Guidebook

The Appalachian Trail

The renowned Appalachian Trail stretches for 2,200 miles along an entire mountain range, across 14 states in the Eastern USA.

Description

The Appalachian Trail (often referred to as simply the "AT") is one of the most famous long-distance hiking trails in the world, and certainly the most well known in the United States. This impressive footpath begins in the Southeast, in the state of Georgia, and finishes in the Northeast in Maine, following the spine of the Appalachian mountain range. Though anyone can hike sections of the AT at will, the ultimate achievement is to thru-hike the 2,200 miles from end to end in one journey.

Such a feat requires 5-7 months on the trail, not to mention prior months of planning that must be done. For the hundreds of people who complete the thru-hike every year, however, the payoff is well worth the work.

Hikers of the entire AT get to experience all of the best mountain scenery that the eastern U.S. has to offer. The trail summits many of the tallest mountains in the eastern part of the continent, including 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee-North Carolina border and the wind-whipped summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire at 6,288 feet.

Though not as tall nor as steep as the mountains of the American West, the slopes and summits of the Appalachians are uniquely varied, with everything from dense temperate forest to barren alpine tundra. The hiking is notoriously difficult in some stretches, with endless roots and rocks to contend with, and anywhere along the trail can be subject to mud and miserable weather. In the eastern U.S., it can rain for days on end at any time of year.

Consequently, a thru-hike of the AT is a truly monumental accomplishment. The majority of people who backpack on this trail do not hike the entirety of the AT in one go, but instead choose one of its many distinct sections to do as day hikes or multi-day trips. Some people make it a goal to “section hike” the entire AT, covering all its miles over the course of multiple trips.

Backpackers on the Appalachian Trail carry all their own gear and camp backcountry style. There are shelters positioned incrementally along the trail, but space within the shelters is first come, first served only. While it is possible to hike the entire AT and save weight by staying only in shelters, such a strategy is risky because you may not be able to get to a shelter by nightfall or during bad weather, and even when you arrive it may be full. Most hikers carry enough gear to be fully self-sufficient.

No specific permit or registration is required to hike the AT or to camp along it, with the exception of camping permits required in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park. Camping and campfire regulations may vary by location and season along the trail as well. Planning for such particulars is part of the complicated logistics for a long hike on the AT. Other considerations include what to pack, what time of year to go, resupply points, and transportation to and from the trail.

The majority of thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail begin at Springer Mountain in Georgia (the southern terminus) in March or April and finish at Mount Katahdin in Maine (the northern terminus) in August or September. This schedule maximizes warm weather. Some start in the north, however. Others elect to start somewhere in the middle, finish at one end, then travel back to hike the other half. This strategy allows for easier terrain, and frequent resupplies early in the trip, and thinner crowds along the trail.

Sources:
http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/explore-the-trail/thru-hiking
http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/explore-the-trail/explore-by-state
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_Trail

Amicalola Falls AT Approach Trail
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Amicalola Falls AT Approach Trail

Dahlonega
3 - 4 hrs
13.2 km
964 m
362 m
The 8-mile approach to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Springer Mountain to Neels Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Springer Mountain to Neels Gap

Dahlonega
1 day +
48.7 km
2,122 m
2,326 m
The southern terminus for the world-renowned Appalachian Trail.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Neels Gap to Dicks Creek Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Neels Gap to Dicks Creek Gap

Dahlonega
1 day +
58.2 km
3,105 m
3,240 m
An AT segment through remote North Georgia Wilderness.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Dicks Creek Gap to Winding Stair Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Dicks Creek Gap to Winding Stair Gap

1 day +
63.8 km
2,982 m
2,663 m
The Appalachian Trail Crosses into North Carolina and summits the first peaks over 5,000 feet.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Winding Stair Gap to Nantahala Outdoor Center
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Appalachian Trail: Winding Stair Gap to Nantahala Outdoor Center

1 day +
42.5 km
1,919 m
2,525 m
A beautiful trek across Wayah and Wesser Balds.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Nantahala Outdoor Center to Fontana Dam
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Appalachian Trail: Nantahala Outdoor Center to Fontana Dam

