Triple Crown: Hiking the Big Three U.S. Trails

Silhouettes of four backpackers hiking up a hill at sunrise

Considering tackling one or all of the Triple Crown U.S. hiking trails? Whether it's the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or the Appalachian Trail (AT), each presents unique challenges and requires its own special preparation. Add to that: many obstacles exist this year due to higher elevation snowpack and fierce rushing water at lower altitudes. 

A group of Pacific Crest Trail thru hikers braving the snowy Sierra mid-June.

A group of thru hikers braving the snowy Sierra in mid-June.

Be sure to check out the respective U.S. Forest Service sites for tips on how to prepare, as well as fee requirements and access information before embarking on your adventure. While shorter hikes may be possible with little preparation, many trails require months of planning and may involve a process to obtain a thru-hiking permit and designated start date.

A map of the US showing the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail, aka the US Hiker's Triple Crown

A look at the U.S. Hiker's Triple Crown

1. The Continental Divide Trail (CDT)

The longest U.S. hiking trail, the CDT is a 3,100-mile route that runs from the "deserts of New Mexico to the alpine peaks of the Norther Rockies" in Canada. It follows the Continental Divide of the Americas, passing through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.

"The CDT winds its way through the stunning and diverse landscapes of the central United States, a ribbon that ties together many of the defining moments and movements in our nation’s history." - U.S. Forest Service 

2. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

The PCT is a 2,650-mile trail that runs from the U.S./Mexico border in California to the U.S./Canada border in Washington, passing through California, Oregon and Washington. It is one of the most scenic and challenging trails in the U.S. and attracts hikers from all over the world. (If you're hiking through, be sure to come say hi - Ridge Merino is located at mile 906 in Mammoth Lakes, just off the PCT.)
Two PCT hikers pose for a photo outside the Ridge Collective storefront in Mammoth Lakes wearing new Solstice Sun Hoodies
Looking good (and smelling fresh!) in brand new Solstice Sun Hoodies from the Ridge Collective Store in Mammoth Lakes.  

3. The Appalachian Trail (AT)

The AT runs from Georgia to Maine, passing through 14 states along the eastern coast of the U.S. It is the longest hiking-only trail in the world and is considered a right of passage for many hikers. The 2,190-mile footpath traverses the scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. 
Learn more about getting the official Thru-Hiking Triple Crown Award.

"No matter what the trail is, through the forest, across a plain, wandering through the desert, or climbing a mountain, you're in nature. Getting out on the trail will allow you to experience peace and tranquility like nowhere else." - TheHikingHelper


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