A picture of Long Creek Falls taken near the Appalachian Trail in the north Georgia mountains.

Highlights of the Appalachian Trail in Each of the 14 States

The Appalachian Trail traverses 14 states in the U.S. through its nearly 2,190-mile (about 3520 km) length from Georgia to Maine. From the Springer Mountains in Georgia, this scenic trail advances northward through well preserved wilderness areas until it finally terminates at Mount Katahdin in Maine. Here are some of the highlights from each of the 14 states that are included on the Appalachian Scenic Trail.

1. Georgia
Georgia is the official southern end of the A.T. and it contains about 79 miles located in the forests of North Georgia. The mountains here range from easy to climb to tough and challenging, with the highest peak at about 4,458 feet (1,359 metres) on the Blood Mountains. In Georgia, you will enjoy southern hospitality when you arrive to begin your hike. As much as possible, avoid starting your hike during winter in March or early spring in April because of the cold weather and the overcrowding caused by spring breakers and thru-hikers.

2. North Carolina
North Carolina has 95.7 miles of the A.T. within the state plus 224.7 miles along the Tennessee, North Carolina border. As you hike further north, you will walk at altitudes ranging from 1,725 to 5,498 feet and come up to peaks like the Standing Indian Mountain and Wayah Bald. Other major highlights are the Wesser Falls and the Fontana Dam Shelter that gives you a beautiful view of the Fontana Lake. Water is abundant here, so you can enjoy using toilets with water systems, hot showers and sleep in relatively spacious shelters.

3. Tennessee
Tennessee has over 94 miles of the A.T., and an additional 160 miles along the TN/NC border. In Tennessee, hikers trek on the highest mountains on the A.T. with the highest point located on the Smoky Mountains at a height of 6,625 feet. Advance permits are required for hikers who want to pass through the National Park and you must lodge at designated sites. Some of the summits you will encounter here include the Thunderhead Mountain, Mount Chapman, Mount Guyot, Mount Cammerer and Snowbird Mountain.

4. Virginia
Virginia has about 554 miles which is about a quarter of the entire A.T. Most northbound thru-hikers get here when there is heavy spring rain and find the wet terrain quite challenging. A large section of the trail in Virginia runs parallel to the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. A.T. in Virginia is a great place for first-time hikers to start because more than 100 miles of the trail is well maintained by the volunteers in Virginia trail clubs in this state and it does not go beyond an altitude of 1000 feet. A major highlight in this state is the “Trail Days” festival – the largest annual gathering of A.T. hikers that takes place in Damascus.

5. West Virginia
West Virginia has just 4 miles of the A.T. although hikers could still walk on for 20 miles on the Virginia border. Many hikers consider Harpers Ferry in West Virginia to be the psychological centre of the trail, partly because it is home to the ATC headquarters located in Harpers Ferry. This historic town is the site of several battles in the American Civil War, which can be found in the National Historical Park, but it has no camping sites.

6. Maryland
Maryland contains close to 41 miles of the A.T. and requires you to walk on an elevation that ranges from 230 to 1,880 feet along the South Mountain. You are not permitted to camp off the trail so you will have to share space with other hikers at designated shelters. One of the highlights of hiking here is the Maryland Challenge that requires you hike the entire length of the trail in Maryland from dawn to dusk. For more experienced hikers, they can take the four state challenge that will requires them to walk from Virginia through West Virginia and Maryland to Pennsylvania in 24 hours. Other highlights in Maryland include the Dahlgren Campground and the Pen Mar Park.

7. Pennsylvania
You can walk for about 230 miles in Pennsylvania from the border with Maryland to Delaware Water Gap on the border with New Jersey. The journey in Pennsylvania is divided into two by the Susquehanna river. You can cross this river with the Clarks Ferry Bridge. While hiking in the southern part before crossing the river, you will pass through the Caledonia State Park and the Pine Grove Furnace park, which is the mid point of the A.T. After you cross over to the northern part of the Pennsylvanian hike, you will pass through coal mining towns like Yellow Springs and other trail towns like Delaware Water Gap and Boiling Springs as well as the Blue Mountains.

8. New Jersey
Over 72 miles of the A.T. pass through New Jersey. The trail comes into New Jersey through the Delaware water Gap bridge over the river and exits into New York at the Greenwood Lake. You have a chance to see major landmarks like the Worthington State Forest, Sunfish Pond, Stokes Forest and the High Point Park, which is the highest peak in the state at 1,685 feet. Over 50 percent of the trail passes on top of the Kittatinny Ridge. Hiking in New Jersey is quite easy for beginners due to the flat and gentle path. Note that black bears have increased in number in New Jersey so you need to take precautions when camping here.

9. New York
The 88-mile stretch of the A.T. in New York begins at the south near Greenwood Lake and moves into Connecticut at Pawling Nature Reserve. With the lowest point at Bear Mountain (at 124 feet) and the highest point at the Prospect Rock (1433 feet), the trail in New York is quite easy to hike for beginners. It has a few areas with rugged terrain and small cliffs but you will also see some spectacular scenes like the Lemon Squeezer, a very narrow crack that stands in between two big boulders. The oldest section of the A.T. completed in 1923 lies between Harriman State Park and the Bear Mountain. Just like New Jersey, Wildlife activity has increased along the trail in New York.

10. Connecticut
Connecticut’s 52-mile A.T. trail is located along ridges that are strung on top of the valley of the Housatonic River. Hikers usually pass what is known as the Taconic Range, which consists of the Lions Head, Bear Mountain and Riga Ridge. The trail in Connecticut is close to Salisbury and Kent, where thru-hikers usually go to replenish their supplies. The highest point of the trail is 2,326 feet at the peak of the Bear Mountain.

