Best planning information for a thru hike? Lure of a long trail

Let’s admit it.  The possibility of us “thru hiking” one of the following trails is minimal.

They require a huge commitment of time, incredible mental strength and a strong desire to reach your goal.  In short, it takes a special kind of person, one driven to complete such a challenging trip, on foot!

In this post we  highlight an excellent series by Barbara Egbert at on  “The Lure of a Long Trail: Planning a Thru-Hike”.  Barbara shares some fantastic tips and advice in a four part series that is a “must read” for anyone planning a “long” hiking trip.

First up, what defines a “Long trail” and a “thru hike”?

Hiking into a polaroid

Wikipedia, of course, have  definitions:

Long-distance trails (or long-distance tracks, paths, footpaths or greenways) are the longer recreational right-of-way routes mainly through rural areas, used for non-motorised recreational travelling (walking, backpacking, cycling or horse riding).

Any route named as a “trail” (or “way”, in the UK) will probably be marked, or identified on a map, but it will usually only be described as “long-distance” if it takes the average user more than one day to travel from end to end. Typically, a “long distance” trail, way or path will be at least 50 km (31.1 mi) long, but some in Britain are several hundred miles long, and many in the US are much longer.

Thru-hiking is the process of hiking a long-distance trail from end to end. The term is most commonly associated with the Appalachian Trail, but is also used for other lengthy trails and long distance hikes, including the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. Thru-hiking is also called “end-to-end hiking” or “end-to-ending” on some trails, like Vermont’s Long Trail. Section hiking, on the other hand, refers to hiking a complete trail by hiking all of its individual sections, not in continuity or, necessarily, in sequence.

In Australia we have the:
Bibbulman Track – Western Australia – 1000 km (621 miles)
Australian Alps Walking Track – 650 km (403 miles)
Great South West Walk – Victoria – 250 km (155 miles)
The Dreaming Trails – Queensland – 2000 km (1243 miles) (under construction)

(AND many other multi-day tracks too numerous to include here)

What are the premium “long trails” in North America?
The Appalachian Trail –  3505 km (2,178 miles)  from Georgia to Maine,
Pacific Crest Trail –  4264 km (2,650-miles)
Continental Divide Trail- from Canada to Mexico along the spine of the Rockies, roughly 4989 km (3,100)  miles long (under construction)
North Country Trail – 7403 km (4,600-miles)
Pacific Northwest Trail – 1931 km (1,200-miles)
Ice Age Trail – 1609 km (1,000-miles)
Florida Trail – 1770 km) (1,100-miles)
Bruce Trail – Canada 885 km (550 miles)

Hiking in the mountains

“Shorter” ones that are well known:
John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada – 339 km (211 miles)
Tahoe Rim Trail in California and Nevada 265 km (165 miles)
Long Trail in Vermont – 439 km (273 miles)

We just re-read most of Barbara’s very comprehensive articles and suggest you take the time to read them, especially if you are planning a long hiking trip.

Planning a Thru-Hike: Part 1: tips on choosing a trail, gear, training, and resources
Excellent advice for anyone planning a multi day hike anywhere.  There are some great gear and training tips.

The Lure of a Long Trail: Planning a Thru-Hike (Part 2 of 4)
Stacks of great information on planning hiking food and sourcing water.

The Lure of a Long Trail: Planning a Thru-Hike (Part 3 of 4)
Some very useful pieces of practical advice which is mainly about managing that area above the shoulders. We like  “Being dirty and smelly is OK”

The Lure of a Long Trail: Planning a Thru-Hike (Part 4 of 4)
A good read about that unique American  the “Trail Angel”.  These good Samaritans don’t exist in Australia but are icon in the US where many of the tracks pass near small towns or houses.

Climbing Mt Eyjafjallajökull Iceland

Have you walked a “long trail”? Which one was it?
Have we missed some really obvious ones? (I am sure we have) Where are they and how far do they run?
Are you planning a long hiking trip? Where are you heading?

Please leave a comment below, we would love to hear about your experience.


  1. Alan Holzman says

    Just read a great book on thru hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). It was written by 2 sisters who attempt the hike the entire 2175 miles barefoot.

    The Barefoot Sisters: Southbound by Lucy and Susan Letcher 2009 Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania US

    • Frank says

      Hi Alan,
      Did they make it? Or will that ruin the story?

      How about I pay the postage and “borrow” it off you? Would love to read it.
      (Thinking of escaping, hey?)

  2. Alex says

    I’m planning for the Colorado Trail with my dog this year… I’ve tried to go with a (human) partner for the last 3-4 summers, but every time my trip get waylaid for one reason or another.

    Soooo… 2011 it is!

    It’s about 500 miles from Denver, CO to Durango, CO.

    I’ll post back regardless! :)

  3. Greg says

    Hi guys. Love the blog! Keep it coming (you’ve just about convinced me to get an Aarn!)

    You missed the obvious one close to home: Te Araroa – our New Zealand brothers are very proud of it and it looks amazing!

    I think with some effort someone could formalize an amazing thru hike between Penguin and Cockle Creek.

    Penguin Cradle, Overland, Adamsfield, Sawback, McKays, Western Arthurs, South Coast. They just need to joint the dots! And solve the problem of food…

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