The winter before I began my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I told everyone I knew about my plans. The number one question people asked was, “You’re not going alone, are you?”
Having already done a few section hikes before starting my thru-hike, I knew exactly what I was getting into and was not worried about hiking alone as a woman. Furthermore, I didn’t want a hiking partner. I wanted to be able to do my own thing and make new friends along the way.
Instead of getting annoyed by people telling me how dangerous it would be for me, an apparently *sarcasm* helpless woman who has no idea how to navigate this world without a man *sarcasm*, I relished in it. I found it positively delightful to watch people’s faces as I told them I would be embarking on a 2,000 mile hike all by my lonesome.
Have you been fantasizing about a hike on the Appalachian Trail, but no one will go with you? No problem. You can go by yourself!
Why Hike the Appalachian Trail Solo?
- You will grow and learn more when it’s just you. The trail will challenge you, force you to your limits, and put you in circumstances where you must rely on yourself. There will be hard days full of rain and uphill climbs, and just as many lonely evenings in your tent. This is where growth happens. Embrace it.
- You call the shots. If you’re having a physically difficult time, you can stop earlier than planned and take more breaks. You also don’t have to wait for a partner who takes forever to pack up or walks more slowly than you. On a solo hike, there is no compromising what you want in order to appease someone else.
- There’s no competition. Men on the trail love to compete with each other, especially their hiking partners. They love to compare who hiked the most miles, who has the lightest pack, who’s the manliest for having the heaviest pack, and who can grow the best beard. Without a hiking partner, you can ignore the competition. I’m non-competitive, and I hate it when people try to make comparisons between us. It’s just not my thing.
- It’s way easier to hitch-hike as a woman because we seem less threatening to strangers driving by. I’ve had multiple drivers say things to me like, “I would never give a ride to a man.” Or when hitching with a male hiker, “You know I only picked you guys up because of her.”
- You get to be a role model for young girls and other women. My absolute favorite thing is when strangers with daughters come up to me with questions and enthusiasm about my hike. I also love all of the messages I receive because of this blog and my Instagram from ladies who say I’ve inspired them.
Is it Safe to Hike Alone as a Woman?
I would say yes, very safe. Please don’t concern yourself with this point too much. If you know the safety basics of being a woman in your day-to-day life, then you’re set. It’s basically the same precautions we take anyway when we’re living our lives.
Still Worried? OK, Here’s Some Safety Pieces:
- Trail men tend to be rather chivalrous. They know who the women hikers are, and they try to look out for us. And it’s OK to ask the normal guys for help if there’s a creeper bothering you.
- Yes, male hikers sexually harassed occasionally on the trail. Once I shared a motel room in town with three other hikers and woke up to one of the men stroking my back as I slept. Another guy shoved his camera in my face to show me a photo of himself completely naked except for a sock on his penis. However, men did not sexually harass me on the Appalachian Trail anymore often than they sexually harass in my regular life. This is just a hazard for us women everywhere we go, regardless of being at home or on the trail.
- You might end up hitch-hiking solo to resupply in town. See my hitch-hiking how-to article for more information. Basically, take safety precautions prior to sticking your thumb out. Put your cards and ID, cell phone, and knife in your pocket so you can either make a quick escape or protect yourself. But don’t worry, most trail town folk are extremely nice.
- While hiking, I always kept my knife and pepper spray in my hip-belt pocket for quick access. I never needed to use them. It just gives me peace of mind to have them there.
- Your loved ones can get you a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger if they’re overly worried about your physical safety. You can send your GPS coordinates to your mom when you get into camp, or if you get into a real emergency, you can send an SOS.
- I already addressed this in my post Dangers of the Appalachian Trail and How to Avoid Them, but don’t worry too much about getting injured and being alone. The Appalachian Trail is a busy hike. Someone will come along and help you out.
I hope this post shed some light on what it’s like to hike the Appalachian Trail solo as a woman. What do you ladies (and gents and non-binary folks) think about hiking solo? Would you give it a try?