1 day +
44.1 km
2,667 m
2,624 m
A remote stretch connecting two iconic landmarks via the summit of Cheoah Bald.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1 day +
66.1 km
3,830 m
2,849 m
The approach to Clingsman Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1 day +
52.2 km
2,381 m
3,467 m
The second half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Davenport Gap to Hot Springs
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Appalachian Trail: Davenport Gap to Hot Springs

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1 day +
53.3 km
2,907 m
2,958 m
The trek to Max Patch Mountain, a bald, grassy summit with 360° views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs to Sam's Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs to Sam's Gap

1 day +
68.8 km
3,719 m
2,983 m
An AT segment with a ridgeline traverse, bald summits, and extensive history.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Sam's Gap to Nolichucky River
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Appalachian Trail: Sam's Gap to Nolichucky River

1 day +
37.8 km
1,788 m
2,412 m
A shorter AT segment best known for its summit of Big Bald.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Nolichucky River to Wilder Mine Hollow
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Appalachian Trail: Nolichucky River to Wilder Mine Hollow

1 day +
73.9 km
4,005 m
3,634 m
The trek across the Unaka Mountains and Roan Highlands, where fields of rhododendron and bald summits await.
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: Wilder Mine Hollow to Watauga Lake
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Appalachian Trail: Wilder Mine Hollow to Watauga Lake

1 day +
47.3 km
2,286 m
2,568 m
A picturesque AT segment highlighting a series of waterfalls.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Watauga Lake to Damascus
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Appalachian Trail: Watauga Lake to Damascus

1 day +
64.6 km
2,547 m
2,562 m
A ridgeline traverse into the iconic trail town of Damascus.
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: Damascus to Massie Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Damascus to Massie Gap

1 day +
47.7 km
2,505 m
1,604 m
The trek from the iconic trail town of Damascus to Mount Rogers and the Grayson Highlands
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Massie Gap to I-81
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Appalachian Trail: Massie Gap to I-81

1 day +
68.1 km
2,331 m
3,082 m
A relaxing stretch crossing The Scales and ending at Interstate 81
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: I-81 to I-77
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Appalachian Trail: I-81 to I-77

1 day +
67.4 km
3,357 m
3,209 m
Crossing the one-quarter mark of the roughly 2,200-mile-long AT.
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: I-77 to Pearisburg
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Appalachian Trail: I-77 to Pearisburg

1 day +
68.0 km
2,554 m
2,949 m
A trek across endless Brushy Mountains, past Dismall Falls, and ending at New River.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Pearisburg to VA-630
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Appalachian Trail: Pearisburg to VA-630

1 day +
63.1 km
2,898 m
2,729 m
A series of long ridgeline traverses, ending with a summit of the picturesque Kelly Knob.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: VA-630 to McAfee Knob Trailhead
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Appalachian Trail: VA-630 to McAfee Knob Trailhead

1 day +
46.8 km
2,175 m
2,237 m
The trek to the iconic Dragon's Tooth formation.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: McAfee Knob Trailhead to Blackhorse Gap
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Appalachian Trail: McAfee Knob Trailhead to Blackhorse Gap

Roanoke
1 day +
52.2 km
2,473 m
2,331 m
The iconic AT segment home to McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Blackhorse Gap to James River
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Appalachian Trail: Blackhorse Gap to James River

1 day +
66.6 km
2,983 m
3,519 m
A strenuous and remote section of the AT through backcountry and Wilderness areas.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: James River to VA-56
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Appalachian Trail: James River to VA-56

1 day +
72.0 km
3,597 m
3,507 m
An epic route across the Blue Ridge connecting low river valleys to high peaks.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: VA-56 to Rockfish Gap
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Appalachian Trail: VA-56 to Rockfish Gap

1 day +
44.7 km
2,205 m
1,916 m
A shorter segment lined with excellent day hiking and overnight opportunities.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Rockfish Gap to Swift Run Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Rockfish Gap to Swift Run Gap

1 day +
70.4 km
3,087 m
2,949 m
The southern portion of Shenandoah National Park, full of day hiking and overnight opportunities.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Swift Run Gap to Thorton Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Swift Run Gap to Thorton Gap

