterism.

In 1925, several years after making his first proposal public, MacKaye and a few people who shared his dream established an organization dedicated to bringing his vision to reality. MacKaye and his followers held the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) to present a more concrete plan. They wished to create a walking trail that ran from Georgia to New England. The ATC would eventually become what we know as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, though the name would not be changed until 2005.

CLASH OF VISIONS

As one could expect from a project of this proportion, the path to its realization had its share of challenges. The project lagged initially due to lack of support. The group had succeeded in connecting the pioneering paths in the north, but little had been done in the south.

By the end of the ’20s, a man named Arthur Perkins, a retired Connecticut Judge, took control of the project. Perkins in turn introduced Myron Avery to the effort. Avery ultimately succeeded Perkins in the leadership of the ATC and would become a very important name in the history of the Appalachian Trail.

But there was one major problem: Avery and MacKaye, the original founder, held contrasting views on the future of the Trail. While MacKaye’s vision was more philosophical and romantic, Avery’s was more practical. Avery was responsible for much of the actual construction effort and he pared back the project. It would no longer include the camps and farms that MacKaye had envisioned for reintroducing people to a life lived off the land. It would be simply a trail and its purpose would be to walk and experience the natural world. By 1935, MacKaye started to halt his personal involvement in the project and left Avery as the main overseer. Avery proved to be instrumental to moving the project forward, completing a footpath that stretched from Georgia to Maine two years later in 1937.

THE FIRST CHAMPION OF THE AT

Still, these initial successes were not enough to quell the towering challenges that confronted the Appalachian Trail’s establishment in the succeeding decades.

One of the major hurdles was legislative in nature. Congress authorized the Blue Ridge Parkway as an extension of Skyline Drive, displacing 120 miles (193 kilometers) of the Trail in the North. Avery famously referred to the event as a “major catastrophe in the history of the Appalachian [Trail].” (Source)

Another was natural. A hurricane wreaked havoc in New England and rendered hundreds of trail miles impassable. Land disputes with private owners whose properties were traversed by the Trail also started to cause trouble. The lack of progress was further exacerbated by the Second World War, when many people were being drafted and resources were limited.

For these reasons, not much was accomplished during these tumultuous years until Earl Shaffer became the first man to hike the Appalachian Trail all the way through in 1948. Previously, thru hiking was thought impossible. Even the founders of the Trail had not foreseen the Appalachian Trail being hiked in its entirety. By breaking the myth, Shaffer inspired fellow hikers to take interest in this new challenge and the caretakers were inspired to renew their efforts on the project.

FIRST SCENIC PARK

Much of the ’50s and ’60s were dedicated to refining the Appalachian corridor. But as urbanization started to creep into many of the previous rural areas, the ATC once again faced issues with encroachment. This time, the ATC sought legislative backing. These efforts were led by co-chairs Stanley Murray and Murray Stevens, who took over the organization’s leadership after Avery’s passing.

Thankfully, their efforts were not in vain. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson successfully made the Appalachian Trail the first national scenic trail under the National Park System by passing into law the National Trails System Act. Under this new law, the entire Appalachian Trail would be considered federal land. Despite this success, the long process of acquiring the Trail land and giving it protection took almost half a century.

FOLLOWING SHAFFER’S FOOTSTEPS

Gene Espy completed the Trail in 1951, becoming the second person to thru hike the Trail. He wrote a book called The Trail of My Life, which moved more people to undertake the challenge. By 1969, 59 people had completed thru-hikes. But it was Ed Garvey’s book in 1971 that really sparked a surge in thru-hiking by raising public awareness of the Trail. After completing the Trail in 1970, Garvey inspired thousands by sharing his story in Appalachian Hiker. Here, he related not only the personal thoughts and emotions he experienced during his journey, but also practical information that benefited readers interested in following his footsteps.

Today, around 2–3 million people hike at least some portion of the Trail every year, a dream finally realized almost a century after MacKaye’s treetop revelation.

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL MAP

The reality of how long it takes to hike the entirety of the Appalachian doesn’t dawn on some hikers until they see in full detail how far the Trail stretches. This satellite image renders a bird’s-eye view of the staggering task that thru hikers are excited to undertake.

The Appalachian Trail crosses 14 U.S. states, from Georgia to North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and all the way to Maine. Overall, the Trail is 2,193 miles (3529.291 kilometers) long.

The following Appalachian Trail thru-hike map distinguishes each section of the Trail, which you can zoom in on, print, and use to guide you in your own journey.

Appalachian Trail Map [Download]

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL MAP

Maine

Trail Distance: 282 miles (454 kilometers)

Many successful thru-hikers will agree that the Maine stretch is perhaps the toughest of the entire trail. Prepare to go through the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, the hardest mile of the Appalachian Trail, and the Hundred- Mile Wilderness that courses through the rugged state. Another well-known feature of the Trail is stream crossings without bridges, which you should traverse with care, especially when there are forecasts of rain or when the snow is thawing in the spring.

New Hampshire

Trail Distance: 161 miles (259 kilometers)

The New Hampshire part of the Trail, especially through the White Mountains, will test your endurance. Crossing Franconia Ridge and the Presidential Range is difficult. The New Hampshire Trail varies from 400-6,288 feet in elevation. But the hard work is worth it, because this is the state where you spend the most time above the treeline, promising scenic routes across ridges with uninterrupted vistas and stunning sunsets. This part of the Trail is a popular training ground for many hikers planning their thru hikes or preparing for other tough international expeditions.

Vermont

Trail Distance: 150 miles (241 kilometers)

Vermont is one of the easier parts of the Trail. You’ll create fantastic memories of walking through a verdant forest (or, if you’re passing through in the fall, gorgeous orange foliage), rolling hills, and fields. 100 miles of the AT in Vermont is shared with the Long Trail which runs from Massachusetts to Canada and is one of the oldest long distance hiking trails in the country. It was one of the very first trails to be incorporated into the Appalachian Trail. This section of the Trail is best used in late summer and early fall. In spring months- particularly in April and May, the rain can pour heavily on your path. Vermont has earned the nickname “Vermud” among hikers

MASSACHUSETTS

Trail Distance: 91 miles (146 kilometers)

Passing through the Massachusetts section of the Appalachian Trail treats you to dramatic landscape views atop the state’s highest point, Mount Greylock. Said to have inspired Herman Melville to write the literary classic Moby-Dick, Mount Greylock stands at an elevation of 3,491 feet (1 kilometer). The Trail runs through hills and valleys and even small towns. You’ll be predominantly surrounded by nature, but without the distinct remoteness of the Maine wilderness

GEORGIA

Trail Distance: 78 miles (126 kilometers)

Georgia brings much to your Appalachian Trail wilderness experience. The Trail can sometimes be rugged, albeit navigable. Your journey will most likely start or end in this state atop Springer Mountain making it a memorable and emotional stretch of your journey regardless of the challenges it holds.

Connecticut

Trail Distance: 51 miles (82 kilometers)

The Appalachian Trail runs through Kent, passing within two miles of our TrailHeads Headquarters. Connecticut is the gateway to New England. Unlike in the south, much of the Northern Trail does not have switchbacks. Switchbacks can make long climbs easier as you gain elevation more slowly. In Connecticut, though you may not go as far up, you’ll be headed straight up. The Trail passes over Bear Mountain, the highest peak in the state. There is also a wheelchair-accessible section of the Trail in Falls Village.

North Carolina

Trail Distance: 95.7 miles (154 kilometers)

Sharing Tennessee’s state border for 224.7 miles (362 kilometers), the North Carolina part of the Trail stretches 5,498 feet (1.7 kilometers). This section contains the highest parts of the AT including Clingman’s Dome - half in North Carolina and half in Tennessee, which rises to 6,643 feet. Remember you will need to secure a permit for hiking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

New York

Trail Distance: 90 miles (145 kilometers)

In Bear Mountain State Park, you will pass through the lowest point of the Trail, which is at 124 feet (38 meters).The Trail passes within 30 miles of New York City and some hikers will choose to briefly leave the Trail and get a lift into the City for some urban adventure.

Tennessee

Trail Distance: 94 miles (151 kilometers)

With elevation of up to 6,625 feet (2 kilometers), the Tennessee part of the Appalachian Trail will have you traversing incredibly high mountains. The Trail continues for 160 miles (257 kilometers) more, sharing North Carolina’s state border. You will need a permit for hiking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Be sure to secure one as you are planning your hike.

