10 Tips for Hiking the Appalachian Trail for Beginners

Are you thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but do not know where to start? You have come to the right place because here we are going to show you how, why, and even when you start on your journey through the woods.

There are almost three million visitors a year to this famous trail on the east coast, but only three thousand of them attempt to finish the whole thing. And soon, you will be out there with all the Appalachian trail hikers too.

After you finish this list of Appalachian trail hiking tips you will be ready to hike the ground running. The trail is open all year long but most people prefer to hike during the late spring or early fall when the morning air is crisp and there is still plenty of daylight. The best Appalachian trail advice is to start planning now so you will be ready to go when the time is right.

How to hike appalachian trail

How Many States Does the Appalachian Trail Cover?

The Appalachian trail hike covers fourteen states. It starts or ends in Springer Mountain, Georgia, runs to Katahdin, Maine, and is roughly 2,200 miles long. Virginia has the biggest section of the trail it takes up almost one-quarter of the whole hike.

There is a term that many of the people hiking on the Appalachian trail call the “Virginia Blues” because it feels like you are walking through VA forever. West Virginia is the smallest with just four miles and the rest of the states are about equal.

How Long Does it take to Through Hike the Appalachian Trail? 

The time it takes to complete the Appalachian trail for beginners is different than for more experienced hikers. The average time it takes to complete this trail would be about five to six months to walk almost five million steps through the entire trail.

Of course, the time varies with speed and breaks and the world record is 47 days, which is insanely fast. But the best thing to remember is it take it at a pace you are comfortable with and not overdo yourself.

How to hike appalachian trail

Can a Beginner Hike the Appalachian Trail? 

Yes! And this is a perfect beginner’s guide to hiking the Appalachian trail for you to plan out your first trip. Although most of the trail is up and down mountains beginners can finish the trail.

All you need is a good plan, a good pair of shoes, and a bit of hope. And maybe some gear too. The rewarding views that you will never forget it why so many people come back time and time again to enjoy hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Is Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hard?

Yes! There is no need to lie to you, the Appalachian trail hike is very hard. Almost the whole time you will be scaling up and down the mountainside. The upside is that the views you will gain will last you a lifetime and are so worth it.

The hardest section of backpacking the Appalachian trail is Mount Madison in New Hampshire. Many people who have finished hiking the Appalachian trail say it is just as tough on your mind as it is on your body. So if you have the willpower that is half the battle in itself.

How to hike appalachian trail
editorial credit: Andrew Repp/ shutterstock.com

How Much Money do you Need to Hike the Appalachian Trail?

You will need anywhere from 5-7 thousand dollars to finish the Appalachian trail hike. You can easily spend more or less deepening on your comfort level and how well you budget throughout. This number includes absolutely everything you would need on your journey.

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Including gear, food, Appalachian trail shelters, and an emergency fund for the unexpected expenses that always happen. The biggest expenses are going to be your food and shelter. If you want to spend less money you are going to need to practice a bit of self-control and maybe tough it out from time to time would be the best Appalachian trail advice to remember.

You Can Section Hike the Appalachian Trail!

Section hiking the Appalachian trail is very popular and many people hike it all year long. If you do not have six months to put your life on hold the best way to explore the trail would be with a section hike. You can pick a spot and spend a few days, hours, or days hiking or backpacking the Appalachian trail at your own pace.

Although this option is not as social or life-changing as a thorough hike it is still a wonderful way to see the best spots. There are plenty of hikes throughout all 14 states for Appalachian trail hikers to spend a few days out in nature. Starting with a section would also be a great way for the Appalachian trail for beginners to learn a bit about how many miles they can comfortably cover in one day.

If you are thinking about heading out in Georgia Springer mountain is a popular choice and it runs to North Carolina. This hike will take you about 8 days and is 75 miles long. If want to learn how to hike the Appalachian Anthony’s Nose in NY is the lowest point and is a short one-day trip.

If you are looking for a 3-day trip hiking the Appalachian trail you should give Nantahala Mountains in North Carolina a shot. It is 29 miles and people usually split it up to ten miles a day. Taking a few short trips is a great way to learn about hiking the Appalachian Trail if you thinking of doing the whole thing one day.

How to hike appalachian trail

10 Tips For Hiking The Appalachian Trail As a Beginner

Plot Out and Research AT Shelters

Did you know that there are over 250 Appalachian trail shelters throughout the whole trail and they are all first come first serve? They are a great place to seek shelter during the rain, but they do fill up fast. They are spaced about 8 miles apart in most sections, but in the more populated areas, they can be as far as 30 miles apart.

Be sure to plan ahead in those areas if you do not plan on setting up a camp. Most are free but there are some, mainly in New England, that have a small cover charge so someone can take care of the site. There are a few basic etiquettes to know before you go.

The most important ones are to keep your space neat and clean so other hikers have space, no tents inside the shelters, eat outside if possible, and enjoy your music with headphones. Staying at one of the Appalachian trail shelters is also one of the best places to meet fellow campers and have some social time. Most of the cabins have fresh water sources as well. Which will help keep your daily budget down.

Plan your Food Stops in Advance

One of your biggest expenses throughout your trip is going to be food. One of the biggest hiking tips for the Appalachian trail is to plan when and where you are going to stop for snacks and meals. Planning out how much food you can fit in your bag at one time is super helpful too because you do not want to overweight yourself.

Knowing that you only have a few more miles or hours before you stop for lunch can be a big motivator to keep you going. Finding small and cheap spots in towns you will be passing through is always a wonderful to save money. Coming up with meal plans before you leave is always a good idea.

