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View Full Version : In a perfect world, best time frames for different sections.



kestral
04-05-2017, 11:57
I envy and admire thru hikers!

that said, I won't be thru hiking any time soon for multiple reasons. I do love to section hike so that's why my post. I know that every season and year is different and that short term weather forecasts always have to be considered, but...

In a perfect world, what time frames are bests for different AT sections, avoiding the worst of snows, black flies, "hiker hoard", hot and muggy weather. My ideal hiking is around 50-70 degrees daytime, 30-50 degrees nite, plenty of water in springs and creeks , no black flies, minimal mosquitoes and ticks, not way crowded hiker highway. I know reality strikes in spite of the best planning and as you can probably tell I've made all these mistakes on my sections before, :/ but...

In a perfect world...

colorado_rob
04-05-2017, 12:10
Three words: Never in the summer. I did the entire AT never making a single step on it in the "summer" (technically, I did start my last section in mid September, still "summer" by a week, though felt like fall).

I'm a strictly cool-weather hiker, can't stand heat and humidity and bugs. three springs and three falls and I did the AT, to wit, my six section hikes:

1) Springer to Catawba, 703 miles, April 10-sometime mid-late May
2) Catawba to Harpers, Late September to sometime in mid October
3) Harpers to High Point NJ, the next April, spilling into early May
4) White mountains with my wife, 100 miles, that fall
5) High point NJ to southern end of of white mountains in NH, the next late April to end of May (very dry that year in VT, trail was never muddy, I got lucky)
6) Top of whites to finish, mid September to October 1

That worked for me perfectly. EMMV.

Slo-go'en
04-05-2017, 12:47
Yep, mostly never in summer. Mostly you want to avoid July and a few weeks on either side. Do most of the AT in the spring - April/May. Do New England in the fall, mid August and into early October.

devoidapop
04-05-2017, 13:01
If you never hike summers you miss out on long days, swimming at waterfalls, the smell of honeysuckle, lightning bugs, rhododendron blooms, that sweet summer rain...

Plus, you get to pack lighter. I say anywhere in the mid-atlantic is perfect for the summer.

colorado_rob
04-05-2017, 13:13
If you never hike summers you miss out on long days, swimming at waterfalls, the smell of honeysuckle, lightning bugs, rhododendron blooms, that sweet summer rain...

Plus, you get to pack lighter. I say anywhere in the mid-atlantic is perfect for the summer. On the first day of summer, the days are starting to get shorter. PLENTY of great daylight in the spring. In fact, lots of people don't realize this but March 21-June 21 (Spring) has precisely the same amount of daylight as June 21-September 21 (summer). But you're right on the swimming thing.....

rafe
04-05-2017, 13:19
Best time for any part of the AT is in late summer and autumn (except for Labor Day weekend). The hottest days are behind you and most of the bugs are gone. Temperatures are as pleasant as they're going to be. You can carry a relatively light pack.

Minor downsides: days are getting shorter, streams and springs are drying up, so water may be harder to find.

illabelle
04-05-2017, 13:20
We did the Whites in early July. At that elevation it wasn't too hot. I'm pretty sure it would have been fine in Aug/Sept as well.
Aug/Sept has been great for Maine so far.
Sept/Oct for Vermont & Massachusetts - not spring.
Either spring or fall for most everything else.
Smokies can get muggy in midsummer, but early summer isn't bad.

And devoidapop makes a good point about the rhododendron blooms and water temperature. June in the Roan Highlands is a sight to behold. Late last August (or early Sept) we "enjoyed" a nice dip in the water at Antlers Campsite in the HMW. In reality, it was much too cold to enjoy.

devoidapop
04-05-2017, 14:40
I live just north of Fayettenam, so the NC and VA mountains are the perfect place to cool off in July and August.

Grandfather Mountain has a particularly nice, cold stream near the start of the profile trail. A perfect end to a hard hike.

soumodeler
04-05-2017, 15:30
Thats a tricky one. There are sections that I have hiked numerous times, at different times of the year, where I would have a really tough time picking the one best. They each have their own pros and cons.

However, with my AT experience limited to GA, NC, and TN, I would have to say April/May and October would be the best overall times for the southern 1/4 of the AT. April and May has more weather and more people, while October has better weather but less people and water... and get your timing right and you have fall foliage to consider. Those are very broad statements.

Slo-go'en
04-05-2017, 17:25
The Whites in July can be hit or miss. The HHH weather does make it up here and hangs around for a week or two in mid summer. The haze limits the views and often the summits are capped by clouds, due to condensing of the humid air around the cooler summit cone. Good chance of an afternoon thunderstorm too, which isn't fun to be out in above tree line.

I once did NJ/NY/CT at the start of an 11 day heatwave in the middle of July. They only thing which made it barely bearable were the fairly frequent ponds in NJ/NY. That was a rough week and a half. These days I avoid any long, strenuous hikes in that kind of weather! Doing that section was much more pleasant last spring when it was still reasonably cool and damp.

egilbe
04-05-2017, 17:58
We did the Whites in early July. At that elevation it wasn't too hot. I'm pretty sure it would have been fine in Aug/Sept as well.
Aug/Sept has been great for Maine so far.
Sept/Oct for Vermont & Massachusetts - not spring.
Either spring or fall for most everything else.
Smokies can get muggy in midsummer, but early summer isn't bad.

And devoidapop makes a good point about the rhododendron blooms and water temperature. June in the Roan Highlands is a sight to behold. Late last August (or early Sept) we "enjoyed" a nice dip in the water at Antlers Campsite in the HMW. In reality, it was much too cold to enjoy.

Didnt you go either, a week before, or a week after I did it? I didnt find it that cold, but we went for a swim pretty early in the afternoon. We had the entire afternoon to set up camp and dry off.

rafe
04-05-2017, 18:59
One of the most miserable AT section hikes I did was from Bear Mountain (NY) to Great Barrington MA, in mid/late June. I'd intended to make it to Dalton, but cut it short because of the heat. High temps around 95 for the last few days of that hike. I made up the GB to Dalton stretch in early September that year and the weather was gorgeous. (Just a couple days after Hurricane Katrina.)

I did Hanover to Great Barrington in early August. Wicked hot most days, highs often around 85.

I generally aimed for late August - early September for my section hikes.

Deadeye
04-05-2017, 22:01
You can never really count on the weather, so the best time to hike is whenever you can.

illabelle
04-06-2017, 05:31
Didnt you go either, a week before, or a week after I did it? I didnt find it that cold, but we went for a swim pretty early in the afternoon. We had the entire afternoon to set up camp and dry off.

We did the "70-mile wilderness" after Katahdin on August 27 (exiting at KIW). Not sure what day we got to Antlers, maybe 4-5 days later? It was a comfortable warmish sunny day.

Got there mid-day, so yes we had all afternoon to enjoy it. But I'm not used to cold water swimming like you Mainers are. The lakes around here are toasty warm in mid-summer, like bathwater. No shivering at all. :)