Part 4: The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys?

Part 4: Where

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and Santa brought all that new gear you were asking for! We are nearing the end of this five part series. When the word “where” comes up in a conversation over the AT, it’s most likely about where you’re starting. Are you hiking NOBO, SOBO, or Flip-Flop. I will touch base on these directional choices, and include additional “where” topics to focus on when planning.

Where to start?

All of my research has focused on hiking NOBO, because that’s what I’m doing. Where will I start? This is actually a somewhat difficult question. There are two main starting points that thru-hikers will take: 1.) The Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park, or 2.) Springer Mountain Parking Area. I can’t give a personal experience on which one is better, because I haven’t hiked the trail yet; but, from the research I’ve done, I’m planning on hiking the Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park. Here is a great article that gives the highs and lows of each starting point from a former thru-hiker: “The Ups and Downs of The Appalachian Approach Trail” by Clarity (Allyson).

Other Options…

There are other options that hikers can take, like going SOBO, which entails a southbound hike that starts at Mt. Katahdin. Or, an Alternative (Flip-Flop) hike, which allows a hiker to have a highly personalized experience that can be better built around a tight time-frame, or weather conditions. Choosing to go on a NOBO, SOBO, or a Flip-Flop hike allows a diverse group of people to be able to hike the trail. Whichever direction you’re looking at taking, I would recommend reading a brief overview of each option from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Where are you starting from? (Coming from home)

Where you’re coming from plays a large part in figuring out how to get to the AT, and selecting your trail starting point. There will be thru-hikers that live right by the trail; in addition, there will be thru-hikers flying in from other countries to take on the 2,189 mile hike.


The easiest option (although we all don’t have this opportunity) is to have a friend or family member drive us to the trail. If you have to fly in, try to think of friends or family that may live in that area that would be willing to pick you up from the airport and take you to the trail. If you can’t find a ride though, don’t worry! Since there are so many places to start, I am not going to go into every possible route, but you can look into Greyhound Buses (some will get you close to  various starting points), Uber, Lyft, taxis, or hitchhiking. I’ve also heard of attempting thru-hikers that meet former thru-hikers online, and the former thru-hikers (trail angels) have offered them a ride. I think the best strategy for getting to the trail is taking major transportation, like a bus or plane, and once you’ve gotten within an hour or two from the trail, get more creative in your traveling.

And More…

Here are more questions to get the ball rolling. These are “where” questions that I’ve came up with in my own planning. I don’t necessarily think that I will answer all these questions; I don’t want to over-plan, because dates, locations, and pace will mostly likely change for everyone.

  • Where will you stay the night before you start trail?
  • Where will you send your mail-drops to? (If you choose to do mail drops)
  • Where are the best places to resupply at? For food? For gear?
  • Where do family and friends live along the trail? (If you have any, you could stop in and visit–take a zero day.)
  • Where are events taking place along the trail, like “trail-days”? Do these events align with your schedule?

I hope this gives a starting point to future thru-hikers planning, or an idea about additional planning for an upcoming thru-hiker. Thanks for reading, if you have any ideas that pertain to the topic of “where”, or any comments in general please leave them below. There are 73-days until I start my thru-hike–I cannot wait!

“Photo Courtesy Flickr/Phrawr”

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Comments 2

  • Kelly K. : Dec 30th

    Hey Adam! Great questions, we plan on starting the same day, and I know I am counting down the days, and gearing up to. See you out there!

    • Adam Smith : Jan 2nd

      That’s great, I’ll see you guys out there!


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