Welcome to the AppalachianTrailCafe.net!
Take a moment and register and then join the conversation

Hiking AT in 5 sections

    This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.

    • I'm happy to think out loud about this with you. If you divide things up somewhat evenly, that means you are looking for sections around 440 miles in length. If you are looking to do it in 2 1/2 years I'm guessing you want to do a spring hike and a late summer fall hike with a break in-between. Is that right?

      I would be looking for sections with good public transportation opportunities at the end points. If it were me, I would want to save Katahdin for last, but if you have a different thought on the perfect end-point for you, let us know.

      I think I would push it the first section, and do Springer to Damascus, VA.; 470 miles (plus the approach trail if you do that). As to when? I would go for the end of April. Why so late? Well, I do not understand why so many hikers leave so early in the year and end up blowing their cash in hotel rooms sitting out bad weather. And that should be a great time of year to enjoy the Mountain Laurel bloom in Georgia and Tennessee. Added bonus, you should be rolling into Damascus right around ''Trail Days' (May 13, 2022). Celebrate the completion of your first section, make some new friends, and maybe catch a ride back to a major airport.

      Is it important top you that your path be contiguous? If not, then in the Fall I would set my eyes north, saving the south for the following spring. I would suggest knocking off CT, MA, VT and part of NH next. Say from the Bear Mountain bridge in NY and ending in Glencliff, NH just short of the Whites (386 miles). I would want to catch some of the Fall foliage, without freezing my butt off. Something around the first week of September to the first week of October perhaps? Peak foliage in Glenncliff is usually around October 10th.

      Anyway, I'll wait for some input from Swillpcb before I take this thought experiment any further...
      “Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
      the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”


      John Greenleaf Whittier
    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! I really like your idea of flip-flopping and matching the sections to the season. That was the information I am looking for. My reasons for hiking the trail this way, #1 I now have the time to make the trip the MOST enjoyable with no time constraints, #2 At 67 y/o I see no reason to punish my body the way a thru-hike would even though I’m in great physical shape and am used to spending weeks at a time hiking and canoeing. I’m excited to hear the rest of your thoughts on this. Thanks again!
      Scotty
    • Swillpcb wrote:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! I really like your idea of flip-flopping and matching the sections to the season. That was the information I am looking for. My reasons for hiking the trail this way, #1 I now have the time to make the trip the MOST enjoyable with no time constraints, #2 At 67 y/o I see no reason to punish my body the way a thru-hike would even though I’m in great physical shape and am used to spending weeks at a time hiking and canoeing. I’m excited to hear the rest of your thoughts on this. Thanks again!
      Scotty
      Hello Swillpcb
      I think your plan is very wise. I'm 62 yo and if ever get a chance hike the AT, I'd probability do something similar. At this point I've just done a couple of 4 day AT hikes in VA. Otherwise I'm based in MI
    • In July I just finished completing section hiking the AT. Started Thanksgiving of 2010 and took 2020 off due to COVID.

      Congratulations on your recent retirement! :thumbup: That gives you more options. Other than a few short trips at Thanksgiving and Spring Break, I was pretty much limited to summers.
      The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
      Richard Ewell, CSA General
    • +1 on picking the seasons for each section. Here are a few factors to consider:

      • Typical hi / low temps
      • Water availability in late summer / early fall
      • Hunting seasons
      • Tourists
      • Black flies
      • Thru-hiker bubble
      • Foliage


      I enjoyed hiking Georgia in the fall and really enjoy hiking in the White Mountains in early September. Crossed Roan Mountain in March with ice on the trail and returned in the summer to a beautiful green landscape. New Jersey in July was a sweatfest. Rank your personal factors, pick your seasons and create an enjoyable experience!
      Trudgin' along the AT since 2003. Completed Sections: Springer Mountain to Winding Stair Gap NC, and Max Patch to Carter Notch NH
    • IMScotty wrote:

      As to when? I would go for the end of April. Why so late? Well, I do not understand why so many hikers leave so early in the year and end up blowing their cash in hotel rooms sitting out bad weather.
      And the "reward" for hiking thru Georgia in the snow and cold rain of Jaunuary and February is hiking in New England in the middle of summer rather than fall.
      2,000 miler
    • max.patch wrote:

      And the "reward" for hiking thru Georgia in the snow and cold rain of Jaunuary and February is hiking in New England in the middle of summer rather than fall.
      Just more evidence for why I am not obsessed with traditional/purist thru hike schedules.
      I've always wanted to invent the "coin flip flop thru hike".
      That's where you go to HF and flip a coin. Head you hike north to ME. Tails you hike south to GA.
      If when you look at the coin and feel disappointed in the outcome, hike the other direction.
      When you get to the end of the trail, find another trail with better weather.
    • Swillpcb wrote:

      At 67 y/o I see no reason to punish my body the way a thru-hike would even though I’m in great physical shape and am used to spending weeks at a time hiking and canoeing.
      Scotty
      I don't disagree.

      But I'll mention that 83 year old Eb Eberhart aka Nimblewill Nomad is currently thru hiking the AT and when he finishes he will be the oldest person to accomplish this. And he started in Alabama, hiking the Pinhoti and BMT to Springer, adding 400 plus miles to the AT's 2,200. Last week he was at Lake of the Crowds hut in the Whites.

