Thru-Hikers’ Least Favorite Sections of the Appalachian Trail

Every stretch of the AT has its own unique charm … but thru-hikers definitely consider some sections more charming than others. Our 2023 survey of thru-hikers revealed that the following stretches of trail were considered more “character-building.”

We asked hikers to rate their favorite and least favorite parts of trail, and the seven sections below got the most votes for least favorite. Interestingly, that doesn’t mean they were universally hated. See for yourself how controversial most of these “disliked” sections actually are in the chart below:

Graph showing thru-hikers’ votes for favorite and least favorite sections on the Appalachian Trail. Photo via

As you can see, Northern Pennsylvania is literally the only place most hikers agreed they didn’t like. Every other part of the AT came out as a net positive.

Maybe it’s not surprising that a group of people passionate enough to hike all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail happens to really like almost all of the Appalachian Trail.

Still, some sections received more negative votes than others, and we’ve highlighted those below so you can prepare yourself.

Thru-Hikers’ 7 Least-Favorite Sections of the Appalachian Trail

These picks come from our 2023 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey. Meanwhile, all mileage used in this post is from the FarOut AT Guide’s northbound mileage. Although these sections are based on feedback from thru-hikers, we started and ended each one at the nearest logical trailhead to make the logistics friendlier to section hikers.

If you’re instead interested in thru-hikers’ favorite sections of the AT, click here.


Get ready to grin and bear it through these not-so-beloved stretches:

1. Northern Pennsylvania (147 mi)

Thru-Hikers’ Least Favorite Sections of the Appalachian Trail: Northern Pennsylvania. Photo via

Location and Mileage

  • From Duncannon (mile 1150) to Delaware Water Gap (mile 1297)

Duncannon is basically where the rocks start and Delaware Water Gap is basically the PA/NJ border. There are still rocks when you enter New Jersey, but they quickly become more rounded. This rocky, rugged section of Pennsylvania is about 147 miles.

What Makes This Section Unappealing

Rocks, rocks, rocks … oh, and more rocks. Northern “Painsylvania” or “Rocksylvania,” however you lovingly refer to it, takes the cake for thru-hikers’ absolute least favorite section of the AT, and for good reason. This section of trail is seemingly an endless wasteland of sharp stones, massive boulders, and moving foundations sticking up every which way, and your eyes will be trained on the ground for nearly 150 miles of ankle-rolling, uneasy footing.

Adding insult to injury, most thru-hikers trek through this difficult section during the heat of the summer, when long water carries, gnats, and rattlesnakes lay in wait. 

The Silver Lining

It’s hard to hype up Northern Pennsylvania’s rugged trail after that, but even the most jaded AT thru-hikers can’t deny that some of the rock scrambling keeps things interesting. Wolf Rocks offers incredible views and unique stone formations to break up the monotony.

If the trail isn’t providing you with stoke, then let your town days be motivation. Many of the towns throughout Pennsylvania are friendly, inexpensive, and worth the stop. Check out Palmerton, Wind Gap, and Delaware Water Gap to give your bruised feet a break throughout this stretch.

2. Southern Pennsylvania (83 mi)

Thru-Hikers’ Least Favorite Sections of the Appalachian Trail: Southern Pennsylvania. Photo via

Location and Mileage

  • NOBO: From Pen Mar Park on the MD/PA border at mile 1,067 to Duncannon at mile 1150

Southern Pennsylvania, i.e. everything south of Duncannon, is about 83 miles long.

What Makes This Section Unappealing

Unfortunately for many thru-hikers, Pennsylvania is just one big fever dream. While it’s not quite the rocky hellscape of its northern counterpart, Southern Pennsylvania does not offer much in the way of rewards. Although the terrain is quite easy, it’s rather boring, flat, and can get quite hot. If our surveys have shown us anything, it’s that thru-hikers actually tend to prefer a challenge.

The Silver Lining

You can wrack up easy miles throughout this straightforward section, and the flat trail will feel like heaven on a SOBO’s feet. Boiling Springs (NOBO mile 1,124) is known as one of the friendliest towns on the AT, and the trail goes right through this area, making it a seamless stop for lunch or a shower. The trail is beautiful throughout Southern PA in May when the rhododendrons and mountain laurels are in full bloom.

