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It’s the classic backpacking adventure: load up the pack, quit your job, and strike out for a thru-hike on one of America’s classic long trails. Whether you’re an Triple Crown aspirant or a weekend warrior, we’ve got the info, tips and tricks you need to have more fun on the U.S.’s longest paths.
It may not be the longest, toughest or oldest trail in America. But over its decades of existence, the Appalachian Trail has earned its reputation as the country’s most iconic journey of self-discovery. At approximately 2,184 miles, a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, usually from its southern terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia to its northern end at Mount Katahdin in Maine, is a serious undertaking that usually takes between five and seven months to complete. Thru-hikers can expect to spend thousands of dollars on gear, food and lodging during that time, and more than 70% won’t make it all the way to the finish.
Appalachian Trail Resources
- Appalachian Trail packing list
- Preparing for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike
- NOBO vs. SOBO
- Get in shape for the Appalachian Trail
- Planning your Appalachian Trail strategy
- Appalachian Trail photos
From the harshest deserts in America to lofty, snow-covered volcanoes, the Pacific Crest Trail has some of the most varied terrain of any route in the Americas. At 2,663 miles long, this National Scenic Trail travels from the Mexican border all the way to Canada, crossing through California, Oregon, and Washington along the way. Most northbound thru-hikers hit the trail in April or May, with southbounders starting some two months later on average to avoid snowy sections; thru-hikers typically take an entire season (around five months) to traverse the path, spending between $4,000 and $8,000 along the way.
Pacific Crest Trail Resources
- Pacific Crest Trail packing list
- Pacific Crest Trail map
- Anish’s record-setting PCT hike
- Hike the Pacific Crest Trail in six minutes
Explore the backbone of America on this path through the Rockies. Designated by Congress in 1978, the 3,100-mile-long Continental Divide Trail extends from Canada to Mexico, and crosses some of the western United States’ largest roadless tracts across five states, passing through 25 National Forests, three national parks and a national monument along the way. You’ll spend serious time above treeline, and won’t have to contend with the crowds of that other East Coast trail.
Continental Divide Trail Resources
It may not be as famous as the AT, but America’s longest hiking trail is a “little” 272-mile path in the Green Mountain State. Finished in 1930, the Long Trail crosses the state of Vermont, beginning on the Massachusetts border and ending at Vermont’s frontier with Canada. Along the way, the path crosses some of the state’s highest peaks, including Killington and Mansfield. Don’t be fooled by the trail’s relatively short size: With muddy conditions and plenty of hostile insect life, a thru-hike of the Long Trail can be an endeavor in and of itself.
Long Trail Resources
It’s more than a spur off the PCT: The John Muir Trail gives hikers the chance to retrace the footsteps of one of America’s most famous naturalists. The 211-mile-long path traces the Sierra Nevadas from Mount Whitney to Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite, rarely dropping below 8,000 feet in elevation along the way. The snowpack hangs around late into the warmer months on this high-altitude walk, so schedule your thru-hike for late summer, from July through September.