Calendar-Year Triple Crown — My “Plan”

About the Calendar-Year Triple Crown (CYTC)

The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail are collectively known as the “Triple Crown” of hiking, so the Calendar-Year Triple Crown is walking all three in the same calendar year (e.g. 2024). Completing the whole thing involves hiking around 7,500 on-trail miles, plus many bonus miles to detour around closures, resupply in town, and see cool stuff.

  • Appalachian Trail (AT) ~2,200 miles
  • Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) ~2,650 miles
  • Continental Divide Trail (CDT) ~2,750 miles

(Since I haven’t hiked any of these trails yet, I’ve included photos from a few Triple Crown trail states — New Hampshire is up top.)

trail through woods with blooming mountain laurel

Mountain laurel blooming on the Black Forest Trail in PA, my first thru-hike (2 days, 43 miles)

Why the CYTC?

I’d been reading up on all three trails as I considered a long thru-hike but didn’t have a strong front-runner. As soon as I heard about the Calendar-Year Triple Crown, however, it captured my imagination in a way that none of the trails had individually. For some reason a goal that I very likely won’t achieve is much more enticing than one that I could probably manage. I also love the idea of seeing so many different environments over the course of a year and having periods of solitude along with periods of abundant camaraderie.

As a kid, one of the soothing daydreams I often visited when trying to calm my mind at bedtime was that I’d been selected to be part of a group of children who would walk across the country. Remembering that fantasy 30 years later, and recognizing that I’m now an adult who can choose myself for such an adventure, gave me the inspiration I needed to commit to a CYTC attempt in 2024 rather than deferring it to a more convenient time that may never arrive.

I did consider literally walking across the country, perhaps on the American Discovery Trail, but since I love mountains and hate long road walks, the CYTC seemed like a better fit. I’ve also lived in states along all three trails, so the mix of new and familiar landscapes, ecosystems, and local cultures adds to the appeal.

a snowy slope with mountains in the background

A snowy hike up to Panhandle Gap on the Wonderland Trail, my second/only other thru-hike (5 days, 93 miles) — I like that a marmot and I left parallel tracks along this slope

My “Plan”

Other than walking 7,500+ miles in a year, the biggest challenge to completing a CYTC hike is the weather. The main thru-hiking seasons for all three trails overlap, and the PCT and CDT in particular have long sections that are considered unhikable at least 5 months of the year due to avalanche danger.

The PCT and CDT do have sections that can be hiked early or late in the year, but I’m hoping to minimize hopping around between trails because that sounds expensive, time-consuming, and disruptive the flow of a thru-hike. Therefore, my “plan” (in quotes because I know I’ll need to change it many times) is to do a flip-flop hike of the Appalachian Trial early and late in the year, leaving peak hiking season available for the PCT and CDT.

Appalachian Trail

Although I’ve been aware of the AT for as long as I can remember, I had written off hiking my local long trail for many years because I find summer to be the least pleasant season for a walk in the Appalachian woods. Researching the CYTC made the AT much more appealing by introducing me to the possibility of hiking it “off-season” and avoiding the humidity, poison ivy, and biting insects. I love the cold and snow, and am excited to attempt to hike the northern half of the AT in winter despite the significantly increased difficulty level.

Other than hiking solo, and perhaps because I usually hike solo, I’m pretty cautious and have already accepted that I may ultimately encounter conditions where the risks outweigh the rewards and bailing to a more southerly stretch of trail is my best option. I’ve also given myself a lot of time for this section to account for dramatically reduced daily mileage farther north and days spent awaiting good weather windows, while hopefully still making it to Baxter State Park before Katahdin closes for the spring at the end of March.

Pacific Crest & Continental Divide Trails

If weather and snowpack allow, I’d like to hike the PCT before the CDT to take advantage of the secret season in the Sierra and to feel less time pressure on the CDT to prioritize fast alternates over fun alternates. Also, wildfire risk usually increases over the course of the summer, so I’d rather focus first on the PCT, which doesn’t have a lot of easy reroute options, and then move to the CDT, where it’s usually possible find alternates that allow a continuous footpath around any closures.

Very Tentative Itinerary

Knowing that many kinds of luck would need to converge for this “plan” to become reality, and that my body would need to adapt very well to thru-hiking, here’s my current CYTC schedule:

  • January to March: first half of northbound AT flip-flop from Harper’s Ferry to Katahdin
  • April to July: northbound Pacific Crest Trail
  • July to November: southbound Continental Divide Trail
  • November to December: second half of northbound AT flip-flop from Georgia to Harper’s Ferry

A feature of this itinerary that I especially like is that I would be starting my journey by hiking north away from home (PA) and then finishing by hiking back home from Georgia at the end.

hiker standing on a rocky mountainside

I’m about 80% sure that this is Longs Peak in Colorado

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.

Comments 10

  • Over Easy : Dec 31st

    I’m attempting the calendar triple crown as well this year. Not many people attempt this, let alone achieve it, very very few 🙂 My plan is NoBo AT starting mid February and finishing in under 4 months, then NoBo PCT, then SoBo CDT. I don’t use social media though, so I won’t be posting. We should stay in touch if you’d like though, if only to see what we did wrong. There’s only a few people who try this, we must be crazy!

  • Over Easy : Dec 31st

    I think only about a dozen people have done it. Anyways I got inspired by @quadzillahikes. His videos are worth a watch if you have the time. Take care and good luck.

  • Stephen : Dec 31st

    Baxter State Park / Katahdin usually open mid-May. You won’t be able to summit if prior to that.

  • Over easy : Dec 31st

    I didn’t know that, thank you. Coming back to Katahdin last, in December, doesn’t sound fun. If I’m lucky enough to get that far I’ll have to do it though. Thanks again

    • Ian : Dec 31st

      Baxter State Park has been closed since mid December due to weather conditions, so there is no guarantee you would be able to summit next December.

    • Maxine : Jan 15th

      Baxter/Katahdin/AT typically closes around mid to late October.

  • spiderwort : Dec 31st

    Feel free to ignore me, but I think the logistics of starting south from PA on the AT and going to the PCT after reaching Springer would provide much better weather windows and alleviate concerns over whether Baxter is open. If you could finish the CDT by early October and go to Katahdin then, you could avoid having to go through winter conditions in ME/NH and could get shoulder season instead, which are much friendlier. If you’re lucky and get a mild winter like this year you may be able to almost completely avoid snow travel that way on the AT.

  • None Given : Dec 31st

    I should never of read this! You may have changed my whole year. I was planning on doing the Pinhoti trail, then the AT, then going as far as I can on the North Country Trail. Once winter hit move to AZ and hit up trails down there. I might have to rethink all this now. Thanks! I wish you all the luck! I hope you are ablre to accomplish this!

  • Brad : Jan 2nd

    This sounds like an awesome adventure, I look forward to following along. Have you thought of adding on at the end of this amazing adventure the ECT? I think that would be the most amazing adventure ever. Essentially a year and a half of amazing hiking. Flip from Georgia down to Florida and then flip up to Maine and finish out in Canada.

  • Diane : Jan 14th

    Awesome adventure and I wish you the best! Look forward to following your hikes!


What Do You Think?