I began the 2016 hiking season for the Appalachian Trail by picking a few trail journals to read. I tuned-in to trailjournals.com and selected a few special individuals to follow. Then the researcher in me began to take over and I became intrigued by the website. I decided to see how many Appalachian Trail journals were active on the site and before I knew it was charting the progress of all the thru-hikers on their 14-state adventure.
There are a total of 321 individual journals created by hikers to record their trek on the AT. Of those 321 journals, 19 hikers were making a section hike of a portion of the trail and not attempting a thru-hike. A large number of the diaries (81 to be exact) posted some preliminary entries but never journaled from the trail. They may or may not be hiking the AT, but without a journal, there is no opportunity for me to trace their paths. Six other journals announced that the authors were going to record their trek on other blog sites and abandoned this webpage. Seven more listings have not begun the hike, leaving in July and August.
So of the 321 listings, only 208 online journals are active records of hikers attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. My accounting, as of July 3, has 106 hikers still on the trail moving toward their final destination, while 102 hikers are off trail. Charting the hikers by the month they started their adventure, one can see the success rate continues to decrease the longer the hikers have been on the trail.
Month Total Hikers Current Hikers Hikers Off-Trail % Still Hiking % Off-Trail
January 4 1 3 25% 75%
February 21 8 13 38% 62%
March 103 50 53 49% 51%
April 53 26 25 53% 47%
May 18 12 6 67% 33%
June 9 7 2 78% 22%
I am always interested in the reason that a thru-hike has to be abandoned. Every hike is unique and every reason is legitimate. In recording the reason stated in the hiker’s journals, I have classified them into one of four categories: Physical Reasons, Mental/Emotional Reasons, No Reason Stated, and Stopped Posting. This last category represents those hikers that have just stopped adding to their journals. After two months of silence I place a hiker in this category. They may still be out there making progress but probably not. I will continue to check their journals, but for my research I have “ruled” them inactive.
Here are my categories and the number of hikers that fit into each:
Mental Reasons 25 hikers 24.5% of the total reasons
Physical Reasons 39 hikers 38% of the total reasons
No Posts in 2 months 36 hikers 35.5% of the total reasons
Unstated Reasons 2 hikers 2% of the total reasons
Those that needed to end their hike for physical reasons shared a variety of body parts that shut them down. The most vulnerable were the knee (12 hikers), the leg (11 hikers), and the ankle/foot (8 hikers). Other physical injuries included the back, the arm, the neck, the hip, the toe, and a hernia. The Appalachian Trail will test every physical joint on the human body with sprains, twists, and even breaks. 2,186 miles will take its toll on hiker in a variety of ways.