What’s a thru-hike?

A thru-hike is a long-distance trail that people can complete during a multi-day backpacking trip. A “thru-hike” can refer to both the trail (like the Appalachian Trail), or it can refer to the backpacking trip itself, as in “We just completed a thru-hike.”

For a trail to be considered long enough to qualify as a thru-hike it usually has to be at least 30 miles long. (Most lists of thru-hikes require the trail to be at least 30 miles of continuous trail to qualify.)

People who complete thru-hikes, or who intend to complete the thru-hike they’re on, are called “thru-hikers”. People who are doing a section or a defined segment of a thru-hike are called “section hikers”. People who are out for a day of hiking along part of a thru-hike trail are called “day hikers”.

How many thru-hikes are there?

There is no definitive complete list of thru-hikes around the world. Wikipedia lists 147 thru-hikes just within the United States, but it also notes that its list is incomplete.

The Triple Crown

Most people are familiar with or have at least heard of “The Triple Crown” of thru-hikes. This is the Appalachian Trail (2,190+ miles), The Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles), and The Continental Divide Trail (about 3,100 miles).

Shorter thru-hikes

While the thru-hikes that make up the Triple Crown are impressive, completing any of the shorter thru-hikes is also an achievement. These shorter thru-hikes are also more achievable for people who cannot take several months off work or away from family. Some of the better known thru-hikes around the United States include:

The Santa Fe to Taos Thru-Hike fits within this class of shorter thru-hikes. At 132 miles, it is of comparable length to: