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  1. #1

    Default How "solo" was your solo hike?

    I created this account years ago, with big plans to hike the AT a couple years after this account's creation. Life happened, and when I went to create an account a few days ago, found that I already had one created!

    Well, I'm more into hiking/backpacking than I ever was. Uncertain on any specific date or goal of an actual AT thru-hike, but one thing I've learned lately is: Solo is the way to go (for me). And as my interest in the AT has been re-sparked lately, as I hike and do overnighters near my locale more and more, it got me thinking: Just how 'solo' can one really be on the AT?

    I've been watching a LOT of hiking videos lately, some great AT ones. While some hikers try to present the image that they're on this great journey, alone, doing something completely radical and unheard of... Other hikers show the reality of the trail. Lots of people. Packed shelters. Hikers, everywhere. The friendships created, the temporary communities developed of a small groups and crews that come and go over the course of months on the trail. Interesting to see the different styles in how hikers choose to showcase and broadcast their thru-hike to an audience.

    With that said, how long is the longest you've gone, on your solo hike, without running into another person?

  2. #2
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    I dont think I went a single day without seeing another person.

    However. There were full mornings or afternoons I went without seeing someone.

    The AT is very popular. There are alot of hikers out there.

    I didnt once feel the trail was crowded though. The first couple nights in GA there were certainly alot of people camped out.

    If you want a quiter hike, go sobo.

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    5 days is longest ive gone on an established trail without seeing anyone else. Not the AT.

    Most trails, most of time, hard to go 24 hrs without seeing a person.

    On the AT, hiking After bad weather causes people to hole up in town, can give you a day or two people free sometimes.

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    Never went a full day without seeing another person. I think the lowest was 3. If you go NOBO you will see a lot of people. It's not a solitary experience. Generally speaking this is how many people I saw per day:

    GA: 50-100
    NC/TN: 30-50
    VA: 20 (except for Shenandoah NP which was extremely crowded)
    WV/MD/PA: 15-20
    After that 10-15 except for popular areas like the The Whites, Mt. Greylock, etc...

  5. #5
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    On my thru hike I was often asked "Are you hiking alone?" I would answer no, there are about 2000 other people out here. I don't think I ever went one day without seeing anyone. I hiked from ME to VA in 1976 and I could always tell it was a weekend because I would run into other hikers. But during the week I rarely saw another hiker.
    More walking, less talking.

  6. #6
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    5 days is longest ive gone on an established trail without seeing anyone else. Not the AT.

    Most trails, most of time, hard to go 24 hrs without seeing a person.

    On the AT, hiking After bad weather causes people to hole up in town, can give you a day or two people free sometimes.
    I did 10 days and 175 miles on the BMT and never saw another hiker until day 6 when I was in the Smokys. Only spent 1 night out of 9 camped with other hikers.
    More walking, less talking.

  7. #7
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    The advice to go sobo to avoid the crowds has always seemed a little odd to me. I get that for the first 10-20% it's not crowded and the last 50% it's not crowded, but man, in that middle 30-40%, you have to see all the Nobos. I don't think I would enjoy passing 40+ people going in the opposite direction every day for several weeks. Meanwhile, if you just start Nobo before mid February or after late April, you only see the smaller group that chose your time frame, and you don't see them much during the actual hiking because you're going the same direction. Shelter crowds can be easily avoided by simply camping elsewhere.

    That said, I think the best way to find more solitude on an AT thru hike without straight-up winter hiking would be to flip flop. I did an 80-mile shakedown hike near home in southern VA in late March before flying to Atlanta for my mid-April Nobo start. Of the 7 nights I spent on trail in that section, 3 nights I was totally alone at shelters, and the other 4 nights there were 2-5 other hikers. At one point I went nearly 48 hours without seeing another human. If I was going to do it again with solitude and weather in mind to choose my time and direction, I would flip flop starting at McAfee's Knob in early April. Might be some cold weather in the first few weeks in the higher mountains in VA, but nothing like the Smokies in March. You'd be ahead of the Nobo bubble, hike New England at the tail end of mud/blackfly season, then flip back and hike through the southern portion just as the fall weather starts to cool it down.
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  8. #8

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    Typically encounter people within minutes. It’s popularity annihilates solitude.

  9. #9

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    Started solo, but socialized with all sorts of people, and I'm not a particularly social person. The great thing is you can stealth camp (legally) in a whole lot of places (but not all, depending where you end your day) if you want some solitude and quiet at night. In two months, I had exactly one day where I saw no one, and that was after the bubble thinned in late May.

  10. #10
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    I've been doing the AT NOBO in long sections. I found that the trail is less crowded hiking in September and October. Of course you probably don't want to be in Maine at that time of the year if you don't like the cold, but the rest of the trail weather is pretty good. During my fall season hikes, I have seen fewer hikers and spent more than a couple of nights in shelters alone while maybe passing only a couple of SOBO hikers.