11. Massachusetts
Massachusetts has just 91 miles of the A.T. and it is located in the western part of the state. Hiking here involves traversing mountains including Mount Everett at 2,602 feet and the highest point Mount Greylock at 3,491 feet. On Mt. Greylock, you can see the entire Berkshire landscape for a distance of up to 90 miles.

12. Vermont
The A.T. runs for 150 miles in Vermont. At the southern entry point, the trail runs parallel to the Long Trail. A large section of the trail can be found in the Green Mountains, which has dense green forests. For about 45 miles, you can enjoy autumn foliage at a relatively low elevation. The woods offer an excellent place to enjoy solitude. Notable peaks on the Green Mountains include Killington Peak, and Glastenbury Mountain.

13. New Hampshire
New Hampshire has 161 miles of the A.T. and most of the trail runs through the White Mountain Forest. In the south, the trail is easier to hike until it ascends Mount Moosilauke and runs on the high peaks of the White Mountain range. New Hampshire has the toughest part of the trail with rough steep grounds and alpine conditions. When you hike on this challenging section, you will walk above tree level traversing at least 48 summits that have an altitude of over 4,000 feet on what is known as the White Mountain Presidential Range.

14. Maine
Maine is home to 282 miles of the A.T. and the end of the trail at Mount Katahdin. The terrain here is particularly difficult to navigate with the long stretches of rocky ground and boulders that will wear out the feet and shoes of any hiker. The last portion of the trail is part of the Baxter State Park and it includes the most isolated stretch known as the 100-mile wilderness.

Conclusion
These highlights are listed in the order in which a north bound hiker will encounter them. Fortunately, the A.T. can be hiked and enjoyed in a south bound or north bound direction. However, it is important to pay attention to the weather conditions in each state and plan to arrive at each state when the weather is most conducive for hiking.

White Blaze on the Appalachian Trail Horizontal with blurry forest behind

How to Hike Safely on the Appalachian Trail

Hiking is an interesting and exciting adventure. But carrying a relatively heavy backpack for hours while you walk up rugged terrain in the wilderness, requires you to learn how to stay safe during a hike. Here is a brief guide with safety tips that will help both experienced hikers and beginners who are hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Hike in Groups
As much as possible, avoid hiking alone. During hiking and any other form of outdoor activity, you should travel with a group and remain close to other hikers in the group. If you are hiking alone for any reason, connect with a group of hikers that you feel comfortable with. Be wary of telling strangers your plans and avoid people who act strangely or are intoxicated.

Give Your Hiking Plans to Someone
Let a close friend or relative know about your hiking plans and tell them when you will return. Tell your contact person the trail name you use. Give them the phone number of the agency that is managing the park or area for a short hike. For a longer hike, make sure you check in regularly with your folks at home.

Take a Map and Stay on Marked Trails
Walk on the marked trails and avoid veering off into the bush. On the Appalachian Trail, there are trail blazes on trees and landmarks on the ground to guide you. Pay close attention to them so that you can reduce your chances of getting lost. During an emergency, a map will make it easier for you to describe surrounding landmarks and give details about your location so rescue workers and law enforcement agents can easily find you.

Avoid Bad Weather
Hiking exposes you to environmental risks. Weather changes may occur suddenly as you move from one state to another and it may be difficult to find shelter. Discern the condition of the skies and bear in mind that sudden spells of hail and snow can happen on the trail. Make sure you take adequate rain gear so you can prevent hypothermia if rain starts suddenly. On the other hand, you should be prepared for the hot weather in Virginia during summer.

Stay Hydrated
In hot weather, dehydration can occur quickly as you lose water rapidly through sweating. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated during the day. Don’t be too ambitious on a hot summer day. Check the weather forecasts before you set out. Start your hike very early in the day when the temperature could be at least 20 degrees cooler than the afternoon.

Dress in Layers
Dress in layers and don’t wear cotton. Wear synthetic fabrics that are breathable; they will eliminate moisture and heat quickly. Cotton clothing like jeans, jackets and pants will make you feel cold due to rain or sweat, and this could lead to hypothermia. Natural wool and nylon fabrics provide better insulation. Remember that dressing in layers will allow you to take off your clothing easily when you feel hot and add more clothing when you need more warmth.

Use Trail Registers
At each designated shelter on the A.T., there are notebooks called trail registers. Sign in with a trail name that does not give details about gender and other personal information. If a major crime occurs, local authorities always check the trail registers first. Let your contact at home know the trail name you are using. You can also report any strange occurrence or suspicious behaviour in the registers.

Know the Limitations of Cell Phones
Cell phones are great for communicating with loved ones, monitoring weather forecasts, and checking online maps while hiking. But most of the trail passes through the wilderness, and you may hike for miles without any network signals. Bear in mind that your cell phone battery may also run down before you get to a place where you can charge it. So take a physical map with you and don’t depend on your cell phone. Also, you should take a whistle along with you and learn how to use it to provide a signal to other hikers when you are in distress.

Protect Yourself from Animal Attacks
You will come across various kinds of wildlife including bears, venomous and non-venomous snakes, ticks, spiders and mosquitoes. Bears are becoming increasingly common in Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To prevent unnecessary bear encounters, you should store your food and food waste properly. Hang food items and cooking utensils or use bear canisters when available. Never feed bears or leave food for them. If you sight a bear coming to where you are staying or cooking, make loud noises, blow your whistle, throw rocks and do all you can to fight it.

Other animals like snakes will seldom attack you first. Just ensure that don’t step on them. Snakes can be active at night in hot weather so always use a flashlight. Sometimes you may pick up ticks with your footwear or clothing while walking in the woods. So you should always check for ticks before you check into a camp site or shelter at night.

Conclusion
If you apply these basic safety tips, you should be able to stay safe and protect yourself from strangers, harsh weather, wildlife attacks and other risks you may encounter during hiking.

