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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.
  • Learn the camping regulations along the A.T. and the ATC's expectations for hikers who want to be officially recognized as a 2,000-miler.
  • 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


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.


Alternative Hike Compass Icon


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.


South Bound Hike Compass Icon


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.


voluntary thru-hiker registration 2016

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


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.


Thru-Hiking Shelter


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.



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.




trail magic

What is trail magic?

Trail magic can be any experience on the Appalachian Trail that inspires intense awe or gratitude. It's random acts of kindness by strangers, a mesmerizing sunset after days of soaking rain, or a wildlife sighting so thrilling it makes your heart pound. 


What are "trail angels" and how can I become one?

Hikers call the people who provide trail magic "trail angels." A trail angel is the person offering a hiker a cold drink, but trail angels are also the volunteers who maintain and look after the Trail. To find out what help the Trail and hikers need most, contact the local trail club, and make sure you practice Leave No Trace. Thru-hikers may think coolers of food and drink in the woods are awesome, but coolers are an eyesore when empty and filled with trash. Left unattended they can lead to habituation of wildlife. Accumulated trash gets scattered through the woods by wind or animals. That’s not so magical. 

Anyone can be a trail angel anytime by picking up trash. Although the A.T. itself is amazingly free of litter, trailheads and shelters tend to be trash magnets. Many are in need of some serious love from trail angels. There are no trash cans along the Trail, so bring some extra trash bags with you the next time you hit the Trail!

What are hiker feeds?

“Hiker feeds” are picnics or barbeques set up at roads crossings or off-trail locations. They are usually intended for northbound thru-hikers by those who get gratification from “feeding the hungry hikers.” Long-distance hikers are usually so hungry for "real food" after eating dehydrated food and burning mega-calories that they are ecstatically happy to encounter these offerings.  

Unfortunately, the collective effect of so many of these ever-larger and expanding number of "feeds" is that it fosters a party culture among long-distance hikers, especially in the "bubble" of northbound thru-hikers. All this special treatment can lead hikers to feel they are exempt from regulations, or don't need to be concerned with the impacts of their actions. The end result can be a loss of privileges for all A.T. hikers by local businesses, communities, and parks.

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 hold high expectations of 2,000-milers that include treating the natural environment, A.T. communities, other hikers, and our agency partners--whose land the A.T. passes through--with kindness, respect, and cooperation;
  • We operate on the honor system;
  • We give equal recognition to thru-hikers and section hikers;
  • We recognize hikers regardless of sequence, direction, speed, or whether they carry a pack;
  • In the event of an emergency, such as a flood, a forest fire, or an impending storm, blue-blazed trails or officially required roadwalks are viable substitutes for the white-blazed route.