Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking America and the American Discovery Trail

Sign up

To Receive the Latest Updates

Subscribe for Free

How long does it take to hike the American Discovery Trail?

  • The duration to complete the American Discovery Trail varies widely based on individual pace, experience, and chosen route. On average, a dedicated thru-hiker might spend eight months to a year on the trail, often longer. Factors like weather conditions, personal rest days, and time spent exploring towns and landmarks can also influence the duration. It's essential to listen to your body and not rush the experience, allowing time to fully immerse yourself in the diverse landscapes and cultures the trail offers.

Has anyone completed the American Discovery Trail?

  • Yes, many intrepid hikers (most recently Bernie Krausse, and Clay Chapman) have taken on the challenge and completed the entire American Discovery Trail. Their journeys, often documented in Facebook & Instagram posts, blogs, books, or videos, are a testament to the trail's allure and the human spirit's endurance. These and dozens of other accounts are invaluable resources for those considering the hike. Many of their insights into the challenges and beauty encountered are included in Hiking America's Hiker Notes and Gaia GPS Data.

Where does the American Discovery Trail start and end?

  • The American Discovery Trail stretches coast to coast, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Eastern Terminus is at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, a beautiful coastal landmark with sandy beaches. The western terminus for the trail is Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in California, a rugged and scenic peninsula known for its dramatic cliffs and diverse ecosystems. Both endpoints offer breathtaking vistas, making them fitting starts or finishes to an epic journey.

What is Hiking America?

  • Hiking America is a comprehensive platform that offers a crowdsourced collection of maps, guides, and Hiker Notes for the American Discovery Trail. It provides a dynamic representation of the trail, continually updated as it evolves over time.

What resources does Hiking America offer for planning a hike on the American Discovery Trail?

  • Hiking America provides a complete planning resource that includes turn-by-turn directions, Gaia GPS data, Hiker Notes from current and previous crossers, and constantly updated maps.

How can hikers access the latest updates from Hiking America?

  • Hiking America's waypoints, maps, and turn-by-turn directions are shared and synced live through Google Docs and Gaia GPS. This ensures that hikers can always access the most up-to-date maps and routing data, even offline.

What are "Hiker Notes," and how can they assist hikers?

  • Hiker Notes are suggestions from previous hikers that provide insights on where to eat, sleep, camp, or pick up a resupply. They also include emergency contact information and publicity contacts.

How often are the maps and directions updated?

  • Hiking America provides real-time updates. When trail changes occur, or other hikers provide updates, these are immediately reflected in the maps, turn-by-turn directions, and Gaia GPS data.

How does Hiking America ensure the quality and accuracy of its data?

  • Hiking America relies on crowdsourced information, which means that hikers and users contribute to the data. This collaborative approach ensures that the information is constantly updated and reflects the real-time conditions of the trial.

How does Hiking America integrate with Gaia GPS?

  • Hiking America shares its waypoints with Gaia GPS, offering over 11,100 waypoints synced with its collection of maps and turn-by-turn directions. These waypoints also include suggestions on where to eat, sleep, camp, or pick up a resupply.

When should I start the American Discovery Trail?

  • The best time to start largely depends on your direction and personal preferences. Generally, for those starting from the east coast in Delaware, late winter/early spring is recommended. This timing allows hikers to avoid the harshest winter conditions in the mountainous regions. Conversely, those starting from the west coast in California must time their beginning with the melting of snow on the Sierra Nevada – usually late spring to early summer. Constantly monitor weather forecasts and be prepared for seasonal changes.

Is the American Discovery Trail Continuous?

  • The American Discovery Trail is a vast network of roadways and interconnected trails offering a continuous route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. However, it's worth noting that the trail includes large sections of road walking and integrates various local and regional trails. This design provides hikers with a diverse experience, from remote wilderness areas to bustling urban centers, showcasing the breadth of American landscapes and cultures.

What is the best route to walk across America?

  • The American Discovery Trail emerges as a top contender for individuals looking to traverse America on foot. This trail offers a captivating mix of scenic vistas, historical landmarks, and vibrant cultural centers. However, the ideal route largely depends on personal inclinations. While some may be drawn to untouched natural settings, others prefer a balance of cityscapes and countryside. To customize the journey according to one's tastes, it's beneficial to delve into the different sections of the trail. Resources like Hiking America's Guides provide invaluable information, from turn-by-turn directions and Hiker Notes to detailed maps. Moreover, all this information seamlessly integrates with the tracks and data on Gaia GPS, streamlining the planning process for adventurers.

Can you Bike the entire American Discovery Trail?

  • The American Discovery Trail is primarily designed for hikers, but a significant portion is bike-friendly. However, there are segments, especially in wilderness areas or rugged terrains, where biking can be challenging or prohibited. For those keen on biking the trail, it's crucial to research each section in advance, ensuring the route is suitable for cycling and understanding any restrictions or challenges.