Harpers Ferry, United States - May 19, 2016:  Appalachian Trail Conservancy Sign in historic Harpers Ferry

The Importance of Conservation on the Trail

The Appalachian Trail hosts the largest number of hikers in the U.S. every year. This means that the natural environment must be carefully preserved by all hikers so that it can retain the features that deliver a spectacular outdoor experience for everyone. Trail conservation will be sustained if you adopt the following “Leave No Trace” principles each time you hike on the A.T.

Proper Planning
Take time to plan and prepare for your hike so you can minimize your impact on the natural resources on the trail. Study the camping regulations for different parts of the trail. Limit your hiking group to a maximum of 10 members and plan for your own temporary tent and shelters. Take along a trowel for digging holes to burying waste. Bring a rope of 50 feet or more to hang food and scented items from bears and prepare adequately for harsh weather conditions and adopt strategies that will prevent emergencies. This will help to reduce the impact of rescues and searches. You should also avoid the most crowded periods such as March 1st, 15th, or April 1st when thru-hikers begin their journey in Georgia and head towards Maine.

Durable Surfaces for Camping
When hikers trample on vegetation, the land could become bare and lead to soil erosion and an unattractive trail. So it is vital to reduce resource damage by using only existing trails and designated campsites. Use durable surfaces like grass or rocks when you want to take breaks. Walk in the middle of the trail to prevent unnecessary expansion of the existing trail. Take tree branches off the trail instead of bypassing them and creating a new trail.

Efficient Waste Disposal
Do your best to carry out all the litter, food leftovers and trash you create at your campsite. Bring along resealable bags to collect your trash and take it home or dispose of it at a designated location. You should also maintain good sanitation by disposing of wastewater and human waste properly. Use only biodegradable soap and dispose of your dish washing waste water at a distance of 200 feet or more from natural water sources. Use a trowel to dig 8-inch catholes at about 200 feet from from the trails to dispose of human feces.

No Alterations
It is important to leave the plants, natural objects, and artifacts exactly where you find them so other hikers can enjoy them. Allow others to enjoy a true sense of discovery. Avoid digging trenches around your tents. Use only dead wood that is larger than your wrist to make campfires. Leave all the live trees or plants and ensure that you use rubber tips on your trekking poles so they don’t damage the trail. As much as possible check your pants and shoes for non-native seeds so you do not transfer them to a new region.

Environmentally-friendly Campfire
Prevent further degradation of campsites and shelter areas by reducing the use of firewood. Instead, use lightweight camp stoves that create faster fires and don’t require firewood. In place of lighting a campfire every night, use a candle lantern. You should also avoid creating campfires at high elevations or in places where the supply of wood has already being depleted significantly. If you must make a fire, use wood that is truly dead – it will be easy to break with your hands. Burn the wood completely and take away all leftover wood and food.

Preservation of Wildlife
Animals can get upset by loud noises and rapid movements. Keep a distance from wildlife so you don’t alter their behaviour. Avoid following or approaching animals. The population of bears is on the increase at various sections of the trail. Some hikers give bears food and this has made some of them to link humans with food. Also, avoid leaving food droppings in your shelters because they attract mice that will become a menace to other hikers. Make sure you hang up your food and other scented items like toothpaste in a place where bears will not be able to reach them.

Consideration for Other Hikers
Respect other campers and hikers and ensure that they also enjoy their solitude. Keep noise down and don’t bring music players, radios and pets. Let the sounds of nature be heard by other campers. Turn off alarms and don’t use cell phones in a way that will disturb others. If you are hiking with a dog, ask for permission from other hikers before taking it into a shelter. Bury the dog’s waste just like you do to your waste.

Conclusion
Make sure you practice the “Leave No Trace” principle anytime you are hiking on the trail. Remember that it is our collective responsibility to conserve the trail and its surroundings for our present and future generation of hikers.

An elk buck rules over the land at Cataloochee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What Flora and Fauna Will You Encounter on the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Mountain range is home to thousands of species of plants and animals. A few of them could be harmful so you need to know how to act if you come in close contact with them. The most effective method of dealing with wild animals is to keep a safe distance and observe them from afar. Here are some tips for dealing with some of the most common wild animals and plants on the Appalachian Trail.

Black Bears
Black bears live in different parts of the Appalachian Trail. You will sight bears often in Northern Georgia, on the Shenandoah, in the Great Smoky Mountains, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Although bears usually move away when they hear footsteps, audible sounds, or noise, getting very close to bears may startle them and cause them to react aggressively.

Basically, you will encounter bears in two main situations: on the trail and in your campsite or shelter. While walking in areas where bears are frequently found, be vigilant so that you can spot any bears long before you walk close to them. Whistle, talk, or make some noise to announce your presence and give the bear sufficient time to move away. If you are getter closer and the bear refuses to move away, you should avoid eye contact, and back off while speaking firmly. Don’t run or act as if you are dead.

In the camp, the best way to avoid frequent visits by bears is by storing your food out of their reach and by cooking at a safe distance from your shelter. Hang food items, utensils and scented items in food bags using poles, cable systems, or bear canisters. Avoid using your food bag as a pillow because bears have a strong sense of smell.

Prepare your food at least 200 feet away from your shelter or tent so that the aroma from the food does not linger and invite hungry bears at night. Never feed a bear or leave any leftovers where you cooked or in your shelter. Doing this will alter their normal behaviour and cause them to associate humans with food. Such changes have made it necessary to kill bears in the past to safeguard the lives of other hikers.

A bear may, however, come into a cooking area or campsite to satisfy its hunger by snatching away your food or feasting on your flesh. This is a rare situation. But if it happens, you should make loud noises, blow your whistle, and throw rocks at it so it can retreat on its own. If you are attacked directly by a bear, do everything you can to fight and overcome it.

Snakes
In warm weather, you will find rattle snakes, vipers and other types of snakes lying passively on rocks along the Trail to keep warm. Ordinarily, these snakes will not attack you first. But they will respond in self-defence if you step on them. Respect wildlife and take a by pass if the snake is occupying the middle of the trail. Always watch where you step and use a headlamp or flashlight if you plan to hike at night.

