Late April or early May is the ideal time to start
Mental and physical fitness are a necessity
This is the most famous of all American hikes
Consider the numbers: this is a 2,200-mile trail that meanders through 14 states, 6 national parks, 8 national forests and on average takes 6 months to hike. The trail traditionally starts in Georgia at Springer Mountain and ends at Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Sure, there’re the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, but the AT makes the first, and greatest claim to American wanderlust. While you can always hike sections of the trail, it’s thru-hiking the trail that remains the pinnacle of the American hiking experience.
Most Popular Itineraries
Week-Long Appalachian Trail Hike
A week-long introduction to the Appalachian Trail for new backpackers, looking for a taste of the thru-hike. Customizable to the skill level of the group, you’ll cover six to 10 miles per day in accessible terrain for around 50 miles. Your days will be filled with exploring highlights such as Blood Mountain, and nights are spent camping under the stars. You’ll be completely assisted by a pro with the freedom to hike in an intimate group.
Month-Long Appalachian Trail Hike
Travel a specific section of the Appalachian Trail for an unforgettable four weeks. Trips are customizable based on your skill level and goals along the trail. Gain support for lodging, logistics and transportation, so you can focus on each step. Ideal for both novice adventurers and experienced thru-hikers.
Full Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
You’ll experience the entirety of the Appalachian Trail hike with the safety of an expert and at least two other people. You’ll travel the A.T. extending 2,189 miles along the eastern U.S. between Springer Mountain, GA and Mount Katahdin, ME. Expect the challenge and reward of a lifetime.
Customized A.T. Hike
You determine how long and which sections of the Appalachian Trail you’ll navigate based on your skill level and goals. Then, your expert guide plans all the logistics. You’re free to focus on connecting with hikers, gaining insight about the historic trail, and learning the true meaning of trail magic.
Things you need to know
Why should I book with 57hours?
With us, it’s all play and no work for you! 57hours is an open platform that connects you with trained and certified outdoor adventure professionals all over the world. Using our tech-savvy, we make it super easy to find and book adventures worth tackling, with guides worth booking, all gathered from the first-hand experiences of the locals who adventure in these amazing locations.
Why should I go hiking?
Cars can’t go where you’re headed. Why view the breathtaking landscape in the eastern U.S. passively through a window, when you can walk past historic Civil War landmarks and over purple mountains majesty in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Hiking is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy striking terrain and experience the nature around you.
What you get in this adventure:
- A local Appalachian Trail hiking guide
- Campsites/lodging accommodations
- Transportation throughout the adventure
- Transfers to and from the airport
- Option to have gear transported from each lodging location
What’s not included:
- Flights and flight taxes
- Sleeping bag & personal items
- Travel insurance
*Some meals are included depending on the trip you book.
What can I expect from hiking with a guide?
Hiring a local guide offers you the chance to experience the Appalachian Trail’s beauty to the fullest. Local guides know all the hidden gems the area has to offer, will explain the history and geology during the hike, and will transport you to and from the destination. Your guide will also know just what to do if the weather takes a turn or something unexpected happens.
What do I need to bring?
Your exact gear list will be dependent on the itinerary you choose and will be provided after booking. Here’s a list of the general equipment you need to bring:
- Backpacking pack large enough to carry all the items listed (around a 40-60L bag)
- Water bottle
- Sleeping bag
- Hiking boots
- Spare warm clothes
- Down or synthetic jacket
- Rainproof jacket
- Compass & map
- Toiletries (sunscreen, hand sanitizer, first aid kit, toilet paper, etc.)
- High quality sunglasses
- Head lantern
- Trekking poles
- Camera — optional (but recommended)
What’s the itinerary?
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is completely customizable based on your skill level and goals. The full A.T. thru-hike extends 2,189 miles along the eastern U.S. between Springer Mountain, GA and Mount Katahdin, ME. In order to complete the entire trail, you’ll need to carve out six months. You can also accomplish sections of the trail, including one-week, one-month and three-month hikes aimed at traversing the Smoky Mountains. Groups can also avoid mountain traverses by starting the route in West Virginia, which is also focused on Civil War history.
Typical itineraries for beginners include hiking between six to 10 miles per day over the course of a week. Your exact itinerary will depend on your chosen hike, but a week-long A.T. backpacking camping trip looks like this:
The first day of your week-long AT hike is dedicated to arrival and orientation. You will land at the Atlanta Airport, or if you’re driving, you’ll meet your guide at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia around 1:00PM where you’ll register for the hike, set up camp, and go over over the Appalachian Trail and what to expect, including discussing gear and food. After a short 2.5-mile hike to stretch the legs, you’ll head to town for pizza and beer. The evening will be spent sleeping in tents. Please note, if you drive to the park, your car can remain parked in the lot for the entire duration of your hike.
