Appalachian Trail Conservancy, over 3 million hikers take on the Appalachian Trail every year. It’s certainly one of the most popular hiking trails in the United States. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is popular with all levels of hikers – some hike the entire 2,180 mile length, and others hike smaller sections of it. Whether you want to become a 2000-Miler or enjoy a shorter portion of the trail, knowing when to start, how to prepare, and what to bring will make your hike a success.
When you start hiking depends on what your goals are. If you are planning to hike the entire length of the trail from Georgia to Maine, you should probably start in March or April. This way, you should finish in September. For hikers that do the full trail from north to south, June is a good time to start, and you can expect to finish in December.
There are also plenty of shorter lengths of the trail that are popular with hikers who don’t want to commit a full six months to the trip. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a handy Find a Hike tool that lets you search for hikes along the Appalachian trail in your area. These hikes range from easy to strenuous, but most can be completed in a day or two.
Whether you’re going on the full six month trek or a shorter hiking trip, you’re definitely going to want to get the right gear. For a serious hiking trip, it’s really worth it to spend a little extra and get high-quality gear. The last thing you need is for your pack to break or your shoes to wear out partway through your hike.
Paragon Sports is a great place to go for your hiking gear. If you’re in the New York area, you can visit the Paragon Sports store at 18th and Broadway. If not, the Paragon Sports website is a convenient place to shop and they often have deals and discounts. It’s easy to get things like your first aid kit, map, compass, high-energy snacks, sunglasses, flashlight, socks (SmartWool is a great choice!), sleeping bag, tent or tarp, water filter, and other gear that doesn’t need to be fitted online.
There’s a helpful list of the kinds of things you should bring on a long or short Appalachian Trail hike here. It’s also a good idea to talk to experienced hikers and get their advice for what you should carry along.
For items like hiking boots and packs, however, it’s best if you go to a brick-and-mortar store and try on what you’re going to buy so you can be sure it fits. Your local outdoor goods store should have an expert who can fit you for boots and packs.
You should also try on the clothing you’re going to bring and be sure you have a good fit. Packing lots of thin layers instead of just one big coat is the best idea. Synthetic fabrics are best, because they won’t stay wet from your sweat and make you cold. The weather is variable along the Appalachian Trail, so make sure you have layers for cold weather and waterproof gear for rain.
Probably the most important thing you should bring is your inspiration! Your training and preparation get you part of the way, but inspiration will take you all the way to through the end.
For more information, tips, and recommendations about hiking the Appalachian Trail, check out these resources: