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Appalachian Trail vs Pacific Crest Trail

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

Enjoy The Benefits Of Hiking on The East Coast and West Coast

Appalachian Trail VS Pacific Crest Trail Hiking is excellent for strength training and helps improve your blood pressure.

Hiking is also a great way to reduce your risk of heart disease and boost your bone density.

There are thousands of people around the world hiking various trails and enjoying these benefits.

If you are a first-time hiker, make sure you purchase the right gear and get someone to go with you.

There are many hiking trails in the United States of America that you can try out with your friends.

The most famous ones are the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail, is the longest marked footpath in the United States at 2178 miles.

The hiking trail starts in Georgia and crosses eight national forests, six national conservancy parks, and 14 states.


It ends in Maine, having cut through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. See our 10 best trails to run in Maine.

It is beautiful, and nature enthusiasts will love the plants, animals and get an excellent view of the night sky.

Walking the trails requires patience and determination and thousands of people called the 2000-milers have completed the Appalachian Trail.

These people either hiked in sections or walked it in its entirety. The most famous hikers of the Appalachian trail include Earl Shaffer, Benton Mackaye, and Emma Gatewood.

Earl Shaffer was the first thru-hiker of the trail and completed it in 124 days. He had just been discharged from the army and thought the Appalachian trail was a great way to find who he was outside the armed forces.

Although he did not have a map, he was determined to hike the trail after reading about it in a magazine.

Earl wrote a book about his experiences titled, Walking With Spring. He hiked the Appalachian Trail three times including, at the age of 79.

Benton Mackaye had the idea for the Appalachian Trail, and Myron Avery organized volunteers to build it.

The building of the trail took 16 years. Amma Gatewood, popularly known as Grandma Gatewood, was the first female to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

The trial has been witness to people challenging themselves and doing incredible things.

Pacific Crest Trail


The Pacific Crest Trail, is also known as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. It is 2650 miles and starts in Mexico and ends in Canada.

It crosses through three countries, Mexico, The United States Of America, and Canada.

The Pacific Crest Trail is very scenic and crosses mountains like the Laguna, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, Sierra Nevada, Klamath, and the Cascade Ranges.

The idea for the Pacific Crest Trail came from Clinton Churchill in 1932. Martin Panpendic was the first person to walk the entire hiking trail, and he did it in 5 months in 1952.

Since then, many people have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail including, women and children. For example, Christian Geiger completed the trail with his parents at the age of 6, and Teddi Boston was the first woman to finish it.

The Pacific Crest Trail is also used by horseback riders who include the Muray family and Don and June Mulford.

The Mulford's were featured in a network show with Art Linkletter in 1959. They also made a movie, and they showed it in several states for ten years.

The trail is often modified to ensure users are safe, for instance, to avoid wildfires. That is why you will notice that sources vary on the length of the trail.

If you plan to hike this trail, make sure you get a map to ensure that you are safe. The Pacific Crest Trail is a challenge because it is longer and has harsh terrain.

Many people including, Scott Williamson and Cheryl Strayed, have completed the trail alone, but it is always wise to go with a partner, a friend, or a family member.

That will ensure you are safe and you have company during the journey. Experienced hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail advise sending up resupply packages for the trip and ensuring that your pack is of comfortable weight.

Karel Sabbe holds the Guinness Book of World record for the fastest completion of the Pacific Crest Trail, having hiked it in 52 days, 8 hours, and 25minutes.

It takes determination to thru-hike the PCT, but you can also challenge yourself and walk the trail. The Pacific Crest Trail is very safe, and even though there are bears, you are unlikely to see one.

Appalachian Trail VS Pacific Crest Trail

The Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails are a perfect way to see the world and challenge yourself. Here are essential things to remember when hiking either of these trails.

Trail Culture

The PCT is popular with experienced hikers, while the Appalachian Trail has more new hikers. Most people in the Appalachian are on their first long-distance backpacking trip.

For instance, in 2017, more than 90% of the Appalachian Trail hikers had never been on a long-distance trek before.

That said, the Appalachian trail is more popular, and you are likely to meet more people than you would on the PCT.

If you are going for your first long-distance hike, consider starting with the Appalachian Trail because you will meet more people who will encourage you to keep going.


There are more campsites on the Appalachian trail than on the PCT. As mentioned above, the PCT is a mostly wild country far from cities and towns.

There are 250 shelters on the Appalachian Trail, which means you can find a campsite every 8 miles.

There are also several points on the trail where you can take a break and have lunch or a snack.

That is another way you can meet other hikers. There are fewer meeting points on the Pacific Crest Trail, and since there are fewer people on the trail, it is unlikely that a group will form.

Town Infrastructure

As mentioned above, more towns serve the Appalachian trail than the Pacific Crest Trail. These towns offer hostel services, one of the most popular forms of off-trail accommodation for hikers.

