View Full Version : Hiking the AT with 2 vehicles

01-28-2015, 10:52
Last April while hiking from Springer I ran into a hiker named Rocky who was hiking the trail with the use of 2 vehicles. He parked 1 south on the trail and the drove the other north and then slacked packed to his southern car. Other than the Smoky Mountains he was doing this on a daily basis. I would run into him off and on for the next 300 miles. He even shuttled me and my hiking companion into town once for a resupply.

This seemed like a great idea and I have been considering trying it myself. I did help slack pack a thru hiker friend of mine for a few weeks during the summer from the New York northern border to the Vermont border. I did not have any problems finding a road where I could pick him up.

Has anyone else tried doing this and what areas would finding and intersecting road be a problem.

Thanks for any input!!

01-28-2015, 11:07
Not by myself but I met a guy on here several years ago and we started car swapping. I hiked SOBO and he hiked NOBO. Depending on location we either did day hikes or multi day hikes in remote areas.

If you can do big mile days there are few places you cannot get to by road including the 100 mile wilderness. GSMNP is probably the biggest challenge.

01-28-2015, 11:23
Thanks for the reply! If someone else is interested in giving this a try let me know

01-28-2015, 12:45
Rocky the Flying Squirrel was still going strong in Maine, where I met him in Rangeley. I'm pretty sure it was the same guy, not too many hikers named Rocky with two cars and wearing a kilt. He was pretty close, and I think he finished.

Good luck to you!

01-28-2015, 12:53
It is the same person. I found him on Trail Journals and it looks like he finished. He was quite a character!

01-28-2015, 12:57
LOL! Yes, he was a character! In a good way, of course. :) I'll have to look him up on TJ, then.

He did have a novel approach, and if you've got the resources (cars, money, etc.), it could prove to be quite interesting. You'd certainly get to know all the little back roads quite well.

01-28-2015, 13:11
2012 Trail Journals, Seeks It, did a Yo-Yo, sleeping in his van.

Alleghanian Orogeny
01-28-2015, 14:13
2012 Trail Journals, Seeks It, did a Yo-Yo, sleeping in his van.

Yes, PJ Wetzel "Seeks It" pulled off one heckuva feat in 2012. By yo-yo-ing entirely, he did the entire AT twice for a total of 4,370 miles or thereabout. He did not sleep a single night on the trail. His beginning date was 1/1/12 and he finished on or about 10/27/12. PJ flip-flopped to a considerable degree to optimize weather and trail conditions and he did have a small handful of trips home to the DC suburbs and to Topsail Island, NC. PJ's yo-yos of the GSMNP involved + 30 mile days which lasted from before dawn until after 10pm.

I've read about 2-person + 2 vehicle slack-throughs, too. One method involves running one vehicle ahead in the morning, driving back to a put-in, hiking to the take-out, then back to fetch the put-in vehicle. I think there's a consensus is that this requires a LOT of driving and the driving may very well take more time than would be expended in a simple day's camp setup and teardown by a lone backpacker. The 2-person slack-through team will regularly spend 2 nights at the same campground and sometimes 3 or 4 nights without a tear-down and set-up. Considerably less time would be involved if the 2 hikers were to simultaneously access the put-in and take-out each morning and just hike solo to the other's vehicle, then meeting back in camp.

If I'm not mistaken, there are in excess of 400 road crossings along the AT. I have personally scouted nearly every one of them between Davenport Gap, NC and McAfee Knob, VA (missing 1 or 2 nobo of US 19E @ Elk Park, NC and 2 or 3 between Pearisburg and McAfee Knob). Even employing the nearest National Forest and commercial campgrounds for overnight accomodations, the driving to and from trailheads is tough in terms of time, energy, and wear and tear on a vehicle. Based on my own analysis extrapolating from that segment, which is a mix of easy access and difficult, I think a 2-person slack-through would still take at least 110 days. A day at the beach, it ain't. The advantages, as I see them, are more along the lines of a more enjoyable day's walk lightly laden, a somewhat more comfortable night's sleep (such as in a camper, or even in a tent with a good air mattress or cot), somewhat simpler and sometimes quicker meal prep (leftovers held in a cooler or fridge), somewhat less time spent on resupply (driving through towns all the time while shuttling vehicles), and the availability of a cold beer each and every evening after a hard day on the trail.


01-28-2015, 14:56
and then the two people, one-vehicle method. Awake wherever...(hostel, motel, camping), one person starts hiking, say north. the other drives the vehicle up to a pre-determined point. Starts hiking south. When they pass, they trade the key. Person hiking north gets to the car, drives back to where they started that morning to pick up the other person. they drive up to their next hostel/motel/campsite.

01-28-2015, 17:13
Splash and I did the one car two hiker method as we got close to my home and had to pick up my car. I think I did about 50 miles this way and 3 nights in my own bed. Before having a friend drop us both off on the trail for the rest of the trail.

It was nice for a change of pace however it is far easier to go vehcial free on the AT.

Also we did not do a key exchange we both had keys for the car this allowed us both to hike in the same direction as Splash is a long distance section hiker and had some of that done.

01-28-2015, 17:36
...Has anyone else tried doing this....

Thanks for any input!!

I've seen it done twice the entire AT using two shuttling cars alternating hiking directions on sections of trail as they did it basically doing multi night car to car hikes in sections. First time I've heard of someone yoyoing the AT by yo yoing with two cars though.

