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  1. #1

    Question The toughest areas of the Appalachian Trail

    Came across this online. Would you say this sums up the toughest areas of the Appalachian Trail?

    Mount Madison.
    Mount Katahdin.
    Mount Washington.
    Mahoosuc Notch.
    Cheoah Bald.
    Lehigh Gap / Superfund Trailhead.
    The Priest.

    I noticed it didn't have the 100 mile wilderness which I'm told you need at least 8 days of food to make it through that.
    Neither does it mention rivers.

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    All of the Whites and the whole Mahoosuc range (not just the Notch) are pretty tough. I think the weather also plays a big role in making sections tougher, like walking through the flat Cumberland Valley in 95-100 degree sun and high humidity was pretty brutal. I think the PA rocks often seem so bad (not that they aren't) because it's often very hot and humid when thru hikers come through. The 100 mile wilderness isn't as easy as some make it seem but I wouldn't say that's one of the toughest. I thought a larger section of trail or particular area it covered would seem tougher/easier, when I try to think of toughest parts of my hike I think of sections and how the weather was rather then seeing a single mountain or small climb/scrambler as one of the toughest parts..... if that makes any sense.
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    "Toughest" may be too subjective to agree upon. Does that mean lots of rocks and roots, or elevation gain/loss, or loose dogs trying to bite you, or too many ticks/mosquitos? What are you really asking (do you know?)?

    I tell people that the whole AT is pretty tough.

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    Easy. Atlanta Greyhound station.

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    I swear, even in the "easy" sections, they go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible.

    But southern Maine is where they really exceled in doing that.

    But heck, that's what makes it interesting. Otherwise, you might as well do laps in the mall...
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    For the unprepared?
    Georgia.
    Wayne

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    Madison?? No. It's steep but the trail maintenance could not be better. You just walk up it.

    Southern Maine is the hardest part of the trail. But keep in mind that all of it is very doable. By "hard" people just mean that it can be slow in those areas or that you will do less mileage. "hard" is when you try and keep up your normal mileage through the worst of the obstacle course.

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    Easy answer is the Whites followed by wherever you start. The Mahoosuc section is slow going as well as parts of Maine when it rains. The northern half of the 100 mile wilderness is not difficult.

    A lot of places aren’t bad first thing in the morning but if you hit them in the afternoon sun or as the last hill of the day, they seem more difficult than they are.

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    Pinkham Notch to the top of Wildcat is quite difficult especially for section hikers with full backpack. Some folks really do not like the exposed ledges and its very steep.

    The descent from the top of North Carter to Imp Shelter seems to be tricky one with more than few thruhikers and backpackers getting hauled out. The trail bed has several steep smooth slabs that have been widened out considerably by folks trying to avoid them. The slabs face north and are shaded meaning they tend to be damp without a lot of good texture.

    The stretch from the top of Lafayette to the top of South Twin has some very steep stretches where the trail is straight up or down. The trail bed is hardened with boulders but its quite steep.

    The ascent up South Kinsman seems to get a lot of comments, its the first significant sustained boulder climb in the whites, its doesn't help that it faces south and can get real hot while climbing.

    The eastern end of the Mahoosucs, east of Gentian pond in general has a lot of steep sections including the first real use of steel bars to climb up steep ledges. It also has a lot of puds. Mahoosuc Arm is usually a surprise as thru hikers thought the hard part of the day was Mahoosuc Notch.

    The drop between Moody and Hall Mountain to Sawyer Notch and the adjacent drop from Moody to Blue in Western Maine are steep but mostly disheartening as all the steep elevation lost needs to be steeply gained again (they are very steep deep notches). No wonder the local hostels get a lot business slackpacking thruhikers in this area.

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    There's subjective and objective difficulties.... For the objective ones, I think most folks agree, at least those who have actually hiked the trail, that the Whites and western Maine (or southern Maine) contains the most sustained difficult terrain.