Snake bites are not common along the trail and many venomous snake bites do not have a harmful effect. If you are bitten by a snake, call 911 and seek medical treatment as fast as you can. Wash the bite spot with soap and water. Try to walk to a trailhead for quicker access to emergency personnel and other hikers. Avoid using a tourniquet, ice, or the cut and suck method to take out the venom.

Deer Ticks
Deer ticks are known as the tiny terrors of the A.T. They pose a greater threat than the American Black Bear. Ticks are very small (about the size of a sesame seed) and they hide on footwear, clothing and the skin. Their tiny size makes them difficult to discover.

Ticks are present all over the A.T. and they are particularly active in New England between May and September when most thru-hikers are passing through the area. Ticks bury themselves under the skin of their host and suck blood until they become engorged. Unfortunately, about half of the population of the full grown adult tick carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is an infection that causes rashes and inflammation on your skin, pains in your joints and muscles, and mild to severe fever. To prevent tick bites and eliminate the occurrence of Lyme disease, you should use chemical treatments like permethrine or DEET to ward off any deer ticks. Wear light-coloured clothes that will make it easy for you to identify ticks. Wear a long sleeve shirt tucked into full length pants, which are also tucked into socks and enclosed shoes. Since a deer tick does not have a proboscis like a mosquito, it will not be able to bite you through your clothing.

Poison Ivy
Poison ivy is a plant that grows in many parts of the Appalachian Mountains. It can cause rash, blisters and serious discomfort if you touch it. To avoid touching poison ivy, you need to able to identify it. Its leaves appear in clusters of three with one of them having a long stalk and pointed tip. If you touch poison ivy you should wash instantly with strong soap and cold water. You may use anti-itch products from a pharmacy to reduce the discomfort until the rash and blisters disappear. If the rash spreads to the eyes, consult a doctor immediately.

Conclusion
Proper planning and preparation will help you to anticipate any threat from wildlife and deal with them effectively when they occur. Remember that while hiking in the wilderness, taking preventive measures against wildlife attacks is essential since medical help may not always be readily available.

cloudscape, changing

What Ways Can You Hike the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail is about 2,190 miles of hiking-only footpath that traverses 14 U.S. states. It takes about 6 months and 5,000,000 steps to walk through the entire trail on a thru-hike. But you can enjoy the scenic trail on day hikes and multi-day hikes. The following shows you how to prepare to hike the Appalachian Trail whether you want to hike in sections or all at once.

Day Hiking

Day hiking allows you to walk on different sections of the Appalachian trail without setting up a camp to stay overnight. It is preferred by beginners and casual hikers who might be concerned about the safety of the trail at night. Day hiking allows you to take a light backpack since you don’t have to carry tents and sleeping bags. However you still need to prepare adequately because you will be walking at high altitude in the heat of the sun, so you need to prevent dehydration, eye damage and sun burn.

To prevent sun burn, apply sunscreen regularly during the walk and put on lightweight sweatshirts and long sleeved shirts. A pair of sun glasses and a billed cap will help you to reduce the effect of glare from sunlight. Take frequent breaks to have a drink from your water bottle. You should also pack a fleece sweater and a rain jacket to provide insulation. Take a first aid kit to take care of minor injuries. Some energy bars, dried fruit, nuts and sandwiches should provide sufficient nutrition while two 70 or 100 oz water bottles will give you enough hydration for the hike. Take a tiny box of wooden matches and cotton balls coated with vaseline to light a fire when necessary.

If you can easily gain access to the southern end of the A.T. in Georgia, you will have a rewarding hike and enjoy scenic views of the North Georgia forest with the following day hikes:
* Three Forks valley to the Long Creek Waterfall (1.9 miles)
* Hiking to Springer Mountain summit (2 miles)
* Climb from Tesnatee Gap to the Cowrock Mountain (2.25 miles)
* Byron Reece Trail to Blood Mountain (4.3 miles)
* Powell Mountain from Dicks Creek Gap (4.6 miles)
* Trey Mountain from Indian Grave Gap (5.25 miles)

Multi-day Hiking

Multi-day hiking (also called section hiking) is a great option for hikers who do not have the time or fitness to do a thru-hike. Most section hikes take anything from two days to several weeks. With well planned multi-day hiking, you can experience the amazing sights and splendour of the Appalachian Trail in manageable chunks and complete the 2,190-mile stretch within a few years.

Just like day hiking, you need to get a good map of the section you want to explore a few weeks ahead. Find out as much as you can about it and obtain a good estimate of the length of the section and the time it will take if you walk at a steady pace. You should know all the lodging available for hikers and their reputation. Remember that you will need to pack sleeping gear and cooking utensils with more food and a bigger safety and first aid kit.

Multi-day hikes offer you many benefits over a thru-hike. You can walk at your pace and do more sight-seeing along the Appalachian countryside. You will be able to choose the best time to enjoy every section, see the wild flowers come out in spring, and avoid very high or low temperatures. Expenses can also be managed and you don’t need to stay away from work to complete the exploration of the entire trail.

If you are planning to start exploring the AT through multi-day hikes, you should consider the following well-known short hiking routes:
* Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee (4 days)
* Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (10 days, 100 miles)
* Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania (4 days, 40 miles)
* Delaware River in New Jersey (15.9 miles, 2 days)

If you are just starting out on the A.T., it is better to start from the southern states in the spring. Avoid starting with Maine or New Hampshire because they pose a greater challenge with higher altitudes and rugged terrain, which may increase the risk of developing a knee injury.

