ATC Staff Picks: Favorite Nonfiction Books on Hiking and Trails

November 6, 2023

Looking to get lost in a good nonfiction book about hiking, trails, or personal experiences in nature? Here are a few of the most interesting ATC staff picks — books that we think inspire, motivate, and expand readers’ understanding of our connection to the great outdoors.


Book coverThe Adventurer’s Son
By Roman Dial

A book for those who feel the undeniable and often insatiable pull of wild places. Part memoir, part journey, part tribute, this book is a heartbreaking yet beautiful reminder of what we are willing to put on the line in order to feel alive. Find a permanent place on the bookshelf because this is one you will most certainly wish to read it again.

Recommended by: Marian Orlousky, Acting Vice President of Conservation and Policy

Book coverFrom Dream to Reality: History of the Appalachian Trail
By Thomas R. Johnson

I recommend this book for any hiking history buffs. I’ve used Johnson’s book to answer many questions we get about A.T. history, for everything from the historical Trail route to the history of the white blaze.

Recommended by: Caitlin Miller, Information Services Manager


Book coverThe Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey
By Derick Lugo

It’s a book you can gobble up in a weekend that lifts you up and brings you along on an A.T. journey. The prose of each piece of the story weave the easy-going style of the author with his humor that will inspire you to start planning your next hike. The author is also an ATC volunteer.

Recommended by: Leanna Joyner, Senior Director of Partnerships and Trail Operations

On Trails
By Robert Moor

Robert Moor takes a meandering look at what trails have meant for our world across millions of years of history, shedding new light on why trails are so important today. The Appalachian Trail is one of the stars – Moor was inspired by his 2009 thru-hike to write this beautifully told book of exploration and wonder at what we can create as a species.

Recommended by: Dakota Jackson, Director of Visitor Experience

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape
By James Rebanks

Rebanks authentically and beautiful weaves together an intimate personal memoir that depicts the challenges, frustrations, and opportunities that rural communities often experience in the face of the inevitable cultural changes that the last 50+ years have ushered in. Although set in the Lakes District of Northern England (think Wordsworth) it is a dialogue that can easily translate to an American context.

Recommended by: Max Olsen, Landscape Program Assistant

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
By Cheryl Strayed

I loved Wild because it’s about completing your own journey regardless of how many miles you hiked or how fast you hiked them. It was the first book I ever read by a long-distance hiker, and I found it incredibly moving to read how her time on the Trail helped the author heal and rediscover parts of her she thought were lost. I know that’s an experience many A.T. hikers can relate to.

Recommended by: Ilana Copel, Program Support Manager


Stories from the Trail are a powerful motivator for people to set out to have their own experiences. If you’re looking to read more about the Trail and the people who visit it, protect it, and maintain it, the resources below include the ATC’s award-winning publication, A.T. Journeys magazine, as well as stories from first-time volunteers. Feeling inspired and ready to plan your next (or first) visit to the A.T.? Check out our Hiker Resource Library below.

Finally, if you’d like to share your own story, we’d love to hear from you. Use the form below to tell us your stories from the Trail.