Appalachian Trail Length: How Long Does It Take to Hike The Appalachian Trail?

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: June 2, 2022
Image Credit EWY Media/Shutterstock.com
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Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast or just curious, you may have found yourself wondering about the Appalachian Trail length. This is especially true in today’s society, where it seems like more people than ever are attempting this challenge.

However, despite many people knowing about the Appalachian Trail (a-puh-lay-shn), they may not know the specifics of the trail. If you’re interested in learning just how long it takes to hike the Appalachian Trail, keep reading!

What is the Appalachian Trail?

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail spans 14 states on the east coast of the United States.

drewthehobbit/Shutterstock.com

The Appalachian Trail is just one of many names for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Spanning fourteen states on the east coast of the United States, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is thought to be the longest hiking-only trail in the world.

The Appalachian Trail isn’t the oldest or the overall longest trail in the world, however. It’s not even either of these in the United States alone. Yet, it’s still regarded as one of the most popular. Many attribute this to the fact that the Appalachian Trail is relatively user-friendly. Statistics from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy show that over 3 million people visit the Appalachian Trail each year. That’s almost the same as if the entire population of cities like Los Angeles or Chicago visited the trail each year.

Of the annual 3 million visitors, there are some that attempt the grandest quest of them all: to hike a “thru-hike.” A thru-hike requires going from end to end, thus traveling all 2,190 miles that comprise the Appalachian Trail length. However, in order to do this, it’s important to know where the Appalachian Trail begins and where it ends.

Where Does the Appalachian Trail Begin?

Old Black
The Appalachian Trail begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia.

Brian Stansberry / Creative Commons – License

While there is no set way to hike the trail – meaning you can go north to south or south to north – many people prefer to start in the south. Whether you begin in the north or south, you’ll find that this entry to the Appalachian Trail lies in Springer Moutain, Georgia. 

Springer Mountain is a Blue Ridge Mountain located in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. This mountain stands at around 3,782 feet tall, and it’s a popular hiking spot. It’s a little over an hour and a half away from the state’s capital, Atlanta, and around two hours from Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Beginning on this path, you’ll make your way northeast through North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire before landing in your final state. 

Where Does It End?

The other point of the Appalachian Trail lies in Maine. Mount Katahdin, to be exact.

Also known as the Great Mountain, Mount Katahdin is the largest mountain in the United States. It currently measures 5,269 ft. Mount Katahdin is around three hours north of Augusta, Maine, the capital, and is only a short drive away from the American-Canadian border. 

How Long Does a Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail Take?

Appalachian Trail in Vermont
A thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail takes about six months to complete.

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If you’re looking for a tour of the east coast, the Appalachian Trail definitely offers a unique experience. From beginning to end, a thru-hike of this national natural beauty will take you through 14 states, as well as eight national forests and six national parks

However, a hike like this isn’t without time. For the average hiker, it can take around six months to complete the Appalachian Trail. This number tends to vary slightly based on a variety of factors, including weather and the hiker’s skill.

However, hiking isn’t the only activity that makes up this incredible 6-month adventure into the eastern American wilderness. It’s also important to consider the amount of time it takes to prepare for a hike like this. Not only do you have to make sure that you’re fit enough to handle a 6-month hike without placing too much strain on your body, but you’ll need to plan your meals, clothes, and what to do in the case of an emergency. There’s also time spent in the nearby times to restock on supplies.

While it may take the average hiker about half a year to complete the journey that is the Appalachian Trail, some people have completed it in just a little under two months. There are also world records. 

Appalachian Trail World Record

Many people attempt the Appalachian Trail as a way to complete something within themselves. For some, this is a way to start fresh and accomplish something that, for many, may not be achievable. For others, this over two thousand mile trail can be a spiritual journey of sorts. The Appalachian Trail’s length and difficulty are also challenges to beat.

There has been no shortage of record attempts and even wins. In fact, Scott Jurek first completed the hike with a record of 46 days. However, it was beaten three times in the same amount of years. The latest record holder is Karrel Sabbe, a dentist from Belgian. He completed the thru-hike in 41 days, nearly a week faster than Jurek, in 2018.

In 2021, Scott Jurek returned to reclaim his record on the Appalachian Trail. However, because of an injury, he was forced to retire from his journey not too long after he started.

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