    If you plan to section hike the AT, think about doing sections later in the year if you want some solitude. If you are going to thru-hike, you really don't have much of a choice but to join the crowd.
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  11. #11
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    On a CDT SOBO I went five days without seeing or hearing another human. On an AT NOBO if I went 5 hrs without seeing or hearing another human that would be a stretch. On a PCT NOBO I might go 6-7 hrs without seeing another human. All these were during typical timeframes. As one of the first three to go through the High Sierra on the PCT under an avg to high snow yr I could go 3 days without ever seeing anyone.

    On a OHT thru I could go two maybe three days withouts seeing or hearing another human. On two PNWT LASHes each of half the trail length I could go 3 days. On a Ouachita Tr thru I might not see anyone for 2-3 days. On a Hayduke thru I went 4 days without hearing or seeing another human. On the Grand Enchantment Tr done in 2 LASHes I could go 3 maybe 4 days. On 3X BMT thrus including a 500+ mile Fig 8 I could go two days without seeing another human. On a Lone Star thru I went 2 days. On a late fall Long Tr speedy SOBO thru I could go 2 maybe 3 days. On 2X SHR thrus, one WRR traverse, and a SEKI High Basin thru I could go 2-3 days.


    if you want to really go solo on the AT go out of season. In winter on the AT many times I've had shelters all to myself including in GSMNP. On two LT thrus many times I had LT shelters all to myself. On a fall Northville Lake Placid SOBO i only shred a DAK shelter with one other one time and I stayed most nights at NLPT shelters. It was when going into teh High Peaks area that it was a madhouse of people. Want more solitude we each have a decision to stay at highly populated and beaten down AT shelters and CS's or not. We each design by our individual choices what we experience.


    The reality for me for everyone of these hikes and numerous others is that EACH was a great journey, alone(some more alone from humans than others), doing something completely radical compared to what most in U.S. society experience.

  12. #12
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    Here's another suggestion. Night hike. The AT during fair 3 season weather using some care is just about ideal to get solitude. THEN, dont stay at AT shelters and beaten down CS's. It's not difficult. But it might be initially inconvenient or unfamiliar. I dont know about anyone else but that's what attracts me to backpacking...pushing comfort zones, doing the unordinary, exploring, adventuring in the unknown, feeling alive because each day I'm doing something that might make me a little afraid because I dont go in having all the answers.

  13. #13
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    If you want solo on the AT you need to section and hike away from the bubble. In 2002 we did a 5 week section in VA and for 3 weeks we went 4 to 5 days without seeing any other hikers. We would get a few weekenders but during the week we had shelters to ourselves nearly every night. We were heading south and started at the of the south end of SNP. We also did on week or two week section hikes in the fall down south and rarely did we see anyone. Much of the AT down south gets little or no use outside the bubble except for SNP and SMNP. Granted we needed a bit extra gear for early spring and late fall but being from NH we were used to it. It comes down to go where the hikers are not. Actually the toughest section to be solo tends to be Maine Nh and VT as the season is shorter and lots more day hikers.

  14. #14
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    I have trails, shelters, and campsites to myself in the Whites all the time.

    Just hike midweek and in not so perfect weather lol.

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  15. #15
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    I sectioned hiked the entire AT in 10 out of 14 years, mostly in August. It was quiet in the southern part of the trail in August. I went 36 hours seeing no one. Frequently I camped by myself, even at the shelter or designated campsite.

  16. #16
    Super Moderator Ender's Avatar
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    I went three days in Maine without seeing another single living human (excluding a seaplane that I saw land on the far side of a lake I was hiking along, maybe 1/4 mile away). Which I was frankly super lucky to have managed... I just happened to fall into a bubble between two groups, and no one came southbound during that time either. I don't think something like that is really ever likely to happen again for a northbound AT hike, even in Maine.
    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

  17. #17
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    A traditional NoBo is a (trail) family event. No one hikes alone. They know each other, and end up at the same places together. It is joining a traveling community. Even if you get to hike alone during a day your trail mates will be at you place for the night and welcome you. While as one travels into NE (New England or North East, your pick), you do lose about 3/4's of your trail family, but also encounter SoBo's that seem to get less knowleagable as you head to Katahdin. Half sway through ME I've heard many a SoBo saying the next section is really hard, children they are so cute.

  18. #18

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    A few hours. The weather was ****ty and others were heading into town to wait for it to clear up. I got off the trail soon after. Snow, ice and temps below what I was prepared for finally knock some sense into me.
    ./~Hi ho, hi ho, it's up the trail I go ./~

  19. #19

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    Currently on a flip-flop thru hike starting in HF. Shelters never full. You usually see someone but it’s fairly traditional regarding lack of crowds. You can hike solo. With some patience you can find others moving your pace.

  20. #20

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    Thanks everyone.

    Right now I'm shooting for a section hike 'possibly' later this year, but more realistically, next year. North bound, Springer Mountain to Clingmans Dome where I'd meet my sister and her kiddos for vacation in Gatlinburg and my ride home. It's just a 5-6 hour drive from home, so manageable.

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