New Jersey

Trail Distance: 72 miles (116 kilometers)

Despite being fairly close to civilization, New Jersey provides most hikers with the feeling of adequate off-gridness. The terrain is diverse; it has wetlands, bogs, steep slopes, flatlands, etc. New Jersey begins one of the sections of trail where you are more likely to encounter black bears. (Another hotspot for bear activity is in the Smokies.) On the off chance you meet a fuzzy new friend you should know how to keep your cool and make sure you have equipment to keep your food safe at night

West Virginia

Trail Distance: 28 miles (45 kilometers)

Just like in Maryland, passing through West Virginia is a walk through history. The Appalachian Trail in West Virginia crosses through Harpers Ferry, home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the location of John Brown’s Fort, a Civil War museum, and several remarkable 19th-century structures.

If you’re thinking of stopping in town, you will find refuge in several private bed-and-breakfasts, inns, and hostels. There is no camping allowed in the town, but there are some campgrounds nearby.

Pennsylvania

Trail Distance: 229 miles (369 kilometers)

Ridges run through most of the Pennsylvania pathway of the Appalachian Trail, and they feature both rocky and flat arteries. Pennsylvania’s nickname in the hiking community is “rocksylvania.” The southern part of these miles may allow leisurely walking and is probably the easiest of the whole trail, but the northern parts present some challenging descents. A fun part of the Pennsylvania trail is getting to the “Half Gallon Challenge” where thru hikers try to eat an entire half gallon of ice cream.

Virginia

Trail Distance: 554 miles (892 kilometers)

Virginia’s portion of the Appalachian Trail is the longest of any state. Fortunately, the path is dominated by easily navigable farmlands and flat paths. The combination of majestic scenes and leisurely trail makes it perfect for those who are still testing the waters in hiking.

Maryland

Trail Distance: 41 miles (66 kilometers)

Maryland is one of the most historical parts of the Appalachian Trail. Maryland is rich in civil history and is the location of the original Washington Monument. The hike is moderate in difficulty. The best months to hike through the Maryland section of the Trail are from the middle of April to the middle of June or from September to October.

APPALACHIAN TRAIL SHELTERS,
TENTS, AND ACCOMMODATION INFORMATION

Where you stay during your hike will depend on many factors. What kind of accomodation is available depends on the state you are in and whether camping is permitted or not. For example in the Smokies you are required to stay in shelters due to high wildlife activity. This is part of the reason why you must obtain a permit for hiking this section.

You should pack and prepare for a variety of accommodation, meaning even if you intend to make a lot of use of shelters you should have a tent along in case you need to spend a night camping. You should also consider having a bit of cash on you as the occasional shelter has a small fee, or sometimes hikers opt to spend a night in town at a motel to take a brief break from the Trail.

Shelters

Part of the development of the Appalachian Trail has been the setting up of shelters where hikers can rest during their journey. Currently, there are 260 such shelters, distributed along the Trail’s 2,193-mile length. Usually, you can find one roughly every 8.5 miles (13 kilometers). Some can be farther apart and are located a few miles from the Trail’s main path

You can easily recognize these shelters- often made from wood, usually resembling small log cabins, and typically a lean-to style with three walls and an open front. The wooden floor is elevated a couple of feet from the ground to prevent damp from seeping in to prolong the life of the shelter. Some can look like small barns, while some can resemble custom-made homes.

These shelters can typically house up to eight people, and hikers can occupy them on a first-come, first-served basis. However, some parts of the Trail require you to secure reservations. In some areas, special permits, registrations, and payments have to be made in order to have the use of the shelters.

Tents

A durable, lightweight tent is a staple for every Appalachian Trail hiker. It is one of the most important investments you can make. Secure one that can get you through wet and snow, sun and rain. Whether you’re a flip-flop hiker, section hiker, or thru-hiker, a great tent ensures adequate protection, shelter, and rest on days when you need to camp out. Learn more about choosing the perfect tent for your Appalachian Trail journey here.

Directions: How to Get to the Appalachian Trail

By Car

There are 500 plus access points or public crossings which enable flip-flop, section, or day hikers to get to specific parts of the Appalachian Trail. These are accessible by car.

This map shows you where these sections are and how close the distances are between the Trail and the roads. Generally, you can find parking areas at these trailhead locations.

The ATC’s interactive map can give you more details about these crossings, including directions to each of the locations.

By Train

If you wish to get to the Appalachian via train, there are two easy access points:

Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia, which can be accessed via the Amtrak trains that travel daily to and from Washington, DC. Union Station or the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC). There are two trains operating every day, morning and evening, no weekends.

  • Reserve your Amtrak tickets here.
  • Find MARC’s schedules here.

Pawling in New York via the Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem line. This line operates only during weekends and holidays. The train begins its journey from the Grand Central Terminal.

By Bus

There are various transit points for anyone who’d like to arrive at an access point of the Appalachian Trail by bus. However, they are not available in all 14 states. If you’re traveling in cities without bus transits to the Trail, you are better off using a car. You can either rent, get a lift from a friend or use a rideshare service, to take you to the trailhead.

Transit Details
Trailwide
MegaBus Phone: (877) GO2-MEGA, (877) 462-6342
Website: http://us.megabus.com
Service between some midsize towns along the AT and large cities of East Coast and elsewhere.
Greyhound bus lines Phone:(800) 231-2222
Website: www.greyhound.com
Trailways bus lines Phone:(800) 343-9999
Website: www.trailways.com
Georgia
Shuttle list https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/at-shuttles.php
North Carolina, South of the Smokies
Macon County Transit (Franklin) Phone: (828) 349-2222
Website: www.macontransit.org
Bus route around town Monday–Friday and seasonally (usu. late Feb. through May) to Winding Stair Gap and Rock Gap, $3.00. Other locations in the county by advanced arrangement.
North Carolina and Tennessee Smokies Area
Shuttle services https://www.acorntrailguide.com/shuttles?pid=57
North Carolina and Tennessee, North of the Smokies
Shuttle services https://www.acorntrailguide.com/shuttles?pid=57
Southwest Virginia, Including Pearisburg Area
Marion Greyhound bus station Located 7 miles west of the AT at VA 16 (by Mt. Rogers HQ, not to be confused with VA 16 crossing at Dickey Gap 15 miles south on the AT).
Mountain Lynx Transit (Marion) Website: www.district-three.org
Service between Marion and the AT at Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area Headquarters (NRA HQ) from Monday through Friday by advance arrangement only. Call (276) 782-9300 in advance to arrange pickup; 24 hours in advance recommended.
Bluefield, WV Greyhound bus station Located 12 miles north of US 52.
Wytheville Greyhound bus station Located 16 miles south of the AT crossing at US 52 (Between Bland and Bastian).
Central Virginia, North of Pearisburg
Roanoke Greyhound bus station Located about 10 miles from the AT crossing at US 220 near Cloverdale and 17 miles from the AT crossing at VA 311 near Catawba.
Smart Way commuter bus Phone:(800) 388-7005
Website: www.smartwaybus.com
Email: info@valleymetro.com
Operates between Roanoke and Blacksburg, VA; (540) 982-6622
Maury Express Website: wwww.co.rockbridge.va.us/transit/publictransit.htm
Bus services in Buena Vista and Lexington.
Shenandoah National Park
Waynesboro tourism office For long-term AT-hiker parking details and information about shuttles to and from Rockfish Gap, hikers can call the Tourism Office at (540) 942-6512 (weekdays) or The Rockfish Gap Tourist Information Center at (540) 943-5187 (7 days/week).
Staunton Virginia Breeze stop Website: http://www.catchthevabreeze.com/
Bus stop 15 miles west of Rockfish Gap at the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park. Virginia Breeze bus line offers service from Union Station in Washington, DC, to points in the South, including Dulles Airport, Front Royal, Staunton, Lexington, and Blacksburg.
Northern Virginia
Front Royal Virginia Breeze stop Website: https://virginiabreeze.org/
A bus stop 7 miles west of the AT pn the Virginia Breeze bus line offers service from Union Station in Washington, DC, to points further South, including Dulles Airport, Front Royal, Staunton, Lexington, and Blacksburg.
Front Royal Trolley Phone: (540) 825-2456
Brochure: http://db9.360.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Front-Royal-Trolley.pdf
Front Royal Trolley offers service from the trailhead at US 522 into town May 15–July 15.
West Virginia Harpers Ferry Area
Bus transit https://www.rome2rio.com/s/West-Virginia/Appalachian-Mountains
Maryland
No direct bus transit https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Maryland/Appalachian-Trail
Pennsylvania, South of the Susquehanna River/Town of Duncannon
Capital Area Transit Website: www.cattransit.com
Bus connects to Carlisle and Harrisburg. Stop no. 14 on this route is about 0.7 miles east of the AT footbridge over route 11 (across from Speedway gas station); stop is listed on the schedule as Carlisle Pike @ New Kingstown. Monday–Friday only, no holiday service.
Pennsylvania, North of the Susquehanna River/Town of Duncannon
Port Clinton public transportation Capitol Trailways

Phone: (800) 333-8444
Website: www.capitoltrailways.com
Capitol Trailways has 3–4 buses to Hamburg, Reading, and Phila (flag down).

