View Full Version : Northern Half

Slow Trek
10-28-2017, 00:43
Due to my son's college graduation date and my work,in 2016 we only had time for Springer to Harper's Ferry. Next year,we intend to finish. We had a great time,met lots of really cool people. My question is this-is the Northern part of the trail similar to the South,or anything way different from our previous trip? I expect more rocks and higher prices,anything else we should know?

10-28-2017, 01:12
Once you hit NH and ME, i'll change a lot. I just thru'd and these 2 states were no joke. Nothing like the southern end. BUT.... way harder which makes it more enjoyable in a way. Pa isn't as bad as "they say" but take general precautions and you'll be fine.

Slow Trek
10-28-2017, 02:14
Kinda what I thought,thanks!

10-28-2017, 06:31
IMHO its definitely different. Much of the AT south of HF is on older ridge line roads and well graded trails. PA starts out similarly but the infamous rocks make their appearance which can slow down your pace. You frequently are on older ridge line roads and the ridge lines generally have easy grades. The ascent out of Lehigh Gap is hint of what the trail bed AT can be north of Glencliff in NH. The PA rocks continue but taper off a bit in NJ but still are an issue on and off through NY. CT and Mass is mostly rolling hills and a nice respite where the footing improves and daily mileage goes up. Southern VT starts out wet and possibly muddy but the daily elevation changes increase. The trail bed gets rockier. Once you make the turn off the LT, the stretch over to Hanover is nice New England woods but you are going perpendicular to the topography meaning lots of daily elevation changes. Western NH starts up pleasant with rolling hills that slowly turn into mountains. NH gets serious at Glencliff. No matter what your speed and condition crank down you daily mileage expectations by a third. You also will get an introduction to "fall line hiking". A "fall line trail" is roughly push a big boulder off the top of the mountain and see how it rolls down to the bottom, then blaze the path. Switchbacks are far fewer. The usage of the trails goes up significantly in the whites and the thin soils mean that the trails either erode down to rock or are "paved" with rocks. Daily elevation changes increase substantially. The good part is you finally are starting to get above treeline so the views really open up. The downside is those great views come with far more bad weather exposure. You also will get to know the high elevation spruce and fir forests below treeline. The woods are incredibly thick and the camping options minimal in this spruce/fir area, most of the convenient sites along the AT are very popular and will be crowded or blocked by restricted use areas around the AMC huts or managed tent and shelter sites. Once you leave the whites, the crowds drop down and the trail gets wilder. The trails maximum elevation drops a bit but it remains rugged with significant steep daily elevation changes through most of Maine until the eastern half of the 100 mile wilderness. Mt Katahdin is fitting end of the AT, there is no comparison to the southern end of the AT at Springer. Plan to spend some time there and if possible have someone meet you and make reservations in the park to avoid the thruhiker backup. It also could open up the option of hiking down the east side of the mountain to Roaring Brook as most thru hikers miss the eastern cirque side of the mountain in their rush to get home.

The standard FYI, as you head north into New England your out of pocket expenses will increase in towns plus you may need to pay to camp in the whites or add a lot of daily extra mileage and elevation to head off the ridge and down in the valleys for a nights campsite.

10-28-2017, 11:33
We like to think of the AT as one long trail and that's the way it's billed on the NarGeo movie. It's not. Each region is different, each trail club is different. Different ways of thinking about everything from trail maintenance to environmental impact drives differing rules. The freedoms we enjoy hiking in the South will give the northern clubs and others fits. NOBO's think we have all the do's and dont's of hiker behavior sorted out. The further north we go the worse our behavior seems and by the time we get to Maine we sometimes look and act like a wild mob of Zombies to the powers that be.

10-28-2017, 11:40
PA is as bad as "they say". It starts out not too bad, but it gets much, much worse. Crossing the Delaware into NJ is a big relief so you can walk normal again. A comment frequently heard in NJ is "this is a lot nicer then I though NJ would be". A thru hiker who has come all the way from GA may not find PA all that bad, but it's a different story for those starting at HF.

Last year when I did HF to VT, I only spent about $1,000, which surprised me. But I only did one real motel (Dalton, MA) and only a couple of hostels. Still, it worked out to be about $2 a mile. It would have probably cost another $1,000 to get to Katahdin.

10-28-2017, 11:44
I kinda did the same thing, Springer to Harpers the first year, the northern half the next. Night and day, IMHO, especially when you get through PA. I guess NJ and NY aren't that radically different, but north of there is. Some observations:

- definitely more expensive in towns, though in places you kinda get what you pay for, meaning some of the town stops were more upscale than in the south
- the locals in the south are the friendliest folks I think I've ever met anywhere. Not so much in the north. At all. No offense you northerners. Gets better again in Maine, seemingly.
- of course in NH and ME, much MUCH tougher "trail" for the majority of the time.
- much better beer up north! though finally, I think, things are improving in the south, especially in NC.
- I want to say "prettier" up north, but that's highly subjective. Since I've completed the AT, we've returned to NH and ME a couple times. I see no reason to return to the SE for hiking.
- Drier, cooler and more comfortable hiking up north, but I'm a humidity-wimp, living and mostly hiking out west.

10-28-2017, 13:31
Don't be intimidated by the northern end. In trail shape, carrying 40 lbs packs, we were still doing 20s in VT and NH.

10-28-2017, 15:53
Don't be intimidated by the northern end. In trail shape, carrying 40 lbs packs, we were still doing 20s in VT and NH.

Good for you. I would say your the exception.

10-28-2017, 16:09
Don't be intimidated by the northern end. In trail shape, carrying 40 lbs packs, we were still doing 20s in VT and NH.

Good for you. I would say your the exception. I'll say.... we slowed from 18.5-19 average (including zeros/neros) on all previous parts (south) of the AT to more like 12 in the whites. We had one 11 mile, 10 hour day. Same deal in southern ME. And we had 20 pound packs! Of course, we're O.L.D.. ! (but in prime shape and nearly always keep up with the youngsters)

Slow Trek
10-28-2017, 21:42
Thanks to all of you for your insights!