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Section Hiking the AT, North Bound - How long is the first leg?

Good Morning All.  I am looking to begin planning section hiking of the AT, starting in GA.  Curious how long (distance wise) the first leg of the trail is.  I see a ton of info online for thru-hikers, but not much for section hikers.  On this same topic, when is the best time to start a section hike if I want to avoid the big spring crowds on the trail (I backpack to get away from people lol).  Thanks in advance for your replies.

7 Replies

I don’t think there is a ‘first section’ other than what you want it to be, i.e. how far you want to walk, how many days/weeks/months you have.

There are many good reference starting guides. The Guthook app, AWOLs guide, the AT Conference, for starters.

although these cover the entire trail, they’re perfect for choosing a ‘section’ which meets your situation and time window.

There’s a shelter about every 10miles and countless cross roads/resupply options.

 I guess you could start anytime after, say, 1 May, to avoid the ‘bow wave’

good luck!

REI Member Since 1979

Almost forgot, the AT is a tree tunnel, I highly recommend looking at the PCT or CDT if you want to do a long trail.

that said, the AT is indeed better suited for section hiking, especially if you live on the east coast 

REI Member Since 1979

Perfect.  Thanks for the Info.  I live in FL, so the AT is much closer for me, and I prefer the woods to say, Desert lol.  I got the guthook app, and I see what you mean; tons of spots to hit a road and stop the hike when needed.  That will make planning much easier.  Thanks for the reply!



@DinnerYeti I just did my first stretch of the AT (the Approach Trail) from Amicalola to Springer.  That was about 8.5 miles.  I'm planning my next one to go from Amicalola to Hightower Gap (about another 7 +/- miles, I believe), so 15 +/- total.  Both Springer and Hightower have easy road access to get out. My next leg looks like Springer to Gooch (about 8 +/- miles) and the next will hopefully be Gooch to Neels Gap (about 15).  

I'm hoping to do my Springer to Hightower trip before the 2021 thru hiker bubble so maybe we'll see one another on trail!

@DinnerYeti and @nathanu - Both sections sound amazing! Be sure to loop back here and share how it goes. We'd love to hear updates!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-CarterCI posted a quick follow-up to my first experience while it was still fresh on my mind (linked below) if you're interested.  I can't wait to go back!


@nathanu - Thanks so much for sending me that way. Loved that recap! My first experience on the AT was near the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where I went with a friend who is a former-thru hiker to drop off trail magic at a nearby shelter. I have hiked small sections of it since then and experienced all of the same camaraderie you mentioned. 

Love hearing about your experiences. Excited for the next update! 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.