The adventure of a lifetime
Completing the entire 2,190+ miles of the Appalachian Trail in one trip is a mammoth undertaking. Each year, thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike; only about one in four make it all the way.
A.T. Hiker Photo Archive
Between January and April 2009, 12,779 Polaroid photos representing over 18,000 Appalachian Trail hikers were carefully removed from old notebooks, barcoded, scanned at 600 dpi, and placed into archival quality sleeves and slip-covered albums.
The number of people hiking the entire Trail has risen dramatically over the years. From 1936 to 1969, only 59 completions are recorded. In 1970, the numbers began to rise. Ten people completed the Trail in 1970, including Ed Garvey, whose thru-hike was well-publicized. The trend was further fueled by the release of Garvey’s popular book, Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime. The term “2,000-miler” was coined in the late 1970s to help identify this growing group of hikers.
2,000-Milers by Decade
By 1980, the total number of 2,000-milers had increased more than ten-fold. The total had doubled by 1990 and again by 2000. More hike completions were reported for the year 2000 alone than in the first 40 years combined. The 10,000th hike completion was recorded in 2008.
In the trail’s first several decades, women represented only about 15% of those who completed the entire A.T. Trends are changing, though. The percentage of women has grown steadily over the years; by 2018, women represented a third of thru-hikers.
International hikers from Australia, Austria, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Wales have reported completing the Trail.
Hikers of a wide range of ages have completed the A.T. While about half of all thru-hikers are in their 20s, many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s have thru-hiked the A.T. About 750 people in their 60s have completed thru-hikes, but only about 50 people age 70 and above have completed thru-hikes. Two people in their 80s have completed a thru-hike; the oldest was 82. Teens comprise about four percent of thru-hikers; a very small number of children have completed the A.T. with their parents. Section-hikers tend to be older, with a median age of 40. Their ages at the time of their hike completions have ranged from 15 to 86.
In 1936, ATC Chair Myron Avery became the first “2,000-miler,” which he accomplished primarily in the process of flagging and measuring the original A.T. route.
Five others reported completing the entire Trail between 1939 and 1946, including a 1939 completion by George W. Outerbridge, who now has a shelter named after him just south of Lehigh Gap, Pennsylvania, on the first stretch of Trail he completed in 1932.
Hikers with disabilities
Although hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is a demanding endeavor for a person in the best physical condition and optimal health, hikers with a variety of disabilities have successfully completed the entire A.T. These include several blind hikers, an above-the-knee amputee, hikers with diabetes, and organ transplantees.
First female thru-hiker
Mildred Norman is the earliest female thru-hiker on record, having reported a flip-flop hike in 1952. Under the name “Peace Pilgrim”, Norman later walked over 25,000 miles throughout North America.
First solo female thru-hiker
Emma Gatewood, better known as “Grandma Gatewood,” mother of 11 children and grandmother of 23, was 67 when she first hiked the Trail in 1955. In 1957, she completed her second thru-hike at age 69. In 1964, she became the first person to complete the A.T. three times when she finished a section-hike. She was famous for wearing only “Keds” tennis shoes and carrying a small knapsack.
First reported thru-hiker
In 1948, Earl V. Shaffer became the first to report a thru-hike, walking the entire Trail from Georgia to Maine. He was a World War II veteran. Part of the reason he was drawn to hike the A.T. was to “walk the Army out of his system.” He chose to start in Georgia so he could, as he said, “walk north with spring.” In 1965, he hiked again—this time from Maine to Georgia. On his third thru-hike, 50 years after his first, he became the oldest thru-hiker at age 79, a distinction he held until 2004. His memoir about his first thru-hike, Walking With Spring, is still in print.
2019 Hiker Counts
(updated March 24, 2020)
Northbound Thru-Hike (Georgia to Maine in 12 Months)
|Springer Mtn., Ga. (estimated)||3300|
|Harpers Ferry, W.Va.||1533|
|Baxter State Park, Maine||1192|
Southbound Thru-Hike (Maine to Georgia in 12 Months)
|Baxter State Park, Maine||328|
|Harpers Ferry, W.Va.||186|
Flip Flop Thru-Hike (entire Trail, non-contiguous, in 12 Months)
|Harpers Ferry, W.Va.**||418|
|Baxter State Park, Maine||335|
Section (more than 12 Months)
|Harpers Ferry, W. Va.||589|
*Numbers are incomplete for 2019 and will continue to increase.
**Flip flop thru-hikers start at any location along the entire A.T. and change their direction or sequence of travel at some point. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is the most popular starting location for a flip flop thru-hike–and thus represents the beginning for some. However, Harpers Ferry could be reached 100 miles, 1000 miles, or even 2000 miles into the journeys of other flip-floppers. Therefore the number here does not represent either the number of starters or the number that have made it halfway. (The alternative itineraries of flip-floppers help disperse use and reduce the social and resource impacts associated with crowded conditions that occur at the southern end of the Trail during the traditional northbound thru-hiker season).
N/A-not yet available
It’s estimated that 3 million visitors hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail each year. Most enjoy day hikes and short backpacking trips, but each year a small fraction of those hikers complete the entire Trail. How many? Since 1936, more than 20,000 hike completions have been recorded by ATC. This includes thru-hikes and multi-year section-hikes. We refer to anyone who reports their completion of the entire A.T. as a “2,000-miler.”
To learn more about our 2,000-miler recognition or to submit an application, click here.
2,000-Milers in Recent Years
|Total completions recorded:||720||839||879||985||1034||1161||1138||1128|
|Springer Mountain, Ga. (est.)||2,100||2,250||2,500||2,700||3,377||3,839||3,862|
|Harpers Ferry, W.Va.||1,017||1,130||1,270||1,383||1,537||1,723||1,643|
Northbound thru-hikers walk from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katahdin in Maine in 12 months or less.
|Kennebec Ferry, Maine|
|Harpers Ferry, W.Va.||184||167||169||196||263||230||226|
Southbound thru-hikers walk from Katahdin to Springer Mountain in 12 months or less.
Flip flop thru-hikers complete the Trail in twelve months or less, but start and/or end at a location other than the southern or northern end.
Section-hikers complete the Trail in pieces, taking more than 12 months. Some may complete the A.T. in two or three summers, others may complete the Trail on shorter trips over a decade or more.