Schuykill Transit System

Website: www.go-sts.com
More frequent daily shuttles to Cabela’s (2 miles east) on Schuykill Transit System.

BARTA

Phone: (610) 921-0601
Website: www.bartabus.com
From Cabela’s, the BARTA bus goes to Hamburg and Reading.
Connections to NYC from Reading via Bieber Trailways.
Bieber Trailways phone number: (800) 243-2374
Delaware Water Gap Phone: (800) 233-8604 or (570) 421-4451
Website: www.martztrailways.com
Martz Trailways bus terminal new location: 1 mile north of town on Route 611 (from the traffic light at bottom of hill). Serves Stroudsburg, NYC, Phila.
New Jersey
No bus transit https://www.rome2rio.com/s/New-Jersey/Appalachian-Trail
New York
Guide to public transportation serving hiking areas (including some points along the AT) in New York city area http://www.nynjtc.org/content/you-dont-need-car
Short Line Bus (to Bear Mountain) Phone: (800) 631-8405
Website: www.shortlinebus.com
Bus service from New York City (Port Authority Bus Terminal) to Bear Mountain Inn on the Bear Mountain/West Point line, to Harriman (junction of 17 and 17M) on the Newburgh/Poughkeepsie line.
Garrison, NY Located 3 miles north/Trail west of NY 403, Garrison is served by the Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line.
Appalachian Trail Stop Phone: (800) METRO-INFO
Website: www.mta.info/mnr
Located near Pawling, New York, served by Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem line. Train leaves from Grand Central Terminal on Sat., Sun., and holidays only. Pawling (3 miles east) and Harlem Valley–Wingdale (3 miles west) stations are served 7 days a week.
Pawling, NY Located 17 miles away is Danbury, Connecticut, where there are many car-rental companies, as well as the Metro-North New Haven/Danbury line.
Wingdale, NY A 3-mile walk from Hoyt Road (NY/CT border) Metro-North Harlem-line railroad station. Take train south to Brewster, NY, for Hertz/Enterprise car rental.
Gaylordsville, CT Located 2.5 miles east of trail along 55 just after crossing into Connecticut, where Hertz or Enterprise will pick you up from New Milford (6–7 miles south).
Connecticut
Dover Plains, NY Located 13 miles to west, it has Metro-North Harlem-line train to NYC.
Massachusetts
Peter Pan Bus Lines Phone: (800) 343-9999, (888) 751-8800
Website: www.peterpanbus.com
Serves New York City and some towns close to the AT in Massachusetts.
Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) Phone: (413) 499-2782, (800) 292-BRTA
Website: www.berkshirerta.com
Multiple bus routes serving trail towns of Great Barrington, Dalton, Cheshire, North Adams, and Williamstown.
Vermont
Green Mountain Express Transit Services, Bennington, VT Phone: (802) 447-0477
Website: www.greenmtncn.org
Route 9 Trailhead Transit Service (for both pickup and drop-off, to/from downtown Bennington) is available Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Times are flexible.
Fare: $3 per passenger, one-way. You must call in advance during regular business hours for further info and to schedule rides. Also connects to other bus lines to the North and South.
Vermont Translines (bus) Phone: 1 (844) VTTRANS (888-7267)
Website: https://www.vttranslines.com/content/schedules/schedules.asp
South/North route from Albany to Burlington with stop in Rutland; west/east route, from Rutland to Hanover.
Yankee Trails Website: http://charter.yankeetrails.com/Corporate/Bennington.aspx
Bus service Mon.–Fri. from Bennington, VT, to Albany, NY (bus terminal is 14 miles from Albany airport, taxis available). Bus continues on to Syracuse, NY.
Marble Valley Regional Transit Phone: (802) 773-0160
Website: www.thebus.com
The Bus provides service between Killington and Rutland and can be flagged down anywhere on Route 4. The bus runs approximately every 2 hours between 7:15 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. Cost is $2.
New Hampshire
For info about public transportation in New Hampshire http://www.new-england-public-transit.org
Advance Transit Website: www.advancetransit.com
Public commuter bus with routes in and around Hanover and connecting Hanover with Norwich and the Amtrak station in White River Junction. Mon.–Fri. only.
Concord Coach Lines Phone: (800) 639-3317
Website: www.concordcoachlines.com
One bus a day each for the Berlin–Conway–New Hampton line (Logan Airport near Boston to Gorham, NH, with a stop at Pinkham Notch) and the Littleton–Plymouth–Tilton line from Logan Airport to the towns of Franconia and Lincoln.
Shuttle Connection Phone: (603) 745-3140, (800) 545-3140
Email: info@theshuttleconnection.com
Website: www.shuttleconnection.com
Lincoln, New Hampshire
Maine
Cyr Bus Lines Phone: (800) 244-2335, (207) 827-2010
Website: www.cyrbustours.com
Bangor to Medway (12 miles from Millinocket) Exit 56. Contact for schedule and cost.
Concord Coach Lines Phone: (800) 639-3317
Website: www.concordcoachlines.com
Bus service from Boston, MA, to Bangor, ME.

The Appalachian Trail Community

There is a special sort of community that develops while on the Trail. Hikers might start out on their own, but they will often form groups and friendships with others walking a similar pace. When a group like this forms it is known as your tramily.

A rite of passage and distinguishing element of the AT community is taking on a trail name. Hikers rarely refer to one another by their given names. Instead those who are thru hiking will adopt a new moniker of their choice. It often has something to do with your personality, appearance, or particular aspect of your identity while on the Trail. You can choose your own trail name or ask another hiker to come up with one for you

But the Trail community is wider than just those who are thru hiking it in a particular year. There are Trail Angels (practitioners of trail magic), and Ridge Runners - employees for the ATC who frequently hike and take care of a particular stretch of trail, Caretakers who for periods of the year live in and look after particular shelters, and many volunteers who work to protect and maintain the Trail so it can be used for generations to come.

WHAT IS TRAIL MAGIC?

In the simplest terms, Trail Magic can only be described as a tradition of gratitude. Trail Magic is the small acts of generosity and kindness that one individual gives another on the Trail.

Throughout the years, hikers from all walks of life have shared their own stories of receiving kindness from strangers. They talk about finding food items left at a shelter, a cooler filled with water or beer at a trailhead, being offered a ride into town or a place to stay for the night. This culture of selfless giving inspires those who have been helped to help in return, creating a cycle of generosity.

Essentially, Trail Magic is giving or experiencing of an uplifting act of kindness while hiking the Trail.

HikerFeeds

HikerFeeds refers to organized efforts sponsored by individuals or groups to feed the often hungry and thirsty thru-hikers.

These events are usually kept small and held at developed locations off-trail. The ATC has guidelines for organizing such events.

Trail Angels

The term Trail Angels refers to individuals who directly give assistance to hikers during their journey. They may be ridge runners, hiker-feeding organizers, or a kind stranger who gives you a ride to the next town.

Many people enjoy volunteering their time and efforts to helping those on the Trail. If you wish to do so, these tips will come in handy:

  • First aid kits, food bars, and small packets of toiletries are always appreciated.
  • Support hiker-friendly businesses.
  • Volunteer for a trail club.
  • Help out with the trash and keeping shelters clean.
  • Volunteer as ridge runner if you live nearby.

CONSERVATION EFFORTS

The Appalachian Trail became the extraordinary beloved path that it is today because of the incredible men and women who put in the time and effort to build and protect it. At the heart of the Appalachian Trail community are the volunteers who tirelessly contribute to trail-related work including maintaining the pathways and the shelters and manning the visitor centers.

If you wish to become an AT volunteer you can explore the opportunities here. Many States have their own club dedicated to preserving their stretch of trail. And there are frequent “work days” led by the clubs that are open to the public.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Ways to Experience the AT

Whether it’s your first time hiking or your fifth attempt at a thru hike, the Appalachian Trail experience is open to anyone who’d like to take on the journey.

You can hike alone, with your partner, with friends or the entire family.