Thru-Hiking

Thru-hiking is taking a continuous walk across the entire 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail from either Georgia or Maine to the other end without abandoning the trail for another activity. Over 14,000 hikers have successfully done a thru-hike including some people with disabilities, like the blind and amputees. However a thru-hike requires a strong body and a resolute mind to overcome the challenges of the rugged terrain, harsh weather and physical exhaustion from trekking for many miles daily.

Prior to the start of your thru-hike, do as much cross training as possible and form a regular exercise habit. Partake in some overnight training hikes on a rugged mountainous terrain so your body can get prepared for what it will be going through for six months. Practice the art of carrying a backpack. Beginning with an empty backpack, start adding weight gradually till you can easily carry all the items you will need for the entire hike.

Do a fitness test before you start your hike so you can know whether you are in peak condition or not. At the beginning, focus on an achievable goal of walking about 8 to 10 miles per day. Then increase the distance gradually until your body is accustomed to bearing the weight of a backpack for a whole day as you climb up mountains. You should give yourself many weeks to attain peak condition and also include several zero mileage days when you will not walk but simply rest and regain your strength.

Ensure that you study all the regulations that control camping along the A.T. The most popular starting point for a thru-hike on the A.T. is the Springer Mountain in Georgia between early March and April. However, you may also choose to start somewhere in between to avoid overcrowding. Once you have chosen your take off point and hiking direction (either southbound or northbound), ensure that you register with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

Conclusion
The A.T. is one of the best trails to learn and master the art of hiking from short day hikes to a 2,000+ thru-hike. Before you start, ensure that you study all the regulations that control camping along the A.T.

Famous Hiking Trails Around the World

Many famous trails draw adventurous hikers in thousands annually. These trails offer the challenge of walking on high elevations and trekking for miles in tough weather conditions. But they also provide scenic views of mountainous areas, amazing water bodies, and rare species of animals and plants. Here is a list of some of the most famous trails you should visit in your lifetime.

1. Appalachian Trail
Famous for its length, full development and well laid out track, the Appalachian Trail is the longest and probably the most popular hiking-only trail in North America. It stretches over 2,189 miles and traverses 14 states from the Springer Mountain in the state of Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Along the trail, you can see woodlands, wilderness, mountain ranges, waterfalls, and over 2,000 species of animals and plants. Appalachian Trail passes through two national parks and eight national forests and many counties that serve as places to replenish supplies. It is one of the best marked and managed trails in the world with about 4,000 dedicated volunteers and over 250 shelters.

2. Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is a long hiking trail that is also mapped out for horses. It aligns closely with the summits of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade mountains, which are located on the eastern Pacific coast in the U.S. From its southern terminus in California on the border with Mexico, the Pacific Crest Trail runs for up to 2,659 miles, passing through California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia in Canada. The trail is usually hiked from late April till September and offers scenic views of pristine mountain ranges. However, due to the high elevations (as high as 13,000 feet at the peak), the weather can be very harsh and hikers sometimes experience acute water shortages.

3. Continental Divide Trail
This trail is the third trail in the famous hiking triple crown in the U.S. Other trails that form the crown are the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. The Continental Divide begins in Mexico, traverses 5 U.S. states (New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana) and follows the continental divide of North America along the Rocky Mountains. CDT passes through the scenic Glacier National Park in U.S. and it is a combination of small roads and dedicated trails. Thru-hikers usually hike the CDT between April and October.

4. Te Araroa
Te Araroa means Long Pathway in Maori and it is the longest tramping route in New Zealand. Stretching for over 3,000 km (about 1850 miles), Te Araroa is a windy path along the nation’s two major islands: Cape Relinga and Bluff. Created through the efforts of well coordinated volunteers for over 10 years, this scenic trail has a number of challenging sections that require fitness, proper planning, navigation and river crossing skills. Thru-hiking usually takes between three to six months. On the trail you can see beautiful beaches, impossibly lush rainforests and blue glacial lakes.

5. Tokai Nature Trail
This level and relatively hiker-friendly trail runs for 1,054 miles from Tokyo to Osaka in Japan. It passes through numerous quasi-national conservation parks and traverses many hills, canyons, and wetlands and tourist sites. Highlights of this trail include Mount Takao, the Takaoyakuo-ji Buddhist temple, the Hachioji Castle built on a mountain in 1587, and famous tourist spots like the 8 Springs of Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes.

6. Wales Coast Path
The Wales Coast Path is the only dedicated footpath in the world that traverses a country’s entire coast line. Opened in 2012, this trail runs for about 870 miles and passes through 11 National Nature Reserves. This award winning Trail was rated by National Geographic as the 2nd best coastal destination on earth. From River Dee in the northern part of the country, many parts of this trail are accessible to horse riders and people with disabilities and restricted mobility.

7. Inca Trail, Peru
Inca Trail was built by the ancient Incas and now traversed by thousands of people, making it the most popular trail in South America. The trail extends from Sacred Valley down to Machu Picchu and then winds it way around the mountains. It provides spectacular views of the white-tipped mountains and high cloud forests. Hikers will relish the opportunity to walk up the cliffs from one ancient ruin to another.

Conclusion
Most of the trails highlighted here are very long distance trails which offer diverse weather conditions and topography. So you need to study the prevalent conditions on the trail and prepare appropriately before you begin a hike.

Swift River at autumn in White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, USA.

Famous Hiking Trails and Nature Walks in Australia

Australia is a very beautiful country with well preserved national parks and nature reserves where superb hiking trails have been developed. On these trails, you can climb on mountain ranges, trek through rainforests, walk beside scenic beaches, and amazing lakes. Australia offers hikers great natural views that will refresh the body and mind. Some of those great trails and nature walks are highlighted below.

1. Larapinta Trail, Northern Territory
The Larapinta Trail is a 223km long path that offers one of Australia’s best hiking experiences. It is split into 12 sections so you can walk and complete each section in 1 to 2 days. The trail is built on the Euro Ridge and passes through sheltered gorges like the Ormiston Gorge, gaps like the Simpsons Gap and it takes you up steep mountains like Mount Sounder. Since it is quite remote, it is best hiked with a group.

