The 2023 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey: General Information Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of the 2023 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey. In this edition we dive into Part Two of General Information where we’ll cover questions about the overall experience on the AT this year. Continuing from General Information Part 1, it’s time to cover typical hiker habits in towns and on trail, safety and injury, thru-hiker favorites, and more. There were a lot of new questions this year included in this post, so keep reading for new information!

We had a total of 409 responses this year. Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey! The data was collected from October through November of 2023 through our survey which was marketed using our social media platforms, Backpacker Radio, and TheTrek.co. Some responses from previous years were removed, and obvious mistakes in start and end dates were adjusted. No obvious duplicates were found.

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Companionship

We asked hikers who they were hiking with at the start and throughout their hikes. Over two-thirds of people started solo, but by the end, 51% were hiking with friends they made on the trail. These numbers are extremely similar to previous years. For those worried about starting solo, it goes to show that there is ample opportunity for making friends as you go.

This year we asked hikers about their relationship status at the start and end of their hikes. The majority of hikers in relationships stayed in them, regardless of whether their partner was on trail with them or not. This was the case for married couples as well. Single hikers made up over a third of the total hikers, dropping a bit by the end accounting for those who started relationships along the way.

The time people spent hiking with others varied wildly. About one-third of respondents hiked with others a majority of the time, spending 25% or less of their time hiking alone. On the other hand, about a quarter of hikers spent almost all of their time hiking alone.

Although hikers are split on whether they spend their time hiking with others, the majority tend to camp with others more often than not. 70% of hikers slept alone a only quarter of the time or less. Only 9% camped alone the majority of the time. On the other hand, most hikers seemed to avoid shelters, with 56% of hikers sleeping in shelters less than 25% of the time.

Crowding

Long trails get more popular every year, so we asked hikers about crowding on the AT. For the most part though, hikers didn’t have many nights where they struggled to find a spot to camp. Over 90% of hikers struggled to find space for the evening ten nights or less. One hiker said they had difficulty finding a spot on 50 different nights.

Even though finding a spot to camp wasn’t too difficult, the number of people at campsites is a different story. Even spots that aren’t at capacity can get pretty busy. We asked hikers about the highest number of people they saw at one campsite or shelter. Most responses fell between 20-30 hikers, which is quite a crowd for most shelters and campsites. The most people a hiker saw at a single campsite was a whopping 120 people!

 

We hope hikers are good stewards of Leave No Trace (LNT), which means a lot of things, including not leaving trash behind. 98% of hikers packed out all of their trash, with 44% packing out others’ trash when they saw it.

 

The majority of hikes chose to stay in town overnight on most days they left the trail for resupply. About a quarter of hikers only slept in town rarely, while only 4% never slept in town.

Safety

Every hiker should feel safe while thru-hiking, but that’s not always the case. We asked hikers various questions about any threats to their safety, sexual harassment, and discrimination they may have faced. 18% of hikers felt that their safety was threatened at some point on trail due to other human activity. For hikers who did experience sexual harassment or racial discrimination, we also asked if it was another hiker or a non-hiker who treated them this way. The results are in the table below. The threatening acts were more commonly committed by other hikers.

Committed bySexual HarrasmentRacial Discrimination
Another hiker386
A non-hiker223

InjuryNumber of Hikers
Sprain53
Plantar fascitis41
Shin splints33
Knee issue22
Tendonitis17
Torn Ligament15

We also added some questions about injuries hikers experienced this year. Almost two-thirds of hikers experienced some sort of injury during their hike! Of those injured, their injuries didn’t affect their hike, though most said that they were forced to slow down. 8% of hikers suffered hike-ending injuries. We asked what injuries hikers faced, and the results are included in the chart above.

Hikers frequently experience weight loss during a long thru-hike. Over three-quarters of this year’s AT class claim to have lost weight. No hikers reported having gained 30 or more pounds. Taking gender into account provides some interesting data, most notably in the 30+ pound weight loss category.

