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How to Have Your Own "Walk in the Woods" on the Appalachian Trail

Posted on 08-Sep-2015

Inspired by Bill Bryson's Appalachian Trail adventures? A Walk in the Woods is a bestselling novel that not only gave readers plenty of laughs, but also a sizeable dose of inspiration to hit the trail themselves; the new film of the same name is almost certain to have a similar effect.

Of course, while it's great to take inspiration from Mr Bryson, if you want to have your very own Walk in the Woods, it's best to do things a little differently to him. After all, setting out to tackle half of the longest continuous hiking trail on the planet - which amounts to more than 1,000 miles - without preparing properly first would not, for most of us, result in a heartwarming and humorous tale. Sore muscles and an early journey home seem more likely!


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Photo credit: iStock


So, how exactly should you have your own Walk in the Woods?

There are three core ways of tackling the glorious Appalachian Trail; Thru-hiking, section hiking or day hiking. Probably the most common is section hiking, which involves covering a portion of the trail over a number of days or weeks, usually sleeping in campsites or huts along the trail. This will typically involve walking about 8 miles a day.


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Photo credit: iStock


Many people also often pick very small sections of the trail for a day hike as part of a wider trip. Fewer people pick thru-hiking, which is tackling the entire 2,168-mile hike over the course of several months.

Which you pick will ultimately come down to a combination of your fitness levels, the time you have available and what you want to achieve. For most people looking for a hiking holiday on the Appalachian Trail, a section hike is likely to be the best fit.


Take a look at our Appalachian Trail tours


Camping, hut to hut or hotel?

If you are on a section or thru-hike, your experience of the trail will be different depending on where you stay. The three options are camping, staying in huts or, if you are keen to balance the challenge of the hike with a little comfort, staying in hotels along the way.

The decision you make can also affect the route you take and potentially the time of year you visit, so take the time to consider all the options before making your final decision.

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Photo credit: iStock



Camping is one of the best options if you want a true outdoors adventure, having as thin a barrier between you and the great outdoors at all times. On a camping tour, you can discover the mountain ranges of New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts, including the Northeast's highest peak, Mount Washington. This is the perfect autumn adventure, when the colourful hues of the season will be in full swing.


Huts designed to offer hikers a place to sleep are dotted along the trail. These are very basic and offer a good balance of a wilderness experience while providing a little more shelter than camping. The Galehead Trail, Mount Lafayette and the Presidential Range are just some of the highlights you can experience on a hut to hut adventure.


The most comfortable sleeping option is, as you may expect, staying in hotels along the way. Of course, these have the downside (depending on your perspective!) of removing you from the wilderness temporarily, but don't let this put you off - your days of hiking will be just as exciting, challenging and rewarding as they would be if you camped or stayed in a hut!


Group tour or independent travel?

Another decision to make when creating your very own Walk in the Woods is whether to travel independently or as part of an organised group holiday. Both provide excellent experiences of this incredible trail - where they differ most significantly is in the planning stages, and the level of effort (outside of the hiking itself) you will need to put in along the way.

Travelling independently will mean you need to take care of every aspect of planning, from simply deciding which part of the trail to tackle and breaking it down into manageable sections for each day to organising transport connections and places to stay. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - indeed, such planning can be very rewarding - but it is something to be aware of before you make your decision.

Similarly, you will be on your own on the trail itself. It will be down to you and anyone you are travelling with to navigate and deal with any problems - again, something some people thrive on!


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Photo credit: iStock


A group tour, meanwhile, provides a balance between a wilderness hiking experience and a little more planning and security. A specialist operator will be able to arrange your itinerary and lead you through the hike itself, leaving you free to enjoy all the wonders the trail has to offer.

A group tour also has the advantage of experienced guides who know the trail inside out - people who can take the stress out of finding your way, be on hand if anything goes awry and also take of any practical details. These guides can also enhance your overall experience by sharing their knowledge of the local terrain and wildlife, and answering any questions you have - something that can make all the difference to your overall experience of the route.

There are other advantages of group travel beyond planning and practical considerations, of course. Among the most appealing is the chance to meet like-minded people and make new friends, as well as benefiting from the extra motivation and support that travelling as part of a group brings.


Take a look at our Appalachian Trail tours


Topics: Walking, National Parks, USA East