View Full Version : South to North

11-05-2006, 01:56
When is generally a good time in the year to start a through hike going from south to north?

Lone Wolf
11-05-2006, 05:51
Around April 1st is the best time. But it will be fairly crowded.

wilderness bob
11-05-2006, 08:25
Mid March, why?
There are two busy times of the year on the trail towards the beginning of a North bound thru (1st of April and the Trail Days Festival). If you are going all the way I would start around mid March. As L.wolf stated it is crowded around the first of April, because it is the unofficial historical start date (a real busy time of the year at Springer indeed). Believe it or not the trick is to try to get through Damascus by about two weeks before trail days begins. Starting around this time may just help you do this depending upon your time line. By the way if you happen to be on a time line to enter town just before the festival, there are a lot of hikers on the trail for the party (and I mean a lot). Hike past Damascus and hitch back for the fun (some hostels will shuttle hikers), this way you can miss the push of people afterwards as well. Good luck and enjoy. Peace, WB

11-05-2006, 10:03
Part of your answer depends on how far you want to get.

Generally, most thru-hikers start between April 1 and April 15. Start earlier or later, and there will not be as many people out there. Start earlier and expect more severe weather down south. Start later and expect more severe weather toward the end of your thru-hike.

11-05-2006, 10:13
Start anytime between mid March or mid April, but start during the week, rather than a weekend and there'll be less people. Avoid dates like the 1st, the 15th or the 1st day in Spring.

map man
11-05-2006, 13:30
The answer to your question depends on a few things. What kind of weather do you prefer to hike in? Do you prefer solitude or the company of others while in camp and while hiking? Do you think you are likely to hike at a quick pace compared to others, or slow? Will you have any time constraints?

Some things are knowable, though, without knowing the answers to these questions. First, it is a very good idea to get to Katahdin by October 15, and preferably earlier, unless you are a hardcore winter hiker. Just ask Maine residents what the higher altitudes on the trail looked like in Maine in late October this year. Also, you can summit Katahdin on some days after October 15, but you must start your summit day from outside Baxter State Park because it closes to overnight camping after Oct. 15.

Weather is also a factor at the southern end. The earlier you start, the better the chance of snow or really cold rain at the higher elevations in the southern Appalachians. Even hikers starting as late as early May can't be absolutely sure they won't hike in snow, but hikers starting March or earlier can be pretty darn certain they will most years.

The numbers of fellow hikers around you when you start from Springer is also predictable. Within a day or so of March 1, March 15 and April 1 there will be LOTS of NOBO thru-hikers setting off from Springer. Also, any weekend dates in March or early April will see many beginning their thru-hikes. If you want lots of company, start at these times, and if you don't, avoid them.

It's really difficult to predict exactly how long you will take to hike the whole trail, and that will effect when you want to start, but many have gone before you and the time they took to get there might help you estimate. These days, the middle 80% of thru-hikers who make it all the way to Katahdin (excluding the 10% fastest and slowest hikers) take between 4.5 and 6.5 months to get there (see the WhiteBlaze article, "AT Hiking Rates, Section by Section").

So, the answer is still, "it depends.";)