The Appalachian Trail is a thru-hike of 2,184 miles in the eastern part of the United States is a journey to remember. The Appalachian Trail is also known as AT in short is famous among long hikers who love to measure the earth with their feet.
AT attracts a lot of hikers all over the world every year, but from those, you can say, half of them, exit from the half not because there is any danger but because of its length or some emergency conditions. But the most common reason being is the length of the trail and the time it takes to hike it.
That also brings us to today’s question which is how long to hike the Appalachian trail? Besides that, we will also discuss how it feels to be on the trail and go through the journey you can expect for your visit to AT.
We will also discuss some other important questions and also go through some important information related to AT that you should know before visiting. Let’s cover it up all
How long to hike the Appalachian trail?
The Appalachian trail takes around 5 months to 7 months to hike, the amount of time will depend on the route you choose, in which month you start your hike, and how you plan your hike. On average most of the hikers complete this long journey in 5 to 7months.
Most of the experienced hikers have completed the hike in 50 days, but this is very rare because on average a hiker covers 10 to 12 miles a day which is enough and good for a day.
If you hike less or more than that in a day don’t worry, some hikers get their pace in between and complete their journey before winter (get your breathing technique right while walking uphill check- How to Breathe When Walking Uphill).
The time can be reduced if you choose the right route and the right time to hike the trail. That said, there are two popular routes from where most hikers begin their journey that is southbound and northbound. Which is better? Let’s find out
Season and time it takes to hike the Appalachian trail
● If you choose northbound, then you have to start your journey between March to mid-April. This is the best time to hike the Appalachian trail through the trail also gets overcrowded due to this reason.
If you plan your hike during this period you can expect a lot of hikers just like you hiking the trail, campsites are also lightened up because of parties.
● In case you don’t like crowds then you have two options either start your journey between mid-April to early May or in late February.
If you go with the first option then will be behind the time and need to walk faster to complete your hike because the terminus at mount Katahdin closes on October 15.
If you choose the second option then must be a skilled hiker because you have to go through snowy terrains throughout your journey.
● If you plan to choose the other path which is southern bound which is less traveled and not recommended by hikers then you have to start your journey between mid-may to early June. You have to complete your journey before the winter hits.
So what to choose?
Well, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. This totally depends on your preference.
If you choose the northern bound then you will start normally and the hike will scale up as you continue further on the trail.
On the other hand, if you choose southern bound then you have to work hard in the beginning and the hike becomes easy as you continue.
Other than that, the southern bound is more difficult as you have to hike through the snowy mountains, and also the breaks are few in the beginning which means you have to carry enough food and water with you if start your hike from this part.
Time management for the Appalachian trail
AT is a popular thru-hike in the world among hikers and there is a reason behind that, which is the scenic views, a mix of wilderness and towns, and last but not least the journey itself.
If you plan your trip to AT, then make up your mind that you are going to be connected with nature and eliminate the real world we live in now for a handsome time.
The journey to the Appalachian trail is amazing and filled with a lot of scenic views and wilderness.
Through your journey, you will cross through 14 different states which are- Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
One main part of the hike is Maine where you have to hike for 100 miles without any resupply and this is the period where you will be most connected to the wilderness.
To cover Maine will take you around 9 days or more.
Besides that, the trail will take you through many small towns where you can take a rest and buy food or fill water for further journey.
Through your hike you may meet with black bears or rattlesnakes, so always be alert, especially in Maine where there is a high chance of a wild encounter. If you walk by any snake then stop and let the snake pass, don’t be in a hurry to pass. To avoid encounters with any bear keep your food safe and protected so that they don’t sense the smell of it. For more information on how can you defend yourself from the dangers hiking involves check our guide on – Is Hiking Dangerous ?
The Appalachian trail features lots of spots where you can take a selfie or hold the beautiful view on your memory.
Your way up to Georgia which is a 79 miles long hike. This is one of the longest parts of the hike where you have to climb up and put your training efforts, but don’t worry it is achievable and not that difficult.
This 79 miles journey features a springer mountain, blood mountain, mountain crossing at 31 miles, wolf Laurel top at 35 miles, Helen at 52 miles, tray mountain shelter at 58 miles, Haiwasee at 69 miles, Plumorchard gap shelter at 73.
Similarly, the list goes on because the journey is too long and it becomes confusing if I discuss every main point or highlight in this article, but soon I will write all the highlights in detail.
How to prepare your backpack for the Appalachian trail?
Planning a thorough hike is very important and one of the main essentials for any hike is a backpack and what to carry inside, but when you plan a thru-hike like the Appalachian trail then the importance of a backpack becomes more.
So, what you should pack in your backpack for the Appalachian Trail. Today we only focus on basic and important necessities or essentials you need through your hike.
I will eliminate normal hygienic and small things like soap in this guide. Let’s begin-
you need to carry 2 to 3 pairs of hiking boots with you because the journey is too long and your boots may get damaged or feel uncomfortable after walking miles. As you hike, your feet may get swallow, blisters are also common in that long hike. If you only bring one pair of hiking boots with you on the Appalachian trail, then you will regret your decision. So, always carry extra pair of hiking boots with you. For a fitting guide on hiking boots check this article- How to Tell if Hiking Boots are too Big?
A tent is very important to get shelter at night. Tough the trail has over 250 shelter spots throughout the journey, but still, you will need a tent in case the spot is full or you don’t like overcrowded areas. Any tent will work fine if you know how to set it up and know the basics to carry a tent. But still, if you don’t want any small problem to ruin your trip you can check our guide to the best hiking tents. If you don’t know how to pack or attach a tent with your backpack then check our guide on how to attach a tent to a backpack.
The stove is essential for fire and you don’t have to build a campfire outside when you can cook inside on the stove. The stove is also helpful in maintaining the environment.
Map and compass
Though the Appalachian Trail is very well marked, still not carrying a map will be a mistake. A map helps you avoid paths in which you may get lost, not only that map is also helpful in figuring out the right route when GPS devices lose their signal.
The Appalachian trail is not a difficult trail to hike. If you are fit you will complete your hike without any trekking pole, but it’s always a good idea to carry a trekking pole in thru-hikes. This way you will cover more distance without losing too much energy. Trekking poles also eliminate the pressure on your knees. But before carrying a pole with you, first, you should know how to use a trekking pole. If you don’t know how to use trekking poles effectively then check our guide- How to Use Trekking Poles
Important information you should know about the Appalachian Trail.
AT is a 2,184 miles hike and it is best you know basic information about the trail before hiking it.
The number one thing you should check up on is how much money you need on the trail for survival.
Well, on average a person spends around 50 to $60 per day on the trail. But this is not totally accurate because somedays your cost is nothing or just a few dollars.
Most percentage of the cost will be a night’s stay at hotels or hostels. You can save your money by sharing a room with another person or setting up your own tent on the town’s side.
There is a total of 71 towns throughout the trail and you don’t have to stop in every town for a night.
Instead, pick up the alternative days or divide the days, half you do camping and a half your stay at the hotel, this way you save a lot of money.
The other expenses will be food and water. It is clear that you can not pack food for this many days in your backpack, so you need a resupply of food.
Resupply of food is very simple as you will cross many towns throughout your journey. You can pack food for 5 to 6 days and then again resupply it.
The second question that people usually ask for is ” can I take a dog on AT trail”.
The dog is allowed on the trail, though there are some parts where a dog is not allowed or recommended on the trail which are-
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina Bear Mountain State Park Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center in New York Baxter State Park in Maine