View Full Version : Section hike and family hike

11-14-2011, 14:14
My husband and I really want to hike the AT, but have 4 young children so we will be limited until they are older. We are wanting to start our section hike out this spring sometime and think we could get a solid month to hike a section. So now we are trying to figure out what section to hike or if it would be easiest to just start at Springer Mtn. and head north each section. We have support of family that can help us with the kids and are lucky in that I stay at home, homeschool, and he is able to get off work easily enough. We know being away from the kids for a full month isn't possible so we thought about when we hit easier sections taking them along for a few days at a time and having a family member pick them up for a few days while we hike on more milage. Zero days would be spent with them and possibly a few slack packing days if in the right location. I am used to carrying my daughter on my back for any hiking we do and last week we hike parts of AT with all the kids for day hikes, me with 25lbs on my back no problem even at clingman's dome. I'd like to keep my pack around that if possible.

Does anyone have any advice for us just starting out and any advice on best locations? Thanks so much, I've been lurking and reading for a while now and thought I'd try posting finally.

11-14-2011, 14:28
If I had to pick or choose a 300 to 400 mile section it would be one with the least amount of traffic ...especially if you are using this as an escape or retreat for yourself and husband. Ga to Va north bound gets alot of traffic in the spring..especially spring breakers. I would think or consider doing it south bound if I am less tolerant to alot of noise or college students..but of course north bound would be outstanding if you are looking for others to make the trip with ya as a newbie. I also began hiking with my lil ones in a backpack on day hikes and its a much different story with weeks on end of your house on your back vs a day hike at clingmans with 25lb pack. Its great training thats for certain ..I am thrilled to hear other parents are seeking retreats outdoors.

11-14-2011, 17:08
Thanks that is something we need to discuss. I also realize the section they go with us will require lots if planning and probably a lower crowd level to avoid those that are less tolerant of children. I know when they see say a caterpillar, they could stop to watch it for a good 10 minutes lol. We are a very outdoors family thus part of our decision to homeschool and would love to complete a thru hike when they are teena together. We hike often but never overnight, but we do camp often. We are avid hunters and gardeners so we are hardly ever inside. The kids are outside even on cold cold days. I'm wondering if maybe a fall trip would be best?

Feral Bill
11-14-2011, 17:35
How old are the kids?

11-14-2011, 18:24
When you say "Spring," I'm not sure if that's late March or early June but in any case since you apparently don't mind some cold weather, I'd consider starting southbound in the Northern District of Shenandoah NP. The Trail's proximity to Skyline Drive and then the Blue Ridge Parkway will make the logistics of a rendezvous and hike with the kids easier. Starting around mid-April, you wouldn't encounter many people (not even on weekends) and you'd get to experience emerging Spring from early flowers through leaves finally coming out by mid-May. Towards the end, you'd meet some NOBO thruhikers but generally not enough to feel crowded.

April in SNP can range from cold rain & light snow to sunny 70 degree days. May is perfect, both for weather and wildflowers. Whatever you decide, have fun!

11-15-2011, 09:20
I like Cookerhiker's suggestion but I'll suggest starting a little further north in Harper's Ferry, about 57 miles north of SNP, and heading south from there. There are quite a few shelters in this stretch which gives you a lot of flexibility in planning each days mileage. It's great that you're getting the kids started at a young age.

11-15-2011, 10:00
No doubt about it....I would do the section from Harpers Ferry, down through SNP, and end up along the Blue Ridge....I would also consider starting about 40 miles north of Harpers at Penn Mar (along the PA/Maryland boarder)....I really liked the section through Maryland....much history. The section from Penn Mar to south of the SNP is a great section with great views; not the significant UPS/DOWNS elevation as in Carolinas; hostels/lodging are available if preferred. I just did this section this past year and consider it easier than higher mountains in the south....my family joined me for several sections during this time....we found it very doable because trail access is so easy.

11-15-2011, 10:08
That sounds perfect! Thanks, my husband is set on the Smoky Mtn. section and I keep trying to tell him it is the most difficult and has the most regulations so we will have to do that alone. Of course I am the researcher of the group, lol.

My children will be 7, 5, 4, and 2

11-15-2011, 13:30
Rebel's suggstion of going further north is also a good one and about 38 miles north of that is Pine Grove Furance SP which is another potential starting point. The 80 or so miles from Pine Grove to Harpers Ferry is pretty easy hiking which might get the kids off to a good start.

Lemni Skate
11-15-2011, 13:38
My advice if you are trying section hike is to hike parts that are as far away from your home as possible when you have time. Try and leave sections near your home for times when you don't have as much time, but can hop on the trail for 2 or 3 days (or even a day hike).

I say this because I have hiked all the trail near my house and now any section hiking I want to do involves at least a 200 mile drive. Sigh.

I have always, however, wanted to leave the climb up Katahdin for last and I wouldn't change that if I were starting over.

11-15-2011, 15:35
Starting at Pine Grove Furnace and hiking south would be nice. If you decide to start there, try to begin on a Saturday when the AT Muesum is open or contact them to see if they have staffing (volunteers) on other days. Incidentally, one of the very active Museum volunteers are fellow Hoosiers.

Keep in mind you have a couple of rocky, rough-footing stretches if you start at Pine Grove. One is the first 5-6 miles south of Rt. 30 outside Caledonia over the aptly-named Rocky Mountain. The other is just south of Pen Mar.

That sounds perfect! Thanks, my husband is set on the Smoky Mtn. section and I keep trying to tell him it is the most difficult and has the most regulations so we will have to do that alone....

For your desired criteria, the other problem with the Smokies is aside from Newfound Gap in the middle, there's no easy access for your friends & children. Davenport to Newfound is over 30 miles and Newfound to Fontana is about 40.