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Thru-Hiking

The adventure of a lifetime. But trekking the 2,190 miles of the A.T. is no easy feat, so make sure you're prepared.

Hikers on the Pochuck Boardwalk in New Jersey

what to expect

Completing the entire 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in one trip is a mammoth undertaking. Each year, thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike; only about one in four makes it all the way.

  • A typical thru-hiker takes 5 to 7 months to hike the entire A.T.
  • After deciding when and where to begin and then registering your thru-hike, you will need to plan your resupply points and know the camping regulations along the A.T.
  • In addition to these logistics, physical and mental preparations become important factors in a successful thru-hike. Learn more about all these subjects below.

where to start

North Bound Hike Compass Icon

Northbound

Starting at Springer Mountain has long been the most popular place to start a thru-hike. But "popular" has led to "crowded" between March 1 and April 15. During this peak starting period, the southern end of the A.T. becomes a continuous stream of hikers during the day, with dozens of hikers clustered around campsites at night.

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Alternative Hike Compass Icon

Alternative

Increasingly, hikers are choosing to start somewhere in the middle of the Trail.  Generally, these alternative itineraries offer a gradual progression from easier to more difficult terrain and more frequent resupplies. You can also avoid crowds and the party atmosphere, follow favorable weather conditions and reduce crowding and minimize resource damage to the Trail.

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South Bound Hike Compass Icon

Southbound

Maine has never been a popular place to start a thru-hike, and may never be. Katahdin is regarded as the most difficult mountain on the entire A.T. and the route through Maine is, in places, not so much a path as a climb or scramble over rocks and roots. It's no place for anyone who is inexperienced or out of shape to start a long-distance hike.

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voluntary thru-hiker registration

The voluntary thru-hiker registration is a tool that helps prospective thru-hikers share their start dates with other thru-hikers and plan their itinerary in order to avoid the social and ecological impacts of overcrowding.

Thru-Hiking Camping

Camping

Whether you're pitching a tent in a designated campsite or you're dispersed camping, minimize your impacts and know the camping regulations on the A.T.

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Thru-Hiking Shelter

Shelters

There are more than 250 backcountry shelters located along the Trail for backpackers on a first-served basis. Not only are they the best places to stay dry, but they reduce hikers’ impact on the Trail environment.

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Thru-Hiking Shelter

Permits & Regulations

No fees or paid permits are required to access the A.T. for simply walking, but some New England campsites impose fees, and you must obtain permits for backcountry camping in two national parks on the A.T.

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Physical Preparation Keith Fosket

Physical Preparation

A thru-hike is a great adventure, and anyone who can walk and has the time and desire can do it. But thru-hiking is a demanding endeavor and requires rigorous physical preparation.

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Thru Hiking Mental Attitude 

Mental Attitude

While physical fitness will certainly give you an edge and make your first weeks on the Trail easier, in the long run, mental attitude is more important.


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Advice Workshop TTEC

Advice & Workshops

2,000-milers who are willing to share their experiences and advice, as well as conduct workshops about thru-hiking, can offer valuable opportunities to learn about long distance hiking and help you avoid common mistakes.

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Equipment

The most predictable mistake thru-hikers make when they start is carrying too much stuff. Put as much effort into determining what you don't need as what you do.


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Food & Resupply

There's no need to carry more than 3 to 6 days of food on most parts of the A.T. Thru-hikers have techniques for resupplying in towns along the way.


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LEAVE NO TRACE -

CONVERSATION WITH EXPERIENCED HIKERS

report a hike

Section hikers and thru-hikers who complete the entire A.T. can report their journeys to us by filling out the 2,000-miler application. Those who submit their applications will be added to our roster of 2,000-milers and will receive a certificate of recognition, an A.T. patch, and an accompanying 2,000-miler “rocker” patch. Each year the names of those who have reported hike completions in the previous 12 months are published in the Spring issue of A.T. Journeys magazine. Our comprehensive online 2,000-miler listing is updated periodically.


2000 Miler Application Download Icon
Download the Application

Recognition Policy

  • We give equal recognition to thru-hikers and section hikers.
  • In the event of a Trail closure or a safety hazard (such as a swollen stream, a forest fire, or an impending storm on an exposed ridge) hikers may take alternate routes (including by vehicle) and still receive official 2,000-miler recognition.
  • We operate on the honor system.
  • We recognize hikers regardless of sequence, direction, speed, or whether they carry a pack.