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What is Thru-Hiking?

If you're here, you've likely heard of the term “thru-hiking” at some point or another and are wondering what on earth it is. Well, I can likely speak for most when I say that thru-hiking means something different to each and every thru-hiker. By that I mean when thru-hikers look back on their hikes, and think what it means to them, I can almost guarantee the response would be different for each. Something you'll understand if you've thru-hiked too. Anyway, let's get back to it.

Thru-hiking, according to Wikipedia , is as follows:

Thru-hiking, or through-hiking, is hiking a long-distance trail end-to-end within one hiking season. In United States, the term is most commonly associated with the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), but also refers to other end-to-end hikes. The Appalachian Trail Conservatory defines a through hike as one completed within a twelve month period; this definition used by many groups.


That quote pretty much sums it up, so let's break it apart to make more sense of it for anyone who is completely new to the concept of thru-hiking.

What is a long-distance trail?

Well, it's a trail that is longer than your average day-hike. Some people say a trail must be at least 30 miles in length to be "long" distance, but some are shorter and most are longer. A list of long-distance trails can be found on Wikipedia . While some of the most recognized are the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail (United States), The Great Divide Trail (Canada), and The Te Arora Trail (New Zealand), there are countless others.

So, I just need to hike it?

Sort of. A true thru-hike is recognized by hiking the entire length trail within 12 months. The steps you take to do that are your choice. You can go north, south, flip-flop, sections, etc. All that matters is you complete it within 12 months and it is considered a thru-hike.

People actually do this?

Yep! Actually thousands attempt it each year amongst all trails. The completion rates vary amongst each trail, but still this is a wildly popular thing to do. There are loads of people who have these trails on their bucket list. Thru-hiking has seen a spike in popularity since the release of movies like Wild and a Walk in the Woods .

But, why?

Everybody has their own reasons for doing this, but there are a few common themes. A large portion of people just feel a calling to the trail. There's no real way to explain it more than that. Others are trying to get in some adventure before college or entering a career. And a whole lot more are doing this after retirement since it's been on their bucket list. Plenty of people are walking through something in their life whether it be grief, transitions, or finding themselves. Thru-hiking gives you time to actually think through all the thoughts in your head and experience total freedom. Who wouldn't want that?

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