Part of the draw of adventure travel is the chance to see the globe while enjoying an active vacation. Here you have our first recomendation: Go hiking the Appalachian Trail.
- Location: USA, including Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
- Adventure level: Medium.
- Time requirements: Six-months to complete the entire hike or shorter pockets of time for smaller sections.
The longest hiking-only path in the world, the Appalachian Trail is the ultimate bucket list trek. Totalling 2,190-miles (3,524km) and traversing fourteen different states, this hike follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, with most attempting the trek northward, starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia and finishing at Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Hikers should be under no illusions: this challenging path weaves through deep valleys and over mountain passes (the highest is Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at an altitude of 6,643-ft. (2,024m)), gaining and losing elevation along the way, meaning it’s by no means a walk in the park.
But those who traverse even a short section of the Appalachian Trail are rewarded with sublime landscapes that vary from hardwood forests of oak and tulip trees to maples and birches and subalpine forests. You can expect to see animals such as elk, deer and moose, while the skies and boughs of the trees are often filled with various species of hawk and owl.
Of the three million people who hike at least a section of the Appalachian Trail each year, only around 2,700 attempt the whole route – and only roughly 500 are successful. These “thru-hikers” generally spend six-months trekking, but there are plenty of places where you can join the trail for a day or a couple of days, becoming instead a “section hiker”.
- Day and multi-day trails pass through the rugged but spectacular Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia.
- The 70-mile stretch through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee) is another recommended section that can be hiked over the period of a week.
- There are over 250 shelters located along the trail, which provide accommodation for hikers. Bear in mind that during peak months such as March and April at the typical starting point, Springer Mountains in Georgia, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find a space in a shelter. Bring a lightweight tent to make sure there’s always a place for you to stay.
- Invest in lightweight hiking gear. One of the biggest issues that people face on the trail is carrying too much weight.
- Pack enough supplies for your trip, if only hiking a few days. However, if you’re planning to be on the trail for longer, consider organizing to get food supplied sent to designated points along the route.
- Hiking the Appalachian Trail is no mean feat and it pays to get in shape before you begin. Embark upon some multi-day hikes along uneven terrain for good experience.