The Appalachian Trail covers almost 2200 miles, passes through parts of 14 states and includes more than 90 miles of elevation change over its full course. A typical thru hike requires 4-6 months of continuous walking and 30 or 40 stops for resupply.
|TENNESSEE & N. CAROLINA|
|SHENANDOAH NATL PARK|
|WEST VA/NORTHERN VA|
|APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONSERVANCY|
|GEORGIA APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|NANTAHALA HIKING CLUB|
|SMOKY MOUNTAINS HIKING CLUB|
|CAROLINA MOUNTAIN CLUB|
|TENNESSEE EASTMAN HIKING AND CANOEING CLUB|
|MT. ROGERS APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|PIEDMONT APPALACHIAN TRAIL HIKERS|
|OUTDOOR CLUB OF VIRGINIA TECH|
|ROANOKE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|NATURAL BRIDGE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|TIDEWATER APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|OLD DOMINION APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|POTOMAC APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|MOUNTAIN CLUB OF MARYLAND|
|CUMBERLAND VALLEY APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|YORK HIKING CLUB|
|SUSQUEHANNA APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|BLUE MOUNTAIN EAGLE CLIMBING CLUB|
|ALLENTOWN HIKING CLUB|
|PHILADELPHIA TRAIL CLUB|
|AMC-DELAWARE VALLEY CHAPTER|
|BATONA HIKING CLUB|
|WILMINGTON TRAIL CLUB|
|NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY TRAIL CONFERENCE|
|GREEN MOUNTAIN CLUB|
|DARTMOUTH OUTING CLUB|
|APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB (AMC)|
|MAINE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB|
|PARKS AND FORESTS|
|AMICALOLA FALLS STATE PARK|
|GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK|
|NANTAHALA AND PISGAH NATIONAL FORESTS|
|CHEROKEE NATIONAL FOREST|
|JEFFERSON NATIONAL FOREST|
|GEORGE WASHINGTON NATIONAL FOREST|
|SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK|
|C & O CANAL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK|
|DELA. WATER GAP NATL RECREATION AREA|
|GREEN MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST|
|WHITE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST|
|BAXTER STATE PARK|
|OTHER TRAIL LINKS|
|PACIFIC CREST TRAIL|
|CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL|
|THE LONG TRAIL|
|THE LONG PATH|
|GOLITE - BREEZE ULTRA-LITE HIKING PACK|
|ESBIT¬ POCKET STOVE|
|MT. WASHINGTON SLEEP PAD (8 OZ)|
|MOUNTAIN HOUSE FREEZE-DRIED MEALS|
|RICHMOOR FREEZE-DRIED MEALS|
|REI HOME PAGE|
Even if you are out for a "quick" 200 mile section, a long distance AT hike requires some planning as to how far you'll walk each day, where you'll sleep at night, what you will carry, and how and whether you will need to resupply.
PLANNING MILEAGE & NAVIGATION:
Owing to ongoing reroutes the length of the AT can vary by several miles from year to year. In 1948 when Earl Schaffer completed the first continuous, solo thru-hike, the Appalachian Trail was officially 2044 miles long.
In 2002 the Appalachian Trail was officially 2,168.8 miles long.
In 2004, following recent reroutes in Tennessee, Maryland and Vermont, the official length came to 2174.6 total miles.
Chances are that this figure excludes one or more minor changes that will make it into the growing total sometime in the next several years, but are in fact already part of the Trail as hiked. That said, based on the current official length:
Add in some zero days, some slack days and one trip home and the Trail can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months (and in most cases well over 100 nights in the woods).
Owing to declining weather, thru hikers must reach the northern terminus by October 15 in order for a realistic chance to summit Katahdin as, access thereafter is rare to non-exisitent.
However, the bulk of Southbound Hikers arrive mid November through early December, and portions of the Trail (particularly in the Smokies) can become impassible at high altitudes as early as November in some years -- and not at all in others.
After summiting Katahdin, most, flip-flop hikers return to their mid-point and hike south towards Springer, typically arriving with the bulk of the Southbounders in late October through early December.
FINDING YOUR WAY: The pathway of the Appalachian Trail is marked by 2 x 6 inch white blazes. These typically appear on trees but can appear on telephone poles, rocks, fenceposts, guardrails and -- at the Kennebeck River near Caratunk, ME -- on the bottom of a canoe.
Topographical maps are interesting but less than practical on a marked trail under heavy canopy. Profiles, map details showing elevation cross sections typically over 20-30 miles, on the other hand, are extremely useful for evaluating the difficulty of an approaching section as well as estimating position.
Guidebooks are an essential tool for long distance AT hikers. The ATC's Annual Databooks are efficient, inexspensive ($5.95) and provide at least the minimal details necessary to a successful hike.
