How Long Does It Take To Hike The Appalachian Trail | Hikers University

If you have a passion for hiking, you know about the Appalachian Trail. However, how long does it take to hike the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail spans from Georgia to Maine and is one of the most popular hiking trails in America. The trail is known for its natural beauty and challenge. Hikers come from around the world to experience its rugged terrain and stunning views. The Appalachian Trail is worth exploring if you're looking for an adventure!

The Appalachian Trail is a footpath spanning over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. It's a thru-hike that typically takes five to seven months to complete. However, there are shorter options for those who can't commit to the entire journey.

The trail was created in 1937 by a group of outdoorsmen led by Benton MacKaye. In 1942, they officially opened the first section for hikers. Today, there are about 500,000 hikers who complete at least part of the trail each year.

As a team of devoted hikers, we know the incredible challenge this trail provides, including the sheer length of it and how long it takes to hike. As such, we’re going to talk all about how long it takes to hike the Appalachian Trail and the other options you have.

Table of contents


How Long Is the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the United States. It is over 2000 miles long and passes through 14 states. While the exact length of the trail can vary depending on how it is measured, most estimates put it at around 2,185 miles.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy manages the trail, and many different organizations maintain sections of the trail. Hikers can choose to hike the entire trail in one go (known as thru-hiking), or they can break it up into smaller sections and hike it over some time.

The Appalachian Trail is a great way to experience some of the best scenery in the eastern United States.

How Long Does it Take to Hike the AT?

There is no simple answer, as the length of time, it takes to hike the trail depends on several factors, including a hiker's experience level, fitness, and weather conditions. However, most thru-hikers (people who hike the entire trail in one trip) take between 5 and 7 months to complete the journey.

So, if you're thinking about tackling the Appalachian trail, you should be prepared for a long and challenging journey. However, it will be worth it when you reach the end and can say that you completed one of America's most iconic hiking trails.


How to Hike the Appalachian Trail Quickly

While the Appalachian Trail is a great way to experience nature, it can also be a challenging hike. Here are some tips for hikers who want to complete the Appalachian Trail quickly.

Start Early

The Appalachian Trail is a long hike, and it can take months to complete. Starting early in the season will give you a better chance of finishing the hike before winter sets in.

 Set a Reasonable Pace

It's essential to set a pace that you can maintain for the entire hike. If you try to hike too quickly, you'll likely get tired and need to take more breaks.

Don't Stop for Sightseeing

The Appalachian Trail is full of beautiful scenery, but stopping to check out the sights will add time to your hike. If you want to finish quickly, focus on keeping a steady pace and reaching your end goal.

Bring Plenty of Supplies

Make sure you bring enough food and water for the entire hike. The Appalachian Trail can be a challenging hike, and you don't want to run out of supplies halfway through.

Preparations Needed for Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail hikers need to be prepared for weather and terrain. Here are nine essential items to bring on your hike:

  1. A good pair of hiking boots – Make sure they're comfortable and broken in before hitting the trail.
  2. A map and compass – You'll need these to navigate the Appalachian Trail and keep your bearings.
  3. A first aid kit – This is essential for dealing with minor injuries and ailments.
  4. A flashlight – You'll need this for hikes that start early in the morning or end late at night.
  5. Hiking poles are great for stability on uneven terrain and crossing streams or rivers.
  6. A backpack – Choose one that's comfortable and has enough room to carry all your gear.
  7. Rain gear – This is a must-have, as you never know when a storm will hit while you're on the trail.
  8. A stove – Some sections of the Appalachian Trail are remote, so it's a good idea to have a way to cook your meals.
  9. Bear spray is for protection in areas where bears are known to roam.

Terrain to Expect on the AT

For anyone planning a hike on the Appalachian Trail, it's essential to be aware of the terrain. The trail runs through some very rugged and remote areas, and conditions can change quickly. Some sections of the trail are very steep, with loose rocks and roots that can make footing treacherous.

The trail may run along the edge of a cliff or through dense vegetation in other areas. You will need to cross streams and rivers, which can be challenging when rainwater floods them out. With so many potential obstacles, it's essential to be prepared for anything when hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Weather Conditions on the Appalachian Trail

Climate can vary significantly depending on which section you're hiking. The further south you go, the warmer the weather will be. However, nighttime temperatures can drop sharply in the Appalachian mountain regions, even in summer.

