How long does it take to do a thru-hike? The standard answer is 5-6 months, but it’s best to give yourself extra time. I started my hike on March 14th, and I originally thought I would be ending in August. I actually ended on October 3rd. It happens.
So, what would cause a person to take 6 1/2 months to complete their thru-hike? Here are several factors that can lengthen (or shorten) a thru-hike.
•Athletic ability. It does take a while for your body to adjust to hiking. If you’re not an athletic god in your everyday life, expect to struggle.
•Daily mileage. Some hikers like to wake up with the sun, hike until it’s dark, and take very few breaks. Other hikers like to enjoy the views, take long lunch breaks, and socialize with other hikers. Your daily mileage will depend upon your hiking style.
•Zero days. Every now and then, you might want to take a day off from hiking. Zero days are awesome, but they do add time to your hike. I took about 45 zero days during my hike, and I was not the only hiker by far.
•Beer and socializing. If you get drunk in town with your hiker buddies, you might not feel like hiking with a hangover the next day. And that’s OK. You’re on vacation.
•Focus. If your super goal oriented, you might want to hike big miles and take few zero days. In that case, you’ll probably be ahead of the pack.
•Level of fun. If you find that you absolutely love the trail, you’ve made awesome friends, and you don’t have anything particularly compelling you need to get home to do; it may take you a while to finish your hike.
You won’t know what the trail is going to be like for you until you’re actually on it. My advice is to start early, so you have plenty of time to finish no matter what hiking style you adopt.