Day Hike

If you want to spend a day away from city noise or the minutiae of your everyday routine, a day hike through a portion of the Appalachian Trail is what you need. Take a leisurely stroll or a whole-day hike, either alone or with a partner or group

Since the Appalachian Trail has a fair number of road crossings and entrances it is not hard to find a section that can be done in a day. A lot of people choose to hike out and back along the A.T. to experience particular peaks

Section Hike

Section hiking means hiking a multi-day portion of the Trail, but not the whole Trail. Depending on the section you opt to hike, the trip can take days to months

Some people do this in preparation for hiking the entire trail. Others with time constraints prefer this shorter alternative to the months-long journey of thru-hiking. There are some people who complete the Appalachian Trail by section hiking a different portion each year

Thru-Hike

Thru-hiking is the feat of walking the whole 2,193 miles of the Appalachian Trail between Springer Mountain and Mount Katahdin.

Major Sections of the AT

Southern Mountains

Encompassing the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the Southern Mountains present the first notable challenges to the Trail’s NOBO thru-hikers. The terrain is characterized by wooded mountains, grasslands, and beautiful, scenic pathways. The Southern Mountains contain the highest climbs of the Trail, but due to the use of switchbacks they can be easier than the steep ascents found in New England

In this southern portion of the Trail, you can find the following important landmarks:

  • Springer Mountain
  • Blood Mountain
  • Nantahala Outdoor Center
  • Fontana Dam
  • Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  • Clingmans Dome
  • Max Patch
  • Hot Springs, North Carolina
  • Big Bald
  • The Roan Highlands

The Virginias

Situated in the Virginias is the site of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters. This section of the Trail runs through two states, Virginia and West Virginia, which are, respectively, the longest and the shortest parts of the Trail. Passing through the Virginias means passing through tall ascents and descents, and navigating ridges, as well as some pleasant ambles.

The most remarkable locations in this section include these:

  • Damascus
  • Mount Rogers
  • Grayson Highlands State Park
  • McAfee Knob (one of the most photographed landmarks of the AT)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Skyline Drive
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Harpers Ferry

The Mid-Atlantic

The Mid-Atlantic features low-elevated terrains through wetlands and ridges, rocky terrains, and farms. The Mid-Atlantic is also characteristically remote compared to other sections of the trail, although thru-hikers do pass by interstates, freeways, and towns at certain points. The Mid-Atlantic trail section covers Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Plenty of historical spots dot the Mid-Atlantic stretch, along with these notable sites:

  • Washington Monument
  • Pine Grove Furnace State Park
  • Lehigh Gap
  • Pochuck Boardwalk
  • Bear Mountain
  • Trailside Museum and Zoo
  • Great Falls
  • Upper Goose Pond
  • Mount Greylock

New England

NOBO hikers will find their final, yet arguably most difficult challenge in the mountains of New England. If you are hiking southbound, this part offers a challenging start. From Vermont through New Hampshire and Maine, steep ascents and descents, muddy trails (especially during fall and spring months), and rocky slopes will put your skills to the test. But the effort is not without the reward of notable lake scenes and stunning mountainscapes that will pull you forward and refresh your morale. While much of the Appalachian Trail is referred to as the “green tunnel” due to the amount of time spent in the forest, the White Mountains of New Hampshire allow you to “peak” out above the treeline and enjoy some truly epic vistas.

Notably, you will find these unforgettable hiking spots in New England:

  • Stratton Mountain
  • Mount Killington
  • Hanover
  • White Mountains National Forest
  • Mount Moosilauke
  • Mount Washington
  • Mahoosuc Notch
  • Kennebec River
  • Monson
  • 100-Mile Wilderness
  • Baxter State Park
  • Mount Katahdin

7 HARDEST DAY HIKES

Day hikers who are looking for a challenge can take on these notably tough sections for a demanding workout.

The Priest

The priest may be relatively short (8.2 miles out and back), but the journey is never easy, with a 3,000-foot ascent up central Virginia’s steepest climb.

Lehigh Gap / Superfund Trailhead

Lehigh Gap is reputed for its vertical rocky assault that challenges the stereotype of Pennsylvania’s terrain as flat.

Cheoah Bald

A 15.8-mile trip is punctuated by a steep 3,000-foot climb followed by a 300-foot descent and then another 600-foot climb to the final destination.

Mahoosuc Notch

If you’re a beginner in hiking, you are better off finding an alternative route around the Mahoosuc Notch, considered the most difficult mile of the entire Appalachian Trail. Prepare to pass through this rugged wilderness over colossal boulders. Only the most seasoned hikers are encouraged to do this day hike

Mount Katahdin

This challenging ascent gains an elevation of more than 4,000 feet in just 5 miles through rocky ridges. But it is also, undoubtedly, one of the most scenic and astounding mountains to climb. Baxter Peak on Katahdin is the Northern Terminus of the A.T.

Mount Madison

Hikers can expect a steep rock face at Mount Madison, which is almost 3,000 feet high and reaches that elevation in only 2.6 miles of path. It is recommended that you start your hike as early in the day as possible

12 EASY SECTIONS TO HIKE

Day Hike/Overnight

Anthony’s Nose, New York, 2.2 Miles (Round Trip)

The lowest elevation point of the Trail can be found before climbing the steep, rugged assault of Anthony’s Nose. Anthony’s Nose itself can be completed within a day or even an afternoon since it’s very short, but the difficult terrain presents a great challenge.

Iron Mountain Gap to Cross Mountain, Tennessee, 17 Miles (Overnight)

You will pass through the ridgelines that weave through the Cherokee National Forest and traverse the remaining miles to Cross Mountain. You are likely to pass and stay at the highest shelter on the AT, the Roan High Knob Shelter.

Mau-Har Loop, Virginia, 14 Miles (Overnight)

A staggering 7,000-foot ascent is rewarded with amazing waterscapes and scenic vistas. Past the Three Ridges Wilderness, you will find the Hanging Rock Vista, Chimney Rock Vista, and Flat Rock Vista. Camping is easy on the waterside.

Two to Four Days

Taconic Highlands, Massachusetts, 16.9 Miles One-Way (Two Days)

A few days of forest hike through waterfalls and over mountaintops highlight the Taconic Highlands hike. This route can also be experienced through day hikes accessed from Route 41 in the Housatonic Valley.

Delaware River, New Jersey/Pennsylvania, 15.9 Miles One-Way (Two Days)

If you love the water, passing through the rich waterscapes along this route will surely be a treat. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area offers plenty of hiking routes in the area aside from the AT.

Nantahala Mountains, North Carolina, 29-Mile Hike (Three Days)

After completing the Winding Stair Gap at US 64, you will pass the Nantahala Gorge and traverse the Tennessee River Valley and the Fontana Lake. Shorter trips are also available in this area.

Best 30 of the 100-Mile Wilderness, Maine, 29.9 Miles One-Way (Three Days)

A full hundred miles of uninterrupted wilderness winds through maple forests, majestic waterfalls, rocky rivers, and spectacular views overlooking the Barren-Chairback Range.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee (Four Days)

Past ridges and cool streams, towering views of the country beyond, and a challenging climb up Clingmans Dome, the Great Smoky Mountains trail presents a fairly delightful hike for a few days.

Blue Mountains, Pennsylvania, 40 Miles One-Way (Four Days)

The Blue Mountains Trail is home to Hawk Mountain, famous for migratory raptors that grace the wilderness every fall. Hikers are serenaded with marvelous farmland sceneries and the sheer beauty of the cliffs, Bake Oven Knob, and Pinnacle

Eight to Ten Days

Springer Mountain, Georgia, 75 Miles (Eight Days)

The Springer Mountain Trail takes you close to the original AT footpath, the Benton MacKaye Trail. The peaks of the mountain forest conclude in a grassy montage and descend into spectacular oak valleys.

Presidential Range, New Hampshire, 88 Miles (Nine Days)

The rugged mountainscapes that dot the Presidential Range make it one of the most reputably difficult of the short hike trails. The Kinsman Range and the terrains of Mount Washington and Mount Moosilauke create a network of arduous and dramatic passes that inclement weather can make less navigable. However, the views are as rewarding as they are difficult to get to.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, 100 Miles (Ten Days)

This section is an easy trail that is highly recommended for beginners or hikers who just want a leisurely time ambling through nature. The wildlife you will encounter is plenty and diverse, and there are shops nearby. The Trail also presents fewer climbs.

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL THRU-HIKE

Northbound (Georgia–Maine)

This is the most popular direction for a thru hike.

When to hike: March or at the beginning of April, starting from Springer Mountain in Georgia to conclude in Katahdin in Maine

Southbound (Maine–Georgia)

When to hike: June or at the beginning of July. Anytime before June is not recommended.