      I'm not going to say I hope I can do what he's doing when I reach that age. I wish I could do it now. :)
      2,000 miler
    • Id play it by ear.....hike by hike.

      Because whatever you plan, it will change.

      Personally, after about 3 weeks /300 miles or so.... I am ready to go home for a while. Might just be a few weeks but I'm ready for a break. And that's on a good trail thats interesting

      Here's the thing about the AT also........a lot of it just plain sucks. No views worthwhile for 50 miles.....nothing but rock, roots, pointless climbs only for the sake of going over whatever high spot was close by.

      And it rains. Often a lot.

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Muddywaters ().

    • Muddywaters wrote:

      Id play it by ear.....hike by hike.

      Because whatever you plan, it will change.

      Personally, after about 3 weeks /300 miles or so.... I am ready to go home for a while. Might just be a few weeks but I'm ready for a break. And that's on a good trail thats interesting

      Here's the thing about the AT also........a lot of it just plain sucks. No views worthwhile for 50 miles.....nothing but rock, roots, pointless climbs only for the sake of going over whatever high spot was close by.

      And it rains. Often a lot.
      But on the flip side there usually are plenty of places to resupply and water. Also relatively easier for logistics getting on and off for a section hiker. Lots of hostels, especially in the south. And the shelters even if you don't actually sleep in them provide water, places to cook/eat, privies, bear boxes/cables, and opportunities to "network" with other hikers. Now I realize some may also consider much of that last sentence a disadvantage (personal preference).

      To me the best thing about about the AT (especially if you live near it) probably is that it provides a lot of convenience and work arounds for a first long distance trail. Other than NH and ME it is much more forgiving (less risky) if something goes wrong. Personally I am glad I went NoBo.
      The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
      Richard Ewell, CSA General
    • And once you finish the AT you can take Horace Greeley's advice and "Go West Young Man". :) I really like what I have seen of the Colorado Trail. The same probably also for IMScotty and MountMike on the PCT, JimmyJam the Grand Canyon, MuddyWaters the CT and probably many more western trails.
      The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
      Richard Ewell, CSA General
    • Astro wrote:

      Muddywaters wrote:

      Id play it by ear.....hike by hike.

      Because whatever you plan, it will change.

      Personally, after about 3 weeks /300 miles or so.... I am ready to go home for a while. Might just be a few weeks but I'm ready for a break. And that's on a good trail thats interesting

      Here's the thing about the AT also........a lot of it just plain sucks. No views worthwhile for 50 miles.....nothing but rock, roots, pointless climbs only for the sake of going over whatever high spot was close by.

      And it rains. Often a lot.
      But on the flip side there usually are plenty of places to resupply and water. Also relatively easier for logistics getting on and off for a section hiker. Lots of hostels, especially in the south. And the shelters even if you don't actually sleep in them provide water, places to cook/eat, privies, bear boxes/cables, and opportunities to "network" with other hikers. Now I realize some may also consider much of that last sentence a disadvantage (personal preference).
      To me the best thing about about the AT (especially if you live near it) probably is that it provides a lot of convenience and work arounds for a first long distance trail. Other than NH and ME it is much more forgiving (less risky) if something goes wrong. Personally I am glad I went NoBo.
      Yup. AT is a very social trail. Lots of peoples. Logistics and services are plentiful. Water is mostly plentiful too. These things make it very easy logistically. It can be done with minimal planning and maildrops for sure. These are definite plusses.

      If planning sections......leaf-off in fall can be frustrating....completely obscuring trail in rocky parts that arent sunken. When blazes are infrequent....brain has to be on....looking for trail corridor.....clues...sawn logs....etc. Fortunately AT is blazed fairly well for most part.....but i can recall a few places where it was hundreds of yds without blazes......and a little unsure if on AT anymore. Then theres the frequent stumbling and tripping on rocks /roots buried under leaves . Thing I hate about fall hiking in east....following trails gets a bit harder in places. Seems no one ever thinks about this when blazing thru some areas.

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Muddywaters ().

    • I'm not going to totally answer the question raised, but I'll give you a few thots I have.

      First, I agree that the first section should be Springer (or Amicalola Falls) to Damascus, VA. Damascus is a nice trail town, close to the Interstate, and this way you would get to spend time there at the end of one section and at the beginning of another. I have no zero interest in Trail Days so I'm not going to recommend you plan your section around that. If that sort of thing interests you then by all means attend.

      The last section, mileagewise, works out perfectly for a New Hampshire (starting from Dartmouth for ease of transportation) to Katahdin section. But...(and this is where I lost interest) I really like New England and would prefer to do New England as a last section. So...(for me) this would HAVE include VT and SHOULD include CT and MA...but that really messes up the mileage in a 5 section traverse.

      So that's as far as I got with the 5 section question. I'll throw in a couple additional comments.

      You mentioned you didn't want to punish your body the way a thru hike would. Maybe a thru would punish your body -- or maybe you would come back in the best shape of your life. Who knows? You may want to plan on attempting a thru if that interests you at all, but have no reservations at at all about ending your hike if/when your body tells you to. Pick up next year where you left off.

      The worst thing about section hiking is getting to the trailhead (speaking as one who has driven from Georgia to Vermont, Maine, Colorado, and California to go backpacking). If I was planning on doing the AT over 3 years I'd plan on 3 sections rather than 5 just to minimize the hassle of commuting.
      2,000 miler