1 day +
54.9 km
2,233 m
2,245 m
The central district of Shenandoah National Park, known for the picturesque Hawksbill Overlook.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Thorton Gap to Tucker Lane
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Appalachian Trail: Thorton Gap to Tucker Lane

1 day +
55.9 km
2,066 m
2,529 m
This section of the Appalachian Trail crosses over Hogback Mountain, the Marshalls, and then heads through Trumbo Hollow.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Tucker Lane to Harpers Ferry
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Appalachian Trail: Tucker Lane to Harpers Ferry

1 day +
69.9 km
2,824 m
2,994 m
The AT passes through the lowlands, ending at Harpers Ferry
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Harpers Ferry to PA-16
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Appalachian Trail: Harpers Ferry to PA-16

1 day +
66.3 km
2,373 m
2,095 m
Hike 41 miles through Maryland on the Appalachian Trail.
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: PA-16 to Pine Grove Furnace State Park
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Appalachian Trail: PA-16 to Pine Grove Furnace State Park

1 day +
52.5 km
1,500 m
1,595 m
The beginning of Rocksylvania passing through Michaux State Forest.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Pine Grove Furnace State Park to Clark's Ferry
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Appalachian Trail: Pine Grove Furnace State Park to Clark's Ferry

1 day +
72.1 km
1,813 m
1,964 m
The halfway point for the Appalachian Trail.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Clark's Ferry to Swatara Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Clark's Ferry to Swatara Gap

1 day +
53.0 km
1,584 m
1,558 m
Two long ridgeline traverses through remote backcountry.
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: Swatara Gap to Schuylkill Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Swatara Gap to Schuylkill Gap

1 day +
56.7 km
1,306 m
1,299 m
An excellent section hike or trail run lined with overlooks and overnight camping opportunities.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Schuylkill Gap to Lehigh Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Schuylkill Gap to Lehigh Gap

1 day +
62.2 km
1,737 m
1,727 m
A Pennsylvania segment of the AT lined with beautiful overlooks.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Lehigh Gap to Delaware Water Gap
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Appalachian Trail: Lehigh Gap to Delaware Water Gap

1 day +
57.5 km
1,307 m
1,360 m
A popular segment for day hiking with killer views all the way to Delaware Water Gap.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Delaware Water Gap to High Point State Park
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Appalachian Trail: Delaware Water Gap to High Point State Park

1 day +
65.3 km
1,903 m
1,561 m
Traversing the Kittatinny Ridge to High Point State Park.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: High Point State Park to Mount Peter
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Appalachian Trail: High Point State Park to Mount Peter

1 day +
53.1 km
1,622 m
1,732 m
Winding through farmlands, across the Boardwalk, and into Wawayanda State Park.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Mount Peter to Bear Mountain Bridge
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Appalachian Trail: Mount Peter to Bear Mountain Bridge

1 day +
48.4 km
2,102 m
2,387 m
A winding and scenic stretch past countless ponds and climbs over several prominent mountains.
Severe
Private
Appalachian Trail: Bear Mountain Bridge to NY-22
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Appalachian Trail: Bear Mountain Bridge to NY-22

1 day +
68.3 km
2,589 m
2,508 m
This section passes Anthony's Nose, Canopus Lake, Nuclear Lake, and Cat Rocks ending at the Appalachian Trail Station .
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: NY-22 to Salisbury
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Appalachian Trail: NY-22 to Salisbury

1 day +
82.1 km
3,067 m
2,983 m
A long stretch paralleling the Housatonic River and rich with history.
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: Salisbury to US-20
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Appalachian Trail: Salisbury to US-20

1 day +
76.2 km
3,077 m
2,877 m
The first half of Massachusetts, widely renowned for Mount Everett and Guilder Pond.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: US-20 to MA-2
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Appalachian Trail: US-20 to MA-2

1 day +
65.2 km
2,313 m
2,539 m
The AT traverses the largest state forest to the highest summit in Massachusetts.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: MA-2 to Stratton Pond
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Appalachian Trail: MA-2 to Stratton Pond

