How Long To Hike The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of, if not the most, famous hiking trails of all. With an average of 2190 miles, this trail is nothing to be taken lightly. In fact, only one in four hikers who begin this feat makes it to the end. So, when does it end?

It takes between 5 to 7 months to hike the Appalachian Trail. Thru-hikers will pass through 14 states, commonly starting in Georgia and finishing in Maine. However, the more challenging and less common route starts in Maine and heads southbound to Georgia.

Tackling the Appalachian Trail is a goal for most avid thru-hikers. This intense and lengthy trail requires many hours of planning and getting to know the ins and outs. Lucky for you, we have outlined some of the essential information you need to know before planning your Appalachian Trail adventure!

How Long To Hike The Appalachian Trail?

On average, it takes 5 to 7 months to hike the Appalachian Trail. The reason it takes so long to complete this hike is that it is around 2190 miles long!

There is, however, a difference in the amount of time it takes to complete this hike each year. The trail is often rerouted or modified for that year. These slight variations can lead to some differences in the time frame, although they won’t make any drastic changes.

Ensure that you properly research the year you are going and what the trail will look like for that year. This preparation will make sure that you have accounted for any changes in the path that might’ve occurred.

If you’re struggling to picture what a hike of 5 to 7 months looks like, then let me break it down for you. The 2190 miles passes through 14 states (yes, 14 states!), including:  

  • Georgia
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine

During these months of going from state to state, the thru-hikes have the option of around 260 shelters. Although there are many shelter options, there are also campsites. It is always safest to have a tent with you as staying in your own tent is sometimes required at various camping spots.

Where Does The Appalachian Trail Start And End?

Most hikers will start the Appalachian trail in March and end around September. However, there are two options for starting the Appalachian Trail thru-hike: Maine or Georgia. Choosing which one will depend on your hiking experience and fitness level.

Appalachian Trail: Starting In Georgia

The most common starting point is in Georgia. This starting point is the northbound route, making its way up to Maine. The northbound route should be started around March and will usually end in September.

This route is considered the less challenging route and is, therefore, the most popular route.

Hikers who choose this route, and start in March, will be hiking through winter in the first few weeks. If you are planning to do the southbound route, please note that you may need to invest in some proper winter gear – if you don’t have any already. You should replace any old winter gear. It can get icy, so fresh gear is a necessity!

The main problem that thru-hikers experience when starting in Georgia is the number of crowds they encounter at the beginning of the hike. Most of these crowds are due to hikers arriving to do only a section of the trail. The campsites or shelters can become quite overcrowded. 

I wouldn’t worry about the crowds too much. As you proceed with your hike, the amount of people you will see becomes less and less. Not everyone has the guts to complete the entire Appalachian Trail!

Appalachian Trail: Starting In Maine

The second option is starting in Maine, southbound to Georgia. This starting point is only advised for highly experienced hikers and is the most challenging.

Most hikers who decide to do this route only begin when conditions have improved – between May and June. This will enable hikers to avoid a few of the issues associated with starting in Maine in March. The downside of starting later in the year is an additional month of winter hiking.

The main reason this option is considered more difficult is that you start with the most challenging part of the Appalachian Trail.

This route begins with the Katahdin mountain -regarded as the greatest challenge along this trail. This 4000 ft ascent up the Katahdin mountain consists of climbing over steep-rocky terrain, which is, as you can imagine, seriously grueling.

Aside from the beginning being challenging, there are other additional issues with this route, such as the number of streams you have to cross. There are many water sources passing through Maine that do not have bridges, and with water levels at their highest between May and June, staying dry can become a problem. Not to mention the water is freezing!

No matter what, this version of the Appalachian trail remains the most intense and not be done lightly.

FAQs About Hiking The Appalachian Trail

Many people have the same questions about the Appalachian Trail. Below, I have compiled a list of some of these questions with the answers. Take a look!

Is it necessary to register a thru-hike?

While some hikers believe it is unnecessary, it is highly advised. Registering will connect you to other thru-hikers for coordination. These connections are great for safety reasons.

What wildlife do you see on the Appalachian Trail?

There is so much wildlife on the trail, including moose, coyotes, raccoons, porcupines, and bears!

What is the toughest section of the Appalachian trail?

The hardest part of the trial is the Katahdin mountains. However, it is also regarded as the most spectacular.

How many miles do you hike a day on the Appalachian Trail?

The average miles a day is between 10miles (for the slower hikers) and 16miles (for the faster hikers).

Where is the highest elevation on the Appalachian Trail?

The highest elevation is Clingmans Dome. This is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it takes between 5months to 7 months to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. On average, this trail is around 2190 miles long. The easier trail is to start in Georgia and hike northbound to Maine. For experienced and fit hikers, the Maine southbound route is an option.