The Hiking Triple Crown consists of the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail. These trails travel through 22 states in the USA and cover around 7500 miles. The combined elevation gain of all the ‘Hiking Triple Crown‘ is more than climbing Mt Everest 41 times. It is a rare club of hikers that have hiked all these three trails. Some have even hiked the ‘Triple Crown’ in one calendar year.

Hikers who completes all 3 trails are known as ‘Triple Crowners‘. Such an achievement is recognised by the American Long Distance Hiking Association, known as ALDHA – West. Only a couple of hundred hikers have completed the Hiking Triple Crown.

Some people have completed the hiking triple crown in one calendar year. I will make a bold prediction and say that I think the ultra fit freaks of the hiking and ultra marathon world will be lining up to ‘Complete the Calendar Year Hiking Triple Crown’ in the future.


The Hiking Triple Crown

Pacific Crest Trail

Intro

  • The Pacific Crest Trail is 2650 miles
  • Traverses 13 mountain ranges
  • Runs through the western states of California, Oregon and Washington

My experience

The Pacific Crest trail was my first long distance hiking trail, you can only do things for the first time, once. I hiked the trail northbound (NOBO) from the Mexico border to Canada but an increasing number of people are hiking southbound to escape the crowds. The trail weaves it’s way through the California desert before climbing up to the impressive Sierra Nevada mountains. It continues through northern California and past the volcanic mountains of Oregon to the impressive Cascade mountains of Washington. It is an impressive long distance trail.

In many ways this is the easiest of the three trails. The grades of the climbs are rarely too steep as the trail also caters for horses.

Dangers

  • High snow in the Sierra Nevada
  • Very high chance of fires closing parts of the trail
  • Fast flowing rivers in the Sierra Nevada
  • Lack of water in the deserts
  • Rattlesnakes
  • Early season snow in the Cascades of Washington
  • Must finish in Canada before 1st October, or risk a chance of death

Highlights

  • Desert sunrise
  • Kings Canyon, Sierra Nevada
  • Cascades of Washington

Further Information


Continental Divide Trail

Intro

  • The CDT is between 2700-3100 miles long (there are many alternate routes)
  • It traverses the length of the continental divide watershed
  • New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana

My Experience

The Continental Divide Trail was the second of my long distance thru hikes. Rated by many as one of the toughest thru hikes in the world. Certainly there were tough days and tough sections but I felt that completing the Pacific Crest Trail prior to this hike prepared my mind and body for all the trials and tribulations of the trail. Illness, injury and fatigue almost forced me to quit the trail but I continued and succeeded.

Navigation is slightly harder on the Continental Divide Trail but anyone with basic navigation skills will be fine. Good maps and GPS routes exist for the trail. If the amount of photos I took are any indication, then this is the most scenic of the three trails. The trail is not yet complete and there are many long miles of road walking, this is sure to change in the future.

Dangers

  • Lack of water in New Mexico, drinking from cattle ponds
  • Rattlesnakes
  • Dangerous snow conditions and thunderstorms in Colorado
  • NOBO hikers must finish in Montana before the winter snows arrive in October,
  • SOBO hikers must complete Colorado before the winter storms arrive

Highlights

  • Sunrise in the Desert
  • All of Colorado
  • Glacier National Park

Further information


Appalachian Trail

Intro

  • The AT is 2160 miles long
  • Follows the Appalachian Mountains
  • Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.

My Experience

Arguably the most popular of the three long distance thru hikes but surprisingly the trail is the toughest. The Appalachian Trail has the most elevation gain of the three trails, usually on steep rocky terrain covered in slippery tree roots. At times the trail uses ladders to ascend and descend the mountains.

The logistics and resupply for the Appalachian Trail are easy and requires little or no planning in comparison to the other trails. It is the easiest of the trail to navigate with easy to follow markers, known as ‘White Blazes’, on trees and rocks along the trail. The main negative of the trail are the many days, even weeks of rather dull scenery, it really could be described as a walk in the woods. It was also the trail with the most amount of trash left by hikers!

Dangers

  • Early starters face the possibility of late season snow storms and hypothermia
  • Listening to the hikers with 50 pound backpacks as they give out gear advice!
  • Rogue Hurricanes can deluge the trail as they push inland
  • Large rattlesnakes, mainly around Pennsylvania.
  • Getting caught in the social side of hiking and running out of time and money.

Highlights

  • All of Maine
  • Easy resupply and planning
  • Friendly locals

Further information


Would you like to complete the ‘Hiking Triple Crown’?

What trail would you like to hike? Why?

6 Responses

  1. Mike D.

    Thank you for sharing. It has been a pleasure following you every step of each trail. I really enjoyed reading each post and especially seeing the great pictures. The Pacific Crest Trail is near and dear to my heart. Where do you plan on hiking next summer?

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      The PCT will always be my favourite trail. As fir the future, I’ll be back in the bicycle in the new year, cycling through the rest of Central America with a few hiking adventures on the volcanos. No firm plans for hikes next year, maybe the PCT southbound or the Pacific Northwest Trail.

      Reply
  2. Mike D

    Both trails sound great. If you head southbound on the PCT, it would be great to meet you at Echo lake. I live an hour away from there.

    Reply
  3. Ian

    Echoing what Mike said, thank you for keeping up this blog and it has been a pleasure following you on your adventures. Surprised to hear you say the AT was the hardest, since it is the most popular after all, but I can certainly see it when you get to the northern part especially.

    PCT is in the cards for me for 2020 or 2021, I hope. It’s hard to know what life will throw at you, so I may just have to take the leap at some point, even if conditions (both life and snow) are not ideal.

    Cheers Shepherd!

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thank for the kind words, Ian. Cool to hear that you are aiming for the PCT, if you need any help let me know. Hope it works out and you get on the trail. It is amazing.

      Reply

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