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Appalachian Trail in Maine, view of autumn leaves and mountains

How Long Does it Take to Hike the Appalachian Trail?

Appalachian Trail in Maine, view of autumn leaves and mountains

How long does it take to hike the Appalachian Trail?

The standard answer is five or six months.

It can certainly be hiked in more time or less. My hike ended up taking six and a half months.

Factors That Can Impact the Time it Takes to Complete a Thru-Hike

  • Athletic ability.  It does take a while for your body to adjust to hiking.  Some people do training hikes ahead of time and spend the winter working out in preparation. Other hikers don’t do those things. Some people are just naturally athletic and fast, while some of us have to try extra hard to be good at athletic endeavors. While training is within your control, natural ability is outside of it.
  • Daily mileage.  Some hikers like to wake up with the sun, hike until it’s dark, and take very few breaks.  Other hikers like to enjoy the views, take long lunch breaks, and have a pleasant time.  Your daily mileage will depend upon your hiking style and how much you prioritize putting in the miles.
  • Zero days.  Every now and then, you might want to take a day off from hiking.  Zero days are awesome, but they do add time to your hike.  I took about 45 zero days during my hike, so that added a considerable about of time to my hike. You body demands days off, but sometimes you just want to do it for fun.
  • Your trail family. Most hikers fall in with a group of other hikers. Trail families all have different hiking goals. Some groups get really into hiking big days together and competing with each other. Some groups drink a lot of beer and take zero days often.
  • Focus.  If your super goal oriented, you might want to hike big miles and take few zero days.  Or you might just want to meander along and enjoy yourself. It’s perfectly fine to do either. Just be aware of how day to day actions impact your overall goal.
  • Level of fun.  If you find that you absolutely love the trail, you’ve made awesome friends, and you don’t have anything particularly compelling you need to get home to do; it may take you a while to finish your hike.

You won’t know what the trail is going to be like for you until you’re actually on it.  My advice is to start early, so you have plenty of time to finish no matter what hiking style you adopt.

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