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How to Start Your Appalachian Trail Hike

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

The Appalachian Trail (AT) is one of the most famous hiking trails in the world. Spanning over 2,194 miles from Georgia to Maine, the trail offers a unique experience to hikers looking for adventure and natural beauty. The AT is more than 2,000 miles long, and it has an elevation gain of climbing to Mount Everest 16 times.About 3 million people hike the Appalachian trail each year. While millions of people hike on the Appalachian trail, only a few thousand attempt a thru-hike and a lot fewer actually complete the adventure.

One of the most popular starting points for hiking the trail is Amnicola, located near Chattanooga, Tennessee. In this blog, we'll take you through the journey of hiking the Appalachian Trail from Amicalola and all the wonders you'll encounter along the way.

The AT from Amicalola is a 276-mile section that takes hikers through Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. The trail starts at Amicalola Falls State Park and heads north towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the way, hikers will encounter beautiful vistas, cascading waterfalls, and a variety of wildlife.But in many locations you will experience the very thick summer foliage, which many refer to as “The Tunnel” as all you can see is green foliage. ,

The Journey Begins: While the AT starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia, it is a remote location. The only way to get to Springer Mountain is to drive 30 minutes up a bumpy forest service road or hike the Appalachian Approach Trail. If you decide to drive your best bet is to hire a local shuttle driver like Michelle at White Blazes. She is a great driver and has a wealth of information about the trail.

Day 1:

So we’ll assume that you will start at the approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park. and hike the Approach Trail. This is a strenuous 8.8-mile hike to the top of Springer Mountain that gains over 4,000 feet in elevation. Once there you can stay at the Springer Mountain Shelter.

Day 2:

Hike 10.8 miles to the Hawk Mountain Shelter. This section of the trail features a steady climb up and over Sassafras Mountain.

Day 3:

Hike 9.5 miles to the Gooch Mountain Shelter. This section of the trail features a steep descent down to the Gooch Gap parking area.

Day 4:

Hike 13.7 miles to the Blood Mountain Shelter. This section of the trail features a challenging climb up Blood Mountain, the highest point on the Georgia portion of the trail, but not the highest elevation in Georgia which is claimed by Brasstown Bald.

Day 5:

Hike 8.8 miles to Neels Gap. This section of the trail features several scenic overlooks and a gradual descent down to Neels Gap.You can then stay with us at Misty Mountain hostel, the Bed & Breakfast or one of our small cabins. We offer transport to and from the trail! Also, while at Neels Gap be sure to stop in at Mountain Crossings and chat with the folks there. They can fine tune your backpack contents, how it fits on your back and give you all kinds of advice about hiking the AT as many of them have submitted Mount Katahdin. They are well worth the stop. Be sure to grab a pizza as well!

Day 6:

Hike 12.3 miles to the Low Gap Shelter in North Carolina. This section of the trail features a gradual climb up to the North Carolina border.

Day 7:

Hike 9.5 miles to the Standing Indian Shelter. This section of the trail features several scenic overlooks and a steady climb up to Standing Indian Mountain.

Day 8:

Hike 14.3 miles to the Rock Gap Shelter. This section of the trail features several stream crossings and a gradual descent down to Rock Gap.

Day 9:

Hike 14.2 miles to the Wayah Bald Shelter. This section of the trail features a steep climb up to Wayah Bald, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Day 10:

Hike 10.3 miles to the Winding Stair Gap parking area and end the hike. This section of the trail features a steep descent down to the parking area.

This itinerary covers approximately 102 miles of the AT and is a challenging but rewarding hike through the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina. Make sure to bring plenty of food, water, and camping gear, and always follow Leave No Trace principles to preserve the beauty of the trail. Despite the challenges, hiking the AT is an experience of a lifetime. The trail offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and disconnect from the stresses of modern life but be sure to take a “zero” every few days to rest and renew.. The stunning views and peaceful surroundings are a balm for the soul, and physical exertion is a great way to challenge oneself and push past one's limits.

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