In 2016, Adventure Possible had a record number of applicants for it’s annual Appalachian Trail thru-hiker sponsorship.
We’re happy to announce that Dawn Webster has received our financial support for her 2016 attempt at a northbound (NOBO) thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
While reading through the 197 applications that we received, it occurred to us that we had some really interesting data that we could share to help shed some light on the question of who hikes the Appalachian Trail?
Who are these people that are willing to quit their jobs, load their life on their back, and suffer the dirty, difficult trials over 2,000 miles and 5 months on the Appalachian Trail?
We’re still sorting through the data, compiling some quantitative insights from qualitative responses, and here are a few of the initial gleanings from our 197 applications for the AT thru-hiker sponsorship.
The Gender Mix
The majority of people that applied for thru-hiker sponsorship are men, though there were a higher number of female applicants than in the 2015 application pool. There are also a few couples that applied for sponsorship to hike the trail together.
Which direction are people planning to hike on the Appalachian Trail?
The most common direction of a thru-hike is Northbound (NOBO), starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia and finishing at Mt. Katahdin, Maine. The results of this year’s applicant pool show that 76% of thru-hikers plan a northbound thru-hike.
8% of hikers expect to flip flop, meaning they start in one direction, and then bounce up or down the trail to hike in another direction back to the point that they left the trail. For example, a person might hike north from Springer Mountain to Harper’s Ferry, WV, and then catch a bus to Mt. Katahdin and hike south back to Harper’s Ferry. Hikers do this for a variety of reasons, but the most common relates to seasonal constraints, such as avoiding -10F temps in Maine in winter.
Is the Appalachian Trail a hiker’s first attempt at a long distance hike?
While some of the applicants applying for sponsorship have completed long distance hikes or even completed one or more Appalachian Trail thru-hikes, most people applying for sponsorship to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail are not seasoned long distance hikers.
Most applicants have experience with weekend and weeklong overnight backpacking trips.
A couple have absolutely zero backpacking experience, having never spent a single night in the woods.
I’ll be adding more findings about age, situation, and reasons for hiking in the near future once I’ve had a chance to finish compiling the data.
If you have a question about AT thru-hikers that you think the data might be able to answer, let me know in the comments section below.
I’m planning a day hike (s) on the approach trail on the AT leading to Springer Mountain. Can I do this particular leg in 2 days if I only walk 5-6 miles a day? Please advise. Thanks. Nancy Sigmon
Mark Kelley says
Hi Nancy, the approach trail is about 16 miles round trip between Amicalola Falls and Springer Mountain. Doable in a long day, or you could overnight. Hike to Springer, camp in the shelter, then hike back Amicalola Falls, where there is a visitor center. If you are planning the hike soon, like before April 15, then expect to run into a lot of thru-hikers starting at Springer, which may also mean no space in the shelter.
Hi I am doing a winger tbru hike starting at Springer and what incredible temps right now in that area to kick the NOBO hike off in grand temps. Question- I know some parts of the AT require permits; do I need one in GA at all? Should I or do I need to register anywhere before starting at Speronf Mt; at least for the sake of Rangers and the like to know I am out there should in the unlikely event something would go awry?
I practiced month long thru hiking this past summer in Normandy and while it was the summer, the free tenting I thoroughly enjoyed and did it for weeks in and around Normandy, through to Portsmouth UK; in and around Spain and Ibiza for two weeks; and eventually free renting from Gedser Ferry into all of Denmark (Denmark was my favorite place to backpack and camp so far). I only mention this because i an now physically, emotionally and mentally prepared for this; with the right gear and Mother Nature giving her ‘ok, go!’
Cheers mate. I arrive in Gainsville Weds; will do a cheap hotel to last minute prep and into the wild with a level head and heavty amount of portioned food and a tent that took me a year to save up for lol.
‘winter thru-hike’ *
Mark Kelley says
Hi Kenneth, good luck with the winter thru-hike. Registration along the trail is mostly voluntary, and there are opportunities to register at Springer, Harpers Ferry, and Katahdin. A small stretch here or there passing through national park, forest, etc. may require a backcountry permit, though they are minimal in information requirements and, I believe, entirely free.