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  1. #1
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    Default Trail Level of Difficulty

    According to http://4000footers.com/appalachiantrail.shtml the trail isn't very difficult with the exception of NH and ME; however, there are broad ranges in some states. Does anyone know what percentage of the AT is difficult, moderate, and easy?

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    compared to what?

    when it is easy, its as easy as easy can possibly get. when its hard, its hard to imagine something harder.

    in very broad strokes its often said from glencliffe NH to the northern terminus is the hardest part, from the southern terminus to damascus, va is second hardest, and the part in between (over half the trail) is the easy "third."

    this easy third is not uniformly easy but it pretty much always easier than the other parts.

    if you want to divide further, i'd say rockfish gap, va to dalton, ma, with a few short areas and a couple of 25 mile or so stretches aside, is the easiest of the easy.

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    Half of it is very easy to me

    The downhill half...

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    Your question isn't easy to answer. A hard day in Maine won't be hard 100% of the time. A steep uphill climb is usually followed by at least a little bit of moderate ridge walking, or if you're lucky, a gentle downhill. Those difficulty ratings are helpful, but the state-by-state scale is much too large when hikers are thinking day-by-day, or even hour-by-hour. When you zoom into a single day's trek, you're likely to find that a day rated at 10 on the difficulty scale might have 20% at level 9-10, 40% at level 7-8, 30% at level 5-6, and 10% at 1-4. Likewise a easy day might have a few short steep climbs.

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    Get some maps of the trail in the areas you plan to hike - maps that include elevation profiles. Those profiles will be very educational with respect to the big picture and the day-to-day challenge. What they won't show you is the difference between a flat place in Pennsylvania (covered with hundreds of stumbly rocks) or a flat place in Maine (roots, rocks, more roots, more rocks) or a flat place in Vermont (mudhole, or maybe a boardwalk) or a flat place in TN a bit south of Damascus VA (smooth, easy, sailing along). All that stuff, you get to discover when you get out there.

    The other thing the profile maps won't show are the smaller ups and downs that don't get picked up by whatever criteria the profile map is built on. If the profile map picks up 50' changes in elevation between point A and point B, it won't show you whether the trail goes up and down 40' repeatedly between A and B.

  6. #6

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    Statistically most long distance trails do not appear very difficult. Then there is the reality of the statistics. For example a 275 vertical gain per mile on an 8 mile stretch seems fairly mundane, until you find there are two steep sections of a half mile or so at 1,000 feet each that changes the definition of easy.

    I have typically found the terrain is not the overarching issue with long distance treks, its the mental/emotional energy necessary to accomplish it. Which explains why some folks who are in top physical condition do not make the distance and others who are below that level do.

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    I've wanted to say this for awhile. It's all relative.

  8. #8
    Registered User kayak karl's Avatar
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    The first ten days out of Springer was the most difficult hiking I ever did. I thought Maine and NH was a breeze.
    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

  9. #9

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    Lonewolf will be along shortly to explain all in just 3 little words

    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    "it's just walkin"

    Lone Wolf

    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    it's just walkin'
    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    it's just walkin'
    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    it's just walkin'
    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    it's just bearin'
    Trail Miles: 4,090.3 - AT Trips: 71
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 116.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

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    Thanks to all for your insight. I am trying to figure out roughly how long it would take me to complete a thru hike and this gives me enough information to estimate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whitmaniac1 View Post
    Thanks to all for your insight. I am trying to figure out roughly how long it would take me to complete a thru hike and this gives me enough information to estimate.
    Go to Mapmans statistics. They are a much better indicator. I think they are in the homepage under articles. Someone else can chime in as to their exact location.
    Lonehiker

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    That would be great if someone could provide. I'm also wondering how much hike/rest/non-hike time to build into hike days.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whitmaniac1 View Post
    That would be great if someone could provide. I'm also wondering how much hike/rest/non-hike time to build into hike days.
    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/content...ion-by-Section

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    What they won't show you is the difference between a flat place in Pennsylvania (covered with hundreds of stumbly rocks) or a flat place in Maine (roots, rocks, more roots, more rocks) or a flat place in Vermont (mudhole, or maybe a boardwalk) or a flat place in TN a bit south of Damascus VA (smooth, easy, sailing along). All that stuff, you get to discover when you get out there.
    Speaking from experience, flat places in Maine after a heavy rain can involve knee-deep wading thanks to the industrious beavers.

  15. #15

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    I just got back from an 18 day trip in the July furnace whereby I spent most of the time on Jacks River in the Cohutta wilderness. When it's 95F+ in the Southeast mountains all trails are difficult and the worst nutbusting trails are beyond difficult. How much heat can you stand? With real-world weight on your back? Then add in the noseeums and horse flies and gnats and yellow jackets and Mister and Mrs Rattlesnake and Copperhead. In-tent camping in a heatwave also sucks.

    Trip 184 (129).JPG
    Here's Cohut Johnny near Hemp Top Mt on the Benton MacKaye trail. We talked and he found a sunny spot.

    Trip 184 (379).JPG
    By the time I saw this guy we were both dragging worse than slugs in salt. A heatwave pisses off reptiles and all mammals alike.

  16. #16
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whitmaniac1 View Post
    That would be great if someone could provide. I'm also wondering how much hike/rest/non-hike time to build into hike days.
    You are over thinking this. When tired, stop and rest. When rested, walk...
    Lonehiker

  17. #17
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    i never found the AT physically challenging

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    i never found the AT physically challenging
    You might not be typical.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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    No way others can answer this for YOU......


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  20. #20
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    The first two weeks are the most difficult. Then it's moderate or easy, although you can make it difficult if you want. Yes Maine is more difficult than Georgia but...how do I quantify that when it took me seven days to hike the first 90 miles to get out of Georgia but I covered 170 miles the last week in Maine?

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