Sunday, November 29, 2015
Home > Advice > 6 Reasons To Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail Alone
6 Reasons To Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail Alone

6 Reasons To Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail Alone

If you are currently planning your thru-hike, you may be thinking that you need to hike with someone else. This is not the case. If you hike alone, you will be fine and probably better off alone than with someone else. Don’t let your lack of a hiking partner get in the way of you starting a thru-hike. Here are 6 reasons why I started, and finished, my thru-hike alone…

1. Absolute Freedom

If you hike the trail by yourself, no one will be breathing down your neck. You will be able to escape and truly be free. I remember feeling so happy and free only to turn my phone on and have it blow up with messages from my parents asking me where I was and if I was okay. Although I knew they sent those messages out of love, it was nice to have my phone off and live without people on my case all the time. I couldn’t even imagine how awful the trail would’ve been if someone I started hiking with depended on me and had to always know where I was.

2. No one wanted to do it with me

Would I have started the trail with a friend if he or she wanted to hike with me? Definitely. However, in my case, no one I knew wanted to hike with me and I didn’t even try to find someone to thru-hike with. In other words, don’t let the absence of a partner prevent you from embarking on this great journey.

3. I only had take care of myself

Trust me, on the trail this is a very difficult task. Thankfully, no one else on the trail depended on me to keep them alive. Looking out for myself was a big enough task, but if your hike is anything like mine, you’ll meet people who you want to watch out for and vice versa.

4. I made friends anyway

It’s very easy to meet incredible people on the trail. It was nice for me to have friends on the trail that were separate from my friends in “real life.” I think if I started out with “real life” friends, I would not have tried as hard to create relationships with other hikers.

5. I do what I want

The Appalachian Trail taught me that I can wake up every morning and do whatever I want to do. This is something that has stuck with my way past my thru-hike. Every morning when I wake up, I do what I want to do. Most of what I want to do is what I know will make me happy. With this philosophy I have picked up from the trail, I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.  If I were hiking with a group for the majority of my hike, I might not have developed such a significant lifestyle change.

6. Greater sense of accomplishment

I believe my summit of Katahdin was very different in significance than those hiking in a group for the whole trail. Although I did hike with other people along the way, I finished the trail exactly how I started it; alone and on my own terms. If I had hiked the trail entirely with someone else, or a group, I feel like my sense of achievement on Katahdin would be different. A lot of times on the trail, I had no one to help me through the hardest parts and had to overcome adversity on my own. I get that sharing achievements is a wonderful thing; however, I’m glad I got through the majority of trail because of my own abilities and not having to rely on others.

One of the common questions I get from people about the trail is if I was alone all the time. When I answer, I say that I hiked a lot of the trail alone but met plenty of amazing people along the way. For some reason, people are shocked that I hiked alone and show me a lot of respect for it.  If you want to learn more about the social construct of the Appalachian Trail, I encourage you to check out the “Hike Your Own Hike” chapter in Appalachian Trials.

All in all, thru-hiking the trail was an incredible experience for me and can be an incredible experience for anyone who takes part in it. I am glad that I started and finished the trail alone and recommend this way of hiking for others. Don’t let the fact that you have no one to start with prevent you from trying to thru-hike. Step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to walk alone. You won’t regret it.

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My name is Cole, my friends call me Bear, my trail names (yes, I had two trail names) were Poptart and Balto. In 2013, at 19 years old, I completed a northbound thru-hike and fell in love with life, the outdoors, and adventure. Check out my website - www.beingcolbert.com


  1. Thank you for this Cole and for your comments Heath. I too am planning on going alone in 2016. I long for the solitude and chance to be with me for an extended time. I’m just beginning to gear-up and train a bit now so I’ll be ready. I’ve looked at the gear lists and am a bit worried about how much food to carry – in general. Are the town’s (except in Maine) really so close that you can resupply on a regular basis?

  2. Yes i also plan to go by myself in 2016. I don’t know anyone who’d want to go with me (except for that life-sucking cheating ex of mine but no way I’m bringing that leach along with me) and I feel all the same as what you said, it would be less of a freeing mind-expanding spirit questing adventure if I have someone to look out for. See, the issue I am facing is that I am a very small 5 foot tall girl and I do worry that someone will spot me walking alone and target me. Rape me and then murder me and leave my body for the bears. Does this seem like a rational fear or are the woods and the people in the woods generally relatively harmless?

  3. You dont need gun man no one out there is gonna try to rob or hurt you if anything if you did get robbed or hurt people from the AT would help you run them down (no one caan escpe from hiker legs you can kick down oak trees when your done..lol) But Osprey is a good place to start i used a 50 liter and had an average mount of stuff so i would say just starting out you might want bigger one just in case. For water a sawyer squeeze was the best water system i saw on the trail get a platapus bag and in line the sawyer int the platapus tube and then all you gotta do is fill the bag up with dirty water and it cleans it while y9ou drink. As for sleeping get the warmest lightest bag you can find youd be surprised how cold it can sometimes get. As for a tent or hammock it depends youll want air matress for both so i recommend the neo air light from thermarest and the tent lets you put your stuff out with you while you sleep but the hammock is more comfortble sleeping in the air but its up to you this is only partial reply ill be back with more sorry about the spelling i was in rush i was in the clss of 2014 it was a great year

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