Flip-Flop

Flip Flop hikers complete the full trail, but they do it in a nonlinear fashion, completing a section and then getting transported to the start of another section moving up and down the Trail in any number of ways until they have been through all the sections. Though there are any number of possibilities to divide up the Trail some popular flip flop routes have developed over the years. Flip flop hiking is less common, but it helps you avoid crowds on the Trail since many people will start within a fairly short time frame at one of the traditional terminuses.

Harpers Ferry Start

When to hike: middle of April to early May if you want to avoid crowds and hike in favorable weather.

Shenandoah Start

When to hike: beginning of April. This is recommended for those who want to get started early and have plenty of time on their hands to finish the thru-hike. It is an easier start to your thru hike.

Pawling, New York, Start

When to hike: begin at the Appalachian Trail Stop at the start of June.

Georgia Late Start

When to hike: preferably after April 15, beginning at Springer Mountain.

Leapfrog

When to hike: middle to late April, starting at Springer Mountain to avoid the snow or severely cold weather.

Modified Cool Breeze

When to hike: late April from Pawling or Bear Mountain before it gets hot and while water sources are still abundant.

How to Navigate the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail hikers are guided by trail markers that help them stay on track throughout their journey. These markings, called blazes, are distributed at fairly regular intervals from one another. If a hiker fails to see any blazes or other trail markings for more than a quarter of a mile, they are advised to retrace their path until they can see a trail marker again

White Blazes

Blazes are vertical rectangles two to six inches in length. Blazes marking the main Trail are painted in white on tree bark, rock surfaces, and signposts to guide hikers along the Appalachian Trail.

Blue Blazes

Blue blazes mark anything on the Trail that’s not part of the official route. In most cases, these side trails lead to a water source, an awesome bit of scenery, a shelter or campsite. Sometimes, they can also signify an alternate route where you can rejoin the main Trail some miles up or down the path

Rocks

Blaze marks on parts of the Trail situated above the tree line may not be easily seen when there’s fog or snow. In these areas rock cairns sometimes signal hikers where the path leads and help them to avoid getting lost.

What to Expect during an AT Thru-Hike

Parts of the Trail pass through towns and residential areas. This can make it easy for you to continually resupply along the way. However, there are a few remote sections, such as the 100-mile wilderness in Maine, where you will have to carry extra supplies. There are other towns that don’t have many options to re-supply. In these areas consider having a friend or family member send you a pre-prepared re-supply package to the local post office. This is referred to as a mail drop. Some businesses, particularly outfitters along the Trail, will also accept re-supply packages, but you should call ahead to ask.

Although there are shelters scattered throughout the Trail, you should still have a tent for when you need to camp out or when the shelters are full.

Bring a map or compass. The Trail is marked, but you never know when an emergency may warrant the need for accurate direction. Or if you prefer a more modern approach there are also apps such as Guthook Guides that can provide trail maps, stats and updated information on water sources and shelter details.

Make use of bear containers to keep your food safe. Some states will allow you to hang a bear bag instead. Check the regulations in each state you are passing through. If you encounter a black bear, keep calm, and speak in a loud, monotone voice to encourage the animal to move on.

Don’t agitate snakes when you encounter one. Act calm and walk away, or let it pass. There are some venomous snakes who make the Trail their home. In general acquainting yourself with the types of wildlife you may encounter and how to recognize them is helpful before setting out.

The Trail is not just long but also, in critical parts, difficult. It pays to travel light. Don’t bring extra gear. The Trail does vary some in climate so you may want to send extra clothing home in hotter areas, or have warm gear in specific re-supply boxes that you can pick up as you go. You will learn what is and isn’t necessary for you as you hike. Don’t be afraid to go through your pack and send extra gear home or leave it in hiker boxes for others who may need it.

The weather is one of the most challenging factors even for seasoned hikers. Plan your journey beforehand, and preferably, trek during months when the weather is good. When you can, check the forecast before leaving shelter each morning so you know what to expect from the day.

Always test your gear before you head out. For safety you will want to make sure everything works and you know how to use it.

There are a lot of ascents and descents. The Appalachian Trail was designed to bring people to the mountains, so when there is a choice between going around or going up, the path always goes up.

How to Plan an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

Permits

Whether they’re only staying for the night or are thru-hiking, hikers should register at the ATCamp.

Portions of the Trail pass through national and state parks where hikers are asked to pay for entrance and/or parking fees. Some sites also require permits.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires hikers to present a permit and pay a small fee for overnight use. Shenandoah National Park also asks for a permit, but no fee is required. Baxter State Park requires a free permit if you are a long-distance hiker.

Some overnight sites ask for a fee in exchange for use. For more information about trail regulations, visit this link.

For camping and fire building regulations, see this.

View the ATC’s official page for information on site-specific regulations, permits, and fees here.

AT Thru-Hike Packing Tips

A backpack that has all the right features isn’t the only thing you need when packing. Knowing what to pack and how to pack correctly all ensure that your travel load is as lightweight as possible during your trip.

Tip 1: Pack for Accessibility

Organize your pack so that you can get to the most-used items whenever you need to.

The items you use while hiking should be placed in your backpack’s pockets. Items you use on your break (e.g., toiletries or lunch) should be situated at moderate-access areas like the front pocket or the top pouch. Meanwhile, things that you will be using only at camp should be located in the middle or at the bottom of your pack.

Tip 2: Balance Your Backpack’s Weight

Keep your lighter gear at the bottom and top internal cavities; the heavy ones, in the middle of the pack. By properly distributing the weight of your pack, you prevent it from straining your shoulders and hurting your back.

Tip 3: Consider Your Comfort

Remember that you will be carrying your backpack throughout your journey. If you are thru-hiking, that’s an incredibly long time to be carrying a pack that gives you back and muscle pains. When purchasing make sure you get the right fit and learn how to adjust the straps properly for the correct placement. Always carry your pack on both shoulders and use the chest and hip straps to help distribute weight.

How Much Should an AT Thru-Hikers’ Backpack Weigh?

According to a survey conducted among 150 hikers in 2016, the average base weight of their packs was 20 pounds ± 5 pounds. Base weight is everything you have in your pack at all times, essentially your gear. Water and food will bring your pack weight up and down as you consume and re-supply.

The hiker’s base weights ranged from 7 pounds to 32 pounds. To be able to carry your pack comfortably, you shouldn’t carry weight that’s equivalent to more than 20 percent of your own body weight.

There are some hikers who define themselves as Ultra Light who do everything they can to trim down their load, from cutting off excess fabric on their backpack to trimming down their toothbrush handle.

How to Pack for an AT Thru-Hike

Anatomy of a Backpack

How to Physically Train for an AT Thru-Hike

Anyone can hike the Appalachian Trail regardless of prior experience in hiking. However, that doesn’t mean you should start the Trail unprepared. It can be tough for first-time hikers who have to learn trail knowledge in theory. You should do proper research and, if possible, training prior to your thru hike to help ensure your own safety and the safety of others on the Trail.

There are many different ways to train physically for an AT thru-hike. Some hikers practice hiking smaller trails first to improve their stamina. However, you can also engage in other training methods:

  • Yoga for flexibility
  • Trail running for cardio and lung exercise
  • Wall climbing for strength training
  • Swimming for joint exercise
  • Stair climbing for cardio, lung, and elevation exercise

You may want to do some mental training as well. On the Trail you might be on your own for fair stretches of time. Meditation is a very good option for some. It has you practicing your breathing and taking control of your internal world. As well as developing calm you will also need to be confident in your ability to problem solve. Practice how to be self-reliant when using your gear, know all the SOPs when encountering wild animals, and what to do in an emergency.

What Do AT Thru-Hikers Eat?

Walking from sunup to sundown is no easy feat and physically requires you to consume many calories to replenish your energy for each day.

A typical AT hiker consumes anywhere between 2,500 and 4,500 calories on a daily basis. The number varies with every individual’s weight and metabolism. On the Trail, you are advised to eat as much and as often as you can to keep up with your daily walking ritual.

When you’re out on the Trail you’re likely to hear the term “hiker hunger” which develops as you progress in your thru hike. Hiker hunger is both the continual day-dreaming about, and urge to eat food all day long, and the ability to actually eat massive amounts - much more than would ordinarily satisfy you. Many hikers keep snacks that they can munch on in the pockets of their backpack to eat between meals.

