Thru-Hiker / Appalachian Trail Glossary

The Thru-Hiker / Appalachian Trail Glossary (Trail Terminology)

Click any of the links on the below terms to get a fuller description, images, and relevant articles. 

ALDHA (noun, organization) – Abbreviation for the Appalachian Long Distance Hiking Association.

Amicalola (noun, place) – Short for Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia, home of Springer Mountain.

Aqua-blaze (verb) – To skip a section of the AT by watercraft (e.g. canoe, kayak, raft).

AT (noun, place) – Abbreviation for Appalachian Trail or the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

ATC (noun, organization) – Abbreviation for Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the organizatino that oversees the maintenance of, conservation on, and advocacy for the preservation of the AT. The headquarters in Harpers Ferry is also often referred to as “the ATC.”

Awol (noun, thing) – Short for The A.T. Guide by computer scientist and AT thru-hiker David “Awol” Miller.

AYCE (phrase) – Acronym for “all you can eat.”

Banana-blaze (verb) – To follow a man down the trail out of romantic interests, usually done by a woman.

Baxter (noun, place) – Short for Baxter State Park, Maine, home of Mount Katahdin.

Blue-blaze (verb) – To skip a section of the white-blazed AT by walking an alternative route.

The Bubble (noun, concept) – The denser cluster of northbound thru-hikers who embark from Springer Mountain the last week of March and the first week of April. Sometimes also refers to the much smaller cluster of southbound thru-hikers who embark from Mount Katahdin the first week of June.

Cairn (noun, thing) – A small tower of rocks used as a trail marker in areas where trees are scarce, or used sentimentally as a monument.

CDT (noun, place) – Short for the Continental Divide Trail or Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which runs 3,100 miles across the the U.S.’ western continental divide, from Mexico to Canada. See Triple-Crown.

Flip-flop (verb) – To thru-hike the entire AT but in a non-contiguous manner.  See Flip-flopper.

Flip-flopper (noun, person) – Someone who thru-hikes the AT in a non-contiguous manner.

GAME (concept) – An acronym used by northbound thru-hikers meaning “Georgia to Maine,” sometimes written as “GA→ME.”  See NoBo.

Green-blaze (verb) – To hike while high on marijuana or to follow/hike with someone in order to obtain it.

The Green Tunnel (noun, place) – A nickname for the AT, referencing the tree cover that encloses the trail corridor most of the way during the summer and late spring months.

Harpers Ferry (noun, place) – The town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a few hundred miles south of the AT halfway point and home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy‘s headquarters.

Hiker trash (adjective or noun, people) – A term for or describing long-distance hikers whose absence from civilization has led them to abandon certain social norms and expectations, becoming disheveled in appearance. It is sometimes said as an insult, but usually taken as a compliment.

Hike Your Own Hike or HYOH (phrase) – A motto of sorts that means anything from “to each his own” to “stay out of my business.”

Hut – In the White Mountains National Forest, a hut is a fully enclosed lodge with running water, wood stoves, and other amenities.

Katahdin (noun, place) – Short for Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine, the northern terminus of the AT.

Leave No Trace or LNT (phrase) – A phrase representing the seven principles of outdoor ethics: (1) Plan ahead and prepare, (2) travel and camp on durable surfaces, (3) dispose of waste properly, (4) leave what you find, (5) minimize campfire impacts, (6) respect wildlife, and (7) be considerate of other visitors.

Logbook (noun, thing) – A guest book kept at shelters, campsites, and visitor centers along the AT in which all hikers can write entries. Not to be confused with Trail Journals.

LT or The Long Trail (noun, place) – A national scenic trail running 273 miles through Vermont, which shares it’s southernmost 100 miles with the AT.

MEGA (concept) – An acronym used by southbound thru-hikers meaning “Maine to Georgia,” sometimes written “ME→GA.” See SoBo.

Nero – Short for “nearly zero,” or a partial day off (very few miles walked) during a long-distance hike.

Noro (noun, thing) – Short for Norovirus, a disease that spreads easily in the backcountry. Outbreaks in 2012 and 2013 were particularly harsh on the AT.

NoBo (adjective or noun, person) – Short for “northbound,” “northbound hiker,” or “northbound thru-hiker.”

PCT (noun, place) – Short for the Pacific Crest Trail or Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which runs 2,600 miles across the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges in the western United States.  See Triple-Crown.

Pink-blaze (verb) – To follow a woman down the trail out of romantic interests, usually done by a man.

Privy (noun, thing) – An outhouse or compostable toilet at a backcountry campsite.

PUDS (phrase) – Short for “pointless ups and downs,” meaning a series of climbs and descents without a view.

Purist (noun, person) – A thru-hiker who endeavors to walk every inch of the AT, typically also without assistance.  The term is often used condescendingly.

Ridge-runner (noun, person) – An ATC volunteer who monitors the AT, especially in heavily-trafficked areas such as state and national parks.

Section Hiker (noun, person) – A 2,000 miler who hiked or is currently hiking the entire AT in over a year, in any order.

