The Appalachian Trail is the longest ‘hiking only’ trail in the world. The Appalachian mountain range stretches 2,200 miles from Georgia through fourteen states to Mount Katahdin, Maine. There are those that attempt to hike the entire route, but the average Joe just does not have that kind of time. To save you some time (and pairs of boots), here are some of the unbelievable must-see segments of the Appalachian Trail.
For the thrill seekers and hardcore weekend hikers, the best trek is the 31 mile Mahoosuc Trail from Gorham, New Hampshire along the spine of the Mahoosuc Range to Grafton Notch State Park, Maine. Included in this adventure are five mountain summits, one lovely natural pond, a deep gorge called the Mahoosuc Notch, and a hike that takes you up to 8,000 feet.
There are those that say Mahoosuc Notch is the most challenging stretch of the entire Appalachian Trail and the most rewarding. The gorge was carved out by a glacier and has since been filled up with all manner of debris, large boulders, and felled trees. Worming your way through can be especially difficult and in some cases, you might need to take off your pack.
Enjoy the crisp cool air and the smell of the balsam fir trees surrounding you as you hike through narrow wooded pathways, up steep rock slopes, and even up tall ladders. This hike takes a good three to four-days, depending on your skill level. If you want a day trip or a single overnight stay, check out any of the smaller trails.
Hike out to Gentian Pond and camp under the stars. Conquer Old Speck Mountain, Maine’s third highest mountain at almost 4,200 feet or just head straight for Mahoosuc Notch. Any of these hikes are well worth the breathtaking views and exercise.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like retracing my steps on a hike to get back to the car. I’ve seen all the scenery already! If you are like me, then check out the fourteen miles of Mau-Har Loop. This is located forty-five minutes outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. There are some pretty steep sections in a few places with a total of around 6,800 feet of elevation change. The Mau-Har Loop is a challenging hike. However, along the way, you can cool off in a swimming hole with a thundering forty foot waterfall.
There are several small camping sites along the trail, as well as beautiful vistas. People have done this fourteen-mile hike in a day, but if you have the time, camp so you can enjoy beautiful scenery, countless stars in the sky, and gorgeous sunrises. Begin at the white marked Appalachian Trail and follow it until you get to the blue marked Mau-Har trail that will take you back.
On the way, you’ll visit the summit of Bee Mountain and enjoy several uninterrupted views of the canyon and mountains including Hanging Rock Vista, Flat Rock Vista, and Chimney Rock Vista. This is a beautiful day hike for hiking enthusiasts, a wonderful weekend getaway for amateur hikers, and nature lovers. Make sure you pack lots of water!
By far my favorite hike along the Appalachian Trail is referred to as the Virginia Triple Crown. It is a 35-mile loop that circumnavigates the Catawba Valley outside Roanoke, Virginia. Enjoy the wonderful three-day hike full of breathtaking vistas. Enjoy the rewards of this challenging hike as you climb approximately 9,000 feet.
This trek is called the Triple Crown because it takes you to each of the three top hiking destinations in the state: the Tinker Cliffs, Dragon’s Tooth, and McAfee Knob. All three have spectacular lookouts and are great for people looking for a less strenuous hike. Each of these hikes is reachable through multiple locations throughout the valley.
If you have to pick one, visit McAfee Knob. There is a reason it is considered the most photographed spot on the entire Appalachian Trail! You’ll feel like you conquered the world. If you’re up for it, a three-day loop around the valley is worth the effort. There are several variations to the loop depending on the side trips that mean the most to you, so search around and find the route that suits you!
You can set up camp almost anywhere, so take your time and linger as long as you want at each of these sites. Make sure you bring plenty of water because there are a few long stretches without water sources. The experience is incredible, and you will always remember it.
There are so many beautiful parts of the Appalachian Trail. So many different landscapes and trails. These are just a few of the life-changing experiences. Whether you’re a solo backpacker looking for serenity and quiet or a group of friends looking for your next adventure, be sure to enjoy the journey as well as the destinations!
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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