There is something magical about the mountains: the snowy peaks, wooded trails, the solitude, the whisper of trees and bird songs all around you. If you’re an avid hiker, the mountains feel like home, and every trail is a rush of adrenaline. It’s no secret that the Appalachian Trail is an adventure at the top of every hiker’s bucket list. The 2,100 mile trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine, takes you through 14 states of gorgeous wilderness.
The six month journey on the AT requires not only physical and mental stamina, but financial stamina in order to successfully complete the trek from start to finish. While it may not be the first thought when planning an epic trek, the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail should be one of the first things considered. In fact, one of the biggest reasons people don’t complete the hike is because of poor financial planning. That’s right — it’s definitely possible to run out of money while spending six months on the road.
So, how much does it cost to hike the AT? Are you thinking about how to raise money to hike the Appalachian Trail? Keep reading for an Appalachian Trail cost breakdown, so you can plan ahead and be fully prepared for a wild adventure.
How much does it cost to hike the AT?
It’s the big question that every hiker should ask before planning to conquer this epic trail in the heart of the USA: how much does it cost to hike the AT? There are tons of factors that go into the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail, and it’s not just spending money while on the trail. Your budget should also include expenses for gear, health insurance, and transportation to and from the trail.
In your Appalachian Trail cost breakdown, gear can often be the biggest expense. If you’re a seasoned hiker, you’ll save a bit in this area, but newbies need to stock up on good boots, hiking socks, backpacks, sleeping bags, hiking clothing, and camping gear. If you’re starting from scratch, expect to budget between $1,000 and $2,000 for new gear. Add to this your health insurance and about $1,000 of spending money per month on the trail to cover food, accommodation, and new gear in case of emergency.
When considering the Appalachian Trail cost breakdown, don’t forget that you’re taking a timeout from life. What have you left behind at home? Are you still paying rent, student loans, car payments? Are you taking unpaid leave from work? The cost to hike the Appalachian Trail can sky rocket if you have expenses at home, so best to tie up your loose ends before hitting the trail.
How to cover the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail cost breakdown can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the hiking world. You could be in for a $10,000 budget and wondering how to raise money to hike the Appalachian Trail. With these budgeting tips, you’ll find out how to cover the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail and save money while you’re at it.
1. Make a checklist and budget plan.
Before you go off on a shopping spree to deck yourself out in the hottest new gear, make a checklist and budget plan. What do you actually need to successfully complete a trek on the AT? What external costs will you leave behind at home for six months? Write it down, so you can figure out where to minimize unnecessary spending before and during the trek.
2. Buy your gear on sale.
Ever heard of REI? It’s a hiker’s paradise disguised as an outlet store that sells everything you could ever need to hike, trek, and camp your way around the world. The best part is they offer a membership that gives you a 10% rebate on all purchases.
Even better? If any of your gear fails you, they’ll replace it free of charge. If you don’t have an REI store near you, there are tons of websites, like Sierra Trading Post, to help you save money on hiking gear and lower your cost to hike the Appalachian Trail.
3. Sublet your apartment.
If you’re taking six months away from work, most likely you won’t have money coming in while hiking the Appalachian Trail. So when you ask yourself how much does it cost to hike the AT, think about how to minimize your living costs at home.
If you have rent to pay, why not find a subletter to pay your bills for you, or put your apartment up on AirBnB? Reducing your expenses while you’re away will be a huge way to cut the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail.
4. Cut out monthly subscriptions.
While a subscription to Netflix or Hulu may not put a dent in your budget while you’re at home working, these expenses definitely add up when you’re on the road for half the year with no income.
It may not be your first thought when embarking on this grand adventure, but it’s a good idea to cancel your monthly subscriptions to help with the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail. Take a pause from magazines, movies, and consider downgrading your phone plan for the months spent away.
5. Pack a tent.
Instead of spending money on accommodation in towns along the trail, pack a tent and opt to camp whenever possible. Most towns have camping sites on the outskirts.
While it’s inevitable that you’ll splurge every now and then on accommodation to avoid bad weather or to do a load of laundry, make the outdoors your home, take advantage of the cheap camping sites, and you’ll save on the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail.
If you’re tempted to sleep somewhere comfy, dry, and warm for a night or two, look into hostels and mountain huts that will give you a bed in exchange for washing dishes.
6. Have a security egg.
It’s natural for things to go wrong while traveling. It’s all part of the adventure! Gear can break or get lost, you could get injured or run low on energy, making the trip longer than expected. In your Appalachian Trail cost breakdown, always consider a security egg so you can be prepared when things go wrong.
Keep an extra $500 for new boots that will inevitably need replacement when walking over 2,000 miles, and another $500 or more in case of medical emergencies. If you run into trouble, you won’t be out of pocket, and if all goes to plan, you’ll have a little extra money to splurge on a post-hike massage.
7. Go sober.
You’ll spend months walking day after day, meeting and forming special bonds with new people on the trail, and it’s always tempting to head to a pub after a long day on your feet to share stories with new mates. But it’s no joke that alcohol is the easiest way to drain your savings while hiking the AT.
If you can go cold turkey on alcohol and cigarettes, the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail will drop drastically, and you’ll avoid walking the trail with a hangover. Win, win. On days when the temptation is too strong, skip the craft beers and go for a PBR instead.
8. Eat on the cheap.
Another big temptation for hikers on the AT is to splurge on pub meals, but eating out on the daily is guaranteed to increase the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail. Luckily, it’s easy to save money and eat on the cheap.
Stop by the local grocery store before hitting the trail and stock up so you can cook your own meals. Skip the expensive Cliff bars and eat oatmeal for breakfast, make your own sandwiches instead of buying them premade, and carry some canned goods for dinner if your pack is light enough.
While it’s good to budget before hiking the AT, you should also consider how to raise money to the hike the Appalachian Trail. You’re headed out on the adventure of a lifetime, and friends and family are always willing to support meaningful travel.
Create a campaign on FundMyTravel, share your story on social media to get the word out there, or get involved with a local charity to inspire your community to support you and a good cause. There are plenty of creative ways to ask people for support to make your dreams a reality.
Don’t be intimidated by the Appalachian Trail cost breakdown — raise money with FMT!
While the Appalachian Trail cost breakdown may be intimidating, it’s not impossible to do it on a budget. With these tips on how to raise money to hike the Appalachian Trail, budgeting and saving can be easy. Start saving now, create your fundraising page, and you could be on the trail in just a few months.
The cost to hike the Appalachian Trail may be steep, but the experience, the people, and the magic you’ll find along the way is priceless.
Create a FundMyTravel campaign and make all your hiking dreams come true!
This article was written by Liz Gorga. Liz is an international traveler, writer, and educator with two home bases: the USA and Australia. She has worked, studied, interned, volunteered, and traveled through more than twenty countries (and counting), and currently resides in sunny Brisbane, Australia. Her life goal is to experience the magic that exists in every inch of the earth, whether she’s hiking in the Himalayan foothills, jumping out of the sky over coral reefs, or devouring a heaping bowl of homemade pasta.