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America's Incredible Thru-Hikes

52 Week Adventure Challenge

05.15.17

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America's Incredible Thru-Hikes

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  • Hiker on the Mist Trail on the way up to Vernal Falls near the start of the John Muir Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • A JMT hiker enjoying the view at one of the many bridges along the Mist Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • The beautiful blue glacial waters of Bowman Lake from the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. Rainbow Peak (9,892 feet) in the distance.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • PNW trail: The old lookout looking toward Lion Head and the northern Selkirks.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • One of many breathtaking campsites at Thousand Island Lake on the JMT.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  •  A Pacific Crest Trail blaze in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • PCT thru-hikers gather as smokey skies from a fire near Mount Adams set the back drop for this water break in Goat Rocks Wilderness, Washington.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • The end of the PCT! Monument 78 at the U.S. and Canada border.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Berstarse Falls via the PCT. - America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Typical sight along the PCT. One of the three lakes at Short Trail Camp.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Crow Pass Trail thru-hike.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Crow Pass.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Heavy fog on the Lost Coast Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Hiking along a beach on the Lost Coast Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) on Redcloud Peak near the Colorado Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Views north to Uncompahgre Peak (14,321 feet) and Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 feet) in Colorado's alpine wilderness near the Colorado Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • View overlooking the Cascade Valley on the John Muir Trail. The terrain is very similar to the Sierra High Route, and the two trails overlap just north of Cascade Valley.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Silver Pass lies beyond Chief Lake. At 10,900 feet, the Sierra High Route and the JMT intersect near Silver Divide.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail traverses alpine terrain and the beautiful coastline on the Olympic Peninsula.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Zion Canyon from Angels Landing, part of the Hayduke Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • A common vista in canyon country along the Hayduke Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • The Grand Canyon of the Colorado, one of the stops along the Hayduke Trail.- America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
  • Rocky Mountain National Park is located along the Continental Divide Trail. - America's Incredible Thru-Hikes
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Thru-hiking, the term for hiking from one end of a long distance trail to the other, has experienced a boom in popularity over recent years. Books like Wild and A Walk In the Woods are widely read and have launched the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Appalachian Trail (AT), and other thru-hikes into the mainstream spotlight. 

Despite its rise in the public’s eye with stories about relative newbies to the outdoors tackling these trails, thru-hiking is not something to take lightly. It’s a grueling endurance slog that takes weeks or months of consistent physical and mental effort.

Before embarking on a thru-hike, be it a shorter three-week trek like the John Muir Trail (JMT) or a longer one such as the AT, which is usually completed in around 5 months, be sure you know what you are getting into. Here’s a list of valuable resources that hikers should scour for hours before setting foot on the trail.

Of course, one of the best ways to get prepared is to buy a trail book. Don’t underestimate the power of social media, either. Serious hikers can search for Facebook Groups like this one geared towards the PCT “trail family.”

Once you get an idea of what to expect, it’s time to decide which trail is the one for you.

The name “Triple Crown” refers to these three massive hikes. Only about 30 people have successfully done all three.

  • The Appalachian Trail runs 2,178 miles from Georgia to Maine and attracts thousands of people who attempt it each year. About one in four people make it.
  • The Pacific Crest Trail has about a 60 percent success rate, but only about 300 people attempt it each year. Most thru hikers begin at the border of Mexico and California and hike their way 2,650 miles north to Canada with the goal to be there by end of the summer. There’s been a recent trend, however, to hike it north to south and end in Mexico in the fall. Many summits on this route exceed 10,000 feet.
  • The Continental Divide Trail is the least traveled of these three major thru-hikes. A map and strong compass skills are essential on these 3,100 miles because the trail is a lot less established than the PCT and AT. Only a few dozen people make the attempt each year.

The rise of thru-hiking has also made these shorter (but still substantial) hikes popular adventures, as well. For more thru-hikes in general, read 6 Thru-Hikes Off the Beaten Trail

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We believe good things come from people spending time outside. We strive to provide inspiration and supporting information on incredible adventures to make it easy for you to get outdoors and explore new places. We understand that life is busy, but we strongly encourage you to make time for outdoor recreation on a weekly, if not daily, basis. To keep you inspired all year, we've put together a list of 52 geologic features and adventure themes. Check them out and join us in our #52AdventureChallenge!

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