Four Reasons to Take a Pre-Trail Holiday before a Thru-Hike

It is pretty scary to devote half a year for the completion of a thru-hike.  Before entering the brave, new world of hiker life – take a pre-trail holiday.  Long-distance hiking is rewarding, but also painful, and uncomfortable.  Even a few days on vacation will leave you feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready to face the trail.

I returned yesterday from a week­long holiday in the sunny Caribbean, visiting Montserrat and Antigua.  The focus of my trip was to jungle hike, climb seaside cliff trails, and relax to the rhythm of islands.  Only two more days before I start my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail!


You don’t want to jump from the pressures of school and work, immediately to the pressures of making daily mileage.  Everyone needs time to decompress prior to transitioning to this new stage of life. It is extremely difficult to reflect in a cramped plane on the way to San Diego.

I suggest a more relaxing spot — like watching waves on a sandy beach.  It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as it is quiet and calming, away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday routine.  If budget is a concern, take a weekend staycation in your local area, or visit out-of-town friends or family.

Hiking Warm-Up

Work that body! Gain some trail confidence by completing some short, challenging day hikes while on holiday.  Sweating on a big uphill in the tropics is quite different than powering up a snowy trail in Canada. I feel that these hot hikes will assist me with adapting to the desert conditions.

It is also a perfect time to try out your thru-hike outfit and footwear.  Don’t be unpleasantly surprised by ill-fitting clothing at the start of the trail.  I discovered that my favorite capris became itchy and uncomfortable in the hot sunshine. Luckily, I haven’t started packing for the PCT yet.

Quality Time with Your Loved Ones

Leaving behind close family or friends for an extended time is difficult. They may not have the time (or desire) to join you on your thru-hike – but they may join for the pre-trail vacation.  It is a wonderful opportunity for your loved ones to say goodbye, and pass on their final encouragement.

My husband joined me on this active, yet romantic Caribbean holiday.  We rented an affordable villa on Montserrat for the first half, and stayed at budget hostel on Antigua for the rest of the trip.  We have strengthened our relationship in advance of our separation while I am away hiking.

Eat All the Food

Copious amounts of dried foods are ahead in your future.  This vacation is the time to indulge your cheese and grilled meat fantasies.  The best trail food is still trail food.

Research the best local haunts, top-rated restaurants, and hottest nightlife spots.  I loved the amazing Caribbean dishes like spicy jerk chicken, curried rotis, and grilled seafood.  Spoil yourself – don’t worry because all those calories will get burned off soon.

Plan That Pre-Trail Holiday

So, before your thru-hike, let loose on vacation.  It will be the pre-party to the greatest challenge of your life.  You won’t regret taking this essential downtime before starting the big adventure.  Another great idea is to have an after-party vacation when the thru-hike is complete.

Check out my video blog of “Hiking Montserrat” and “Hiking Antigua” on my YouTube channel here:  I will also be posting daily video blogs along the PCT when I start in a couple days.

Dry waterfall hike in Montserrat.

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