Hiking the Appalachian Trail

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 11-17, 1997
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
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Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Question: I am considering hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. How can I get information on trails and feedback from people who have made the trip?

Nield Montgomery
San Francisco, CA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Well, you could try Outside's own former senior editor Brad Wetzler, who wrote "I Hear America Slogging," a feature on hiking the Appalachian Trail in our May 1996 issue.

However, because Brad is probably in Moscow or Greenland right now, I'll try to encapsulate what he wrote in his sidebar titled "Walking the Walk."

If you hike from Georgia to Maine, instead of vice-versa, you'll give yourself a six-month window in which to complete the trail (April to September). You could take longer, but it gets pretty darn cold in Maine come October, and that means you'll have to carry more cold-weather gear through those hot, soggy summer months.

If you like crowds, there's almost a spring-breakish revelry at the starting point at Georgia's Springer Mountain in April. According to Wetzler, the crowds don't thin out until you reach southern Virginia.

If crowds like this don't appeal to you, consider starting in Maine. You'll be able to start your trip later — about June 1 — and finish in December without the risk of freezing your fanny off.

In his article, Wetzler suggests you call the Appalachian Trail Conference (304-535-6331) in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, or the Center for Appalachian Studies (704-622-7601) in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Both of these organizations will help you plan your trip, and they may be able to put you in touch with some AT veterans.

A few books you'll want to use for research include Walking the Appalachian Trail, by Larry Luxenberg (Stackpole Books, 800-732-3669), The Thru-Hiker's Handbook and The Thru-Hiker's Planning Guide, by Dan Bruce (Center for Appalachian Trail Studies, 800-282-3963), and finally The Thru-Hiker's Starter Pack (Appalachian Trail Conference, 304-535-6331).

A few additional words of wisdom: Plan on wearing out five pairs of hiking boots, and plan on spending approximately $1 per mile; the trip should put you out a grand total of $2,200.

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