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Whatever you like to eat at home, someone somewhere has figured out a way to make it trail accessible. You will be able to find man and cheese, so many different vegan options, noodles, and freeze-dried meals. You will want to focus on food that is easy to prepare and full of protein, this is what will get you through your days hiking the Appalachian Trail.

How to hike appalachian trail

Prepare Your Body by Working Out

One of the most important Appalachian trail hiking tips is to prepare your body by working out. The best things to focus on are cardio, balance, strength, and getting enough sleep. You can mix up the cardio by cycling, swimming, or running. Make sure to get your legs strong and healthy by doing squats, lunges, and even some weight training will help.

Another way to get ready to start hiking the Appalachian trail is by taking shorter hikes during your downtime. This will help you get your endurance and new hiking shoes are broken in. Start at least a few months before you plan on hiking the Appalachian.

Another important part of preparing for your trip is to get your mind ready. A positive attitude is one of the most important things that Appalachian trail hikers can maintain throughout the journey. You are going to run or hike into a few problems and difficulties along the trail and keeping a strong body and mind is going to help you complete your journey.

Budget For your Trip

Most hikers spend about 1,000 dollars a month while out on the trail. And unfortunately, some people have to quit earlier than they intended to because they run out of cash. It is best to budget for your trip and then add in even a little extra for surprises and for times you want to indulge.

You may want to plan to stay only one night in a real bed. But, then the time comes and you are in the Appalachian mountains hiking and you want a comfy place to sleep that is when the extra money you accounted for comes in handy.

There are also extra expenses that you will never see coming, like new boots, or sometimes people even purchase a brand new bag to complete their journey. A base start of 1,000 a month would be a great place to start, but just know that you may need more one month and less another.

How to hike appalachian trail

Practice with Your Gear at Home 

This would be a complete Appalachian trail hiking guide without telling you to practice with your gear at home. To know how to hike the Appalachian you are going to need to know your gear like the back of your hand. You don’t want to be ready to set up camp and be fumbling around with your tent for the first time.

Or how frustrating would it be to be so thirsty but you cannot figure out how to use your water purifier? And one of the most important Appalachian trail hiking tips is to make sure your boots are worn in. You do not want to have to fight blisters on top of everything else there are more important things to worry about.

Keep a Realistic Speed Goal and Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

This next tip for hiking the Appalachian trail is that everyone has a different pace and you need to keep a realistic pace. It is always a good idea to try and figure out how many miles you can comfortably do before you set an exact number. And you will have to keep the terrain in mind as well.

But the most important thing about setting a speed goal is that you want to still enjoy your time spend and take in the surroundings. If you don’t meet a goal one day do not be too hard on yourself because you are just setting yourself up for a bad day the next day as well.

Most people can average about 14-20 miles a day for their Appalachian trail hike. But you must remember to make a plan and then pivot until you find something that works best for you and your tribe. This is a time to remember not to be stressed out.

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How to hike appalachian trail

Go It Alone or Pick Your Partner Carefully

It is important to pick your partner carefully when you are thinking of spending the next six months in the woods with them. You need to make sure that you have already spent ample time with your party and that you get along with them. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the woods with someone you do not get along with and you have thousands of miles left to go.

One of the hardest things to do when trying to go on a trip is to get everyone bored. If this sounds like something you are used to, then go alone. One of the most empowering things to do is travel alone. You will learn so much about yourself and you will never have to ask anyone what they want to do next. You will love the experience and never forget your time spend hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Respect Wildlife

You have to remember that while you are hiking the Appalachian trail you are in the animal’s natural habitat. Black bears are very common along the trail and especially at the shelters. They will typically not approach you and keep their distance.

Store your food in bear protective heights of at least 12 feet above the ground and in some places you may need to invest in bear canisters. Other than black bears you will also come across cute white-tail deer, and plenty of other creatures. But never interact with any animal and keep your distance.

How to hike appalachian trail

Leave No Trace

This is a big one when you are out enjoying any type of hike or outdoor activity. Leaving no trace is a no-brainer but it may be harder than you think. Even the smallest amount of food left behind in one of the Appalachian trail shelters can attract mice and other rodents.

When you clean up your campsite and leftover trash, or even food, you will have to pack it up and bring it out with you. Some helpful Appalachian trail advice for leaving no trace includes: bringing reusable bags to store your food, bringing a small shovel to bury your human waste, staying on the trail to reduce erosion, try traveling in groups of less than 10, and if you are a smoker never liter your cigarettes.

You will have to be mindful every day to leave no trace but you owe it to the volunteers and future generations that want to enjoy the beauty of the Appalachian.

Embrace the Community

The through Appalachian trail hikers have coined the phrase that they are “a community in the wilderness”. One unwritten rule is that you have to have a trail name, and it is usually given to you by someone else. You will encounter plenty of different types of people on the trail.

There are a group of hikers called the white blazer, who are dedicated to walking each and every step on the trail. You will run into blue blazers who like to take shortcuts and even everyday people who are just out for a stroll. There are plenty of other “groups” that have been assigned but it is all in good fun.

But the group you will love the most is called the Trail angles. These are a group of people who show up and do nice things for the thru-hikers. You will find coolers along the way full of cold drinks, pop-up bbq that are free to join, and people who will take hitchhikers into town to refill their supplies. A lot of people come back to pay it back and be trail angels themselves. You will most likely meet live-time friends along your Appalachian trail hike and will have the best time of your life.

How to hike appalachian trail


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