In the morning, you will start hiking to the first shelter. It’s a six-mile uphill hike under the forest canopy. Filtering water along the way, you’ll camp and cook food. If the shelter ( a basic, three-sided building) is open, you can opt to sleep there rather than in your tent.
After a climb to the top of Springer Mountain, you will officially be on the Appalachian Trail from this point on. An easier day of hiking, it’s eight to ten miles depending on the skill level of the hikers in the group. Another night spent in tents.
Hiking between six to eight miles, this is one of the challenging hiking days, with several steep uphill climbs and descents.
Depending on the mileage of the previous day, this day is an easier hike in terms of terrain. You’ll get your first real view of the mountains. After hiking out of the woods you’ll shuttle back to the park to get vehicles, have a meal, and then make way back up to the trailhead to camp.
To maximize the fun on the final day of hiking, you will be slackpacking today. This means that you’ll only carry a daypack with just water, snacks and daily provisions. There are two options for hiking. The first option is to hike the 11 miles up and over Blood Mountain, a trip highlight with amazing views. This is a full day of hiking from 9am to 5pm. The other option is a shorter six-mile loop up and over Blood Mountain. It’s a later start with more time spent on top of the mountain enjoying the views (weather permitting).
If hikers finish before 5pm, there’s time to explore the Outfitter store that supplies AT hikers, take pics, have a pizza, and buy souvenirs if desired. Once done, transportation is provided back to your vehicle or to the Atlanta Airport. Once back at the park, hikers can take a shower at the campground before heading home.
How fit do I need to be?
You need to be able to hike for full days, carrying a full daypack or backpacking pack. Each day you will hike between four to six hours or between six to 10 miles per day for a total of 50 miles each week. The terrain can be challenging and the weather unforgiving. That said, if you are looking for adventure and up to the task of multiple days or weeks of full-day trekking, you’ll be rewarded immensely.
What is the minimum age requirement?
Everybody over the age of 16 is welcome on this hiking adventure.
What about group sizes and pricing?
Groups for week-long hikes usually consist of two people for southern sections and four people for northern sections. For the three or six-month hikes, a minimum of five hikers are required for the trip to take place. You can arrange a private trip with a guide, if you’re traveling alone or a larger party. All pricing is per person.
What about bad weather?
Appalachian Trail tours are scheduled to fit with the seasons and ideal hiking conditions. That said, you’ll pack to prepare for the elements while on the trail. When the weather does not cooperate, your guide will know the correct course of action to take. Whether that’s shifting the schedule or postponing until conditions approve, your guide will know just what to do. In the event of predictably dangerous weather, you will be contacted prior to the trip to discuss suitable alternatives.
Do I need an insurance policy?
It’s highly recommended that you cover all your bases with travel and medical insurance. While hiking might seem like a low-risk outdoor activity, accidents can happen anywhere and we recommend insurance to avoid paying out of pocket for costly medical expenses. And as we’ve recently seen, travel plans can be abruptly halted, so it’s a good idea to have cancellation insurance that also covers lost baggage. It’s tried and tested and it works.
All policies regarding cancellation, rescheduling and trip insurance will be clearly laid out by your guide prior to booking your adventure. Contact us if you’d like more information on a specific adventure.
Getting there and meeting location
Your Appalachian Trail guide will pick you up from the Dulles, VA or Atlanta, GA airport, depending on your itinerary and section you will be hiking. You’ll typically meet your guide on Sunday for a day of preparation ahead of the hike. After your stay overnight, the guide will bring you to The A.T. trailhead. Your guide will transport you back to the airport upon your departure.
Guides we recommend
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Before you go, you have to decide how to go
While the numbers alone may seem daunting, they don’t need to. Planning for this trip is akin to the hike itself — slow and steady, go at your own pace. It’s not a race after all. While the number of people who thru-hike the trail is much smaller than those who set out, a lot of hikers enjoy the AT in sections, which makes for a very attractive option if you don’t do it all in one go.
For thru-hikers, the very first consideration is whether you want to hike the trail northbound (NOBO), or southbound (SOBO). Each has its merits. For example, do you want a chillier New England spring or a warm Georgia one? There’s lots to consider, but thankfully, there’s a ton of resources out there to help you get on your way. Regardless of how you proceed, make sure to Leave No Trace and have good Trail Karma.
Who should hike the Appalachian Trail?
The camaraderie, trail magic, and the sheer number of hikers all make the trail accessible for just about anyone. People of all ages, from 5 to 86 have hiked the trail. Doing a thru-hike, though, requires a great sense of your own physical capabilities and mental stamina. Most people who stop on the trail do so because of injury, as people often set unrealistic paces and their bodies can’t keep up. For those who have successfully thru-hiked, you’ll find that they were all patient and didn’t really push themselves until they’d found their trail-legs. Take your time, set realistic goals and manageable expectations.