People who enjoy traveling the Appalachian Trail, and new hikers who haven't tried it yet may want to join one of the various Appalachian Trail hiking groups. Hiking with a group is a safer way to travel since it can be easy for a solo hiker to get lost or injured. Also, it can be a more enjoyable experience since the Trail is much better when shared.
About the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is a 2,175-mile hiking path that spans the East Coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine. While around 1,000 people attempt to hike the entire trail each year, also known as through hiking, most hike only small sections of it at a time. There are numerous campsites along the trail. Some require permits or fees, so it is best to call ahead instead of just showing up with a tent and sleeping bag in hand.
Hiking the trail, even only sections of it, requires a special brand of hiker. Since many sections have rough terrain and some are frequently visited by extreme weather, not just anyone should take on the Appalachians. While challenging it may be, hiking this section of the country can also be a very rewarding experience Hikers can receive patches for completing certain sections of the trail, even if it takes them several years to hike them bit by bit. Also, every once in a while, a hiker will spy some "trail magic," such as a bit of food lovingly left at an overnight shelter or a stranger living nearby offering a night's lodging and a shower.
It's best to know as much as possible about the trail before beginning a trip, which is where a hiking group can really come in handy.
About Appalachian Trail Hiking Groups
Since the Appalachian Trail is so long and extensive, dozens of Trail hiking groups are devoted to it, located in several states. These groups don't just go on group hikes. They also help to maintain the trail in what they consider their jurisdictions. Maintenance includes clearing brush; building walls, stairs, and bridges, moving rocks and felled trees; and ensuring appropriate drainage is in place to prevent soil erosion and protect natural areas surrounding the trail.
For example, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club is responsible for the 266.8 miles from the north end of the trail at Katahdin to Grafton Notch. The Appalachian Mountain Club takes care of the rest of the trail in Maine.
Besides Maine, 13 additional states have Appalachian Trail hiking groups. Not coincidentally, these are the remaining states that contain sections of the trail:
- Georgia - 78.1 of the Appalachian Trail
- North Carolina - 95.7 miles of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina
- Tennessee - 74.7 miles of Appalachian Trail in the state
- Virginia - 531.7 miles of the Appalachian Trail, more than any other state
- West Virginia - 2.4 miles of the trail, the shortest of all the states
- Maryland - 40.9 miles of trail
- Pennsylvania - 229.3 miles of the Appalachian trail
- New Jersey - 71.6 miles of trail
- New York - 93.3 miles of the Appalachian trail
- Connecticut - 48 miles of in-state trail
- Massachusetts - 90.4 miles of the Appalachian trail
- Vermont - 150.8 miles of the Appalachian trail
- New Hampshire - 160.9 miles in state trail
A full list of Appalachian Trail hiking Groups is available on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's website, but here are a few ones to take particular note of.
The Appalachian Mountain Club
Founded in 1876, The Appalachian Mountain Club invites people of all ages and ability levels to experience the mountains' wonder and beauty. Unlike clubs specifically dedicated to a section of the range, the AMC has chapters in several notable locales throughout the region, including Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. Members enjoy hiking, camping, paddling, skiing, and other fun outdoorsy activities while remaining focused on activism and protecting the beloved mountain range. Navigating what is going on at any given time in the various chapters of the club is simple, thanks to the internet. Members only need to go to the Find Activities section of the website, put their locale, dates, and times in, and available outings will populate.
Nantahala Hiking Club
The Nantahala Hiking Club is responsible for the 58.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail stretching from Bly Gap at the Georgia/North Carolina border to the Nantahala Outdoor Center that sits on the Nantahala River. They also maintain several offshoot trails in the region. The club dedicates Wednesdays to trail maintenance and upkeep and hikes together on various days of the week and weekends. They are active in surrounding community outreach programs and in the schools, emphasizing conservation and professional development. The website lists upcoming events and hikes that members can attend.
Allentown Hiking Club
Located in Pennsylvania, the Allentown Hiking Club devotes countless hours to roughly ten miles of the Appalachian Trail. Members of this group place equal emphasis on trail maintenance and making hiking social and fun. Those who choose to participate in this hiking group might partake in rigorous hikes, longer weekend hikes, short and social hikes, hikes to local concerts, as well as biking outings, winter sports, and water fun. With this group, there is always something to do related to the outdoors and the people who cherish it.
This chapter is responsible for the protection and maintenance of 90 miles of trail located within the borders of Massachusetts. Opportunities for volunteering widely range, and those choosing to become participants can sign on to greet trail visitors or dedicate an entire week to trail upkeep. When members are not focused on the beautification of their believed trails, they can partake in tons of scheduled activities, including biking, mountaineering, paddling, family-centered activities, and of course, hiking.
Georgia Appalachian Trail Club
The members of this group protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Georgia. The 800+ members maintain the trails, educate the community about conservation and hold roughly 100 different outdoor events each year. Events are not completely hiking-centric and range from biking to canoeing to other outside adventures.
Joining a Trail Hiking Group
In most cases, joining a group is as simple as showing up at a meeting or contacting the organization and offering to volunteer. The groups are overwhelmingly delighted to have a new set of hands to help with trail maintenance. Note that many clubs charge a modest fee in the form of membership dues. If you look trail hiking, joining a club is a perfect way to do what you love while meeting new people.
Individuals only interested in hiking and not in trail preservation may do better to join a hiking club that is not solely centered around the Appalachian Trail, such as one of the groups listed on HikingAndBackpacking.com. Members of trail-specific clubs tend to believe that they need to give back since they use the trail. They are invested in immersing themselves in all that is trail-related, hiking and maintenance included.
Fear not; joining a trail group is not all work and no play. Even though maintenance is key, hiking and camping are also a part of the deal. For example, the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, which maintains an area of the trail in Virginia, has several scheduled group hikes throughout the course of the year. Those interested only need to go to the website and check out the hike schedules. There are mid-week hikes, weekend hikes, and tons of information regarding hike details.
Appalachian Trail Hiking Groups Are Packed With Benefits
Those looking to join any one of the Appalachian hiking groups will soon discover that being a part of these groups gives many great rewards. Members develop a strong sense of connection to the earth and the outdoors and revel in the Appalachians' beauty. Being a part of a community like a trail club means that you are spending your time with others who think, feel and value nature in similar ways as you do. Join a club today and reap the ample benefits that hiking clubs provide.