Here are tips for packing food for a thru-hike:

  • Go for dry food without heavy packaging. Liquid is one of the biggest weight contributors to your backpack load.
  • A lot of food comes with unnecessary packaging that will take up valuable space in your pack. Repackage what you can into smaller, lightweight containers such as re-sealable bags.
  • After a long day on the Trail, you’ll most likely want something easy to prepare. Look for ready-to-eat or just-add-water meals.
  • Be calorie-conscious. You will basically be on the opposite of every trendy diet - check nutrition details for high calories per pound options. It will help you choose food items that give you much-needed nutritional benefits for the journey.
  • Try out some of the food you’re thinking of taking before you leave. You want to make sure it agrees with you. And though you should try your best to follow the above advice- don’t forget to pack food you like and will be able to eat a lot of. It’s no good opting for every low weight- high calorie food item you can think of if you won’t enjoy it on the Trail.
  • It’s also ok to pack yourself the occasional reward - a packet of your favorite chips in a resupply box or a piece of real fruit can really pick up your mood even if it doesn’t have the highest caloric & nutritional value. Even hikers have cheat days.

Consider this Appalachian Trail food list on your thru-hike:

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal packets
  • Grits
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Powdered eggs

Lunch

  • Beef jerky and dried meat
  • Tuna and salmon
  • Cheese (typically hard cheeses such as cheddar will keep well)
  • Tortillas
  • Ready-to-eat, prepackaged meals
  • Bagels
  • Crackers

Dinner

  • Instant Noodles or pasta (Ramen is a hiker staple)
  • Instant Rice or ready-rice pouches
  • Couscous or quinoa
  • Instant Potatoes
  • Dried vegetables
  • Lentils
  • Stove Top Stuffing
  • Freeze-dried meals - there are a variety of companies that make freeze dried meals for hikers - Green Belly, Alpine Air, Backpackers Pantry, Trail Fork, Next Mile Meals, Good To-Go, Peak, Mountain House, and Patagonia Provisions are a few you could choose from. These can offer your diet a bit of variety and are very simple to prepare, but they’re not always a highly economic choice, so you’ll want to consider some of the other options as well.

Snacks

  • Energy Chews or gels
  • Fruit Leather
  • Pork Rinds
  • Seaweed
  • Peanut/Almond/Nut Butter
  • Honey
  • Granola Bar
  • Hummus
  • Snickers

Drinks

  • Powder Mixes
  • Tea
  • Instant Coffee

Additional choices

  • Dark chocolate
  • Multivitamins
  • Fruit powders
  • Olive oil or butter
  • Powdered Milk
  • Spices
  • Brownie or cookie mix
  • Beer

Where to Get Water on the AT

Hikers on the AT typically won’t have difficulties finding water to drink, though there are some states where longer water carries may be necessary during dry spells. AT maps and guidebooks readily list the location of common water sources. Some hiking apps also have information on water sources - since apps like Guthook Guides can be updated by current hikers you may get more recent information than in a guide book, which will help you know what sources are flowing and which have gone dry. You should also check for updates from the ATC who sometimes give information on particularly notable trail conditions on their site or via their social media.

The locations of shelters are usually close to springs, streams, lakes, and rivers—all of which are naturally abundant along the Appalachian Trail. When possible it is better to choose a flowing water source rather than a stagnant one. Choose springs, streams, and rivers over lakes and ponds when possible. Always treat and purify the water before you consume it.

How Much Does an AT Thru-Hike Cost?

The average cost of hiking the Appalachian Trail per month is roughly $1,000. You spend this on gear expenses, trail outlays, accommodations (sometimes), and the necessary conveniences you get from some towns you pass through. Mostly you will spend it on food.

Setting some spending categories will help you wisely budget your money and enjoy the experience.

Gear Expenses

Buying brand-new gear or upgrading your existing equipment entails spending a fair amount. Prepare to spend anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 or more for gear. Since a lot of hiking gear is long lasting equipment it is often possible to find secondhand gear as a less expensive option.

There are also hiker boxes along the way. Some shelters, outfitters, or hostels have a box where hikers can leave behind equipment that they have found they no longer need, sometimes including partially used fuel canisters. Hikers are welcome to look through and take whatever they need, so remember to ask if there is a hiker box when you’re re-supplying.

Most gear expenses will be paid for before beginning your hike. Month to month- if you packed correctly - you should be spending relatively little on gear. You’ll need to pick up new fuel for cooking, occasionally it will be necessary to replace something that breaks and possibly you’ll have to buy a new pair of shoes along the way, but most of your gear you should already have.

On Trail Expenses

These will be your most common expenses. They include your food and beverages, batteries, fuel, toiletries, permits, parking fees, etc.

Town-Time Expenses

On average, a hiker spends $50 to $100 a day when staying in towns they pass through on the AT. This is money spent on hostels and inns, restaurants, restaurant meals, laundry services, transportation etc.

Contingency Fund

It’s also safe to be prepared for any unexpected costs. A contingency fund of $1,500 or 10 percent of your overall budget is considered ideal.

Check out this budgeting tool for an Appalachian thru-hike.

Animals and Nature

Animals

You may encounter black bears on the Appalachian Trail. They are not commonly seen, and they rarely confront people. Sightings of black bears are more common along certain sections of the Trail, such as Shenandoah National Park and parts of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Bears don’t often come into contact with humans unless they are in search of food. At shelters and camps you’ll be less likely to experience an encounter if you are careful about how you store your food supply. Use bear boxes when available and bear canisters or bear bags when they are not. Practicing proper care with your food storage along the Trail will help keep both you and the bears safe.

If you come across one while you are walking on the Trail remember to stay calm. Most bears and other creatures will hear or smell you and move off well before you arrive. If you are hiking alone or are nervous about wildlife you may want to consider making an occasional deliberate noise. Talk or sing to yourself or carry a bell.

Other large mammals on the Trail include deer, elk, and moose. While it is absolutely incredible to see any of these creatures in person you should be cautious when confronted with any animals. Just because the teeth and claws are not as sharp does not make an animal less dangerous when provoked.

Many hikers report sightings of timber rattlesnakes and copperheads along the Trail, especially in the New Jersey and New York.

Aside from these, bobcats, chipmunks, river otters, beavers, squirrels, woodchucks, foxes, boars, racoons, porcupines and coyotes all call the Appalachian Trail home. Popular bird species along the AT include the ruffed grouse, raven, mourning dove, eagle, wild turkey, wood ducks, warbles, hawks, and owls.

You should have a healthy respect for all the wildlife you come across. Remember that while you are on the Trail you are passing through their homes. By being cautious you are protecting both yourself and the animals.

Plants

The Trail has earned the nickname “the Green Tunnel” for a reason. The Appalachian Mountains are home to expansive forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. There are miles of woodland dotted with sprawling acres of fir and spruce, sugar maple, buckeye, beech, birch, red oak, and white oak in the North. Southward, you will find vast forests of poplar, hickory, walnut, and sycamore. The western slopes of the Smokies have hemlocks, and chestnut oaks.

On the Trail you will find a great variety of plant life including ferns, tulips, wildflowers, and berries. The Trail is also home to a huge variety of interesting fungi.

Staying Safe and Healthy on the Trail

The Appalachian Trail is renowned for its distance. However, to those who are unfamiliar with the challenges and athleticism involved in backpacking, the Trail can be misunderstood as just a really long walk. Outsiders believe that the length constitutes the bulk of the difficulty and that there is not much danger. But that is not the whole truth.

Certain sections of the Trail present risky obstacles that even the most seasoned hikers find difficult. You need to be careful of dehydration and practice proper health and sanitation to avoid health problems while on the Trail. While most people you encounter on the Trail are friendly, you should practice basic safety precautions. It is important to be aware of what you might face on the Trail for your safety and for the safety of others.

Hiking and Covid-19

As a result of widespread vaccinations and A.T. states relaxing COVID restrictions, the ATC has resumed the 2,000-Miler recognition program as well as the distribution of A.T. Hangtags. They do recommend continuing to social distance and carrying a mask to wear when social distancing is not a viable option. They also suggest avoiding large groups of people, not sharing food, washing your hands frequently and using personal shelters over A.T. ones even if they are available. Many shelters and visitor centers have reopened, but not all of them. You can check the status of shelters here: https://appalachiantrail.org/explore/plan-and-prepare/hiking-basics/health/covid19/a-t-restrictions/.

Please continue to stay safe and be aware of the ongoing presence of COVID when returning to the trail! 

Health Hazards on the Appalachian Trail

As with any activity a person undertakes there are some health risks associated with hiking the Trail. Since on the Appalachian Trail you will be further away from professional medical care than usual it’s in your best interest to be familiar with the most common health hazards hikers may encounter and what to do should you experience them.

Bugs

You will be passing through areas that have high populations of ticks, mosquitoes, and black flies. It helps to have bug repellant and in your first aid kit consider having some kind of bite treatment. Of these annoyances, ticks are the biggest worry.

