There’s a better than good chance that you’re familiar with the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps you’ve even hiked a bit of it.
But how much do you know about the United States’ original long trail? Test your knowledge and wow your friends with some fun facts about the AT
The approximate length of the Appalachian Trail in miles. It’s not that the length of the trail is unknown, but rather that the distance changes year to year, based on trail modifications such as switchbacks and reroutes. This year, 2015, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) Data Book, the AT is 2,189.2 miles. Last year, it was 2,185.3. This amounts to approximately 5,000,000 steps, a number sure to fill your step-tracker-wearing friends with envy.
The number of states the AT crosses. From south to north: 1. Georgia 2. North Carolina 3. Tennessee 4. Virginia 5. West Virginia 6. Maryland 7. Pennsylvania 8. New Jersey 9. New York 10. Connecticut 11. Massachusetts 12. Vermont 13. New Hampshire 14. Maine.
The number of times an AT thru-hiker would ascend Mount Everest. Compared to trails in higher elevation mountain ranges, many falsely assume the AT to be relatively flat. In fact, over the course of the Appalachian Trail’s 2,189 miles, thru-hikers gain over 464,464 ft., or more than 89 miles.
The number of days it takes the average person to complete a thru-hike. Thru-hike durations can range from a full-year to a blistering 46 and a half days (the current speed record), but most will complete their 2,189 mile trek in five to seven months, with the average being “a week or two shy of six months,” according to the ATC.
The highest elevation in feet along the Appalachian Trail, at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The lowest elevation in feet along the Appalachian Trail, at Bear Mountain State Park in New York. (Although many report their low point being the day they finish.)
The percentage of the trail that has been relocated or rebuilt since its creation. The ATC estimates rebuilding or relocating nearly all of the trail since its creation in 1937.
The number of volunteer hours that went into maintaining the Appalachian Trail in the federal fiscal year ending in September 2014. This amounts to over 10,000 days of volunteer work from 5,617 volunteers, the second highest number of volunteer hours since the ATC began tracking this information in 1983. (source: the ATC’s Laurie Potteiger)
Photo credit: Kenny Howell
The number of maintenance clubs that serve the Appalachian Trail. The ATC oversees 31 distinct clubs, whose duties range anywhere from “maintaining existing trails and painting blazes to excavating trail reroutes and building new shelters,” according to Appalachian Trials.
The approximate number of white blazes marking the Appalachian Trail, according to the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. This averages out to about one white blaze every 70 feet. Since the trail is so well marked, many thru-hikers forego carrying maps (87% according to a recent ATC survey), and instead opt to carry a guidebook.
The number of calories required for a hiker* to maintain his or her body weight during a typical day of backpacking. In other words, a hiker could eat 11 Big Macs throughout the day and still be at an energy deficiency. Typically, after a few weeks on trail, many thru-hikers achieve the celebrated “hiker hunger,” a near-inability to be sated by any amount of food. Oftentimes, it’s a hiker’s budget, not appetite, that constrains their in-town binging.
*Assuming 8 hours of backpacking for a 25-year-old male hiker weighing 155 lbs.
In gallons, the amount of ice cream many thru-hikers eat in a single sitting at the halfway point. It is customary for AT thru-hikers to attempt (and typically, succeed) to eat a half-gallon of ice cream at the convenience store closest to the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail. Many need less than 15 minutes to accomplish the feat. For those keeping score at your desk, a half-gallon is four pints, or 2,300 calories. Don’t try this at home.
The average number of pounds lost by thru-hikers during their journey. Despite the halfway-mark ice cream, the vast majority of hikers face severe calorie deficiencies during the span of their thru-hike due to a strenuous workload. Although most hikers practice a “see food diet”—see food, eat it—it’s not uncommon for thru-hikers to lose upwards of 50, 70, or even over 100 lbs. during the course of their half-year trek. This is not a hard and fast rule, as some hikers lose no weight or even gain a few pounds.
The average dollar amount spent during the course of a thru-hike. Hikers estimate spending between $2 and $3 per mile on trail, for an average range of $4,400 to $6,600. This money goes toward food, lodging, laundry, transportation, gear upgrades, etc. This does not include the…
0 – 4,000
The initial dollar outlay for gear. This depends on how much gear one already owns, how appropriate it is for a thru-hike, and one’s ability to scour deals online. Most who set out on the trail will fall somewhere in the middle of this range.
The number of pairs of shoes most thru-hikers go through. In general, if you can get 500 miles out of your footwear, you’re doing well. Some can stretch this even further, depending on the shoe’s durability, a hiker’s weight (including pack), maintenance protocols, and ability to avoid stepping on sharp edges. Certain terrain, like the extremely rocky trails of Pennsylvania, will chew through footwear at a much faster clip. This is an anecdotal estimate, although I do have the good fortune of interacting with many dozens of AT thru-hikers each year.
The average number of miles between road crossings on the AT, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). “How do you eat?” is a common question of those who are planning on thru-hiking. The answer is, “quite easily,” as access to the closest town—and thus grocery store, deli, or post office—is typically never more than a few days away, and often much less than that.
The percent increase in 2,000 milers in the 21st vs. the 20th century per the ATC. Due to the skyrocketing popularity of the AT and thru-hiking in general, the number of 2,000 milers, “a hiker who has walked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail,” over the last 15 years will likely double that of the previous 63 years. For reference, the first reported 2,000 miler was in 1936.
The percent of thru-hikers who attempt the traditional northbound route. The vast majority of those who attempt an Appalachian Trail thru-hike begin at Springer Mountain, Georgia and hike north to Mount Katahdin, Maine. It should be noted that the ATC is urging people to take alternative approaches, such as southbound and flip-flop thru-hikes, to combat the increasing volume of hikers and limit the impact to the trail.
*Based on 2014 numbers, which is consistent with other years.
The number of shelters on or along the trail. The AT is lined with more than 250 three-walled structures which serve as refuges for hikers, averaging out to approximately one shelter every 8 miles.
The percent of female 2,000 milers. Although anecdotal reports says that the percentage of female thru-hikers is on the rise, the ATC reports that only one in four 2,000 milers are women.
Shout out to many of my fellow Appalachian Trials Writers for contributing ideas!
Featured photo credit: Ashli Baldwin