The Triple Crown of Hiking

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:


Appalachi­an Trail
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.

Appalachi­an Trail Con­ser­van­cy – About the Trail
NPS.Gov – Trail Map


Con­ti­nen­tal Divide Trail
triple-crown-of-hiking-cdOffi­cial­ly 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.

Con­ti­nen­tal Divide Trail Coali­tion – About the CDT
Con­ti­nen­tal Divide Trail Coali­tion – Inter­ac­tive Map


Pacific Crest Trail
triple-crown-of-hiking-pctDis­cov­er 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.

Pacif­ic Crest Trail Asso­ci­a­tion – Dis­cov­er the Trail
Pacif­ic Crest Trail Asso­ci­a­tion – Trail Map


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.