Tick-Borne Diseases

Ticks are present in all 14 states of the Appalachian Trail. Ticks thrive in areas with an elevation below 2,000 to 2,500 feet. They are especially common in the months of May through July and in the states of Virginia and Vermont. Ticks live close to their host populations, which include mammals like rodents, and deer and sometimes even birds. You’ll find them in areas with lots of brush.

What are the symptoms of a tick-borne illness?

  • A red spot or ring on the bite site
  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Rashes all over the body
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Here’s what you can do to prevent contracting tick-borne diseases on the Trail:

  • Wear clothing treated with permethrin.
  • Wear treated trousers or bug-netting.
  • When wearing long pants tuck your trousers into your socks.
  • Spray permethrin on your backpack and your tent.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Use an insect repellent with 20 percent to 30 percent DEET or picaridin.
  • Check for ticks routinely.
  • Schedule your hike on months with the lowest tick-infestation records.
  • If possible, don’t sit directly on the ground or on logs.
  • Once you get the chance, put your clothing in a dryer, and turn the heat on high for an hour.
  • Always shower after you’ve been outdoors or when you get the chance.
  • Be especially cautious when hiking with your dog.
  • Use a tick key or tweezers to properly remove ticks in case one attaches itself before you notice.

Rabies

It is unlikely you will contract rabies, but since you will be closer to wildlife than usual know that foxes, bats, raccoons, and other small animals can be carriers of rabies, a viral disease that results in inflammation of the brain in humans and other mammals.

Symptoms of Rabies:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Agitation and Anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Partial paralysis
  • Fear brought on by attempts to drink fluids

If you’ve been bitten by an animal, make sure to wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical help immediately.

To protect against rabies keep a healthy distance from wildlife - which you should attempt to do anyway - and in particular do not approach animals who are acting outside of the normal behavior patterns for that species. For example do not approach nocturnal creatures who are out during the day.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

HPS is a rare respiratory disease caused by a virus present in the urine, droppings, or saliva or rodents that are infected. The disease can be fatal if left untreated.

Symptoms of HPS:

  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing

If the disease is untreated after 4 to 10 days, the symptoms can include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough with secretions
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fluid in the lungs

Avoid contracting HPS with these preventive measures:

  • Air out any closed, possibly mice-infested structure for at least one hour before you occupy it.
  • Avoid handling mice or sleeping on mouse droppings.
  • Always treat your water or wash your hands before handling food.

Norovirus

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus can be transmitted by contact with an infected person, contaminated surfaces, or by consuming contaminated food or water sources.

Symptoms of Norovirus Infection:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

Avoid contracting norovirus with these precautionary measures:

  • Do not share food bags, drinking bottles, or utensils with other hikers.
  • Wash your hands, not just disinfect, before handling food.
  • Always treat water.
  • Dispose of waste properly (explained below).

If you are sensible and cautious you should be able to easily avoid most of the health hazards the Trail has to offer. Should you become sick seek medical attention at the nearest town.

Sanitation

Looking rugged and getting dirty are part of the AT experience. That, however, does not excuse anyone from being unsanitary.

Everyone is expected to observe proper waste-handling practices to maintain the cleanliness of the Trail.

Waste Handling

The shelters distributed along the length of the AT have their own privies. If you need to go before you reach any of the shelters, the SOP is to dig a six-to-eight-inch-deep cathole where you can dispose of and bury your waste.

These catholes must be 200 feet, or about 80 paces, away from the Trail, shelter, or any water source.

Showers

Most hikers will only have the opportunity to shower when they pass through towns and stay in inns or hostels. If you feel like refreshing in the backcountry, you can use wipes or sponges. Wash yourself at least 200 feet away from any water source to avoid contaminating drinking water.

Blisters and Wounds

New shoes or hiking boots can cause blisters that, if not handled properly, can become infected.

How to Prevent Blisters:

  • Break in your shoes before the hike.
  • Keep your feet dry as much as possible.
  • Take your shoes and socks off to air them out, especially if they have been soaked.
  • Make sure you carry first aid for treating blisters, including a small needle for puncturing, disinfectant for cleaning the blister area, and antibiotic ointments for treatment.

General Safety Tips

Here are the basic safety-awareness tips you should remember:

  • It pays to know what to do in case of an emergency. A healthy amount of caution can help you think ahead through these scenarios and plan a proper response.
  • Tell someone when you are hiking and what your plan is, whether you are heading out alone or with other people.
  • Always check in at home as frequently as possible to let them know you’re safe.
  • Always carry a compass or a map.
  • Keep your mental focus. Know where you are and the locations of those you’re with including when you are hiking with a dog.
  • Be cautious about anything or anyone that makes you feel uneasy.
  • Carry a phone for emergencies.
  • Don’t bring large amounts of cash. Always keep your money and credit cards properly hidden.
  • Make sure to sign shelter and trail registers.
  • Be wary of hitchhiking or accepting ride offers.
  • Always be cautious about whom you share your plans with.
  • Call 911 in case of an emergency.

Trail Etiquette

  • Adhere to the Trail’s guidelines. It’s your responsibility to know them.
  • Respect park authority.
  • Respect the rules of local towns and businesses.
  • Refrain from forming overly large hiking groups.
  • Enjoy any alcohol responsibly.
  • Hike your own hike. This is a common saying on the Trail - it just means do what is best for you and don’t get in the way of what others want from their experience.
  • Adhere to the rules of “Leave no Trace.” Essentially, leave things how you found them and don’t make unnecessary changes to the environment. Stay on the path, don’t uproot plants, don’t litter.
  • Hikers going uphill have the right of way.
  • Hike single file when in a group.
  • Let the slowest hiker lead when you’re in a group and you plan on continuing together.
  • Stay on the Trail as much as possible.

Thru-hiking Apps and Devices

The following apps and devices provide useful guidance on the Trail:

Additional Tips for the First-Time Thru-Hiker

  • Make sure your plan has room for contingencies- it will change as you go along.
  • Arrange transportation for when you finish.
  • Line up a support person.
  • Practice hiking with your gear.
  • Rain-test your gear.
  • Plan a varied diet.
  • Use “bump boxes.” Similar to re-supply boxes, if there are things that you will only use in town or during a certain stretch of Trail you can perpetually send yourself “bump boxes.” Collect them when you arrive in town, then as you leave re-package and address them to the next post-office on your route.
  • Bring a small journal to help you note down your experience
  • Ask questions. Find someone who has thru hiked before and ask them everything you can think of. They will love the chance to share their expertise.