Spirit Walker
01-28-2015, 18:03
There was a group that did this from Virginia to Katahdin in 1992. It started out very casually with one car and about 8 people, but ended up with two cars and four people.

it's a really good idea if you are doing a key exchange to make sure both have keys. When DH and I sectioned the Horseshoe Trail doing key exchanges we had two different issues: once we simply forgot to pass the key over, after which we each carried a key, and then there was an unmarked trail relocation where a housing development had been built over the trail and we chose different routes to get around the houses so never met.

Hot Flash
01-28-2015, 18:37
I have plans to do it with two people, one car, and an RV. We're going to do it in sections varying from 4-7 days in length, and always be hiking towards the RV, where we will relax, shower, restock, and check in online.

01-28-2015, 19:51
I read a book titled "Slow and Steady" by Robert Callaway who hiked the AT in 2008 and used two vehicles to do it. He started with a hiking buddy that left the trail and left him with both vehicles. It was an interesting read on top of the fact that it was the first time I had heard of anyone using vehicles to Hike the AT.

01-31-2015, 20:08
Thanks for all the replies. Looking forward to hitting the trail this spring!!

01-31-2015, 22:59
Was in serious preparation to thru the AT back in 2013. Was recovering from back surgery and my job, well, I couldn't go back. As things happened my back got worse and ended up with a couple more surgeries (fusion and then had to get a ruptured disc taken care of). Now am not supposed to lift more than 20 pounds. Anyway, am now beginning to think of a two person, 1 car "thru." I can walk forever...always have been able to. It actually helps the back. I suppose it is possible. Thanks for this thread.

02-01-2015, 08:53
I did several variations over the years while sectioning the AT. For a couple of years we depended on car shuttles from friends or commercial shuttlers. Unfortunately this tended to suck up more time than expected, if it was friends we tended to socialize and go to eat and inevitably end up eating up a 1/2 a day on the shuttle and even with commercial shuttlers it ate up time.

In 2002 I did 5 weeks with a friend, we brought two cars. We would spot a car at an intersection at the North end of a trail section then head south 4 or 5 backpacking days and hike back to the first car. We planned the last day of the hike to get up early and not be a long day. When we got to the car up north we would get lunch, resupply and get a motel room. Depending on the trail crossing, sometimes the motel ends up closer to the start or our next sections so we end up respotting the north car, other times it would be near the south end. We would do laundry that evening at the motel and in the AM would we drive to the trail. We did this for five weeks straight. The advantage is that we never took a zero, even though our average mileage would be less than a thruhiker the first couple of week we covered the same miles.

After the 5 week trip, we switched to one or two week trips usually spring and fall. We had planned to continue on with backpacking but on one trip my friend started having foot issues so we ended up slackpacking using two cars. This was a big plus as its a lot easier to get trail legs while slackpacking and our average mileage went up. Rather than using a motel every night we either used a hostel of about half the time we stayed at shelters. We found that the majority of the shelters are readily accessible from FS roads or from main roads and inevitably there would be a maintainers trail.

One trip it was noticeable that my hiking partner had some foot issues if he hauled a backpack so we ended up switching to backpacking. On the last stretch of AT, we did strictly daily slackpacks with one car and keyswapping where I would drop him off at a trail crossing, I would then drive south and hike north, we would meet for lunch and then when he got to the car, he would drive me around and pick me up.

Car navs and Garmins were not available so I used a Delorme Guide for each state for navigation to trail crossings. I find the Delorme database was a lot more accurate than car nav databases and having a detailed map of the area allowed planning. My observations are that the car nav software tends to fail on rural back roads as it always tries to default to the nearest major road. The Delorme guides also tend to show old roads and frequently shows if bridges are open or closed. Finding the turn offs to FS roads down south was a major challenge. I would pick off coordinates of key crossings prior to heading out in the morning. In some cases, the FS roads look like driveways and if it weren't for the delorme guides I may not have decided to keep going as in at least a couple of cases the road went right through farm yards before transitioning to a FS road.

It is important to note that we had normal cars (Honda Civic and a Fiesta) to reach the road crossings, the FS roads in the south were very well maintained, they may be slow but rarely were we ever limited due to lack of traction or ground clearance. In some case, in particular near Wayah bald some fo the FS road were over 20 miles long and if we hadn't have seen them on the map, we would have driven 60 plus miles on regular roads. In a couple of places, we did encounter "fords" which are shallow stream crossings. We tried to avoid them and made sure that the weather forecast was dry if we did cross them.

In general I would suggest two folks with one car and keyswaps. With the exception of the smokies, we rarely if ever ran into issues with not finding a trail crossing that we could drive to or get quite close to by taking a short hike from a side road.

I am seriously looking at hike like that one on the PCT. I expect that the road crossings will be more widely spaced and expect to be backpacking more but the major advantage to this type of hiking is that in driving around to road crossings we got exposed to far more of the surrounding region. Where thruhikers only saw the green tunnel on the ridgeline we saw a lot more territory, a lot of the surrounding area are long mountain valleys with great roads. I have the detailed PCT maps and will be spending some time at some point figuring out a future PCT hike. I also think with the inevitable overcrowding of trail services on the PCT due to the Wild movie, having the option of heading elsewhere at road crossings is going to be a advantage.