Peak Bagging the Appalachian Trail

The term Peak Bagging may bring to mind technical climbing of the 8000 meter Himalayas or crawling across Capitol Peak’s 14,000 foot Class IV ridges. Although these towering ranges may be the most well known and often summited targets of peak baggers, the sport has a long history in the mountains of Appalachia.

Peak bagging (or epic mountain slaying badassery) is the sport of climbing all the mountains in a certain category. This can be in a specific range, or above a certain elevation threshold, or even collecting high points in an area (states, counties, etc.). Although a person can form any type of list they like, a few of these peak bagging lists have been developed and sponsored by mountain clubs that Appalachian Trail hikers know and love. This means two things – as an Appalachian Trail thru hiker, you’ve already got a head start on these lists. You also get a certificate and a patch for completing your peak bagging list. And let’s face it, if there’s anything hikers love more than mountains, it’s collecting patches.

1. White Mountain 4000 Footers

Sponsoring Club | The Appalachian Mountain Club

Peaks | 48

Type | Elevation Threshold within Geographic Area

Bonus Points | A Separate Certificate and Patch for Winter Completion

Peaks Traversed by the Appalachian Trail | 15

Moosilauke, South Kinsman, North Kinsman, Jackson, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, South Twin, Jackson Washington, Madison, Wildcat, Wildcat D, Carter Dome, South Carter, Middle Carter

The White Mountain 4000 Footers, or the New Hampshire 4000 Footers, or simply the AMC 4000 Footers are one of the best known peak bagging clubs in the Northeast. With a long history starting in 1957, the list incorporates all the 4000 foot mountains in the White Mountain National Forest (with the exception of Old Speck). All of the peaks are accessible by trail with the exception of one, Owl’s Head, which sports a well worn “Heard Path” to the top.

2. New England 4000 Footers

Sponsoring Club | The Appalachian Mountain Club

Peaks | 67

Type | Elevation Threshold within Geographic Area

Bonus Points | Builds off the White Mountains 4000 Footers

Peaks Traversed by the Appalachian Trail | 22

In Maine: Katahdin (Baxter Peak), Mount Bigelow (West Peak), Mount Bigelow (Avery Peak), Crocker Mountain, South Crocker Mountain, Spaulding Mountain, Saddleback, The Horn

In Vermont: Technically, none, but Killington is a mouthwatering .2 off the Appalachian Trail to the summit.

The New England 4000 Footers list builds off the White Mountains 4000 Footer list, adding peaks above 4000 feet in Maine and Vermont. Although there are technically no 4000 foot peaks on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, the Appalachian Trail is the accessibility route to many peaks in New England. For example, Killington in Vermont is .2 off the trail in Vermont and Old Speck is only .3 miles off trail in Maine.

3. The North East 111er Club

Sponsoring Club | The Appalachian Mountain Club, Adirondack 46ers, Catskill Mountain 3500 Club

Peaks | 115

Type | Elevation Threshold within Geographic Area & Historical Legacy

Bonus Points | Platinum Level Peak Bagging Madness

Peaks Traversed by the Appalachian Trail | 22

The North East 111er club incorporates the AMC’s New England 4000 Footer Club with the Adirondack 46er’s Club as well as two high peaks in the Catskill Mountains to incorporate all the 4000 foot mountains in the North Eastern United States.

The Adirondack 46ers are a club based out of upstate New York’s stunningly beautiful and surprisingly gnarly Adirondack Mountains. Although the club is based on the successful summit of the Adirondack’s 4000 foot peaks, it also includes four sub 4000 foot peaks and excludes one 4000 foot peak. This is to keep true to the mountain elevations listed in Russell M. L. Carson’s book Peaks and People of the Adirondacks that was published in 1927.

The North East 111er club also includes the summit of two 4000 foot peaks in the Catskill Mountains, Hunter and Slide. The Catskill Mountain 3500 Club incorporates the summits of the 35 mountains above 3500 feet in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. Unlike many peak bagging clubs, the Catskill Mountain 3500 Club also requires the winter summits of four mountains in the Catskills to become a member.

4. South Beyond 6000 Feet

Sponsoring Club | The Carolina Mountain Club and The Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club

Peaks | 40

Type | Elevation Threshold within Geographic Area

Bonus Points | Extensive Off Trail Travel

Peaks Traversed by the Appalachian Trail | 3

Sequoyah, Mt. Collins, Clingman’s Dome

The South Beyond 6000 Feet Peak Bagging Club is a relative new comer to the field. Began in 1968, the SB6K’s incorporate forty of the south’s 6000 foot peaks, selected by the criteria of elevation threshold and drop of 200 or more feet to a saddle between peaks or, distance between the peaks of three quarters of a mile.

The 40 peaks represent six ranges in North Carolina: the Smokies, Plotts, Balsams, Craggies, Blacks, and Roans. Although most of the SB6K’s lie within North Carolina, or traverse the North Carolina Tennessee border, Mt. Le Conte, in Tennessee, is a notable outlier.

Because the Southern Sixers are a relatively new club, the opportunity for true “bushwacking”, or navigating to a summit without a trail, is more evident than some of the older clubs, such as the Adirondack 46ers. With about a third of the forty mountains lacking a trail, the navigation of dense vegetation and briar patches is a challenge unlike any other.

But Wait there’s More…

These Peak Bagging clubs are just a short introduction to the many ways outdoor clubs encourage folks to enjoy the outdoors. Peak Bagging builds navigation experience, trip planning, and lends a sense of accomplishment. It encourages us to experience weather and seasons we may have never dreamed of on summer day hikes. But bagging high peaks is not the only way to join the list checking, patch collecting craziness. For those who like a nice vista at the end of their hike the Adirondack Mountain Club sponsors a Fire Tower Challenge. For those who can’t get enough of the scenery along the way, the Carolina Mountain Club has 100 Waterfalls for you to explore. Whatever your pleasure, there’s a list for you. Get outside, start checking off the list, and collecting those patches.

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Alan Kamman : Dec 8th

    Dont forget that Old Speck is a Maine 4000 footer too!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Caet Cash : Jan 9th

      Yes! Old Speck in Maine indeed 4000 feet. However, the Appalachian Trail proper does not go the summit, which is why it is not included on the list. The summit is a short .3 walk from the AT.

      Reply

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