Resources

We asked hikers which resources they used and whether they found them helpful or inspiring. FarOut (formerly Guthook) was the most helpful resource, followed by theTrek.co (thanks everyone!) and YouTube. “A Walk in the Woods,” both the movie and the book, were found to be the least helpful.

Popular resources hikers mentioned that were not on the list included speaking with previous thru-hikers, the novel “Mud, Rocks, Blazes” by Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson, and “Becoming Odyssa” by Jennifer Pharr Davis.

Here are the links to the most helpful resources, although popular YouTube channels hikers watched are unknown.

  1. The FarOut App, formerly Guthook
  2. TheTrek.co
  3. Youtube
  4. The A.T. Guide – by David “AWOL” Miller
  5. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy website

Favorites

This year, the Southernmost Virginia region took first place again, followed closely by Baxter State Park. Those two sections seem to trade off for first place each year. Northern Pennsylvania was the least favorite among hikers by far, as has been the case in previous years.

Hostel Name (and State)Number of HikersPercent of Hiker's who had this Hostel in their Top 3 Favorite's
Shaw's Hiker Hostel - ME13734%
Maine Roadhouse - ME13634%
Woods Hole Hostel - VA9724%
Hostel Around the Bend - GA8421%
The Notch Hostel - NH5012%
Boots Off Hostel and Campground - TN4712%
Mountain Harbor B&B and Hiker Hostel - TN4110%
Hostel of Maine - ME389%
Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge - NC328%
Angel's Rest Hiker Haven - VA266%
The Broken Fiddle Hostel - VA266%
Green Mountain House - VT246%
Quarter Way Inn - VA246%
Above the Clouds Hostel - GA225%

Shaw’s Hiker Hostel in Maine once again claimed the title for most popular hostel on trail. A very close second was Maine Roadhouse, also keeping its position from last year. Woods Hole hostel rounded out the top three once again as well.

Restaurant Name and LocationResponses
Smokey Mountain Diner - Hot Springs, NC28
Mountain Harbour B&B - Roan Mountain, TN13
New Ming garden - Waynesboro, VA13
Damascus Diner - Damascus, VA11
River's End Restaurant (NOC) - Bryson City, NC10

We asked hikers this year about their favorite restaurants as an open-ended question. The top favorites are listed above. Honorable mentions include Corrado’s Pizzeria & Gelateria in Stormville, NY, the Yellow Deli, the Lazy Hiker Brewing Co., and Scotto’s Pizza. Some common general responses included McDonald’s, Mexican, and any buffet.

We asked hikers to rank the best part of their AT experience with the option to include their own “other” responses. Nature was the most popular 1st and 2nd ranking, followed closely by the trail. Some popular write-in responses included the simplicity, the physical aspect, and the sense of achievement.

Conclusion

That’s a wrap on the General Information for the 2023 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey! We hope you found it insightful and informative. Upcoming posts will detail AT hikers’ favorite backpacks, footwear, shelter systems, sleeping bags, and stoves/filters.

To stay up to date on the latest survey posts, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

Congratulations to all the Appalachian Trail hikers this year — and a huge thank you to all of you who took the time to fill out the survey!

Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm.

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Comments 4

  • Matt : Dec 19th

    Regarding the discrimination question, I would suggest some measurement to contextualize it with the demographics of the respondents. As a measurement of how pervasive these problems are on trail, whether or not these numbers are “high” or low” depends very much on the percent of respondents who non-white and/or women.

    Reply
  • Jessica : Jan 18th

    Hi Kate is this everyone who attempted or just those who completed the thru hike?

    Reply
  • Jessica Thomas : Jan 29th

    Hi Team,

    Hope this message finds you well.

    Do you accept link insertions in old blog posts? If yes, what’s the cost?

    If not, how about a 3-way link exchange to boost website rankings?

    Cheers,
    Jessica Thomas
    Nomad Hubz

    Reply

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