We all know about the Appalachian Trail—the 2,180-mile footpath that stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Kathadin in Maine. It’s got a place on just about every hiker’s bucket list, and it deserves to.
But seriously—who has six months to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail? Not us. So this week, we rounded up our three favorite section hikes along the AT, each of which can be done in a weekend.
Taconic Highlands: Salisbury to Jug End, MA
Named for the Delaware Indian word for “In the trees,” the Taconic Mountains are some of the wildest and most ecologically diverse ranges in all of Appalachia. And this 17-mile, two-day section of the Appalachian Trail offers a tour of some of their greatest sights.
The trail winds past waterfalls and cliffs and through old-growth forests, and takes hikers over the 2,602-foot summit of Mount Everett. Though this section is very popular with day hikers, its campgrounds are often quiet.
If you go: Bug spray, lightweight pants, and a long-sleeved shirt are a must in the summer—the mosquitos here are straight out of Jurassic Park. Also, much of the trail is on slick rock, so wear grippy shoes. For this section, you’ll want the Massachusetts-Connecticut Appalachian Trail Guide.
Photo by Trimble Outdoors.
Roan Highlands: Carver’s Gap to Hwy 19, NC
The highlands that surround the 6,285-foot Roan Mountain Massif contain some of the most enchanting wilderness in the U.S. And this 21-mile, two-day AT section winds through the region’s valleys and over its rounded mountains (or “balds”) to provide unmatched views.
The hike is particularly scenic in June, when a slight detour takes hikers to the famed Rhododendron Gardens. These natural “gardens” explode into a sea of color in early summer, so bring a camera.
If you go: Be prepared for fog, sudden thunderstorms, and high winds. Most of the available water comes from springs alongside the trail, so it’s a good idea to bring a filter for water instead of tablets or drops. You’ll want to bring the Tennessee-North Carolina Appalachian Trail Guide.
Photo by Jeff Clark.
Presidential Traverse: Mt Madison to Mt. Pierce, NH
Ready to pull up your socks and get a real taste of what the AT is all about? This 23-mile section can be hiked in two days, but it won’t be easy. This trek covers some of the most difficult terrain the AT has to offer.
The hike ascends all seven peaks in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range—a total of 9,000 feet of elevation gain. Hikers are rewarded for their efforts with expansive views of valleys, lakes, and mountain ridges.
If you go: There’s a sign on the trail warning that the region has “some of the worst weather in America.” Be prepared for swinging temperatures, lightning, and winds that often hit the triple digits. Before you go, pick up the New Hampshire / Vermont Appalachian Trail Guide.
Photo by Credence Bikes. Words by Molly McCowan.