If you’ve ever felt like you just couldn’t find a trail long enough, you’ve never stepped foot on the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. All three measure between 2,000 and 3,000 miles from end to end and traverse numerous different states. Each and every year hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts attempt to thru-hike one of these trails, starting at one end in the spring with the goal of ending at the other in the fall. A number of equally ambitious hikers chose to complete the entire trail, but rather than attempting it in one straight shot, they break it up and complete a handful of chunks each year. In addition, thousands of other nature lovers take summer trips to explore some of the most pristine and talked about areas of each trail. These three incredible trails offer something for everyone, so if you haven’t stepped foot on one yet, take advantage of the fall colors and cooler temperatures now or start planning your thru-hike for the summer of 2013.
The Appalachian Trail is one of the world’s longest continuously marked footpaths, covering roughly 2,180 miles. It follows the valleys and crests of the Appalachian mountain range through fourteen states, from Georgia to Maine. Each year 2 to 3 million visitors explore the trail and the various National Parks that it passes through. In 2010 there were 471 successful thru-hikers, the majority of them beginning in the spring at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ending in late fall at Katahdin in Maine. For more information or to plan your Appalachian Trail trip visit www.appalachiantrail.org.
Continental Divide Trail
The Continental Divide Trail spans around 3,100 miles from the Canadian border to the Mexico border, thru Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. It follows the Continental Divide, commonly known as the Backbone of the Continent, which separates the rivers that flow east toward the Atlantic Ocean from those that flow westward to the Pacific Ocean. Unlike the Appalachian trail, portions of the the Continental Divide trail are unfinished and thru-hikers are forced to bushwhack or follow a road to traverse these areas. Each year, around two dozen adventurists attempt to complete the entire trail in a six month period, and only a handful are successful. For advice on trip planning and more information visit www.cdtsociety.org.
Pacific Crest Trail
Roughly 2,650 miles long, the Pacific Crest Trail stretches from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon and Washington. It passes though six of the seven North America eco-zones and climbs more than 16 major mountain passes. The trail is within a short drive of most major cities on the west coast and travels through a number of well known National Parks. Its location, beauty and diversity make it a popular attraction among many including equestrians and ambitious thru-hikers. Each year around 300 avid hikers attempt to complete the entire trail as a thru-hike and in 2010, there were 192 success stories. For more information and to start planning your trip, visit www.pcta.org.
If you are planning a multi-day hike on one of these trails, we suggest the following hydration systems: