The Appalachian Trail in western United States is one of the most famous long-distance hiking trails in the world.
It’s been on my hiking bucket list for a long time and one day. In the meantime as inspiration, as I do for many places I want to visit, I read about the places to understand and get inspired. These are some of the best books about the Appalachian Trail I have read and recommend for you as well.
Inspiring, funny, uplifting, and packed full of useful information and guidance for one of the most epic walks anywhere! There are loads of other great books about the Appalachian Trail but these ones have been my favourite.
Awol on The Appalachian Trail
AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is Miller’s account of this thru-hike along the entire 2,172 miles from Georgia to Maine.
On page after page, readers are treated to rich descriptions of the valleys and mountains, the isolation and reverie, the inspiration that fueled his quest, and the life-changing moments that can only be experienced when dreams are pursued.
While this book abounds with introspection and perseverance, it also provides useful passages about safety and proper gear, showing a professional hiker’s preparations and tenacity.
This is not merely a travel guide, but a beautifully written and highly personal view into one man’s adventure and what it means to make a lifelong vision come true
A Walk In The Woods
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrains in America—majestic mountains, silent forests, sparkling lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go.
And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way—and a couple of bears.
This is one of the funniest books i have read from one of my favourite travel writers.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk
Emma Gatewood told her family she was going on a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, 67-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail.
And in September 1955, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin. There she sang the first verse of “America, the Beautiful” and proclaimed, “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.”
Grandma Gatewood, as the reporters called her, became the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times.
Gatewood became a hiking celebrity and appeared on TV and in the pages of Sports Illustrated. The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented.
Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction.
Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
After graduating from college, Jennifer isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. She is drawn to the Appalachian Trail, a 2175-mile footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Though her friends and family think she’s crazy, she sets out alone to hike the trail, hoping it will give her time to think about what she wants to do next. The next four months are the most physically and emotionally challenging of her life.
She quickly discovers that thru-hiking is harder than she had imagined: coping with blisters and aching shoulders from the 30-pound pack she carries; sleeping on the hard wooden floors of trail shelters; hiking through endless torrents of rain and even a blizzard.
With every step she takes, Jennifer transitions from an over-confident college graduate to a student of the trail, braving situations she never imagined before her thru-hike. The trail is full of unexpected kindness, generosity, and humour. And when tragedy strikes, she learns that she can depend on other people to help her in times of need.
Walking with Spring
In April 1948, the 11-year-old Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia was pretty much a wreck: Volunteer maintainers who hadn’t been called to combat couldn’t get rationed gasoline to get out there to keep it clear.
In April 1948, so, pretty much, was Earl Shaffer, self-dubbed The Crazy One. He had come home from war in the Pacific where he had lost the dearest friend of his life.
He needed to walk it off, and he did with the most primitive of gear. In four months, he walked with the merging spring from Georgia to Maine, bushwhacking to find the route more often than not-becoming the first to report a complete, single-journey trek on this footpath of more than 2,000 miles.
More than 7,000 have since followed in his footsteps. These reflections on and from his first of three thru-hikes are often lyrical, full of history and local legend and his own quiet insights on life in the woods in a much different era all around.
Every year, thousands of pilgrims arrive at Georgia’s Springer Mountain and set off with hopes of reaching Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Roughly ten per cent ever complete the journey.
It’s more than likely that in the AT’s long, storied history, Walter is the first person to thru-hike against his will. He is out-of-shape, out-of-sorts and, now that his wife has decided enough is enough, he’s out of the house too. It’s that classic scenario: Hike or ELSE!
Since the poor, morose Walter can’t figure an ‘ELSE’ he sets off on the longest walk of his life. While braving the great Eastern woods, Walter meets an eclectic cast of hopeful thru-hikers. As they journey northward, this rollicking band suffers through every hardship that America’s premier hiking trail can throw at them.
It isn’t long before Walter is looking at life through new eyes and just maybe for the first time in forever, starting to feel better about the world and his place in it. But no way is that alone going to be enough to get him to Maine.
At the ages of twenty-five and twenty-one, Lucy and Susan Letcher set out to accomplish what thousands of people attempt each year: thru-hike the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
The difference between them and the others? They decided to hike the trail barefoot. Quickly earning themselves the moniker of the Barefoot Sisters, the two begin their journey at Mount Katahdin and spend eight months making their way to Springer Mountain in Georgia.
As they hike, they write about their adventures through the 100-mile Wilderness, the rocky terrain of Pennsylvania, and snowfall in the Great Smoky Mountains–a story filled with humour and determination. It’s as close as one can get to hiking the Appalachian Trail without strapping on a pack.
Why would a middle-aged businessman who had never even spent the night outdoors, attempt to hike the entire Appalachian Trail? Bill Walker, a former commodities trader in Chicago and London, and an avid walker, had developed a virtual obsession to hike this historic 2,175 mile footpath in one hiking season.
So in the spring of 2005 he set off from his home state of Georgia, hoping to make it to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine before the arrival of winter. Immediately, he realized he had plunged into a whole new world. For starters, the Appalachian Trail has some ferociously difficult terrain, winding through dramatically diverse geography and covering the East’s highest peaks.
Walker’s 6’11’ height earned him the trail name, “Skywalker”, and drew envious attention from his fellow hikers. However, the height made him more susceptible to weight loss, cold weather, and crushing fatigue. An elemental fear of bears and snakes, as well as getting lost, also loomed largely.
Along the way, Skywalker had the good fortune to meet an amazingly rich cast of characters from all walks of life who also were pursuing this gruelling quest. Mistakes, blunders, and idiosyncracies earned them colourful trail names such as Snot Rag, Rat Puke, and Pus Gut.
Just Passin’ Thru
Like a well-crafted stage play, Just Passin’ Thru delivers one suspenseful scene after another. But in this historic setting — a store on the Appalachian Trail called Mountain Crossings — the characters who show up are no fictional creations.
They are the real-life stars of the author’s new life as a backpack-purging, canteen-selling, hostel-running, bandage-taping, lost-child finding, argument-settling, romance-fixing, chili-making man of many faces. Like any good drama, there are the good guys (and gals) and the weirdos, too.
Some show up once (and that’s enough), and some appear again and again. Some are friends, and some dangerous. But all are united by two things: the author’s story-capturing talent, and whatever it is that lures them to attempt (or conquer) a 2,200-mile path that climbs and plummets from Georgia to Maine.
Three Hundred Zeroes
Dennis Blanchard’s promise to his brother haunted him for over forty years. Finally, when there were no more excuses, he set out on the Appalachian Trail to fulfill that promise.
He learned that walking in the wilderness can reconnect one with a Norman Rockwell America that at times seems long lost and forgotten. The difficulties encountered walking over 2,200 miles are easily underestimated and trouble can begin long before setting a first step on the trail.
Blanchard’s introspective demonstrates that bears, rattlesnakes and challenging terrain may be far less formidable than some of life’s more subtle dangers.
Hopefully you will enjoy reading at least one book on this list to get you inspired for your hiking adventures!
Also, be sure to take travel insurance before going into the wilderness just in case. I recommend WorldNomads Insurance, I’ve been using them for over a decade and find them great for the backpacker.
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