Best Sections of the Appalachian Trail to Hike in the Summer
Say hello to 15+ hours of daylight, refreshing mountain streams, and endless miles of green tunnel. That’s right. It’s summer in the Appalachians which means hiking season is in full swing. While summer on the AT can be one of the best times of year, certain parts of the trail are better than others to hike during the warmer months.
With 2,200 miles of trail, it can be hard to sort through each state’s weather patterns and find the perfect conditions for your summer backpacking trip. To help, we’ve pinpointed the sections of the AT with the most ideal conditions and must-see sites during the summer months. Our list includes places to help you avoid humidity, extreme heat, and dry water sources, as well as make sure you see some of the best known summer sites along the trail. Lace up your boots (or trail runners) and get inspired for your next summer adventure with the best places to hike on the Appalachian Trail this summer:
The 100-Mile Wilderness + Katahdin, ME
On-Trail Distance: 115 miles
Ideal Time to Hike: July – August
With lower humidity, cooler temps, and stunning views, mid to late summer in Maine is a hiker’s dream come true. A favorite section among thru-hikers, the 100-Mile Wilderness traverses some of the northern most miles of trail, and ends with Mount Katahdin as the finale. You truly get the best of both worlds in this section, with a dense forest canopy to block out direct sunlight and above-treeline summits for views that stretch for miles. Although early summer is great weather-wise in Maine, it is recommended to wait until July and August to hike this section due to black flies that swarm the area in June, and the sometimes impassible stream crossing in early summer.
The Presidential Range, NH
On-Trail Distance: 12 miles
Ideal Time to Hike: July – August
The White Mountains offer some of the most intense climbing on the AT, and with these climbs come unpredictable, often dangerous weather. After the abundance of violent thunderstorms the range sees in June, things start to calm down for July and August. Although there is less of a chance of snow, severe storms, and freezing temps during these months, hikers should still use caution and always check the weather report before starting hikes in this section. If all goes well with the weather, hikers will have a chance to hike the entire Presidential Range above treeline, summit 16 out of 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire, and take in views that extend into Vermont and Maine.
Green Mountains, VT
On-Trail Distance: 97 miles
Ideal Time to Hike: June – August
They aren’t called the Green Mountains for nothing—this segment of trail is benchmarked by lush, evergreen forests and idyllic rural vistas. Although Vermont is also infamous for the thick mud that accumulates from April to the end of May, the mud usually clears up around June and leaves way for picturesque hiking in cool summer weather. This section is also home to multiple ponds and lakes that reward hikers with cold drinking water and refreshing swims throughout the day.
Cornwall Bridge, CT – Cheshire, MA
On-Trail Distance: 100 miles
Ideal Time to Hike: May – August
The trail around the border of Connecticut and Massachusetts has multiple rock scrambles and long climbs, but is also home to waterfalls, lush mountain streams, and dense tree cover. These little oases make it a great section of trail to escape the summer heat. Certain climbs in this section are harder than others, but most have sweeping views and the promise of cold water and tree cover at the bottom. This section of trail also includes one of the most anticipated shelters among thru-hikers: Upper Goose Pond Cabin. Here you can camp, swim, and enjoy freshly made pancakes right there in the backcountry, all courtesy of the AMC.
Roan Highlands, TN
On-Trail Distance: 13.5 miles
Ideal Time to Hike: Mid-June
Roan Mountain is the only section of trail featured on this list that isn’t in New England. Usually humidity, dry water sources, and intense heat lead hikers to more northern sections during the summer, but there is something that Roan Mountain has that New England states don’t: Rhododendrons. Each June, these colorful bushes reach their peak bloom and cover the area in breathtakingly vibrant colors. Roan Mountain is rated among the best places in the country to see the flowers, and hiking beneath the shade of these thick, dense bushes offers relief from the summer heat.
Where are your favorite places to hike on the AT during the summer months? Let me know where I should check out next in the comments.
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