Did you know day hikes on the A.T. come in a variety of formats? Some require you to retrace your steps and some don't, some require only one vehicle, and some require two.
Up and back – Hike to a destination or as far as time allows, turn around, and return the same way to your starting point, retracing your steps. Sometimes this is called round trip (as in a "round trip" flight), or out-and-back. Requires only one vehicle.
Loop – Two or more connecting trails that may form a circle, triangle, square, figure eight, or even banana shape that allow you to return to your starting place without re-tracing your steps. This is most often possible where the A.T. passes through other state or national parks and forests, and other connecting trails exist. Requires only one vehicle.
Road to road – The 2200-mile A.T. is crossed by hundreds of roads, offering practically endless opportunities to hike from one road crossing to the next. This allows you to see the greatest amount of the A.T. for the time you are walking. However, it does require at least two cars and a lot of driving, or one car and another person and their vehicle to shuttle you. If you arrange a shuttle, it's best to do the shuttle before you start and hike back to your car, as there may not be cell phone service at the parking area.
One approach to reduce the amount of driving is a "key swap," where your group splits in two, starts at opposite ends and exchanges car keys when you meet.
Most road crossings have parking for hikers, but not all. Road crossings are often 5-10 miles apart, but can range from 1 to 40 miles apart.
Inn to Inn – Two locations on the Appalachian Trail offer fantastic opportunities to do multiple day hikes in a row and end the day with a bed, shower, and a meal.
- Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is perfect for novices eager to get a taste of mountain hiking and experience some of the A.T.'s gentler grades in the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can do a three-day hike with beautiful scenery and stay at lodge or cabin along the famed, scenic Skyline Drive, where meals are available, from May through October. Read an article about what it's like to Hike In Comfort on a three-day hike in Shenandoah!
- The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer extreme and spectacular hiking above treeline that athletic, experienced, and ambitious hikers will love. The Appalachian Mountain Club's system of eight alpine-style huts in the White Mountains offer cozy bunks and home-cooked meals near the summits of the highest mountains of New England. These are extremely popular so plan your trips months in advance!
- Learn more about to plan these and other Inn-to-Inn hikes on the Appalachian Trail.