In the spring and summer of 2014 we fulfilled a family dream to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail together. Our children were 15, 13 and 11.
The story of that hike has been shared in four main places. (In truth, the story of our hike isn't over as we continue to process and learn from the thru-hike experience and apply those lessons to our post-hike lives!)
That covers the significant parts of our thru-hike story, written or produced by us. We've also been interviewed or posted guest articles a few other places and you can find those at the bottom of this page.
March 31 at Springer Mountain, Georgia
July 2, ATC Headquarters in Harper's Ferry, WV
In April 2014, the Portland Press Herald published that:
There have been just 10 families and only 22 individuals under the age of 15 who have completed the trail since it was completed in 1937, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which manages the trail and keeps records on it.
The year we hiked we met three other families thru-hiking the trail. The Kallin family, who are personal friends of ours, successfully completed the trail on August 31st. David Kallin gave a TEDx Talk about their journey. Two other families completed the trail in late November 2014.
This is a hard number to assess. The most significant cost once you're on the trail is food, as you need lots of it. Gear is also a big cost. Factoring in all the expenses of gear, clothing, tents, shoes (we needed to replace those every 500 miles or so), food and trail life costs (postage, shuttle fees, off-trail accommodations) I think $5,000-$5,500 per person (for a budget-conscious group) is a good estimate. In a group you get savings from economies of scale in certain gear & supplies (tents, cooking supplies, food quantities, and hotels) but hostels are not a savings for a group the same way they are for solo travellers.
This estimate does not include travel to and from the trail, the costs of maintaining life at home (vehicle insurance, subscriptions, etc), nor does it include health insurance or health care. We minimized our expenses by being debt-free during our hike, cutting back all non-trail related costs, and being homeless (we were in-between homes).
Our family received gear sponsorship from a variety of companies, a list can be found on this page, but most of our gear was purchased over years for our weekend backpacking trips, and we made some upgrades and changes on the trail.
As you will read elsewhere, the southern states are cheaper than the northern ones, especially for off-trail accommodations, eg. you can get a hotel room for a family for under $60, which is cheaper than staying in a trail hostel at $20/person. Here's a good rule of thumb for an adventure like this: whatever you think it will cost you, plan to pay more.
September 21 Baxter Peak, Mt. Katahdin, Maine
Considering a thru-hike?
Just getting started with hiking, camping and backpacking? Here's some helpful links.
* I have not completely read or vetted these resources for accuracy. I don't personally recommend them, from experience. I get contacted by people and businesses promoting outdoor resources and AT products and this is where I support those endeavours.
1. Appalachian Trail Conservancy figures.
2. Appalachian Trail Conservancy figures.