A hiker follows the Appalachian Trail across Max Patch Bald in Haywood County, NC.


The Appalachian Trail extends 2,160 miles from Springer Mountain in North Georgia to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine. “Through Hiker” is the name given to those who hike the entire trail in one season. It may also be used to describe hikers who walk the entire trail in segments over several years. Most single-season through hikers begin in Georgia, because Maine’s late spring shortens the hiking season there. Hikers resupply by mailing themselves packages to collect at post offices along the trail or by rendezvousing with supporters. They adopt trail names and often hike part way with others they meet along the way. Over 10,000 through hikers have been recorded by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy–a small fraction of the 4 million who hike on the trail each year.

The following videos document the experience of three novice hikers as they interact with several Through Hikers on a North Carolina section of the Appalachian Trail.

The Journey: Day 1 (7:58 minutes).   Meet three beginning hikers as they plan a short hike along the Appalachian Train in western North Carolina.  They discuss their experience levels, learning to use a map, and the challenges of steep trails.  They also encounter Through Hikers and learn about trail names.

The Journey: Day 2 (7:00 minutes). Our three hikers learn about the Triple Crown of Hiking–completing the AT, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.  They also experience the close-knit community of through hikers and learn more about hiking steep trails.

The Journey:  Day 3 (4:13 minutes).   A predawn start rewards our hikers with a beautiful sunrise on the trail.  They also learn how one hiker repays his debt to all those who helped him through hike the AT.