Planning a Long Distance Hike

by Dave Gantz.  

I was taught to appreciate the natural world early in my life, and I continue to experience nature through outdoor recreation.  If I’m not working at Appalachian Outdoors, you’ll find me canoeing, biking, climbing, and hiking. In fact, I’d say long distance hiking is my true passion. If you’re interested in reading about my hikes in more detail, check out my personal blog.


I have done a number of multi week backpacking trips now, and I would like to think that I’m getting pretty good at planning for a long trip. The logistics for a long trip can be easy or difficult, depending on the popularity of the trail. For instance, the Appalachian Trail is so well traveled and has so many great guide books that some hikers prepare by literally doing nothing else besides buying gear and a guide book, loading 5 days of food into their backpack, and heading off into the great unknown. Other hikers may spend years planning every minute detail of their trip. Sometimes the trails themselves, such as the Finger Lakes Trail, do have such good literature for thru-hikers to access, which almost forces a hiker to plan ahead. So how do you plan for something like a 560 mile hike?


  1. Contact the trail club
    Almost every trail in the USA seems to have at least one dedicated guru that knows everything there is to know about every inch of the trail. Find this person and ask as many questions as you can. Guide books and maps are great resources, but you can’t beat the first-hand experienced gained from a person who’s actually experienced the trail.
  2. Buy any necessary guide books and maps that you will needfingerlaketrailprep
    For the Finger Lakes Trail hike I planned, I purchased the End to End Guide, which gave me information on mileage along the trail as well as resupply spots and hints. I also purchased all 33 maps that show the 560 mile trail. Lastly, I purchased the De Lorme Atlas and Gazetteer for the state of New York. This helped with my preparing any unforeseen road walking that I may have to do. The more books and maps you have at your disposal, the better you can prepare for anything you come across on your trip.
  3. Plan your trip
    Using the references that you have acquired, you can determine how many days of food you will need to carry, which road crossings will take you to resupply towns, and where you may need to send gear to yourself via USPS.
    I use a simple spreadsheet to plan my route. The spreadsheet acts almost like your checklist. You can take an inventory of your items, see what you still need to purchase, and divvy up supplies during the several weeks you’ll be out.
  4. itinerary  food-list (2)

    equipment list (2)  delivery-schedule (2)

  5. Purchase all necessary items for your trip
    Now that you’ve learned as much about the trail you’ll be hiking and have done as much planning as possible, it’s time to purchase your gear, equipment, and supplies. Head to your local outdoor shop and talk with the employees there. They’ll not only help you get what you’re looking for, but they may have suggestions for items you didn’t even think to bring on the trip.

    This is really where having a spreadsheet can really help you out. You could print the spreadsheet out and use it almost like a shopping list. 

  6. Obtain a ride to the trailhead
    Once you have your plan mapped out and have obtained all of your gear, you can beg one of your friends or family members to drive you to the trailhead on a certain date. Most folks also attempt to secure a ride home 
    before leaving for a trip, but a specific end-date can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint in advance.
  7. Send out any packages before leaving on your trip
    The USPS is required to hold mail sent to a post office via general delivery for 30 days. So you can send mail to yourself and pick it up whenever you get to the Post Office while on your trip!
  8. Get hiking!



One comment
  1. Pingback: /Explore | Ask Appoutdoors: Answers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>