In 2018, I quit my job in Washington, D.C., gave up my apartment, said goodbye to all my friends, and hopped onto the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Georgia, heading north. The next six months, scrambling up and over mountains with a heavy pack on my back, were rewarding beyond words. I’m here to say that if you’re considering visiting the AT, whether it’s for a few days or a few months, you should do it. These photos will explain why.
- Reconnect with nature. Forget the hours spent staring at a screen, toiling away in traffic, packing your schedule with obligations. The forest forces you to slow down and live in the moment. Breathe in that clean air and take in that natural light – your brain will thank you!
- Sleep at the most amazing places. There is no shortage of beautiful places on the AT the camp! This photo was taken at Overmountain Shelter in Tennessee.
- Frolick among wild ponies. Need I say more? Meet these adorable (and somewhat aggressive) creatures in the Grayson Highlands of southwestern Virginia. Just don’t leave your stuff (especially your snacks) unattended.
- Visit Virginia’s Big Three. Sit atop the Dragon’s Tooth (pictured here), get your photo taken at McAfee Knob, and stop off at Tinker Cliffs for a snack with a view.
- Do it for the sunrises. See some of the most spectacular sunrises of your life. This one was at Virginia’s McAfee Knob, the most photographed place on the entire AT.
- Do it for the sunsets. Full disclosure: I was not often awake early enough to catch the sunrise on the AT (not a morning person)! But I sure saw some grand sunsets! This one was at Rainbow Lake Dam in Maine.
- Follow the wildflower blooms. If you take the traditional route north, you’ll get to follow the wildflower blooms north in spring. You’ll see all kinds, but the rhododendrons, mountain laurels, and azaleas will especially capture your eye and your heart. In this photo, mountains laurels line the trail in Virginia.
- Meet your soulmates. I was semi-worried going into the AT that I’d be spending a whole lot of time in my own head for the next six months. Looking back, this was laughable. Instead, I spent the next six months surrounded by like-minded people with positive outlooks on life and the desire to live for things beyond the traditional nine to five. They became family to me, and I still talk to many of them regularly.
- The views. OH the views. People talk about the AT as a green tunnel, as if you never get rewarded for all your hard work slogging up and over mountains. Not so!! The views may not be quite as dramatic as those out West, but trust me, you will see some vast stretches of brilliant green forest, blue mountains, farmlands, and wilderness. After living in Washington, D.C. for several years and feeling claustrophobic about the amount of people living there and how overpopulated our world is, the views on the AT gave me a lot of peace in that I saw just how much wilderness there was left – even within the mid-Atlantic! This photo was taken in MAINE – the greatest state on the AT in my opinion (not that it’s a competition – they’re all wonderful!).
- Do go chasing waterfalls. This photo is technically off the AT, but only by a couple tenths of a mile. This is the Gulf Hagas area of Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness. It features multiple gorgeous waterfalls within just a few miles, and I would totally recommend visiting at least a small part of this trail while you’re there! If you’re not keen to step off trail, don’t worry, you’ll see plenty of waterfalls on the AT itself as well.
- Push your limits and grow your strength. Despite never really doubting that I would make it all the way to Maine, I couldn’t have truly imagined the physical and mental fortitude that it would take to backpack almost 2,200 miles in one shot. It’s hard slogging on through snow and rain and humidity and heat and bugs and exhaustion and heartbreak and illness. But it’s wonderful too. I pushed myself to my limits on the AT, and I’m a stronger, happier person for it.
As always, if you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Instagram and join my e-mail list!