The ATC's annual Thru Hiker's Companion provide more detail (and bulk) than you are likely to want to carry on the Trail (at least as a complete volume). However, the information provided for shelters, towns, feature and springs make a useful planning tool.
Dan Bruce's Thru Hiker's Handbook includes additional, useful anecdotal details and is generally 6-8 months more current than the official volumes.
PLANNING PACK & GEAR:
The AT Hiker's watch phrase is "Leave it Home" Lighter is simply better. With a pack under 35 pounds you will hike farther and feel better at the end of the day. With a pack under 25 lbs. you can make some truly big miles while saving your body a world of hurt.
There are limitless lightweight backpacking techniques available to help cut pack weight. More tips and links to resources can be found Here, but here are some good tips to get you started on planning your trip.
WHAT TO TAKE: The first step to a light pack is establishing a light baseload, this includes the Big Three: Pack, Bag, and Tent (tarp). These three items typically make up 1/3 to 1/2 of the hiker's kit and often add up to 15 lbs.
THINGS YOU ONLY THINK YOU NEED: We've talked about what to take, now here's a brief list of things you are better off leaving home:
And here are some things you might try instead:
PLANNING SUPPLIES & RESUPPLIES:
Hikers typically resupply (by whatever method) about every 75 to 100 miles, or about once every 4-5 days. Hikers are frequently able to carry less in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast where town crossings were somewhat more frequent.
There are three basic methods of resupply: Drop Boxes, Bump Boxes and Trail Resupply. Each is set out in greater detail below.
Drop Box: A package mailed from the hiker's "home" base, a drop box typically contains the bulk of a hiker's food supply for the coming leg of the hike. A drop box may also contain maps or alternative equipment. Hikers frequently assemble their dropped supplies prior to departing. The boxes are then mailed (and sometimes supplemented) by a person supporting the hiker.
At least limited use of supply drops and are recommended for the following towns:
Fontana Dam, NC · Newfound Gap, NC · Hot Springs, NC · Big Island/Glasgow VA · Harper's Ferry WV · Glencliff NH · Monson ME
Bump Box: A package mailed from point to point by a hiker, a bump box typically contains extra and/or alternative equipment, maps and town items. A bump box can also be used to forward supplies from a town with good services to a subsequent stop with limited resupply opportunities.
Trail Resupply: Supplies acquired on or near the Trail, trail resupplies generally consist of the hiker's food supplies for the coming leg of the hike (although extra and/or alternative equipment is frequently acquired along the Trail). The quality of resupply opportunities vary greatly from town to town.
PLANNING ACCESS: GETTING THERE:
The Trail's southern terminus (Springer Mt, GA) is located in Amicalola Falls State Park about 2 hours northwest of Atlanta. The northern terminus (Mt Katahdin, ME) is in Baxter State Park located about 2 hours north of Bangor, ME.
In addition, the Appalachian Trail passes within 100 miles of pretty much every major metropolitan area on the East Coast (within 30 miles of NYC).
THRU HIKE ACCESS:
For more information about access to Springer, visit Amicalola's Homepage. Hikers leaving from Springer are advised to avoid the uncredited approach trail from the Amicola visitor's center and instead to seek access from the upper forest road parking lot .9 south of the Springer summit (directions available on Amicola's site). Additional resources, including shuttle services for thru hikers, can be found on the ATC's Homepage.
SECTION HIKE ACCESS:
The Appalachian Trail is accessible from hundreds of road-trail heads strung from Georgia to Maine. An overview of the Trail and surroundings is avaialable in this Big Map (1.2 Meg PDF).
General maps and information concerning regional access can be found on the state and national park and forest sites below. Additional details, including regional maps and guides as well a current trail conditions can be found via the list of local maintaining clubs that follows. Information concerning regional shuttle services can be found in this list of AT Hostels & Service Providers.
PARKS AND FORESTS
- AMICALOLA FALLS STATE PARK
- GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
- NANTAHALA AND PISGAH NATIONAL FORESTS
- CHEROKEE NATIONAL FOREST
- JEFFERSON NATIONAL FOREST
- GEORGE WASHINGTON NATIONAL FOREST
- SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
- C & O CANAL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
- DELA. WATER GAP NATL RECREATION AREA
- GREEN MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST
- WHITE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST
- BAXTER STATE PARK
- APPALACHIAN TRAIL CONFERENCE
- POTOMAC APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB
- KEYSTONE TRAILS ASSOCIATION
- NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY TRAIL CONFERENCE
- AMC CONNECTICUT CHAPTER
- AMC BERKSHIRE CHAPTER
- GREEN MOUNTAIN CLUB
- DARTMOUTH OUTING CLUB
- APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB (AMC)
- MAINE APPALACHIAN TRAIL CLUB
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