Plan your thru-hike

Every adventure follows the same pattern: someone is inspired and sets a goal. They then conduct research, estimate costs, raise funds, assemble their Argonauts, and set sail. Maybe the goal is achieved, maybe not.  This website can help you determine your goal, research it, and estimate costs. But with the other steps, (no less crucial), you're on your own.

Thru-Hike Overview

 mileage  roughly 2200 miles - the exact length changes constantly
 duration  5-6 months

 most people hike south-to-north (northbound/ NOBO)

 a minority hikes north-to-south (southbound/ SOBO)

 start times

 March to mid-April if northbound

 late May to mid-June if southbound

 southern end  summit of Springer Mountain, Georgia
 northern end  summit of Mt. Katahdin, Maine
 cost  $3500 - $5500 for on-trail expenses
 permits required?  2 - they are free and picked up from trailside kiosks during your hike
 best guidebook  AWOL's The A.T. Guide
 maps  not needed
 maildrops  necessary 
 physical training needed?  recommended for most hikers
 biggest challenges

 snow and freezing temps at the beginning, rain that lasts for weeks on end,

 mental and emotional difficulties

Step 1:  Make Sure You Really Want to Do This

It is a good idea to read accounts from other AT thru-hikers and see what their experiences were like. This site is about the nuts and bolts of planning and completing a thru-hike. While we do talk about the thru-hike experience, we don't get too personal.


Why should that matter? More than any other National Scenic Trail, the AT has been romanticized and mythologized in books and movies. It exists like a myth in our collective American imagination, and the reality of day-to-day life on a thru-hike may not live up to the myth.


Be sure you know what the Trail will be like and are up for the challenge. We would hate for someone to plan a thru-hike for months, arrive at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia filled with excitement, and then after starting the approach trail become disillusioned and discouraged. We’ve seen it happen. It’s been estimated that 25% of thru-hikers quit at the first road crossing at Neel’s Gap.



No one should be surprised when they begin those first steep climbs up Sassafras and Blood Mountain. No one should be unprepared when a snow storm hits them in the Great Smoky Mountains. No one should be shocked when it rains for two weeks straight. Check out our Discover the Trail section to learn more.

Step 2:  Read the Rest of this Website

This site should answer all of your questions about both the Appalachian Trail and the Appalachian environment generally. Our expert articles cover all the logistical concerns, like resupplying food, resupplying fuel, the costs of a thru-hike (even what to do with your car while you're gone), transportation to and from Springer Mountain and Mt. Katahdin, and what guidebooks you should use on-trail.


We want you to be completely prepared on day one, so we have detailed articles covering the most appropriate clothes and footwear for an AT thru-hike. We help you to choose a tent, sleeping bag, and backpack to save weight without sacrificing comfort or safety. Our gear checklist will make sure you don't forget anything. We even talk about how to save money and provide a list of stuff you definitely shouldn't bring.


Because not all hikers are the same, we have articles for military veterans and are working on articles for overseas visitors who want to thru-hike. Women have different needs and concerns than men, and we cover them in a comprehensive way. Couples too will find advice about traveling together, maintaining intimacy, and even how to make sure your sleeping bags can zip together.


Finally, we know that nothing is tougher on a thru-hike than the mental and emotional challenges. Based on years of experience, we write about facing and overcoming those mental hurdles and even how to transition back to normal life when you come home.



Ready to get started? If you are certain the Appalachian Trail is going to be your next adventure, then planning begins at our Logistics & Preparation page.