Notable Locations for Appalachian Trail Supplies

Outdoor Gear Stores along the AT
Georgia
Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi at Neels Gap Miles from Trail: on trail
Trail Mile Marker: 31.7
Selection: abundant
https://www.mountaincrossings.com/default.asp
Trailful Outdoor Co., Hiawassee, GA 140 North Main Street
Hiawassee, GA 30546
Miles from Trail: 11
Trail Mile Marker: 69.2
Selection: abundant
https://trailful.com/
North Carolina
Three Eagles Outfitters, Franklin, NC Miles from Trail: 10
Trail Mile Marker: 109.8
Selection: average
https://www.threeeaglesoutfitters.net/hiker-services.php
Outdoor 76, Franklin, NC Miles from Trail: 15
Trail Mile Marker: 109.8
Selection: average
https://outdoor-76.myshopify.com/pages/a-t-thru-hiker-services
Nantahala Outdoor Center, Wesser, NC Known simply as the NOC. Some say “knock” as well.
Miles from Trail: on trail
Trail Mile Marker: 137.3
Selection: average
https://noc.com/lifestyle
Bluff Mountain Outfitters, Hot Springs, NC Miles from Trail: on trail
Trail Mile Marker: 273.9
Selection: average
https://www.facebook.com/Bluff-Mountain-Outfitters-258122334238345/
Tennessee
NOC Great Outpost, Gatlinburg, TN Miles from Trail: 15
Trail Mile Marker: 206.8
Selection: abundant
https://www.noc.com/noc-gatlinburg/hours-a-directions/
Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel and Outfitters, Erwin, TN Miles from Trail: on trail
Trail Mile Marker: 341.5
Selection: average
https://www.facebook.com/Uncle-Johnnys-Nolichucky-Hostel-Cabins-Camping-205849662793409/
Mahoney’s Outfitters, Johnson City, TN Miles from Trail: 15.9
Trail Mile Marker: 341.5
Selection: average
https://www.facebook.com/mahoneysoutfitters/
Virginia
Mt. Rogers Outfitters, Damascus, VA Miles from Trail: on trail
Trail Mile Marker: 467.6
Selection: abundant
http://www.mtrogersoutfitters.com
Sundog Outfitter, Damascus, VA Miles from Trail: close
Trail Mile Marker: 467.6
Selection: abundant
http://www.sundogoutfitter.com/
Outdoor Trails, Daleville, VA Miles from Trail: 1
Trail Mile Marker: 724.0
Selection: average
http://www.outdoortrails.com/
Rockfish Gap Outfitters, Waynesboro, VA Miles from Trail: 4.5
Trail Mile Marker: 857.9
Selection: average
https://www.rockfishgapoutfitters.com/
Appalachian Outfitters, Luray, VA Miles from Trail: 5.6
Trail Mile Marker: 937.9
Selection: average
https://www.appalachianoutfittersluray.com/
Appalachian Outdoor Readiness & Essentials, Purcellville, VA Miles from Trail: 6 miles from AT at Snickers Gap
Trail Mile Marker: 998
Selection: average
https://yellow.place/en/appalachian-readiness-essentials-purcellville-usa
West Virginia
The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry, Harpers Ferry, WV Miles from Trail: 0.5
Trail Mile Marker: 1,019.6
Selection: abundant
https://www.facebook.com/Harpers-Ferry-Outfitters-113293145866/
Pennsylvania
Cabela‘s, Hamburg, PA Miles from Trail: 4
Trail Mile Marker: 1,214.0
Selection: abundant
https://www.cabelas.com/stores/Pennsylvania/Hamburg/009.jsp
Edge of the Woods Outfitters, Delaware Water Gap, PA Miles from Trail: 2 blocks from AT
Trail Mile Marker: 1,289.6
Selection: average
https://www.facebook.com/edgeofthewoodsoutfitters/
Massachusetts
Nature’s Closet, Williamstown, MA Miles from Trail: 3.3
Trail Mile Marker: 1,588.7
Selection: limited
https://naturescloset.net/
Berkshire Outfitters, Adams, MA Miles from Trail: 2.5 if you hitch from Outlook Av., 10 if you hitch from MA2
Trail Mile Marker: N/A
Selection: average
https://www.facebook.com/BerkshireOutfitters/
The Mountain Goat, Manchester Center, VT Miles from Trail: 5.4
Trail Mile Marker: 1,647.2
Selection: average
https://mountaingoat.com/
Base Camp Outfitters, Killington, VT Miles from Trail: 0.6
Trail Mile Marker: 1,700.3
Selection: average
https://basecampvt.com/
New Hampshire
East Mountain Sports, West Lebanon, NH Miles from Trail: 5.1, Take bus from Hanover
Trail Mile Marker: 1,743.2
Selection: abundant
https://www.ems.com/shop/index.jsp?kw=storeDetail&f=97
Lahout’s, Lincoln, NH Miles from Trail: 11
Trail Mile Marker: 1,812.2
Selection: abundant
https://www.lahouts.com/
Maine
Ecopelagicon, Rangeley, ME Miles from Trail: 9
Trail Mile Marker: 1,964.9
Selection: limited
http://www.ecopelagicon.com/
Indian Hill Trading Post Miles from Trail: 11 miles from Monson
Trail Mile Marker: 2,070.8
Selection: Abundant
https://www.indianhill.com/index.php

Top Appalachian Trail Towns Worth Checking

Hot Springs, North Carolina

Hot Springs is as cozy as it sounds. Rich in local history and teeming with natural charm, this beautiful town along the AT tempts some hikers to spend a day or two to explore its music, nature, and great food.

Damascus, Virginia

The characteristic friendliness of this AT town is what makes Damascus a favorite among AT hikers. Be sure to visit Hey Joe’s Tacos for special burritos before you go on your way. Damascus hosts a celebration called Trail Days each year.

Waynesboro, Virginia

This quaint little town in Virginia has that small-town feel to it that many hikers from big cities love. Check out Ming’s for delightful eats and Stanimal’s 328 Hostel for a great stay.

Monson, Maine

Monson is a lakeside town with a great, friendly vibe. It’s the first town SOBOs reach and the last town NOBOs can stop at before completing the 100 Mile Wilderness. Coming from either direction you’ll be looking to resupply here.

Hanover, New Hampshire

Lots of hikers love to spend a day at this lovely New Hampshire town. It’s home to Dartmouth College, which means food and beverages are plentiful. This New England hub just makes it hard to turn down a zero day.

Mount Airy, NC

Mount Airy is the boyhood home of Andy Griffith of the Andy Griffith Show and is rumoured to be the inspiration for Mayberry. Bluegrass and acoustic music are a large part of the town’s culture and history.

Pikeville, KY

Many of America’s country music legends come from Pikeville. It must be the surrounding nature or the plentiful activities you can enjoy on a nice day in this majestic Kentucky town. Check out great food at Blue Raven.

Chestertown, NY

If there’s one thing to love about Chestertown, it’s the charming, friendly locals. Don’t forget to stop by the Bullhouse, a restaurant that serves comfort food influenced by Latin American cuisine.

Walhalla, SC

Be careful when stopping at Walhalla as you may decide to postpone your hike. This lovely South Carolina town is blessed with the most amazing natural sites and waterscapes. If that does not charm you into staying, then the steak at the local Steak House will. Hit the Esso Club for a fun time.

Bramwell, WV

Bramwell is just one of those places that will make you yearn for small town America. Situated beneath Pinnacle Rock State forest, this all-American town maintains its grace and charisma. Don’t miss the famed Bramwell Oktoberfest, renowned among connoisseurs of mountain music and craft beer.

Clinton, TN

This quintessential Appalachian town boasts the Museum of Appalachia where you can find Mark Twain’s family cabin.

Stratton, VT

Stratton is a ski town, perfect for days spent learning a new sport or taking a side hike to the summit. Visit the popular swimming hole at Pike Falls, and perhaps embark on a paddling adventure at the Batten Kill River.

Lynchburg, VA

A southern city home to the hilltop Lynchburg College is located east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While you’re here, don’t miss Texas Inn, where you can get a taste of their classic Cheesy Western burger, which is an absolute delight.

Shelby, NC

Music is Shelby’s biggest gift to the world, aside from its friendly locals and great country vibe. Be sure to visit the Earl Scruggs Center and the Newgrass Brewing Co.

Kent, CT

We’ll admit it. We’re rather partial to our quaint hometown. Kent’s main street is an easy distance from the Trail. You can grab a bite at one of Kent’s many restaurants. There’s a public bathroom with a shower that hikers can make use of and you’ll also find a hiker box in town.

Best Places to Grab a Cool Craft Beer

Spring Creek Tavern and Inn

Spring Creek Tavern and Inn is located right on the Trail, offering hikers, rafters, and tourists a quaint little place to enjoy a nice break with great food and excellent atmosphere. The tavern features outdoor seating overlooking Spring Creek. Overnight stay is available just above the tavern.

Damascus Brewery

A small-town brewery with a big-city spirit, Damascus Brewery offers a great selection of beers that will quench the thirst and curiosity of passing tourists and thru-hikers. Of course, the fun time is never complete without great music.

Devil’s Backbone Brewery

The Devil’s Backbone Brewery is renowned among thru-hikers as a place of generosity. Once you arrive at Reed’s Gap, call up the brewery, and it’ll send a shuttle to pick you up—you’re home! Help yourself to gracious amounts of food and award winning beers.

The Doyle

The Doyle is legendary thanks to its friendly owners and fantastic, charming atmosphere. It’s perfect for hikers with a taste for character and history.

Woodstock Inn

Housed in a former train depot, this charming inn in the White Mountains offers great accommodations with a full breakfast. It features a restaurant, a brewery, four pubs, and a spa.

The Gypsy Joynt

As the name suggests, the Gypsy Joynt sports fantastic, hippie vibes, from its decorations to the music. The food is as tasty as the menu is varied.

Sarge’s Sports Bar and Grill

Sarge’s offers a homey selection of beverages with an undeniably formidable character that is very accommodating to passing hikers. The people are amazing, the beer is great, and the place, unforgettable.

Instagram and Twitter Accounts to Follow

  1. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy - @appalachiantrail - Instagram
  2. The Appalachian Mountain Club - @appalachianmountainclub - Instagram
  3. The Trek: Appalachian Trail - @appalachian.trail - Instagram
  4. The AT Hiker - @theathiker - Instagram
  5. AppTrailMuseum: @AppTrailMuseum - Twitter
  6. HikerLife: @hikrlife Instagram
  7. Becca Downs: @MsBDowns Twitter

Instagram hashtags to follow include:

#appalachiantrail #appalachiantrailclassof2020 (followed by the year you want to see posts from) #thetrek #trektheat

Other Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiking Resources and Guides

Guidebooks

Maps

Online Resources