Spanning 14 states from Georgia to Maine, the 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail (AT) sees three million visitors each year. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the trail for a few hours or become a 2,000-miler, there are a few things to know before backpacking the AT.
Best time to hike
Where you plan to enter the trail will help decide the best time of year to start your excursion. Winters in Maine and summers in Georgia both bring harsh conditions, so map your path to align with the local temperatures.
The most popular option is to set out in Georgia in March or April and head north, starting at Springer Mountain. But, that can mean larger crowds, so it’s a trade off. If you plan to start in Maine, which is the most difficult spot in the trail, leave in May or June. Or, avoid the crowds at both points by starting in the middle, which normally gives you a more gradual progression in hiking difficulty.
There’s no shortage of natural beauty to be found on this trail, but here are three of the most popular sites to visit.
The highest point along the AT, Clingmans Dome has an elevation of 6,643 feet. Found on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset or sunrise from the peak.
Conversely, the AT hits its lowest point right before it reaches the steep Anthony’s Nose, a peak along the Hudson River in New York. This stair-like section of the trail comes with stunning water views.
Pine Grove Furnace
This state park in Gardners, Penn., is the half-way point of the AT. Hikers have been known to celebrate the milestone by visiting the park’s general store and attempting to eat a half-gallon of ice cream.
What to bring
How long you plan to hike will dictate what you carry, but here are some general guidelines for what to carry in your backpack.
Updated, printed maps are always the best option for navigating the AT, but there’s also an interactive map you can use along with it.
You can set up a tent nearly anywhere, but there are also designated campsites and more than 250 backcountry shelters. Some campsites in New England do charge fees.
Food and drink
Packing plenty of water is a must, and make sure to have enough snacks or food to last a few days. There are towns every few days to stock up again, and thru-hikers will also use a bounce box to send items ahead to the next stop.
You’ll obviously need something to keep all of your supplies in, so find a backpack that meets your needs — whether it’s a lightweight pack for a weekend trip or one that can make it for the long haul. Give the backpack a test run before going a long distance to ensure the fit and weight work for you.
No matter your backpacking plans, we can equip you for it all. Rent or buy all of the equipment you’ll need to backpack the AT at Outdoors Geek at 4431 Glencoe St. in Denver.