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  1. #1
    Registered User skinnbones's Avatar
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    Default Just how difficult is Pennsylvania?

    Planning to hike from Harpers Ferry to Delaware water gap and looking at my guide book I don't see much elevation gains for most of the PA section. Compared to what I went through in Georgia and the early part of North Carolina is PA easier? Also, has anyone hiked from Carlisle, PA to Duncannon, PA in one day?

  2. #2
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skinnbones View Post
    Planning to hike from Harpers Ferry to Delaware water gap and looking at my guide book I don't see much elevation gains for most of the PA section. Compared to what I went through in Georgia and the early part of North Carolina is PA easier? Also, has anyone hiked from Carlisle, PA to Duncannon, PA in one day?
    If my memory serves me I hiked from Boiling Springs to Duncannon in a day. Don't remember it being all that difficult of a day but I was in great shape at this point of the trail. As far as your other questions goes, PA was pretty easy. Southern PA is very nice but then you get into very rocky trails. You can still make good time but you will have these little ankle twisters.
    Lonehiker

  3. #3
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    Yes I hiked on my last thru hike from Boiling Springs to Duncanon in one day. It was late May. I took off at first light and was at the Doyle before supper time. The first half of the day it's flat as a pancake. I thought I was doing good till I got to Cove Mt about the last 5 or 6 miles. That's when you hit the rocks. I was hating life there. On a thru-hike you get spoiled by a easy trail South of "the Rocks" and all of a sudden you are in it and you know it. There are a few days where you are in it for most of the day. That section North of Eckville shelter up past Bake Oven is the worst of it. Overall though when I look back at the entire Appalachian Trail the famous rocks of PA won't make top 10 worst places list. It's just not that bad. Drinking water shortage can be a worse problem than rocks in this area.

  4. #4

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    I have done BS to Duncannon, in a day. It is an easy walk but still 26 miles or so. PA is pleasant IMO but I still have 110 mile left for this july 4th
    Trail Miles: 4,007.6 - AT Trips: 70
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 84.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 0.0

  5. #5
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    It wasn't too difficult at first (Southern end)... Nice, flat, pine needle trail and fields. The rocks up north are bad, but I didn't find them as bad as I thought after reading so much about Rocksylvania and how people sometimes skip that part. Take your time and watch your step is all. Difficultly level - I didn't think it was that hard but it did slow me down a bit for fear of messing up my feet or twisting an ankle.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  6. #6

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    There are different levels of difficulty. I wouldn't say it's particularly difficult. Just tiring. On a scale of 1-10, with Maine being a 10, I'd give PA a 3.

    "Flat" is relative. When there is a climb, it tends to be short but steep. Once you start descending into Duncannon you have to begin paying attention to where you put your feet for the rest of the state. You spend most of the next 100 miles hopping from rock to rock. Drunks walk in a straighter line.

    Time of year and weather makes a big difference. Cool and wet is nice, but slows you down due to slippery rocks. From June on you have to deal with the beastly heat, humidity and increasingly scarce water sources. And keep an eye out for rattle snakes. Having done both, I highly recommend the cool and wet over hot and humid.
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  7. #7
    13-45 Section Hiker Trash
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    I can only comment on the 140 miles from the MD border to the Gamelands parking past the 501 shelter. My recollection of that piece is that it's fairly easy for the most part compared to GA and NC. There's not a lot of ups and downs, and where there are ups and downs they are easier. I've been told I haven't hit the infamous rocks yet though, so can't comment on that.
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
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  8. #8
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    As mentioned above, it can get ridiculously humid in PA. Not quite Houston humid, but still quite bad. I'd recommend planning around July/August. October is nice.

    Don't worry about the rocks. They'll slow you down a bit and you might encounter a blister in a spot that you've never seen before. The biggest problem is that good camping spots (for tents) are few and far between.

  9. #9
    Registered User skinnbones's Avatar
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    I refuse to use shelters (it's a rodent thing) and prefer to tent anyway, so to hear good tent spots are scarce is disappointing news.

  10. #10

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    Tenting isn't that difficult. Usually either near the shelters or just past the shelters there will be a good flat spot. You will probably have to carry water though if you aren't near a shelter.