Hikers should also be prepared for rainy weather, as precipitation is typical throughout the year. Flash floods can also be a concern during periods of heavy rainfall. In the winter, snow and ice are common along the Appalachian Trail, making hiking conditions treacherous.

Hikers need to be prepared for extreme cold and have the appropriate gear, such as warm clothing and traction devices for their boots. Appalachian Trail hikers can ensure a safe and enjoyable journey by knowing what to expect and being prepared for all kinds of weather.

Dangers of the Appalachian Trail

Wild Animals

Appalachian Trail hikers need to be aware of the different types of mammals that call the Appalachian Mountains home. While some of these animals pose a minor threat to humans, others can be dangerous if they feel threatened. Black bears are the most common type of bear found in the Appalachian Mountains, and they are generally shy around humans.

However, if a black bear feels threatened, it can be dangerous. Hikers should avoid getting too close to black bears and never try to feed them. Hikers need to be aware of other animals, too, including coyotes, foxes, skunks, and raccoons. These animals are generally not aggressive toward humans but can carry diseases that can be harmful to people. Hikers should use caution when around these animals and not try to pet or feed them.

Insects and Reptiles

It is home to a variety of wildlife, including reptiles and insects. While some of these animals are harmless, others can threaten hikers. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins are all venomous snakes that live on the Appalachian Trail. In addition, the Appalachian Trail is home to a variety of insects, including ticks and mosquitoes.

Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, while mosquitoes can carry the West Nile virus. As a result, hikers need to take precautions when hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Wearing long pants and long sleeves can help prevent bites from insects, and knowing how to identify venomous snakes can help avoid dangerous encounters.

Getting Lost

Given its length and remote location, it's not surprising that hikers sometimes get lost on the Appalachian Trail. However, you can do a few things to reduce your chances of getting lost:

  • Make sure to carry a map and compass with you.
  • Stay on the trail as much as possible. If you need to leave the trail for any reason, be sure to mark your location on the map to find your way back.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and note landmarks that will help you orient yourself.

Creepy People

There's no denying that the Appalachian Trail can be a bit creepy at times. Its dense forests and remote locations make it the perfect place for creepy people to hide out. There are plenty of creepy people on the AT, from strange hikers to lurking predators.

But there's no need to be afraid! With a little bit of awareness and caution, you can safely enjoy your hike on the Appalachian Trail. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Trust your gut if you see anything suspicious and move to a different location.
  • Don't hike alone. There's safety in numbers, so it's always best to hike with at least one other person.
  • Make noise. Let potential creepy people know that you're coming so they can clear out before you arrive.

Health Issues

With so much ground to cover, it's no wonder that diseases can spread quickly among Appalachian Trail hikers. The most common diseases include norovirus, Giardia, and Lyme disease. Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. It is often spread through contaminated food or water, and it can be deadly in extreme cases.

Giardia is a protozoan that causes gastrointestinal illness, and it is often contracted by drinking contaminated water. A bacterium transmitted by ticks causes Lyme disease, and it can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. To protect themselves from diseases, Appalachian Trail hikers should practice proper hygiene and safety precautions.

Costs of Hiking the Appalachian Trail


Backpacks are one the essential items for Appalachian Trail hikers. They allow hikers to carry all their gear, food, and clothing with them as they walk the 2,200-mile trail. Depending on the brand, features, and capacity, backpacks can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. The most crucial factor to consider when choosing a backpack is comfort.

Hikers will be carrying their backpacks for hours, so finding one that fits well and does not cause discomfort is essential. Another factor to consider is capacity. Appalachian Trail hikers need to be able to carry all of their gear, so a giant backpack is often necessary. When choosing a backpack for Appalachian Trail hiking, comfort and capacity are the most critical factors.

Hiking Footwear

Hiking boots are designed for more rugged terrain and support your ankles and feet. They typically have a higher price tag than shoes, but they'll last longer and provide more protection on the trail. Hiking shoes, on the other hand, are lighter and more versatile.