There are fewer towns on the PCT which means hikers looking for off-trail accommodation will have to settle for a motel.

PCT Trail angels offer accommodation, but they can only handle a few hikers at a time.

Bear in mind that it is easier to hitchhike to the nearest town and back on the Appalachian Trail than on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Thru-hike Definition

The definition of a thru-hike is varied because of the conditions on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

For hikers on the Appalachian Trail, a thru-hike involves hiking every mile of the entire trail. It is impossible to do that on the Pacific Crest Trail.

That is because the sections of the Pacific Crest Trail are often closed due to fires or snowstorms. It is harder to do a thru-hike the Appalachian Trail way on the Pacific Crest Trail.


You will need a lot of gear when hiking and especially on a long-distance hike. The items you carry will be determined by the length of the journey, the weather you expect, and the amount of weight you can lift.

Hikers should consider the changing climate on different sections of the trails when choosing clothes and shoes.

If you are hiking the Appalachian trail in spring, make sure you bring cold-weather gear for the first part of your journey.

The weather can be frigid in the Grayson Highlands, all the way to Daleville. From there, you can put on your warm-weather clothes to Glecliff, New Hampshire, where it gets cold again.

On the PCT, your gear is determined by the trail sections because there are many climate changes.

The trip is divided into five distinct sections. Washington, Oregon, Central California, Northern California, and Southern California.

In Southern California, you will have to deal with the desert, which can be punishingly hot during the day.

It is essential to bring a variety of warm and cold weather gear during this part of the trip. After that stretch, you head into the Sierra Mountains, where you may encounter a snowstorm and frozen ground. It is essential to bring snow traction and an Ice pick for this part of your hike.

For both the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail, ensure you stay hydrated.

Seasoned hikers, for instance, advise bringing 7 liters of water for the hike across the desert on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Ensure that you wear comfortable shoes to prevent blisters during your hike.

Carry a map of the trail and prepare for terrain variations and climate changes. It is essential to ensure that you can comfortably carry your backpack; if it is too heavy, it will wear you out.

Ascertain that you have warm weather gear for when it gets hot. You should also ensure that you carry a net and bug spray or lotion.

Supplies on a long-distance trek can be quite challenging to get.

For example, in 1971, Ryback writes that he only used five resupply packages for his Pacific Crest Trail hike, and he often ran out of food.

It is essential to ensure that you plan your hike well to avoid running out of food or gear for any part of the hiking trail.

You can choose to resupply from the towns along the trail or mail yourself the items ahead of time.

Consider buying supplies from nearby cities when hiking the Appalachian Trail. It is not advisable to use this strategy on the Pacific Crest Trail because towns are few. You can ask a friend to mail packages or do it yourself before starting your hike.

Tips For A First-time Thru-hiker

If you plan your first thru-hike, here are some essential tips you can use on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trail.

Choose The Right Backpack

Your backpack should have the right fit and make the weight of your gear easy to handle. A low-quality pack will hurt your back, and you will not be able to cover a long distance.

Make sure you pick a full-size external and internal back backpack that is at least 3500 cubic inches. It is also essential to have an experienced hiker adjust the pack to fit your body.

Add Variety To Your Mail Drop Packages

If you are hiking the PCT, for instance, you will need to send food packages ahead. Make sure that you have variety in your food choices.

Make sure that you pack a variety of food, not just your favorite food. It is also not advisable to repeat a meal during the weak. If you keep eating the same food, you may lose your motivation to keep going.

Pack Your Food With Hiking Calories

Make sure that you buy high-calorie foods to ensure that you have the energy for the hike. Pack foods high in carbohydrates to ensure that you have enough energy to hike a long distance.

When sending food packages, ensure that you pick foods that do not go bad easily. Bear in mind that you need at least 4000 to 5000 calories to hike throughout the day.

Carry Extra Socks

Hiker shoes and socks

Blisters can be painful and make your journey extremely uncomfortable. Make sure that you bring a large number of socks to ensure that you do not get blisters.

Prepare For Bugs

Long-distance hiking means you have to deal with bugs, so ensure that you bring a net, wear long sleeves, have bug lotion, and a head net.

It is advisable to carry your tent even on the Appalachian Trail for better protection against mosquitoes.

Test Your Gear First

Trail Hiking Gear

Make sure that you test everything you will be using on your hike. Light the stove, strap on the backpack, and wear your hiking shoes.

Long-distance hiking is an excellent opportunity to see the outdoors and take time away from your regular life.

It is also a perfect opportunity to bond with family or your partner. Ensure that you prepare well whether you are headed for the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail.

Here is a great article on preventing falls

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The advice given on this website does not constitute or replaces medical advice.

Please consult with a doctor before starting any exercise or nutrition plan.


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