2. Overland Track, Tasmania
The Overland Track in Tasmania is a 65km hike that usually takes about 6 days to complete at a stretch. It passes through the Cradle Mountain and St. Clair National Park. You can hike alone after registering with the Parks and Wildlife Service or walk with one of the guided-walk operators. Some highlights on this trail include the splendid views of the Cradle Mountain from Marion’s Lookout and the stunning D’Alton and Ferguson waterfalls.

3. Six Foot Track, New South Wales
This 44km track was originally created as a 6-foot wide path for loaded horses to pass beside each other. Starting at Explorer’s Tree, the track moves downhill to the Megalong Valley before crossing the Cox’s River at Bowtells Swing Suspension Bridge. After climbing up a steep slope you will arrive at the Black Range before you get to the Jenolan Caves.

4. Cape to Cape Walk, WA
Cape to Cape is a 135km trail located in the south western part of Western Australia. It aligns with the ridgeline from the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse to the lighthouse of Cape Leeuwin. You will cross several beautiful beaches, walk along coastlines, and climb cliffs where you see rare plants like the exotic spider orchid and dolphins hunting schools of salmon. You may hike this track alone for seven days or with a guided group tour.

5. Great North Walk, Hunter Valley, New South Wales
If you enjoy hiking through a combination of pristine bushland and beautifully cultivated scenic vineyards, you will relish your experience in the Hunter Valley. From the Bimbadeen Lookout on this trail, you can have a unique view of the beautiful city of Cessnock. It is quite easy to start here and follow the ridgeline of Mount View till you arrive at Pokolbin Mount road. More experienced walkers can trek through the 13km path from Millfield village through the bushland till it descends into Hunter Valley’s dry rainforest and ends at the Tinklers Winery. You will see the grass tree, a very unique and uncommon native Australian plant that can withstand bush fires and blossom in drought. It has attractive flowers that grow at the end of 2m long spikes.

6. Great Ocean Walk, Victoria
The Great Ocean Walk is a 104km stretch that begins at the Apollo Bay and curves through a thick forest with eucalyptus and gum trees before it stops at the Cape Otway Lighthouse. On the way, you will walk through sand dunes, pass beside spectacular beaches and walk on top of cliffs. A major highlight on this track is the Twelve Apostles, which are famous limestone stacks very close to the coast.

7. Thorsborne Trail, Queensland
After taking a boat to the pristine Hinchinbrook Island located between Cairns and Townsville, you can hike the rugged 32km Thorsborne Trail located on the east coast of the island. For about four days, you will climb up steep mountains, walk through thick rainforests and stroll beside white beaches. On this trail, you will see a lot of wildlife including crocodiles, birds, dugongs, and dolphins. The trail is a little bit difficult for the beginner but it will be an exciting challenge for an experienced hiker.

Conclusion
These are just a few of the many exciting and challenging trails you can walk on in Australia. Many of them allow you to walk alone, in a group or as a guided tour. Get ready to enjoy majestic views of one of the most beautiful natural environments in the world.

Young happy couple drinking wine on a hiking trip at the viewpoint. Couple hiking trip

Other Activities for Travellers Near Famous Hikes in Australia

When you walk through the famous hiking trails in Australia, you can do more than trekking and observing the spectacular views, landscapes and water bodies in one of the world’s most beautifully preserved natural environments. As you plan for your next walk on an Aussie trail, here are some of the other activities you can participate in.

Wine Tours

You can enjoy the benefits of a fun-filled wine tour as you hike the Great North Walk that takes you through the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. After you walk on the ridge line of Mount View, you will get to the Pokolbin Mount road. From here you can explore the magnificent vineyards in the Hunter Valley Gardens, which is Australia’s oldest and most popular wine producing region.

Nothing you have ever seen in any other part of Australia can match the year round opportunities to see amazing colours of vines, and other plants used to make wines. The beauty of the Hunter Valley is simply enchanting. Set on about 225 hectares of land that has been continually cultivated for several centuries, the Hunter Valley has about 60 acres of internationally acclaimed display gardens.
You will also have a chance to see a boutique shopping village which has carefully preserved green areas as well as a series of boutique retailers that promote top notch local produce, great artistic talent, superb cafe dining, and wine tasting at cellar doors.

At Hunter Valley’s international display gardens, you will see 10 themed gardens that reveal influences from Europe, Asia, America and other parts of the world. With more than 8 kilometres of pathways, 6,000 cultivated trees, and over 600,000 shrubs, you will experience a unique and lasting legacy that has been carefully preserved for future generations. The amazing sights, scintillating aroma and special floral and landscape arrangement provides an awesome experience for all visitors.

Whale Watching

Whale watching involves observing dolphins and whales play in their natural habitat and it is one of the most popular recreational activities in Western Australia. Western Australia has one of the longest whale watching seasons in the country. So if you choose to hike on the Cape to Cape Walk in WA, you could enjoy one of the the best watching sessions ever. No hike around the southwestern area of WA should be concluded without spending time viewing and photographing the ocean life along the coastline.

Due to Cape Naturaliste’s unique location, you can enjoy amazing whale watching events from the middle of May till December. You can see humpback whales breaching from the coastline or go on organised whale watching tours and see rare blue and minke whales or the southern right whales as they perform their annual migrations. You will also see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins and sea birds. If you take a tour to the Geographe Bay, you could have the rare privilege of seeing the world’s biggest animal – the blue whale, especially if you arrive there between October and November.

Learn About Aboriginal Culture

Australia has a rich Aboriginal culture that dates back to about 60,000 years. You can’t claim to know Australia without taking a visit to some of the spiritual sites that were a vital part of the culture of the Aboriginals. Hiking offers you an opportunity to meet with friendly locals who can give you a lot of history lessons, and show you where many spiritual and cultural events of the Aboriginal people took place. From the Northern Territory to Queensland, you can enjoy great Aboriginal experiences while hiking. You will learn many local names and their meanings while you have a chance to learn about many amazing plants that these ancient people have adopted for different medicinal uses.

