Trail Families: What Are They and Are They Beneficial?

When you set off to thru-hike you are often leaving behind important people in your life. Particularly if you are heading to the trail solo, it may seem daunting and lonely. So when the prospect of a trail family appears, you tag along.

What is a trail family?

A trail family is a group of hikers that form together that look out for one another. Often these trail families form at the beginning of a thru-hike. Hikers are all going through new experiences and try to figure out everything together; including water sources, miles, and town stops. The security that comes with having these people quickly forms a family-like bond and hikers often plan around their new family’s wants and needs.

Is having a trail family really beneficial?

A trail family is not for everyone, including myself. Starting the Pacific Crest Trail this year, I wanted to make some changes from my Appalachian Trail trip. That included how I interacted socially. From day one I made sure to say hello and smile at each hiker in an attempt to be part of a trail family. I should add here that I am an introvert and while this seems simple enough, after two weeks of this, along with my physical exhaustion, I felt drained. My partner, Jake, and I did meet some really nice hikers along the trail, but after spending days trying to plan around other people it felt like we were getting lost in finding our own happiness. Particularly the first month of hiking, it is important to listen to what my body and mind are telling me, and it is too hard around a group.

As I lay in my tent last night I recalled the four big reasons that I wanted to thru-hike this year; simplicity, freedom, introspection, and building my relationship with Jake. All four require time for myself. This is not to say that I don’t want friends along the way, but I want to march to the beat of my own drum. So if you are planning a thru-hike just remember to hike your own hike.



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