|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
I recently purchased some new gear and wanted to test it out, so my brother and I chose to complete the AHT over the weekend. After reviewing the guide and topo map we decided that we could do this in two days or less.
Roughly calculated we began with 30-35lbs of pack weight. We each packed between 6-7 liters of H2O. I brought along my new Eureka Autumn Wind 2XD, my brother took a hammock. We both used lightweight 30 degree rated mummy bags, and had mid-sized packs onboard. In addition to this we also packed a healthy amount of food, a little bourbon to enjoy by the fire and standard camp/survival items. I took my iPhone which did surprisingly well with providing our location but that is not necessary. My Labrador packed food, water, a tarp, and a lead line on her.
We started off at 8:40am Sat. at Pioneer Cabin and headed clockwise on the loop. The first 8.6 miles were straight forward and fast - well blazed. Stopped for lunch around 12:15 at post 8 (IN 462). Resumed at 1pm. The next several miles became more demanding - moderately difficult with the midday summer heat. Trail had some debris across it but was well blazed, we reached mile 13.4 at 4:07pm. Rested at Shelter resumed at 4:30pm, fatigue was really setting in on us. My Lab started lagging behind around 6:30pm so we camped somewhere around mile 15. Broke camp at 6:30am Sun. morning and decided to get moving at 7am as the dog had some issues with her pads. Made it through Old Homestead Shelter to Cold Friday Rd by 9:42am - we stopped here and rested til about 11am since the pooch’s paws were in rough shape. Then we continued on the last 2.9 miles which was by far the most demanding part of the trail, we definitely benefited from lighter pack weight by this point in our trip. In hindsight I would have packed less food and more water, we finished off our supply resting at mile 19.1. Please note the shelter at the Ohio River Overlook is does not exist right now and you’ll only find picnic tables next to a horse tie up and fire pit. We reached our vehicle around 1:30pm back at Old Pioneer Cabin.
The trail was well blazed with only a few spots of downed trees or poor conditions where it met with horse trails. There were also a few areas where ground cover swallowed up the trail – but blazes always seemed to be in sight. It seems that the AHT got some love since past reviews. That said it’s probably not the top of the priority list for park officials as the other park features seemed aimed at equine activity and day hikers. So don’t count on a well worn path.
With the exception of the hike up to the Ohio River Lookout most of the elevation changes were mild-to-moderate. The woods were beautiful with a few wildlife sightings despite our pace and canine companion. The overlooks were not that impressive due to the amount of trees blocking views from shelter sites. We saw no other hikers on the trail during our trip which was a little surprising – but then again it is the middle of July in the Ohio Valley.
The guide on trails.com says it’s a 23 mile loop, which felt about right but since we didn’t carry GPS with us we don’t know for sure. That said we completed the entire loop in 1.5 days with around 13.5 hours of actual hiking. We’re both in decent shape but still think that the suggested three day trip either is because of too much gear or aimed at those who prefer to take longer, more frequent periods of downtime. If you do plan for a 3 day trip, water caching is a good idea – probably at IN 462 and then again at Cold Friday Rd based on our starting point - as the ravine and stream beds appear to be dependent upon rainfall for any flow. Filtering was not an option for us on this trip.
This trail is not for day hikers but easily completed by those with some basic backpacking experience. I’m confident that experienced hikers and trail runners could complete in a single day with ultra light packs and water caching.