In Victoria, hiking on Bataluk Cultural Trail will give you amazing insight into over 30 000 years of local Gunaikurnai culture and history. You will see sacred trees and sites of worship as well as weapons and ancient relics. For instance, the Knob reserve is a high bluff above the Avon river that served as a major campsite for the Gunaikurnai people for many centuries. On it you can see the grooves where axe heads and sandstone grinding stones where sharpened.

At the Krowathunkooloong (Keeping Place), you can see well preserved artifacts and art works of indigenous people. It is one of the best places to learn about the Gippsland Aboriginal culture with displays such as bark canoes, boomerangs, grass baskets, and some modern aboriginal arts and crafts. Also, at the limestone caves at Buchan, you will hear about the stories of wicked Nyols that inhabited the caves under the earth. Buchan Caves are about the oldest cave sites from the Ice Age with evidence of Aboriginal existence and occupation that dates back to 18,000 years.

Conclusion
Australia has many trails where you can hike and engage in other interesting and rewarding activities such as wine tours, whale watching and historical and cultural education. Tours and hikes can be undertaking independently by experienced hikers or with guided tours that provide accomodation and feeding.

Health, First-aid and Safety Issues When Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Hiking is a strenuous exercise and it will cause muscle soreness and fatigue. But there are other effects that hiking may have on your health. It is better to be well informed about them before you begin your journey, so you can be fully prepared to handle them. Here are some of the health and body issues you should take steps to prevent as you go on your thru-hike from Georgia to Maine.

1. Ass Chafe
If you attempt to go on a long hike that exceeds 10 miles, expect to have ass chafe. This condition also occurs when you attempt to hike in the rain without adequate rain gear. The cheeks of your buttocks will rub together and you will feel the soreness with every step you take. Ass chafe may also occur due to intense heat in summer. In addition to your buttocks, it may also affect your groin area. Investing in good rain gear as well as using baby or diaper powder and body glide can help to prevent and relieve the pain caused by ass chafe.

2. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a terrible condition caused by bacteria carried by deer ticks. The states that the Appalachian Trail travels through have a high occurrence of the disease. Unfortunately, many hikers who have had horrific encounters with this disease did not realise that they had contracted it early. Its initial symptoms are similar to the pains you experience from hiking for long hours such as exhaustion and joint pains. To protect yourself, you must check yourself for ticks every single day. Also, wear a long sleeve shirt and spray your pants and shirt with Permethrin.

3. Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when the temperature of the body drops to a level at which the muscle and brain can no longer function effectively. The principal causes of this condition include: insufficient clothing, wetness from rain, snow, or hail, fatigue, dehydration and exhaustion. The only way to stop hypothermia from preventing you from completing your hike is to wear only synthetic fabrics or wool and avoid cotton. Preserve a set of dry clothes for sleeping and ensure that you use a sleeping bag that is warm. Preferably, you should use a waterproof bag to ensure dryness. Also, eat enough food and stay hydrated.

4. Heat Conditions
Along the Appalachian Trail, particularly in the Virginias, water may be insufficient during hot and humid days. This may expose hikers to the risks of stroke and exhaustion. You need to be aware of various problems caused by heat including: sunburn, heat cramps, and stroke. Sunburn occurs commonly in the Virginias when the trees are still bear. Heat cramps occur when the body loses a lot of salt due to excessive sweating. Heat stroke is life threatening and it can happen when the body’s natural cooling system fails. Body temperature may be as high as 106 degrees. To prevent heat related health issues, stay hydrated and wear breathable clothing.

5. Weight Loss
Hiking for up to 10 miles or more daily will lead to rapid weight loss. You will be burning a large number of calories (probably greater than you can burn during aerobic exercises or going to the gym daily). So be prepared to lose weight and take clothing that will fit you after you start losing weight. Your waist line could shrink by as much as 3 inches within the first 10 days. For ladies, this could also mean having to wear smaller bras.

6. Hemorrhoids
If you live off a terrible diet with little dietary fibre, you may experience hemorrhoids while you are on the trail. You will need a large number of calories (at least 8,000) for a 10 mile hike every day. So you will have to eat a lot packaged food to meet your daily calorie requirement. However, you should ensure that you eat food that is balanced, nutritious and friendly to your digestive system so you can avoid getting hemorrhoids.

7. Knee Damage
Due to the strain you will place on your lower limbs while climbing rocks, boulders and high mountains, you could easily injure your knees. You need to be sensitive to your body signs and take a rest if you feel you cannot go on walking. Always walk with a trekking pole when you are ascending or descending a cliff or mountain. If you fall off the cliff, don’t panic. Blow your whistle and ask fellow hikers for help. If you find yourself in an emergency while hiking alone, do not try to add more strain to your injured knee, instead stay still and wait for an experienced hiker to help you.

Conclusion
Those are some of the prominent health conditions that you need to be aware of when you are going on a multi-day or thru hike on the A.T. Plan ahead and take necessary precautions so you can avoid them or reduce their effects on your journey.

What Should You Pack for Hiking on the Appalachian Trail?

If you decide to go on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, you will live out of a backpack for about six months. Although the A.T. has many resupply points, the gear you pack should be determined by a compromise between having a lot of comfort in your camp at night and having a relatively light backpack to climb elevations and walk safely for several miles during the day. You will also need to consider your budget and buy the most essential gear first. The following list will help you to decide on what should pack for a thru-hike or multi-day hike on the Appalachian Trail.

