10 Pieces of Advice to the Parents of Thru-Hikers, From a Thru-Hiker

Dear concerned parent of a future AT thru-hiker, 

You’re probably on this site because your child wants to thru-hike the AT, is planning on thru-hiking the AT, or is currently thru-hiking the AT. As a parent, you are probably very concerned about your kid’s well being on this adventure. To ease your discomfort, you likely stumbled upon this website, or Zach’s book, in hope that something you read will help you find peace with what your kid is doing.

As a college aged former thru-hiker with previously concerned parents, here are 10 things I think you should know:

1. Your kid is not a child.

No 18+ year old likes to be viewed as a child. Your 18+ year old is an adult. Treat them like one. They are no longer your baby, so don’t act like they are.

2. Your kid doesn’t need to have you breathing down his neck.

Give your kid some space. He doesn’t want his phone to be blown up with concerned text messages from you every time he turns it on. Your kid should communicate with you because he wants to, not because he feels like he has to.

 3. Your kid isn’t as dependent as you think he is…

You may think that your kid needs you for everything. The trail will teach your kid that he can make it in life on his own. So, even though he may be absolutely broke without your financial support, the trail will teach him that he can get by alone. Before the trail, my entire relationship with my parents stemmed from my dependence on them to raise me and put me through school. After the trail, my relationship with my parents is now based off of my want to have a relationship with them, not my need. Know that after your kid hikes the trail, he will probably be annoyed if you remind him that he needs you to live; because he doesn’t anymore.

4. You don’t own your offspring

If your kid is a legal adult, he can do whatever he wants to. Remember that.

5. Drugs and Alcohol

– Your kid will be exposed to drugs and alcohol on the AT.

– Your kid will be exposed to drugs and alcohol at college.

– Your kid will be exposed to drugs and alcohol anywhere outside of your control.

Get used to this, embrace it, have a drink with your kid, and stop stressing about it.

6. Your offspring will come to you if he needs you

There were a couple times on the trail where I needed my parents for something and they were always ready to help me whenever I needed it; whether I needed them to ship me gear or simply just talk to me on the phone. It was nice to get trail magic from my parents a couple times too. Your kid will come to you if he needs you. Try to always be there to support him, but don’t force anything.

7. This is your kid’s experience, not yours.

This goes back to giving your kid space. Let him live out this dream in whatever way he wants to. Don’t interfere and try to make it about you.

8. Your kid will be safe

If you did a half-decent job raising your kid, he will be fine on his own on the trail. If you taught him basic life skills, like that he needs to drink water and eat food to function, he will be just fine.

9. Buy 2 copies of Appalachian Trials

Give one to your kid and keep one for yourself. Reading it before the trail really helped me prepare for my thru-hike and the lessons I learned from Zach’s book were valuable to me as I progressed on the trail. With my parents having a copy, they were able to gain a better understanding of what I was doing, where I was, and how I was feeling during my hike.

10. Let your kid hike

You may be hesitant about letting your kid go on such a big adventure, but if your prohibit your kid from doing so, you are robbing him of such a valuable life experience that will likely benefit him tremendously. Essentially, I think, if you don’t allow your kid to hike, you basically aren’t allowing your kid to live and you are an awful parent.

All in all, I hope this blog post, the other posts on this site, and Zach’s book help you find some peace with having your kid hike the Appalachian Trail. Remember to give your kid space, let him, or her, live his life, and be there to support him if he needs it. 

Special shout-out to my parents, and grandparents, for being supportive of my thru-hike and helping me turn my dreams into a reality.

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 2

  • LALA : Apr 3rd

    wow! This was a bit offensive to parents who are fully supporting their kids journey. Thought I was going to read the ways that I could support and send the right packages. Not looking for a scolding, thanks

  • Supportive Parent : Apr 6th

    LALA – I completely agree! Though apprehensive, I have supported by 20 year old daughter in her hike knowing that she’s not a child and that this is her experience. I already know that she is independent, since she move out on her own a year ago. And to Cole, maybe someday if/when become a parent, you will understand that your heart always wants the best for your children and sometimes with that comes worry.


What Do You Think?