Conquer the Appalachian Trail in only five months

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, commonly known as the Appalachian Trail, is one of the premier backpacking trails in the US. The 2,168-miles trail extends between Mount Katahdin in Maine and Springer Mountain in Georgia. It passes through the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.

Most of the trail is in a wilderness, but there are few parts of it traversing roads and few towns. The Appalachian Trail is managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy, who take care of the trail with the help of 30 trail clubs, multiple partnerships and volunteers. In 2014, 241,936 hours went into maintaining the trail, with the help of 5,617 volunteers.


Appalachian Trail – Author: Gerry D – CC BY 3.0
Appalachian Trail – Author: Gerry D – CC BY 3.0

Many people have attempted to traverse all 2,168 miles, but only 20% of them succeeded. It can take some hikers up to a whole year to hike the complete trail. The average period that takes to hike the entire trail is around seven months. But, the Appalachian Trails is known for the many hikers, who attempt to hike it in its entirety in just one season.


But, if you want to conquer hiking’s ultimate adventure in just five months, you can. Here are five tips to help you with that.


1. Start saving money


Almost 80% of hikers who attempt hiking the trail eventually call it quits. Even though their bodies are fine, often they quit because they run out of money. On the journey, your body burns around 6000 calories a day, so you need a lot of cash for food. Also, there are the costs for emergencies, postage, laundry, and occasionally hotels and restaurants. On average a full hike costs around $3000, without the cost of the hiking gear. So, you better be stocked with a healthy bank account.

2. Set a good pace


If you want to finish the whole trail in just five months, you’ll have to hike around 15 miles a day. Even if you’re an experienced hiker, you’ll need some time to get used to all that walking. Start by hiking only eight miles a day, and slowly ramp up the mileage, as you body adapts.

When you reach Virginia, hike around 20 miles a day, since the terrain there is pretty flat.

In 2011, a hiker set the record for the fastest hike of the Appalachian trail, and he did it by running. Maybe you should try to beat his record, and finish even faster.

3. Plan in advance


Hiking for five months needs a good logistical planning. Carrying your food for more than 2,000 miles through the wilderness is not an easy thing to do. Many experienced hikers often send care packages for themselves, filled with a week’s worth of food, to different places down the trail. Although you can buy food in one of the many small towns on the way, mail drops are a better idea.

4. Pack light


If you’re an experienced backpacking hiker, you’ll probably want to hit this trails with a big backpack as well. But, you should fight the temptation, hiking the Appalachian Trail with a giant pack is not a good idea. While having a lot of equipment packed with you might help you feel prepared, it will slow you down on you way. So, make sure that you take a good look at what you pack, and try not overweight your bag with unnecessary gear.

5. Flip-flopping the route


Hiking the whole trail doesn’t mean that you have to start at the beginning. You can speed up the trek and avoid crowds by starting in the middle of the trail. For example, start from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and hike north to Maine. Once you reach the end of the trail, drive back to Harpers Ferry and hike south to the other end in Georgia. Flip-flopping is an excellent way to hike the entire trail, but starting with easier and faster terrain.


We highly recommend you to take on the challenge of hiking the entire trail. You will have the time of your life passing through 14 states, mountains, hills, rivers, forests, while surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. As the popular saying on the Appalachian Trail says, “Hike your Own Hike.”


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tomi-stojanovik is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival