Most of these statistics are referenced in various AT books, websites, and forums … but in case any of my readers are still learning about how significant this thru-hike is to hikers like me, I wanted to share some fun facts and stats. Some of these are quite astonishing and help to frame up how significant it feels to finally summit Mt. Katahdin (or Springer for SOBOs) at the end of their trek. If this doesn’t spark your adventurous spirit, you may need to get outside more.
5,000,000 – Approximate number of total footsteps taken to hike the length of the trail. This may throw off your annual Fitbit average, but you’ll kill it in the daily challenges.
165,000 – Approximate number of white blazes marking the Appalachian Trail. This averages out to about one white blaze every 70 feet. Still, every story I read has people getting lost on countless side trails.
17,898 – Number of hikers formerly registered as completing a thru hike since the AT’s creation in 1938. It has been steadily rising every year as popularity continues to grow, with 1,110 recorded finishers in 2016.
6,643 – Highest elevation point (in feet) on the Appalachian Trail, at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (mile 199.6). In comparison, the lowest elevation point is Bear Mountain State Park in New York (124 feet).
5,500 – Average calories recommended a hiker consume to maintain their body weight during a typical day of backpacking. Feels like a lot, but typically it only takes a few weeks on the trail before thru-hikers achieve the celebrated “hiker hunger,” a near-inability to be sated by any amount of food.
5,000 – Average dollar amount spent during an AT thru-hike. Hikers estimate spending between $2-3 per mile on the rail, going toward food, lodging, laundry, transportation, gear upgrades, etc. This does not include gear purchased pre-hike.
2,190 – Approximate length of the Appalachian Trail in miles. However, because of trail modifications, switchbacks, reroutes, etc. the total length is always a bit in flux. In 2015 the formal date book listed 2,189.2 miles, in 2016 it was 2,185.3.
262 – Number of 3-walled shelters on or along the trail, averaging out to approximately one shelter every 8 miles. If you want to go tentless, you could sleep in these shelters the whole way … I’d rather avoid snoring neighbors and creeping mice.
99 – Percentage of the trail that has been relocated or rebuilt since its creation in 1937.
87 – Percent of thru-hikers who attempt the traditional Northbound route. Due to the popularity of hiking from Georgia to Maine, the ATC is urging people to take alternative approaches, such as Southbound and flip-flop thru-hikes in hopes of decreasing the volume of hikers and impact to the trail.
75 – Percent of Northbound thru-hikers each year that drop out before reaching Katahdin. It is generally understood that 25% drop before they reach North Carolina, and 50% drop out by the informal half-way point of Harper’s Ferry.
45 – Fastest recorded number of days a hiker has completed a thru-hike (this year). In comparison, the maximum days a hiker could finish is 365 … as the ATC designates a hike must be completed within one year to technically be considered a formal thru-hike.
30 – Average number of pounds lost by thru-hikers during their journey. It’s tough to eat 5,500 calories every day! More on the wallet than on the stomach.
16 – Number of times an AT thru-hiker would ascend Mount Everest. Many falsely assume the AT is relatively flat. Truthfully, AT thru-hikers climb nearly 500,000 ft in total cumulative elevation.
14 – Total states the AT crosses through. In order (NOBO), they are Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.
5 – Average number of pairs of shoes most thru-hikers go through. In general, it is recommended to replace shoes every 500 miles to keep your feet in tip-top shape.
4 – Average number of miles between road crossings on the AT, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). There is something truly special about doing a wilderness journey in the woods so close to accessible emergency (and recreational) services if needed.
1/2 – In gallons, the amount of ice cream many thru-hikers eat in a single sitting at the halfway point, at the Pine Grove Furnace store. Many need less than 15 minutes to consume these 2,300 calories.
0 – Total number of times I will be upset to be hiking in the woods for 5 months.
(adapted from data provided by the ATC, AMC, and REI)