Is the American Discovery Trail the longest hiking trail in North America?

  • While the American Discovery Trail is among the longest continuous hiking trails in the U.S., it doesn't hold the record for North America. The Trans Canada Trail in Canada claims that title. However, the ADT's distinction lies in its coast-to-coast span, offering a unique transcontinental experience that showcases the diverse landscapes and cultures of the United States.

Where does the American Discovery Trail cross the Appalachian Trail?

  • The two iconic trails, the American Discovery Trail and the Appalachian Trail, intersect in the historic town of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Known for its rich Civil War history and picturesque setting at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harper's Ferry is a significant landmark for hikers on both trails. The town offers a chance to rest, resupply, and immerse oneself in American history before continuing the journey.

What kind of terrain can I expect on the American Discovery Trail?

  • The American Discovery Trail traverses a vast array of terrains, reflecting the diverse landscapes of the United States. From coastal plains, hikers will walk on sandy beaches, transitioning into rolling farmlands dotted with traditional American barns and homesteads. As you progress, the trail introduces more challenging terrains, including the rugged mountainous regions of the Rockies, the arid expanses of the desert Southwest, and the flat plains of the Midwest. Urban areas also punctuate the trail, offering a change of pace and a glimpse into the country's cultural hubs.

Are there designated camping spots or shelters along the trail?

  • Unlike some other long-distance trails, the ADT doesn't have a continuous system of shelters. However, it does pass through numerous national forests, state parks, and other public lands where designated camping areas are available. Hiking America's Guides and Hiker Notes documents hundreds of campsites along the trail, from traditional ones offering basic amenities like potable water or restrooms to more primitive ones. Hiking America also includes the successful Dispersed and Stealth camping spots for previous hikers. The trail might also be close to motels or hostels in more populated areas. It's advisable to plan your accommodations, ensuring you have a safe and legal place to rest each night. When you are hiking over 4,000 miles, it's good to know your options!

How well-marked is the American Discovery Trail?

  • The trail is interspersed with ADT signs, but the consistency of these markers can vary depending on the region and maintenance. Some sections, especially those that coincide with other local trails, might have more apparent markings, while remote areas might be less well-defined. To stay on track, you should set out with a detailed guidebook and a GPS equipped with the trail's data. Hiking America includes them all.

Is it safe to hike the American Discovery Trail solo?

  • Many brave adventurers have tackled the ADT and completed it safely. However, solo hiking, like any long-distance endeavor, comes with challenges. It's paramount to be well-prepared, both mentally and physically. Regularly informing a trusted contact about your whereabouts and expected milestones can be a safety net. Hiking America subscribers can also access the team via voice or text, Facebook Messenger, and email to help answer questions while you're on the trail. Being aware of your surroundings, understanding the local wildlife, and having a plan for emergencies can make the solo journey more secure.

Are there any permits or fees required to hike the ADT?

  • The ADT itself doesn't mandate a single overarching permit. However, as it winds through various national parks, protected wilderness areas, and other unique lands, hikers will encounter sections where permits or fees are necessary. Some permits, especially for popular locations, might need to be secured well in advance. It's crucial to research each segment of your journey, ensuring you have all the required permissions and are aware of any associated costs.

How can I resupply during my hike?

  • The ADT's route, which passes through a mix of remote and urban areas, offers numerous opportunities for resupply. Towns and cities along the trail often have grocery stores, outdoor gear shops, and other essential services. Hiking America Turn-By-Turn Guides and GPS Data include every Post Office along the trail, and we are the only guide to provide Amazon Locker and Counter locations. The work to document them all began in 2023 and should be completed in early 2024. However, there are stretches, especially in more isolated regions, where resupply points might be sparse. Planning ahead, understanding where your next resupply point will be, and carrying a buffer of food and essentials can ensure you're well-provisioned throughout your hike.

What wildlife might I encounter on the trail?

  • The ADT's diverse landscapes are home to an equally diverse range of wildlife. Hikers might spot deer, elk, and bison in the plains and forests while various bird species frequent the skies above. Certain areas, especially in the West, are habitats for potentially dangerous wildlife like bears or mountain lions. Educating yourself about local wildlife is essential, understanding how to store food safely and knowing what to do in the unlikely event of a close encounter with a wild animal.

Can I hike the American Discovery Trail with my dog?

  • Many sections of the ADT welcome our four-legged friends, making it a great adventure for humans and dogs. However, particular areas, especially national parks and some protected lands, might have restrictions or specific regulations regarding pets. Before setting out, check the rules for each segment of your journey. Ensure your dog is physically prepared for long distances, and always carry enough water and food for both of you. Keeping your dog on a leash where required adheres to regulations and ensures your pet's and local wildlife's safety.