View Full Version : Trail Legs

03-02-2016, 21:18
My longest hike was around 220 miles while hiking the John Muir Trail in CA. It took me 19 days. As such, I don't think I have ever hiked far enough to experience "trail legs." When do you realize you have trail legs, and how long did it take you? Also, if you took any extended break on the trail, how long did it take for you to lose your trail legs and get them back again? Is there a point that you reach where you no longer get tired while climbing hills? Or are trail legs just a zone you get in where you blink your eyes and you just put 5 miles behind you without thinking? What is your definition and experiences?

03-02-2016, 21:50
It depends a lot on how old you are. It used to take me about 2 weeks to start to feel like I could walk all day forever, now it takes more like a month. One also seems to loose the trail legs quicker with age. I don't know if you ever stop getting tired climbing hills. Especially when they come to you one after another after another....

03-02-2016, 21:53
My experience is that I hit another gear at 3 weeks and then again at 5.

03-02-2016, 22:10
It's kind of the opposite for me. I tend to stay very active in my life, and every time I've started a long hike I've been in excellent shape. From then on, it's a matter of how long I'll last. I don't get any better during the hike. For me it's more like a horse race--horses don't get in shape during a race, they finish tired and spent and I know that feeling.

The question about hills is a good one--I noticed as I got into New England on the AT that I no longer complained internally about hills, that I accepted them as part of an excellent trail. That was psychological, not physical, and probably the greatest gift the AT gave me. If there's a "trail legs" concept in my hiking, that's psychological as well.

"The Zone" is definitely a reality. Once I treated water and set my stopwatch for 20 minutes. I got into the Zone, missed 20 the minute mark, the stopwatch reset after an hour, and when it reached 20 minutes again I announced to my small group of companions that it was safe to drink our water. They laughed and told me it had been 1 hour and 20 minutes, and I still swore it was only 20 minutes--scientific proof that there is a Zone.

03-02-2016, 22:50
I did a couch-to-Maryland-AT-challenge last year and swore by mile 24.7 I had my trail legs ablazin', but was just the Bretskis talkin

03-02-2016, 22:59
It took me about 40 days before I started moving at full speed, though I was instructed by several trail veterans to take it very easy for the first month, like 10 miles a day easy.

The true testament to trail legs is when you can walk hundreds if not thousands of miles on an injury that would normally require 2 weeks+ rest at minimum.

03-02-2016, 23:01
I walk a lot at home and work. Usually it takes me a week on the trail to feel like I can keep walking forever. On the LT it was coming out of the Inn at Long Trail, after the first hundred miles. Yeah, it was tough, but we were flying.

Pedaling Fool
03-03-2016, 07:07
There are different levels of "Trail Legs". However, the true Trail Legs (IMHO) are when you get that very special feeling of floating on air. When I started out in 2006 I hadn't backpacked (Long Distance hike) for a few years, last big trip was in 1999, so I had some work to do to develop my Trail Legs, not to mention I was carrying no less than 60lbs. I got my Trail Legs after ~600 miles of thru-hiking, day after day. Nowadays it doesn't take so long to get my Trail Legs, since I run a lot between hikes.

You don't need to do massive-mileage days to get your Trail Legs, but you do have to do massive-cumulative days of hiking; consistency is the key.

03-03-2016, 10:47
Age is definitely a factor. Last year's hike from Damascus to Amicalola was the first time I experienced the trail-legs phenomenon, after at least a month of hiking. I didn't go any faster, but most days I felt I could I could hike up and down hills for as long as I needed to at a slow, steady pace.