They're a good choice for shorter hikes or well-maintained trails. As for cost, you can expect to pay $50 to $200 for a good pair of hiking boots, depending on the brand and features. Hiking shoes tend to be cheaper, typically ranging from $30 to $100.


Hiking flashlights can range in price from around $10 to $100. However, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy recommends spending at least $20 on a flashlight. Cheaper flashlights may use fragile incandescent bulbs that can break easily, while more expensive models use LED bulbs that are much more durable.

In addition, cheaper flashlights may not have features like a waterproof casing or adjustable beam, which can be essential for hikers. Ultimately, it's necessary to choose a flashlight that fits your budget and needs. If you hike often, you may want to spend more on a flashlight that will last longer and has more features. However, if you only hike occasionally, you may get by with a less expensive model.

Hiking Poles

There are many hiking poles on the market, and the price can vary widely depending on the features and construction. For example, primary hiking poles may cost as little as $20, while more advanced poles with shock absorption and built-in GPS can cost upwards of $200.

When choosing hiking poles, it's essential to consider what features you need and how much you're willing to spend. However, even the most expensive hiking poles will be worth the investment if they help you enjoy your time on the Appalachian Trail.


Hiking tents can cost anywhere from around $100 to $500, depending on the size, weight, and material. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy recommends spending around $250 on a tent. Generally, the lighter the tent, the more expensive it is. Tents made with waterproof and breathable fabric (like Gore-Tex) are also more costly.

However, they're worth the investment if you plan on doing a lot of camping and hiking in wet or humid conditions. Ultimately, choosing a comfortable tent is crucial to meet your specific needs. Appalachian Trail thru-hikers typically spend between $600 and $1,000 on their entire gear setup, so a hiking tent is just a tiny part of the overall cost.


If you're planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, you'll need to budget for your food expenses. The average hiker spends between $5 and $10 per day on food. However,  this will vary depending on your dietary needs and preferences. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save money on food while on the trail.

For example, you can purchase bulk items and cook your meals or look for opportunities to resupply in towns.

In addition, many hikers choose to mail themselves food boxes ahead of time, which can help cut down on costs. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can ensure that your food expenses don't break the bank.

First Aid Kits

A well-stocked first-aid kit is an essential gear for anyone embarking on a long-distance hike, such as the Appalachian Trail. But how much does a first aid kit cost? The answer, of course, depends on the contents of the kit. A basic kit might include Band-Aids, gauze pads, and antiseptic wipes, which you can purchase for relatively little money.

However, a more comprehensive kit might also include splint materials, prescription medications, and IV fluids, increasing the cost. For hikers willing to spend a little extra money on peace of mind, you can purchase comprehensive first aid kits for around $100.

Accommodation Charges

The cost of accommodation on the AT can vary depending on your accommodation. Camping is the cheapest option, and there are plenty of free campsites available along the trail. However, if you don't fancy roughing it, several hostels and hotels are located near the trail.

Prices can range from $20-30 per night for a basic hostel room to $100 or more for a hotel room. If you're planning on spending any time in towns or cities along the way, it's also worth considering the cost of accommodation there too. Overall, the cost of accommodation on the AT is relatively affordable, especially compared to other long-distance trails.

Who Shouldn't Hike the Appalachian Trail?

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a challenging but rewarding experience. Nevertheless, some people shouldn't attempt to thru-hike the AT.

First and foremost, anyone with a fear of heights should probably avoid the Appalachian Trail. Many sections of the trail are pretty rugged, with steep drop-offs and exposed rocky ledges. If you're not comfortable hiking in such terrain, it's best to find another trail.

Additionally, anyone with a medical condition that could be exacerbated by extended periods of physical activity should think twice before embarking on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Finally, anyone who doesn't have at least some basic wilderness survival skills should consider getting more experience before attempting to hike the AT. While the Appalachian Trail is a relatively safe place, it's still a wild country, and being prepared for emergencies is always a good idea.

If you're looking for an adventure but don't want to stray too far from home, consider hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail. Depending on your pace, it will take you some time, but you can do it. There are plenty of ways to make the hike more comfortable and enjoyable. So if you're feeling adventurous, put on your hiking boots and hit the trail!


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

Read More About Peter Brooks