Shelter (noun, thing) – A structure for backcountry lodging, typically three-sided.

Slack-pack (verb) – To leave the bulk of one’s belongings elsewhere and hike with a day pack during a long-distance backpacking trip.

SoBo (adjective or noun, person) – Short for “southbound,” “southbound hiker,” or “southbound thru-hiker.”

The Shennies (noun, place) – Short for Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

The Smokies (noun, place) – Short for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Springer (noun, place) – Short for Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT.

Thru-Hiker (noun, person) – Any long-distance hiker who walks the length of a particular trail in one setting or within one year.

Trail Angel (noun, person) – Someone who gives trail magic.

Trail Clubs – local organizations, primarily consisting of volunteers, that are responsible for the maintenance and protection of sections of the AT, in affiliation with the ATC.

Trail Crew (noun, people) – A group of Trail Maintainers.

Trail Journals (noun, thing) – Trail Journals is a centralized website for long-distance hikers all over the world to write about their journeys. Not to be confused with Logbooks.

Trail Magic (noun, thing) – Any act of kindness or gift bestowed on hikers, including water, meals, transportation, lodging, or even money.

Trail Maintainer (noun, person) – Someone who cares for a tract of the AT, usually as a volunteer.

Trail Name (noun, concept) – A special nickname adopted by long-distance backpackers, which has become a tradition on the AT and many other trails.

“The Trail Provides” (phrase) – A phrase meaning that, in emergencies or difficult situations, a hiker’s needs will be met somehow.

Tramily (noun) – Short for “trail family”.  Generally referred to as the group of people in which you spend a significant amount of time hiking a trail with, typically also lodging in town with whether at a hostel, hotel room, or otherwise.

Triple-Crown (noun, concept) – Collectively, three American national scenic trails, over 2,000 miles each, that run, more or less, north to south: the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and Continental Divide Trail (CDT).

Vitamin I (noun, thing) – Ibuprofen, the “drug of choice” for many long-distance hikers.

Yellow-blaze (verb) – To skip a section of the AT by motor vehicle.

Yogi (verb) – To charm, persuade, or otherwise convince locals and day hikers to provide trail magic.

Yo-yo (verb) – To hike the entire AT from one terminus to the other and then immediately turn around and hike back again (i.e. two back-to-back thru-hikes).

Zero – A day off during a long-distance hike in which zero miles are walked.

2,000 Miler (noun, person) – Any individual who has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, regardless of time spent doing so, and regardless of the AT’s exact length upon completion.



Comments 14

  • Night Whisperer : Jul 15th

    What about Brown Blazing? Camping privy to privy.

  • Dyno : Jul 15th

    LASH: long ass section hiker. Hiking 100+ mile sections at a time.

    NERO: hiking less than 5 miles (usually to town) and taking the rest of the day off.

    Hiker midnight: 9 P.M. (sun typically sets by 9 and everyone is bedded down for the night)

  • Dyno : Jul 15th

    Crud didn’t see NERO on original list, sorry.

  • Stubbs : Sep 21st

    FKT – Fastest Known Time (given all the records being tackled recently, I think this one should be in here) 🙂

    • Mzark : Aug 9th

      yeah, but does anyone on the trail use it?

  • Sport Jensen : Aug 26th

    I am so grateful to The Trek and it’s glossary, it’s helping me prepare my 2018 Thru-Hike. As a novice to hiking my research expanded my vocabulary exponentially. I still thought folks carried metal canteens, lol! How about adding to the glossary a section devoted to gear terminology? Words like: denier, cuben fiber, brain, fly, ridge line, A frame, to name a few. As a newcomer I was thinking it would be nice having one place to go to to learn what these terms mean in the hiking world.

    • Mrsbumbleb : May 12th

      I’m with ya Sport Jensen!

  • Walter "Frenchman" Cumming (class of 95) : Mar 20th

    Quelqu’un sait comment trouver des NOBOs français, Allemagne, ou québécois sur le sentier?
    Glossaire est difficile pour les non anglophones!
    “Frenchman” -AKA “Sans Domicile Fixé” ou “Marcher et pleuré”
    (au fait- The Trek rocks!)

  • Rachael Naismith : Aug 14th

    Great job! The only one I question is section hiker. I consider myself a section hiker because I hike sections of the AT, at present I have almost completed New England. But there’s no way I will ever hiked the entire trail. Getting up there in years.

  • Todd : May 24th

    I would add steath camping, but with three different definitions. I have sorted out many on line arguments among people who don’t know that people use this term differently. Of course, people being who they are, always assume THEIR definition is the one and only correct one.

    Stealth Camping
    1. To camp where you are not allowed to camp, done in such a way that no one notices and you don’t get caught.

    2. To camp at a location other than where you or others cooked supper so that animals are less likely to invade your campsite overnight.

    3. To camp someplace that is not a designated or established campsite using appropriate LNT practices, in an area where this is allowed. See dispersed or wild (European usage) camping.

  • Todd : May 24th


    Bear Burrito: A camping hammock.

    UL: Ultralight


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