How Much Does It Cost to Hike the Appalachian Trail?

"How much does it cost to hike the Appalachian Trail?" Answer: A thru-hike is expensive.

Lost Wages & Regular Bills

This might be James at Bluff Mountain Outfitters in Hot Springs, NC. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

This might be James at Bluff Mountain Outfitters in Hot Springs, NC. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Even a crummy job (30 hours/week at $9/hour) pays $7,000 in six months. You might have school loans, insurance or credit card payments. The average iPhone bill is $110/month. You probably won't have any income while hiking.

Essential Gear

The single most important item you will need for a long-distance hike is your pack, and your boots, and your shelter, your sleep system and essential gear.

Be frugal, but only purchase professionally fitted backpacks and boots. Lighter is better and more expensive.

When I asked our pal James at Bluff Mountain Outfitters in Hot Springs, NC, how much it costs to hike the Appalachian Trail, he wisely said, "It depends."

Don't buy more than you need. Use a checklist when shopping for gear. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Don't buy more than you need. Use a checklist when shopping for gear. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

A low figure, if you have some essentials, is around $750, but it's easy to pop $1,500 onto daddy's gold card for good stuff.

Figure out what you need. Check REI's Appalachian Trail Gear List. Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap that has helpful pictures.

Seasons will change. Gear will wear out.

Bearfoot's Hiking Gear Flea Market on Facebook can save you a ton of money.

Travel Expenses

Not all food on the Trail is free. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Not all food on the Trail is free. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Count the cost to get to the Trail and home afterward.

Hiking is cheap. Stopping is expensive.

An average hiker can spend a couple of bucks per mile on the 2,189 mile AT. Even $2/mile comes to $4,400 for food on the Trail and random goodies. Don't laugh. You plan to noodle for free fish and happily eat fried tree bark, but you'll crave pizza.

You're going to twist an ankle, get dysentery or have blisters and need a zero day (no hiking) in town. More than once. A hostel can be $30, with no breakfast or coffee.

Think before you quit your job: 75% of thru-hike attempts aren't successful.

A failure to plan is a plan for failure.

That sounds corny. When counting the cost to hike the Appalachian Trail, it's true.

What's the total?

  • Tight budget: $5,000, plus lost earnings.
  • Reasonable Average: $7,500, plus lost income.
  • Living large? As much as you'd like.


Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Hiking Gear, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Hikers, how much does it cost to hike the appalachian trail, and expense to hike appalachian trail

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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Comments
Nikolay Stoyanov on Nov 3, 2016
Hey Robert,

Great article, loved it! Thanks for sharing :-)

I recently published a definitive guide on "How to Hike the Appalachian Trail". Mind if you have a look and share your thoughts on it?

Here's the link: <a href='http://backpackerverse.com/appalachian-trail/' target=_blank rel=nofollow>backpackerverse.com</a>

Thanks in advance,

Nick
Lauren Twotentsdown Groh on Nov 26, 2016
Thanks for these tips! You brought up a few budget items that I forgot about, like the money for the trips to and from the trail. I also like that you remind people to consider having a plan for a failed thru-hike. It's not something anyone likes to think about, but it is something to keep in mind.