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Some friends and I are planning to backpack the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail over spring break. We are all Eagle Scouts, but we have concerns about travel speed. We have 106 miles planned and are trying to figure out a good distance to travel each day. We are novice backpackers and one member of the party is rather out of shape. What is your mileage recommendation?
I love that you’re spending spring break hiking the AT rather than getting hammered on the beach in Cancun! As for mileage, it all depends on what sort of trip you envision and how much time you can spare. Do you plan on late nights around the campfire and leisurely mornings sipping coffee and flipping pancakes? Will you stop for sidehikes and photo opportunities? If I were coming along on your trip, I’d vote yes to the two previous questions. The more fun and relaxation you have the better. Of course, terrain will also play a part. Lots of ups and downs make the miles tick by slower, whereas, you can crank off 10 miles on flat terrain in a couple of hours. Talk with your buddies and make sure everyone has the same expectations. Maybe the thing to do is mix it up. Study the map and try to find your ideal campsites. Maybe throw in a few big mile days (say, 20?), mixed in with some shorter 8-milers. And remember, you can only go as fast as the slowest member of your group. Have fun!
For exact distances between points on the AT, reference this mileage calculator. Another helpful site with links to tons of great references and information about the AT is Appalachian Trail Conservancy.