Hiking the Appalachian Trail

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!)

Here are the places you can read or watch more about this life-changing adventure:

  • Beyond our Boundaries: A Family Adventure on the Appalachian Trail was a video series we produced, while hiking, to help fund our trip. Although we initially sold subscriptions, it's now available to watch for free on You Tube.
  • Prior to our hike we published a series of articles - Our 2014 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike - on our minimalist shoe blog. Those articles detail some of our hike preparations, gear lists, reasons for hiking, recommended reading, sponsorships we received etc.
  • On this blog I wrote a few posts during the hike and occasionally I still write about the trail. All the posts on my blog related to our Appalachian Trail thru-hike can be found here. (Spoiler alert: I experienced intense mental and emotional duress on the trail.)
  • I am publishing my trail journals and photos from each day of our hike at Outsideways, an adventure journaling site.

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

Trail stats:

  • The trail is approximately 2,185 miles or 3,516 kilometers long.
  • The trail passes through 14 states. Virginia has the most miles at 550 miles and West Virginia has the least at 4 miles.
  • The total elevation gain of hiking the entire A.T. is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times. 1
  • 25% of people who attempt to complete a thru-hike are successful.2

Our Hike Stats:

  • Our hike took us 175 days, of those we hiked approximately 160 days, with 15 “zero days” or days not hiking at all. We started at Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 31 and ended at Mt. Katahdin, Maine on September 21.
  • For 160 hiking days we averaged 13.65 miles/day or 21.96 kilometers/day.
  • From mid-July to Aug 16 we hiked 19 miles per day or 30.6 kilometers per day with a break every Sunday.
  • At the beginning of August, in Vermont, I got off the trail with a foot injury that I hoped would heal with a couple weeks of rest. It didn't and I got off the trail permanently in the middle of August at Glencliff, NH. My family continued without me and I supported them with our vehicle.

July 2, ATC Headquarters in Harper's Ferry, WV

Families on the A.T.

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.

What does it Cost?

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

Other places you can learn about our thru-hike:


AT Thru-hiking Resources

Considering a thru-hike?

General Hiking and Backpacking Resources

Just getting started with hiking, camping and backpacking? Here's some helpful links.

  • Hiking for Beginners - this is a great, in-depth article with what to wear and what to pack. I don't personally endorse the shoe recommendations in this article, as I prefer lightweight trail runners for all my hiking and backpacking. But everyone has their own preferences in this regard.
  • Backpacking for Beginners - "Let this backpacking for beginners guide illuminate everything you need to know. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting the trails and starting a new adventure!"
  • Voyageur Tripper - "On this blog, you’ll find informative how-to articles, detailed destinations guides and a whole lot of misadventures – all written by ex-wilderness guide, Mikaela Ferguson." I follow Mikaela on IG and she's a constant source of inspiration and outdoor envy, especially now that she's moved west.

* 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.

My favorite AT memoirs, trail stories & documentaries

coming soon

1. Appalachian Trail Conservancy figures.

2. Appalachian Trail Conservancy figures.