View Full Version : how much time to do the approach trail?

01-22-2006, 23:33
I am wondering,

how much tome does it take to do the 8.8 mile approach trail to Springer? I am sure that some folks like Squeeky could get to Springer before Breakfast time..but what is an avg time?

I am wondering if it would necessitate an 8 am start or a 10 am start? Is the footing relatively easy or is it already a challenge?

I am guessing that it is a rather well worn footpath given the thousands that have passed thru?


01-22-2006, 23:37
It is well worn, but quite muddy within Amicolola Park by the Falls. It is a fairly steep walk, generally. The time of year and your own conditioning has a lot to do with when you should start.

I've walked in snow and ice, and found it very challenging. At other times, it is just a boring walk. Few views and water fairly far off the trail midway.

01-22-2006, 23:49
I know that some hikers that started the steep approach trail out of Amicalola NEVER got to Springer. Most just exceeded their ability, from lack of experience, to make the climb loaded with gear. Some got blisters from those new boots and had to stop. I would bet that the number that haven't made it are greater than one would realize.

01-23-2006, 00:02
In '98, we took a day to do it. That was with 55+ lb packs, and by the end of it, we were beat. Of course, we also hadn't done anything to prepare physically beforehand either, so that could have had something to do with it. It is 8.8 miles straight up, so it's not terribly easy for a first day. But, to this day, I'm very very glad that I did it. Next time (oh yes, there will be a next time) I will do at least some physical prep and carry a much lighter prep, but I'll stil plan on doing it in a day, just taking it easy the whole way and enjoying it. :)

Spirit Walker
01-23-2006, 00:15
It depends on what kind of shape you are in and how early you start. 8 miles is four hours - if you're in reasonable shape. The first time, I camped just above the park, woke up at dawn and reached the top of Springer at about 11:00 a.m. I went on to Hawk Mountain that night. The second time, I stayed in town and took a taxi out in the morning, got to Springer early afternoon and went on to Stover Creek for the night. But both times, I was in pretty good shape. I had been walking every day and hiked every weekend. Springer was a good climb - but not as bad as I expected.

01-23-2006, 00:32
The first time I hiked it, it was January and we left the lodge after breakfast (about 9AM). I was very out of shape, we hiked very slowly (new boots and waaaaaaay tooooooo much gear I actually had a lantern - a Peak 1 white gas lantern!!!) and still made it to the top by 4 - 4:30. So it is very doable in a day - If it's your first day on the trail, I'd plan for the shelter, but no further than Stover Creek - remember to take it easy in the beginning!

Mr. Fusion
01-23-2006, 00:33
Last year I started at Amicalola at 8 AM on a cold rainy day. I got to Springer by 2 PM. This included a long stop at Amicalola Falls and a lunch break. Although I'm young and was in decent shape at the time, my pack was about 40-45 pounds (shaved it to 20 by summer, thankfully) and I felt it every step the way up.

There's a sign partway up the approach trail that says "Difficulty: Strenuous". They're not kidding.

01-23-2006, 00:43
In the past two years. IMO, it being considered "tough" is a bit of an overstatement. It's got some uphills, but nothing as sustained as Kelly Knob or the like. Note that I'm on the heavy side, and am one of those guys who so far has only been able to do the miles needed to make it to the next shelter (usually not much over 8 miles, at least not two days in a row).

I did the Approach Trail in warm, humid weather with a pack weighing around 50 pounds in under 6 hours, and I wasn't hurrying, just didn't take many or long breaks. You can leave Amicalola in mid-afternoon in summer, and still make it to the end before dark. Just consider you may want to stop for the night at Black Gap shelter (about a mile and a half short of Springer), if it's heavy thru-hiker season, or on Friday or Saturday nights in non-winter seasons. This is BC Springer is more likely to be full those nights. The shelter at Hawk Mountain is a reasonable distance for one day (your second day) from Black Gap shelter, too, and isn't a bad walk, either.

