Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail weaves through 14 states. It can take some hikers up to one year to traverse all 2,168 miles, but with these tips, you can conquer hiking’s ultimate adventure in just five months.
1. Start Saving
Nearly 75 percent of hikers who start the trail will eventually call it quits. Often, their bodies can keep going, but they run out of money. Tearing down the trail burns up to 6000 calories a day, so you’ll need plenty of cash for food. You’ll also need money for emergencies, laundry, postage, and—if you don’t feel like roughing it every mile—hotels and restaurants. A full hike usually costs $3000, not including the cost of gear, so come stocked with a healthy bank account.
2. Hit the Post Office
If you think lugging groceries to your kitchen is a pain, try hauling your food 2,000 miles through the wilderness. It’s not going to work. Luckily, the Appalachian Trail crosses a road about every four miles, so hikers pass thorough lots of small towns. Although you can stock up on food there, it usually isn’t practical. Mail drops are a better idea. Experienced hikers often send themselves care packages, filled with a week’s worth of food, to towns hundreds of miles down the trail.
3. Pace Yourself
To finish the entire trail in five months, you’ll need to hike almost 15 miles a day. Even a hardened hiker will need to take some time getting used to all that walking. In the beginning, it’s recommended you only hike eight miles a day. As your body adapts, ramp up the mileage. When you reach Virginia, where the terrain is pretty tame, hike about 20 miles a day to make up for lost miles. (Or just jog the whole thing. In 2005, a runner completed the entire trail in just 47 days!)
4. Pack Light
Even if you’re mailing yourself food, you’ll still need to fight the temptation to hit the trail with a giant pack loaded with gear. While having everything under the sun in your pack may help you feel prepared, it will slow you down in a major way. Take a long look at your pack to make sure you’re not weighing yourself down with gear you don’t need.
5. Flip the Route
Who said you had to start at the beginning of the trail? Some hikers speed up their treks and avoid the crowds by starting in the middle. They hike north from Harpers Ferry, WV to Maine. One they reach the terminus, they drive back to Harpers Ferry and hike south to Georgia. Flip-flopping is a great way to see the whole trail while starting out in easier, faster terrain.
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