Every year, the American Long Distance Hiking Association (West) recognizes the long distance hikers who have completed the Triple Crown. These hikers have trekked over 7,500 miles, ascended and descended well over 1,000,000 feet, and traversed three of the longest, and most iconic hiking trails in the United States. So far, only 196 dedicated hikers have received this award, and to get you started on being #197, here’s some fun information on what you’ll be tackling:
With the idea brought to the table in 1921, and the trail completed in 1937, the Appalachian Trail may be one of the most established long-distance trails in America. Starting in Georgia, the trail winds its way approximately 2,180 miles across 14 different states and through every type of forest found on the east coast, and ends in Maine. While most thru-hikers get a spring start in Georgia and average 6 months on the trail, ending in Maine during the fall, you’re bound to see a few other enthusiasts anytime of the year. The trail is very community based, even the upkeep is done with volunteer hours, providing for a safe and fun environment to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors. And with over 250 three-sided shelters along the way, and no need for permits 90% of the time, your options to explore are wide open.
Continental Divide Trail
Officially designated as a trail in 1978, the Continental Divide Trail is only 73 percent complete, which means thru-hikers have to get clever and watch out for private land rights along the way. But that shouldn’t discourage anyone from attempting the longest trail in the Triple Crown Series. With an estimated 3,100 miles linking amazing National Parks like Glacier, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain; this trail gives the quintessential variety of high mountain wonder. Literally the line between the West and East (or Midwest), this trail has you hiking on top of the world and across five states. Most northbound hikers head out in later March or early May, and southbound hikers depart around June. Either way, hikers must watch the weather and avoid too snowy of conditions if it is all possible.
Pacific Crest Trail
Discover the Best of the West from the Pacific Crest Trail. Stretching from Southern California to Northern Washington, this trail has you touching both ends of the country. With over 2,700 miles of western frontier to explore, the PCT crosses through 25 National Forests and seven National Parks. From the High Sierras in Central California, to the Cascades cruising throughout Washington, this trail provides enough mountain awe to coast on for the rest of your life. From desert plains on the southern end to wet alpine on the northern, the PCT offers a range of ecosystems, which also lends to the small window of opportunities presented to thru-hikers to make the entire journey. 90% of hikers head northbound, starting in late April or early May, and with a little luck, don’t run into any snow travel.
Think you have the Triple Crown in you? It’s no easy feat, and many don’t have the time or physical stamina. But even if you can’t get out for months at a time, every mile of these trails are accessible for a 3‑day weekends or afternoon day hikes. Get outside, explore the outdoor community, and enjoy the slow commute of trail life.