We visit Bear Mountain State Park often and did not expect to come across this interesting find- The Appalachian Trail. We knew that Bear Mountain has several trails in the park but not being hikers, we typically stay away from them and head towards the lake, and the large open grass play area. On this particular day, we were in the mood to explore so instead of walking straight toward the lake, we turned left where we came upon these signs.
We watch enough TV to have heard of the Appalachian Trail but aside from the name of the trail we didn’t know anything about it. Once we found out what the Appalachian Trail was our curiosity peaked and we had a lot of questions. Below are some FAQs about the Appalachian Trail, many of which we had ourselves, and all the answers in one place.
What is the Appalachian Trail?
We were shocked to learn that we were standing on a hiking trail that led all the way to Georgia. Like you could actually walk to Georgia from there. As a family that road trips to Georgia often and is fully aware of how long it takes to drive there, we could not imagine anyone walking. The Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that spans more than 2,180 miles from Maine to Georgia. A man from Massachusetts named Benton McKay came up with the idea for this footpath. It was completed in 1937.
What States does the Appalachian Trail Go Through?
The Appalachian Trail travels through 14 states. From north to south, the states are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and finally Georgia. Visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website for an interactive map here.
How Long Does It Take to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail?
Hikers who attempt to complete the Appalachian Trail in one trip are referred to as thru-hikers. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the typical thru-hiker takes 5 to 7 months to complete the Appalachian Trail, depending on the number of miles they hike per day and their experience level.
How Many People Have Completed the Appalachian Trail?
Over 20,000 people have completed the Appalachian Trail. Each decade, the number of people who have completed the trail rises from the decade before. In the 2000s, just short of 6,000 people completed the trail. In the 2010s, that number rose to just short of 10,000 people. The number of completions is significantly lower than the number of attempts, as only 1 in 4 thru-hikers completes the entire trail.
How do Thru-Hikers Eat?
Thru-Hikers are not expected to carry 5 to 7 months’ worth of food or to hunt or forage for their food. Most carry 3 to 5 days’ worth of shelf-stable food and stop in nearby towns to resupply.
Because supply can be limited in certain towns, some hikers will mail ahead supplies that they can pick up once they reach a certain town. The towns along the Appalachian Trail are used to thru-hikers passing through and will often help them however possible, such as by accepting and holding packages for them.
Where do Thru-Hikers Sleep?
The Appalachian Trail has over 250 shelters on the trail. These shelters are mostly open, three-walled, covered wooden structures. They have no bathrooms or other amenities. They are enough to keep a hiker out of the elements without having to pitch a tent. Depending on the part of the trail you are on, a shelter can be as close as 5 miles apart or as far as 30 miles apart. On average, shelters are about 8 miles apart. Read more about the shelters here.
Parts of the trail are also not far from small towns. Many hikers will use that opportunity to spend the night in a bed and breakfast or similar lodging for the night and pick up the trail in the morning.
Are There Bathrooms on the Appalachian Trail?
Don’t forget your shovel because there are no bathrooms on the Appalachian Trail. Some shelters have outhouses, also known as privies, nearby but there is no plumbing. There are also no showers. Many hikers take the opportunity to shower when they reach a town on the trail.
How safe is the Appalachian Trail?
Ticks and the diseases they carry are the biggest threat to a hiker’s health and safety. While Lyme Disease is the most common disease carried by ticks, there are many others and a person can contract multiple diseases from one tick bite. Some of these diseases can be life-threatening. You can learn more about how hikers can protect themselves from tick bites here.
Most people think about bears when they think about the dangers on the Appalachian Trail. Black bears do live in the woods; however, encounters with humans, and more importantly, attacks on humans are extremely rare. Turns out that wildlife is not a major threat on the Appalachian Trail as long as the hiker knows what to look for and how to protect themselves. You can read more about the wildlife and the potential threats here.
Cold rain is the greatest weather-related threat to hikers on the Appalachian Trail as it can lead to hypothermia. During the winter months, temperatures can drop to freezing or below on any part of the trail. On the hottest summer days, heat-related illnesses can also occur, if not prepared for them. Staying hydrated and protected from the sun will be crucial to hikers’ health.
The Appalachian Trail is relatively safe; however, crimes do get reported. Most of the crimes are minor and non-violent such as petty theft, and vandalism. However, there have been a few reported murders on the trail as well. The first documented murder occurred in 1974. In total, there have been 11 reported murders on the trail.
Now that you know more about the Appalachian Trail, head to Bear Mountain to see a piece of it for yourself. If you’re lucky you’ll run into a Thru-Hiker and can ask them some of your other questions. If not, you can always spend a day in Bear Mountain where you’ll be greeted by some much shorter trails if you like to hike or walk, or for a fun or relaxing day in the park.