    For subjective difficulty, sure, GA is rough with brand new wannabe thru hikers, and then there's the 500+ miles of VA..... VA kicked my mental butt, so much so that I had to take a break in my long section hike (my plan was springer to harpers, only made it to Waynesboro, came back in a couple months to finish).

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    The Priest only makes the list SOBO. 3K' gain in 4 miles. From the other side it's like a hump. As tough as Priest is, it's still relatively short, so I don't know that I'd put it up there as a toughest "section" of trail.

    The climb out of NOC up to Cheoah was pretty damn tough!
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    Separate thread about a hiker airlifted from the Mahoosuc Notch after breaking her leg in a fall:

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthr...94#post2252394

    Something to look forward to...

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    Quote Originally Posted by evyck da fleet View Post
    Easy answer is the Whites followed by wherever you start. ...
    Unfortunately for us section hikers, every section is where we start.

    I know the central VA really (south from McAfee Knob) beat up my knees as that section crosses lots of ridges. But I haven't been to ME/NH yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    Unfortunately for us section hikers, every section is where we start.

    I know the central VA really (south from McAfee Knob) beat up my knees as that section crosses lots of ridges. But I haven't been to ME/NH yet.
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    "Toughest" is a relatIve term. A lot depends on frame of mind, gear weight, weather conditions, trail conditions, what food was consumed the night before or that morning, overall health, amount of sleep, emotional/mental attitude, and impact of minor or cumulative injuries. A section of the trail one may find very tough to move through this week may not be nearly as tough 4 weeks from that point (or vice versa).

    While the Whites and Mahoosics stand out as some of the most difficult terrain the trail moves through and not to diminish their respective challenges, most people headed into these areas are physically and mentally prepared for the challenge. It's the seemingly routine terrain that can be the toughest to slog through when wet weather hits for days on end, slipping on every 5th step on a tweaked ankle, when continuing another step becomes an exercise in self motivation. To me, those are the toughest areas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Are you waiting until you get younger?
    Just go, OMO, just go.
    Another section hiker who was closing in on 2000 miles told me " do Maine before you are 60".


    Well, that ship has already sailed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    Another section hiker who was closing in on 2000 miles told me " do Maine before you are 60".


    Well, that ship has already sailed.
    Well, as a fellow 63 year old, it just so happens I'm heading there next month to "do" Maine for my third time. Can't wait! Tough = fun and satisfying ! As I said earlier, tough for me = relatively boring and uninteresting, AKA many parts of VA (and PA for that matter (no offense to VA/PA folks meant)....

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    Another section hiker who was closing in on 2000 miles told me " do Maine before you are 60".
    Well, that ship has already sailed.
    I'll be 60 when we finish next year. We've already done 80% of Maine (thankfully!) but our finale will include some tough tough stuff: Moosilauke, the Kinsmans, the Wildcats, and the Mahoosucs. While I'm not as strong and healthy as I wish I was, I'm certain that getting older won't help.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    I'll be 60 when we finish next year. We've already done 80% of Maine (thankfully!) but our finale will include some tough tough stuff: Moosilauke, the Kinsmans, the Wildcats, and the Mahoosucs. While I'm not as strong and healthy as I wish I was, I'm certain that getting older won't help.
    I did all those areas last year and this year. Make sure your legs are in good shape but also work your upper body. There is a lot of rock climbing. This year my hike was cut short by a strained hamstring going up those damn rocks.
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    Smile Toughest areas on the AT

    Quote Originally Posted by ldsailor View Post
    I did all those areas last year and this year. Make sure your legs are in good shape but also work your upper body. There is a lot of rock climbing. This year my hike was cut short by a strained hamstring going up those damn rocks.
    For me what I remember as being real tough was the approach trail at the start of my NOBO thru.
    I left Amicalola Falls Park with a 50lb pack and a 65 year old body. After about a hour, I took a break, sat on a log and thought: "What the hell am I doing here." Was thinking about going back home. Said to myself, "You have to at least give it a try." That I did and ending hiking the whole trail.
    Grampie-N->2001

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