Hiking the Appalachian Trail: Everything You Need to Know

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a remarkable otherworldly experience. So if you are planning on thru-hiking one of America’s most popular hiking trails, get ready to have one hell of an unforgettable experience.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is popularly known as Appalachian Trail or the AT. It is located in the Eastern United States, starting from the Springer Mountain in Georgia and ending at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

At approximately 2,175 miles in length, the Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states and eight national forests and crosses six national parks.

The AT is famous amongst thru-hikers who usually try to trek its entirety in one season. However, every year, over three million people hike segments of the AT.

The trail has an unofficial extension, the International Appalachian Trail, which proceeds into Canada and ends in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It could take you 5-7 months to hike the entire trail. However, here is everything you need to know about walking the AT.

History of the Appalachian Trail

The founder of the Appalachian Trail is known as Benton MacKaye, a forester who had a great understanding of the emotional significance of the wilderness.

He wrote a plan titled “An Appalachian Trail, A Project in Regional Planning.” Brian B. King writes that Mackay’s inspiration stated “at the end of a hike to the peak of Vermont’s Stratton Mountain in July 1900,”

While atop a tree at the peak of Vermont’s mountain, he wondered whether there would ever be a footpath reaching the Southern peaks. His plan materialized shortly after the death of his wife in 1921.

MacKaye organized the first Appalachian Trail Conference in 1925. Although he had grand plans for the trail, the supporters only viewed it as a hiking trail hence his inactivity in its development.

World War II veteran Earl Shaffer later went for the hike. He intended to “walk the army out of his system” as a therapeutic act.

He started at Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia in April 1948 and finished at Mount Katahdin in Maine after 124 days.

Thousands of people have since completed the trail, with some doing it more than once in their lifetime. Some of these include; a retired judge and his younger associate, William O. Douglas and Myron Avery, and grandma Emma Gatewood completed the hike at sixty-seven.

How to Prepare for the Appalachian Trail

A thru-hike of the Appalachian is a vast undertaking that requires a great deal of preparation. So before you hit the pathway, make sure your body, mind, and gear are ready for the challenge.

Here are a few guidelines on how to prepare for your trek.

Get Fit

This trail is probably not for you if you are unfamiliar with hiking. However, the best part is that you can always prepare yourself for the hike.

Before the hike, take some backpacking on the weekends and trek some shorter trails closer to you.

That should help a great deal with preparation. You can also do gym work, biking, and other exercises to keep your body in great shape.

Budget Accordingly. Money is going to be one of your top essentials on this hike. However, you will need a refill on your supplies occasionally, and you need to plan for when this happens.

While it is great to dwell in the wilderness, a few nights in a warm bed, a hot meal, and a shower might be what you need to recharge occasionally.

Make a budget before you head out and stick with it.

Pack Light

You will be walking all day, every day, for a long time. If it is not necessary, leave it behind. The lesser weight you have on your back, the better your trek will be.

Plan to carry no more than 25% of your weight. You might want to check out a backpacking checklist for this part.

Prepare Yourself Mentally

The trek is challenging both physically and mentally. So prepare yourself for moments in between when you are freezing, muscles sore, need a shower and feel lonely.

You will need more than a simple promise of lying down in the wild at the end of the day. Think about why you are taking this trek and what you hope to gain from completing it, and memorize this information.

Practice Everything

Whether pitching a tent, lighting a stove, or adjusting your backpack, you will need to know how to use everything. Practice makes perfect so do it before you start your trek.

Practice will help you identify any missing items or any spoiled items so that you get reinforcements before setting off.

Prepare a Few bump boxes

Since you cannot carry much with you, make sure you have some supplies waiting for you in some towns ahead.

Bump Boxes are packages you can mail to yourself in the towns you hope to pass through.

How Much Does It Cost to Hike Appalachian Trail

If you are a thru-hiker, plan to spend an average of $5000 – $7000 on your hike. However, it is more than possible to spend a lot more.

You will need some severe budgeting and self-control to manage this amount. You are likely to spend about one thousand dollars ($1000) monthly.

It takes 5-7 months to complete the trail.

Challenges along the Appalachian Trail


Your regular eating habits back home cannot support you on the hike since you will be exerting more strength in your daily activity.

Many hikers find trouble along the way due to poor planning for this aspect.

Gear Wear out

Some of your gear will wear out before the end of the trail. So it would help if you were prepared for this challenge to shock you sometimes.


There is a possibility of disease along the way since you will be hiking through the wilderness. Getting sick may break up your hiking family or even lead to failure to finish the hike.

Hiking the AT is remarkable once in a lifetime experience you must undertake at some point.

Now you are ready to start your journey into this significant undertaking. Visit our blog to see more adventures you must experience.

Pearce Kibaale is a freelance writer, content creator, and Editor-in-Chief of Trip Dhow.

Pearce Kibaale, Editor-in-Chief of Trip Dhow