What goes through 14 states, (approximately) 2,184 miles, and almost every climate and ecosystem America has to offer? The jaw-dropping Appalachian National Scenic Trail – known as the Appalachian Trail, or just the AT. It’s taken partway or end to end by over 3,000,000 hikers each year, and along with the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, it’s one third of the Triple Crown of US long distance hiking.
Where – and Which Way?
The trail runs from south to north, from Georgia up to Maine. If you’re on a roll, you can even continue into Canada to the Atlantic – a jaunt known as the International Appalachian Trail.
You can reverse the order too, going from Maine to Georgia. This has an impact on the weather and conditions you can expect: heat is more extreme in the south, cold in the north. If you’re starting in the winter or spring, go from Georgia north. But later in the year or autumn, starting in Maine while it’s warm will get you to Georgia as it cools.
Not a Walk in the Park…
Aside from the physical challenge of walking a dozen or more miles a day for several months – and they are considerable – the main issue you’ll face will be the equipment you’ll need to carry with you at all times. This can run to over twenty pounds. As with any trip to the USA, travel insuranceis a must, doubly so when you rely so heavily on what you carry. Prepare physically with cardio and strength training, but if possible, take on some smaller local trails to test yourself and your gear.
Take in the Sights, and Beware the Bears
The camaraderie of those you’ll meet on the road is a highlight for many people... but not all of them are human. The trail is home to deer, snakes, raccoons and countless birds, and to large numbers of black bear, which are usually shy and avoid humans – but they will inspect your campsite at night. Keep food in a bear canister and hang it from a tree.
Some more things you shouldn’t miss:
- The highest point is Clingman’s Dome, in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, up to 6,625ft. The views can be incredible up here.
- It’s possible if you plan carefully to do the whole AT without a tent. The whole length is catered for by over 250 huts – but they vary from 8 to 30 miles apart. More than adequate if you need them.
- For a full list of what not to miss, see here: https://appalachiantrail.com/at-attractions/famous/.
- Another guide worth following is Bill Bryson’s hilarious, heartwarming A Walk in the Woods – worth a pound weight in your bag, even more so as an ebook.
Preparing for the Trail – What You Need:
“The big four”:
- Good quality backpack
- Sleeping bag or quilt
- Shelter (hammock, tent or bivouac)
- Sleeping pad
- Lightweight shoes or boots
- Waterproof clothes
- Good USA travel insurancethat covers what you need it to
Nice to haves:
- A light foldaway camping stool
- A French press coffee maker – for a little help warming you up in the morning.
Ethan Bailey is an experienced adventure traveller and insurance expert with the team at Let's Go Insure. Ethan’s passion is to inspire his clients to go just that little bit further, deeper and higher on their travels and his expertise in providing the ideal insurance cover allows them to do just that. If you're looking for the best USA travel insurance Let's Go works with the most experienced underwriters, intermediaries and insurers to offer a range of competitive insurance without compromising on cover.