3. Shenandoah National Park (108 mi)

Thru-Hikers’ Least Favorite Sections of the Appalachian Trail: Shenandoah National Park. Photo via

Location and Mileage

  • NOBO: From mile 864 at Rockfish Gap / Waynesboro to the Rt 522 crossing (and your access point for Front Royal) at mile 972.

The AT runs 103.2 miles through SNP from border to border, but we expanded the section slightly to run from Waynesboro to Front Royal (so convenient!) for a total of 108 miles.

What Makes This Section Unappealing

To our surprise, Shenandoah National Park was heavily contested in the ratings of favorite and least favorite for the Class of 2023. Despite its easy terrain, our best guess is that thru-hikers’ masochist behavior makes them more drawn to harder sections of trail. While this is a good area to spot black bears, we can’t help but wonder if bear encounters colored perceptions of the SNP region for some.

The Silver Lining

Expect mellow grades and well-maintained trail, rolling terrain, and tons of roadside stops for burgers, blackberry milkshakes, and snacks. You’ll be drawn in by epic views off Skyline Drive. Wildlife is abundant here — keep your eyes peeled for black bears and more.

4. New York (95.5 mi)

Thru-Hikers’ Least Favorite Sections of the Appalachian Trail: New York. Photo via

Location and Mileage

  • NOBO: From the Longhouse Drive parking area (mile 1367.3) to the CT Rt 55 trailhead parking at mile 1462.8

Just under 100 miles. Longhouse Drive is the closest parking area to the NY/NJ border (the AT crosses the border between these two states multiple times, but this is the northernmost crossing, i.e., where a NOBO would leave NJ behind and stay in NY for good). Similarly, the CT Rt 55 parking area is basically on the NY/CT border and would be convenient for section hikers.

What Makes This Section Unappealing

Despite being one of the lowest sections of trail, the Empire State makes up for its lack of prominence with short, steep, ass-kicker climbs. Many of these climbs never break treeline either, offering nominal reward for the constant ups and downs.

Without the benefit of elevation to cool things down, the New York AT gets very hot and humid in summer, a season when swarms of vicious mosquitos also thrive in the area. Moral of the story: prepare for hot and buggy.

New York serves to weed out NOBOs facing burnout with many miles (and many more states) to go.

The Silver Lining

While your hunger for crushing miles may slow in New York, we guarantee your appetite won’t. Take advantage of the myriad of delicious delis across the state. If you plan it well, you could even hit one deli per day to fuel your New York food tour.

Bear Mountain State Park offers everything from views to the utter convenience of a vending machine to a literal zoo. And it’s not a visit to North York without grabbing a slice (or five), at Annabel’s Pizza or Corrado’s Pizzeria and Gelateria (the latter of which received an honorable mention in our list of the best restaurants on the AT).

5. Vermont (155 mi)

Thru-Hikers’ Least Favorite Sections of the Appalachian Trail: Vermont. Photo via

Location and Mileage

  • NOBO: From North Adams, MA at mile 1597 (just south of the border) to Norfolk, VT/Hanover, NH at roughly mile 1752.

This section is 155 miles long.

What Makes This Section Unappealing

If you’re looking to find the dirt on “Vermud,” it’s not all rainbows, butterflies, and maple syrup. Infamous for the dreaded blackflies that will make your life a living hell, you’ll find it in your best interest to steer clear of the Green Mountain State from May into mid-June. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a never-ending cloak of aggressive flies that are, quite literally, burrowing into your skin.

Most thru-hikers pass through Vermont in summer and thus won’t have the pleasure of glopping through the state’s famous mud, but early-season trekkers may find themselves bogged down by thick sludge from April to May as spring snowmelt turns into a big, brown mess. 

The Silver Lining

Vermont boasts its fair share of big climbs amidst the rolling hills, such as Stratton, Bromley, and Killington. Relish these opportunities to emerge from the green tunnel for epic views of dense, verdant peaks this state is named for. Atop Stratton Mountain, take a moment to reflect on Benton MacKaye, conservationist and father of the Appalachian Trail, who dreamt up the AT from the inspiring beauty of this peak.

Some of these picks surprised us, but they suggest that thru-hikers prefer a good sufferfest and may get bored by long stretches of easy trail. They also appear to hate rocks, which checks out.

For contrast, check out thru-hikers’ favorite sections of the AT.

Featured image: Graphic design by Zack Goldmann.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?