    In PA you often have a 1-3 mile climb up to a ridge, then 15 miles flattish along the ridge, weaving through rock fields, then a 1-3 mile steepish descent to a valley, followed soon after by another steep climb to the next ridge, long flat ridge walk, and steep descent. The Cumberland valley is a longer flat section through corn fields which is nice in winter but can be quite hot in summer. The farther north you go, the worse the rocks. Or more accurately, the longer the rocky stretches. In the south you'll have 100' of rocks followed by half a mile of easy trail. Then it becomes 100 yards followed by a quarter mile of easy. There are always breaks in the rocky sections, but the farther north you go, the shorter the breaks.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by skinnbones View Post
    I refuse to use shelters (it's a rodent thing) and prefer to tent anyway, so to hear good tent spots are scarce is disappointing news.
    I feel the same way about shelters. Personally never had trouble finding a spot. It might take some extra walking if you're picky, but it's not that bad.

  12. #12
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    I tented near the shelters and had some wildlife pass in the night almost every night. I SHOULD have had my tent fly off those nights (they were actually pretty nice weather wise) but I didn't. That was one of those states that had the most wildlife in the area for me. Other than my bear episode in NY (but that's another story). Pa on up through Ct, I saw the most wildlife. Also, the Ga wolves which were really nice too see.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  13. #13

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    I hiked PA northbound in early May. The first half is pretty easy, with a couple sections that have some rocks, but offset by some stretches of nice trail and tread. Once you hit the rocks they suck, really suck. They get even worse when wet. Numerous times you will be on a terribly rocky trail that slows you down, then it will start to smooth out. Then you come to a fork and the AT always takes the rockiest fork. Honestly, PA was the only state I couldn't wait to get out of. Sorry. Except for the Cumberland Valley it seems every day you climb 1000 ft up a ridge where you hike on the rocky crest all day, then come down at the end of the day. Rinse and repeat each day. Views from these ridges are all the same, farmland.

    The Cumby Valley is walking through flat fields. Was my highest mileage day, 27 miles, but options to camp and shelter are very limited in that section. Rock and Sole hostel is a good spot for a shower and meal. Climb out of Duncannon is tougher than you would expect. Don't underestimate it. Also, watch out for rattlers, there are some big 'uns in PA. Enjoy

  14. #14
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    PA is fairly easy; 25 to 30+ daily miles for a thru hiker is not uncommon. The biggest challenge for me was timing the 16 mile section after BS and the 9 miles after Palmerston in the AM. The heat, humidity and lack of tree cover combined with a lack of water could make those sections difficult on a summer afternoon. The water sources in second section have an tendency to run dry and the first section has warnings regarding farm run off.

  15. #15
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    Water up on the ridgelines can be an issue. There are several stretches where the shelters and water sources are located in minor gaps in the ridge. The water source is what ever drains off he ridge. One shelter had Spring #1, Spring #2 and Spring #3 which basically was a path that followed a stream bed down off the ridge. The theory was if you went down low enough eventually there was flow in the stream bed.

    The rocks are nasty and when they become more prevalent up north, it can get real tedious. Unlike in the whites which has many stretches of continuous rock, when you step on a rock in NH its highly unlikely it will not go anywhere, in PA its the exact opposite, expect the rock is going roll unexpectedly. There is also a lot of use of some of the AT shelters and sites by locals, lots of trash and vandalism in these areas.

  16. #16
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    B carefully of your hiking poles if you use them . The tips can get stuck between rocks and bend or worse.

    thom

  17. #17
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    I would much rather catch a tip on occasion than do that stretch without poles!

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I would much rather catch a tip on occasion than do that stretch without poles!
    That's for sure.

    PA is ground zero for Deer ticks, due to the large deer population. Therefore, you want to stay out of the brush and grass. If your going to tent, do it in a well trampled area at the shelter site and not off into the woods.
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  19. #19

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    I'm old and slow, and I section-hiked the PA rocks some years ago. It wasn't all that difficult, but it was extremely tedious.

  20. #20

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    If the toughest part of hiking for you is the uphills, then you'll find PA noticeably easier. The only truly taxing ascent going NOBO is a 1,000' climb out of Lehigh Gap.

    As mentioned by many others the rocks, especially east of the Susquehanna River, slow you down. It can be frustrating because the rocks are small, some moving, some fixed, most pointed, not large enough to truly rock hop like parts of New England. As long as you're patient, you'll be fine. It's just that the flat-looking elevation profile looks easier on paper than it is in reality because of the rocks.

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