The Appalachian Trail is known as the longest hikers-only trail in the world. Stretching across a multitude of states, it gets its name from following along the Appalachian Mountain range. Many people aspire to hike the entire trail, a total of 2,200 miles, and many have done it. Books, memoirs, and articles have been published of people who have completed the Appalachian Trail and lived to tell about it. This is the trail serious hikers have on their hiking bucket list, as it will test your strength and endurance, but completing it would earn one bragging rights for the rest of their lives.
Where does the Appalachian Trail go?
The Appalachian Trail is a perfect way to see many states and various terrains and beautiful views. The trail connects the two locations of Springer Mountain located in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail continues through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. It is a marked trail, and very popular with hikers. Some hikers do just part of the path while others try to tackle the entire trail in one season. Hikers usually hike the trail from south to north, starting in Georgia and ending up in Maine. Hikers like to start in early spring, March or April, and if they are making the whole trail, will usually complete it by late summer or early fall of that same year.
What is the Terrain Like?
The Appalachian Trail has a variety of terrains, mostly forests to hike through. The trail stays below 3,000 feet, offering almost no sub-alpine regions to walk through. Evergreen forests, hard, rocky sections of trail, steep climbs and descents and stunning views are part of the path. Good solid shoes are especially important in the Pennsylvania are, because the path is made up of sharp, hard rocks, making it difficult to hike. In New Hampshire, the Presidential Mountain Range offers the Appalachian trail as it climbs and stays above the tree line for approximately 13 miles. Other points along the trail also hike above the tree line for incredible scenery. Maine contains the most miles of the Appalachian Trail at 281 miles of hiking to the finish, all within the state. At some point, even the most seasoned hikers can only walk at approximately 1 mile per hour, due to the steep and slippery terrain. Hikers have reported having to use the tree limbs and roots to climb or descend on certain parts of the trail, so be prepared.
How Will I know Where the Trail Goes?
For those that wish to tackle the Appalachian Trail or parts of it, the trail will be marked for you and other fellow hikers. White stripes, or white paint blazes as they’re called, are the marking signs for the trail. They are approximately 2 inches by six inches in size and can be painted on vegetation, posts, or other markers, so simply follow the white paint. Blue paint may also appear from time to time, and that indicates a side trail that will lead to the parking area, resting points or stops, or even scenic lookouts. If you need to rest your feet for a bit, look for a blue blaze or paint strip. Also, first metal diamond-shaped plaques may be visible with the letters “AT” stands for Appalachian Trail. These were some of the first makers used, few of which are reaming. If you do see a diamond metal plaque, it is also a marker for the trail.
Accommodations Along the Way
Hikers that hike the Appalachian Trail should come prepared. Most will carry gear and supplies, and a tent, sleeping bag, or other sleeping and shelter components should be among the hiker’s supplies. Over 200 shelters line the Appalachian Trail, most being a day’s hike or even less apart. These shelters are usually placed near privies, also known as outhouses, and also near water sources, to replenish your supply. People that live close to the trail also may open their homes to hikers, and there are a few inns along the way. The Appalachian Mountain Club provides several huts. Depending on the traffic flow of the trail, some of these shelters can fill quickly, so be sure to have a tent or something to sleep on or under if they are full.
Weather for Hiking
Due to the location of the Appalachian Trail on the Eastern coast, and along the Appalachian mountain range, weather can be a deterrent when trying to complete your hike. Most hikers start in early spring, but winter weather conditions may still be lingering. It is not recommended that you walk the trail beyond October, as rain, snow, and dropping temperatures can cause accidents and injury. The Eastern coast does have its fair share of rain, so pack waterproof items because you will run into rain or some weather.
Challenge Yourself, Can You Do It?
The Appalachian Trail will test some of the best hikers, and many have tried their luck at the 2200-mile trail and have succeeded. Some hikers even do the “yo-yo” effect, and upon completion, turn around and hike right back to the beginning. Are you considering the Appalachian Trail? Read some of the published stories and tales of those that have tried, those that have failed, and of those that have succeeded. Who knows, maybe you can contribute your own success story of conquering the infamous Appalachian Trail.