01-23-2006, 11:14
If you apply "book Formula," it's 2 miles per hour, plus 1/2 hour for each 1000 feet of climb. Thus, 8.8 miles, plus about 2,000 feet of climb, book time is 5 1/4 hours. Your time will vary. Depends on the weather, and what shape you are in.

As an indication, Dave, how does your actual hiking times compare with book times in the White Mountain Guide?

Lion King
01-23-2006, 12:09
Ive done it three times, each time I wonder what the hell I am thinking...

It can take about 4-6 hours depending on your variables.

First time in 98 I did it with a hefty ass pack and a full size guitar and that was stupid since I had never backpacked before...I almost flipped out before I got to Suches...

Anyway, do it. If you can do the approach you can do the whole trail, it gives you that kind of feeling.

01-23-2006, 12:24
I always used the worst case scenario (trail algebra) relative to figuring our ETA's. Just ask anyone from the JHP. Worst case trail algebra rule:

x = time (hrs)
y= mph (2)
z= dist (8.8)

xy = z
x = 4.4 hrs

The miles seem to melt away when you use a conservative variable for "Y." Have fun figuring out Y...

Good luck on your thru-hike.

01-23-2006, 12:43
When I hiked the approach in March '03 conditions were really good. My gear configuration though was really poor. I had a gregory whitney busting out at the seams with everything from extra boots to books to a case of CD's. It was about 55 lbs. I left the lodge after breakfast around 8 and I arrived atop springer at around 12:30. There is one memorably steep section near the summit that almost took me out, but otherwise a nice hike for a first day.

01-23-2006, 15:41
I've done the Approach about 7 or 8 times I think. It's up-and-down-y, but none of it really long. My first time a couple years ago, carrying about 45lbs, it took something like 5 hours if I remember clearly. These days, with a multi-day pack in the teens and 20s, I usually end up atop Springer in roughly 3.5-4 hours. As a trail run/ day hike, I've been to Springer in 2-2.5 exhausting hours. I think it's very doable with a 10am start in March, and yes, the trail is very obvious and well-tread.

01-23-2006, 15:46
no one cares about things on that walk. its all so unreal.remember when you get out of the taxi and break your first sweat and take your first piss and dissapear from the sight and sound of cars and roads for the first time,that you are walking in a dream. your dream walking.i like to try to hold in my joy on that trail but never seem to be able to .every once in a while ill just blurt out to the trees,'man this is so cool'.and when you come upon the bronze plackard,its not even real.you just stare at it and walk away .at this moment we dawn the mantle thru hiker for the first time.this is a very lofty place and no place for use to judge or laugh at others failures. go softly and with a humble spirit.

Lone Wolf
01-23-2006, 15:48
Average time? I'd say 4.5 hours. Takes me 3. I've done it 7 or 8 times too. It's really overrated as far as toughness.

01-23-2006, 15:55
..and when you come upon the bronze plackard,its not even real....

aint that the truth. When you get there, it's just the most amazing thing. The start of something fantastic. Good stuff.

01-23-2006, 16:25
I remember the approach trail kicking my butt pretty good, I was exhausted by the time I got to the top and so was everyone else I've talked to who was on the AT for the first time. I think mainly it got me because I was inexperienced at hiking in the mountains and while not in bad physical condition, it could have been better. I still covered it in about 5 hours.

We had this conversation one night much further up the trail, maybe in Waynesboro about how hard the approach was, how tired we were, etc. However when we thought about it, we all agreed that the approach would not have seemed so hard to us were it 500 miles in to the trip after everyone was in good condition and had their trail legs. I'm not sure how it really compares in regards to elevation change over distance, etc but compared to some one day stretches like The Priest and Three Ridges or the rollercoaster, it did not seem so bad in hindsight.

01-23-2006, 16:37
i did a southbound section hike in may 2001 from deep gap nc to amicola falls state park,i renamed the approach trail as the departure trail since i did that section southbound:cool: neo

Jack Tarlin
01-23-2006, 19:49
It depends on weather; trail conditions; packweight; physical conditioning; how often (and how long) your breaks are; and how fast you enjoy hiking.

For folks, I'd say three to five hours should do it.