1. Pack
Your backpack should be light, compact and have a good fit. Aim for a pack that has a capacity ranging between 40 and 65 litres. For a very long distance trek, you will want to get a pack with a simple internal frame rather than one with a lot of bells and whistles. You should also focus on durability and fit. Make sure your pack fits your hips and torso. Two popular brands among thru-hikers on the A.T. are Osprey and ULA.

2. Shelter
It is best to carry a tent or a hammock if you are going on a thru-hike. Don’t rely on the over 250 backcountry shelters available about 8 miles from each other. Shelters on the A.T. are allocated to hikers on a first come, first serve basis. Many people hike on the A.T. so you may arrive at a shelter and discover that it is already fully occupied. Always carry your shelter. Tarpents and Six Moon Designs make very durable, waterproof shelters.

3. Sleeping pad
A good sleeping pad will help you to sleep well and renew your strength for the next day’s hike. You may opt for a closed-cell foam pad or a self-inflating mattress to cushion the ground while you sleep. Choose a pad that weighs about one pound or less with good insulation. Padding should be at least 0.625 inches thick and the length should be 48″ or more. Thermarest and RidgeRest are reputable brands.

4. Sleeping bag
As a thru-hiker, you will experience very low temperatures during your adventure. So you should get a sleeping bag with a 15 to 20 degree temperature range. If you have a waterproof tent that can protect you from rain and early morning dew, you should opt for a sleeping bag made from down material. But if you are sleeping in a tarp tent or ground cloth, use a synthetic sleeping bag. Ideally, your sleeping bag should not be heavier than three pounds.

5. Footwear
Footwear is a very critical item for hikers. You may decide to buy a heavy leather boot, trail runners or both depending on the terrain and the season. Boots provide greater stability at the ankle and protect you against rocks so they will be more suitable for hiking in Pennsylvania where the trail passes through a lot of rocky terrain. Trail runners are lightweight and breathable, they dry faster, and allow you to walk faster and cover more ground in a shorter time. You should purchase a shoe that is half to one and a half sizes larger than your normal size. This will stop your toenail from striking the toe box when you are hiking downhill. It will also accommodate the swelling that occurs in the foot when hiking for long hours.

6. Clothing
On the Appalachian Trail, you only need clothing that will be sufficient for the type of weather conditions you will encounter while hiking. This means that you can make do with just two sets of underwear, two pairs of socks for walking and one pair for camping, one pair of gloves, and underwear bottoms to reduce chaffing. Other clothing items you need to pack include two synthetic short sleeve shirts, down jacket, a rain jacket, rain pants, a cap to reduce the effect of the sun rays on your head and eyes, and a towel for cleaning sweat.

7. Food
Popular foods for hikers include oat, cold cereal, mashed potatoes, nuts, peanut butter, cheese, pasta, rice meals, and granola bars. You can take almost any kind of lightweight packed instant food as long as it does not contain water. But you should try to eat food with sufficient protein, minerals and vitamins to help your body to cope with the pain and strain on the trail. You will need to pack food for about three days and this should not weigh more than 2 pounds. In addition, take a 100 oz. water bottle and a water bag that you can use to carry about 2 to 3 litres of water when necessary.

8. Water purifier
Most of the 250+ shelters on the Appalachian Trail are built near sources of fresh water. But you shouldn’t be presumptuous and take the risks involved in drinking untreated water for granted. Many hikers contact a water borne disease called giardia, so take a good water purifier or a water filter.

9. Hygiene and First aid
Take a new toothbrush and a small tube of paste and floss. A disposable razor will allow you to shave if you don’t want to grow a beard. A small tube of sunscreen will protect you when you have to climb in rocky areas without any shade. Take some lip balm to prevent chapping of the lips and body glide to prevent ass chaffe. To help relieve pain in your knees, take Ibuprofen while a blister fixer will help to heal any blisters that form on your feet.

10. A.T. Guidebook
Take all the A.T. guidebooks along. They will help you to arrange for shelter, camping and replenishing supplies at nearby communities. If you are hiking a section of the A.T. for the first time, you will be better off with a physical map than an electronic one. But the white blaze markers are so well spaced that most thru-hikers do not take maps along.

11. Cookware and Stove
Packing a cooking stove is not absolutely essential. If you are struggling to maintain a very light backpack, you may not fancy the idea of adding the extra weight of a stove. But if you despise cold food and you would prefer a warm oatmeal or mashed potatoes plus some hot tea to keep warm and prevent hypothermia, you should pack a stove and some fuel. On the A.T. you can use an alcohol stove with a windscreen or a canister stove during winter. A 1 litre cooking pot made of aluminum will suffice for most hikers. Don’t forget to take a lighter for camping fire.

12. Electronics
The most important electronic gadget that hikers should take along is a smartphone. It is a very versatile tool and it can serve as a phone, computer, media player, flashlight, camera and GPS tool. If you want to take high quality pictures, you should take a separate digital camera. To charge your smartphone, you should take an external battery pack of about 6000mAh or more because there are so many trees along the A.T. and solar chargers will not work very well due to the shadows cast by the foliage. If you decide to hike in the woods at night, in addition to a flashlight, you should take a headlamp of about 70 lumens.

13. Tools and materials
Hiking poles: Experts recommend that you use trekking poles. These poles can help you absorb the shock when you are walking down hill and reduce the pressure on your knees. They also help you to exercise your arms and when you want to rest at night, they can serve as tent poles in your tarp tent.
Parachute cord: Take at least 25 feet of this cord to hang your laundry, and your food against bears. You may also unravel the cord and use the inner threads in an emergency.
Duct Tape: Wrap about 10 feet around your water bottle. This can be used for many repairs and it could help you reduce the hot spots on your feet.

Conclusion
Use this list to prepare for your hike on the A.T. It is not an exhaustive list of items but it contains most of the items you will need. Remember that if you discover that you have too much weight on your back, you can mail some items back home. You may also consult the ATC website for more items recommended by the official custodians of the trail.

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