1 day +
61.0 km
2,833 m
2,344 m
The AT transitions from the Berkshires of Massachusetts to the Green Mountains of Vermont.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Stratton Pond to Big Branch
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Appalachian Trail: Stratton Pond to Big Branch

1 day +
51.7 km
2,031 m
2,246 m
A remote Vermont stretch of the AT known for its summit of Stratton Mountain and Peru Peak.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Big Branch to US-4
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Appalachian Trail: Big Branch to US-4

1 day +
47.6 km
2,352 m
2,236 m
An epic segment through the high country of Vermont, summiting Killington Peak.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: US-4 to Hanover
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Appalachian Trail: US-4 to Hanover

1 day +
72.4 km
3,327 m
3,753 m
A easily shuttled stretch of the AT, connecting Killington Mountain to the Connecticut River.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Hanover to Oliverian Notch
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Appalachian Trail: Hanover to Oliverian Notch

1 day +
63.7 km
3,367 m
3,211 m
The introduction to the White Mountains, summiting Smart's Mountain and Mount Cube.
Severe
Private
Appalachian Trail: Oliverian Notch to Franconia Notch
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Appalachian Trail: Oliverian Notch to Franconia Notch

1 day +
36.4 km
2,625 m
2,503 m
Summiting Mount Moosilauke and Mount Kinsman via the Appalachian Trail
Severe
Private
Appalachian Trail: Franconia Notch to Crawford Notch
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Appalachian Trail: Franconia Notch to Crawford Notch

1 day +
40.4 km
2,546 m
2,591 m
A perfect segment to shuttle, bagging several 4,000-footers along the way.
Severe
Private
Appalachian Trail: Crawford Notch to Pinkham Notch
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Appalachian Trail: Crawford Notch to Pinkham Notch

1 day +
37.5 km
2,588 m
2,359 m
Summit the highest peak in the northeast, Mount Washington.
Severe
Private
Appalachian Trail: Pinkham Notch to Grafton Notch
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Appalachian Trail: Pinkham Notch to Grafton Notch

1 day +
72.2 km
5,085 m
5,242 m
A beautiful segment of the AT, summiting the final 4,000-footers in New Hampshire before heading into Maine.
Severe
Private
Appalachian Trail: Grafton Notch to Rumford Road
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Appalachian Trail: Grafton Notch to Rumford Road

1 day +
47.9 km
3,552 m
3,332 m
A stretch of the AT through Maine known for its summit of Baldpate and Bemis Mountains.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Rumford Road to Carrabassett Drive
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Appalachian Trail: Rumford Road to Carrabassett Drive

1 day +
65.2 km
3,636 m
3,891 m
A beautiful AT segment known for its traverse over Saddleback Mountain.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Carrabassett Drive to Spectacle Pond
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Appalachian Trail: Carrabassett Drive to Spectacle Pond

1 day +
109.2 km
3,860 m
3,921 m
A long segment of the AT that's perfect for backpacking, but still providing a couple of shorter day hikes along the way.
Difficult
Private
Appalachian Trail: Spectacle Pond to Katahdin Stream Campground
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Appalachian Trail: Spectacle Pond to Katahdin Stream Campground

1 day +
163.8 km
4,544 m
4,584 m
The infamous 100-Mile Wilderness of the Appalachian Trail.
Severe
Private
Appalachian Trail: Katahdin Stream Campground to Mount Katahdin
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Appalachian Trail: Katahdin Stream Campground to Mount Katahdin

5 - 6 hrs
14.7 km
1,274 m
1,274 m
The northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on the top of Mount Katahdin.
Severe
Private
Mount Katahdin via the Abol Trail
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Mount Katahdin via the Abol Trail

4 - 5 hrs
12.2 km
1,211 m
1,211 m
The shortest, most direct route to Mount Katahdin.
Extreme
Private
Mount Katahdin Eastern Approach Loop
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Mount Katahdin Eastern Approach Loop

4 - 5 hrs
14.6 km
1,196 m
1,196 m
An incredibly challenging and dangerous loop reserved only for the adventurous..
Severe
Private