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Andrew Lush
(lushy) - MLife

Locale: Lake Mungo, Mutawintji NPs
AT, CDT or PCT? on 10/01/2007 02:57:50 MDT Print View

Gday All,

I have long service leave of 6 months due and I am thinking seriously of using the break to through-hike one of the USA's long distance trails.

So my question is... which one? I have basically decided to do either the PCT or CDT but if someone can make a case for the AT then I will consider that as well. (Or any other trails for that matter.)

So all you locals - which trail for an Aussie on a break?



Ross Novak
(Aurator) - F
"AT, CDT or PCT?" on 10/01/2007 10:37:41 MDT Print View

Hi Andy;
My vote is for the PCT. For a first time thru hiker there is more support on the PCT and easier resupply. More company too, only about 50 people a year attempt the CDT.
Take a look at this site:

for a good discussion on the merits of the different trails.

I am preparing for a 2008 PCT attempt so maybe I'll see you on the trail.
Best of luck whatever you decide.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
AT, CDT or PCT? on 10/01/2007 11:42:54 MDT Print View

I would not recommend the CDT if this is the first truly long hike you're looking at. The level of wilderness skill required for it is much more stringent than the other two. The access to resupply and other logistics is more limited. And yes, as earlier mentioned, you'll be much more isolated if you encounter problems.

Also, the timing of your visit will make a significant difference. If your time off begins in say, February or March, the AT is the only real option, since the outher routes are under too much snow to make a traditional thru-hike possible.

OTOH, if you can't get here until after June, the AT is likely again the only good option, and you'll need to walk it southbound because the northern terminus at Mt. Katahdin will close typically sometime in October to all except parties with special approval and experience in snow/ice mountaineering.

If you can get a starting in late April through early June, the other trails become more doable.

I will say the PCT definitely offers better views than the AT. But don't write the AT off. There is an incredible trail culture on the AT built around the trail community and its hikers that I didn't feel in the time I've spent on sections of the PCT.

Of course, I was section hiking the PCT, while I was fully immersed in trail life as an AT thru-hiker, so I may have missed out of some PCT culture, but the difference was notable to me. AT trail towns are unlike any place I have ever been, and while I am something of an introvert, I found I really enjoyed being part of a wandering tribe on the AT. Plus you get to experience small town America in multiple regions. On the PCT you just don't get so much of a cultural immersion.

But if I had 5 months off now, in the right time of year, I would choose to hike the PCT, having already done the AT.

Andrew Lush
(lushy) - MLife

Locale: Lake Mungo, Mutawintji NPs
It's the PCT then. on 10/06/2007 16:09:06 MDT Print View

Thanks a lot for your advice, Ross and Shawn.

I won't be starting until March/April 2009. So I have plenty of time to prepare.

The best of luck for your PCT attempt next year, Ross.



Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: AT, CDT or PCT? on 10/08/2007 02:40:51 MDT Print View

You haven't given us much to go on, like your prior experience for example. But generally speaking, the CDT is a bruiser. Parts of the PCT and AT are certainly challenging too, but generally they are much more logistically favorable. There is a ton of information available on how to do the AT, so it should be fairly easy to get a feel for that one.

So, do you like conifer trees and the occasional snowfield? Or do you prefer deciduous forest and shelters?

Andrew Lush
(lushy) - MLife

Locale: Lake Mungo, Mutawintji NPs
Re: AT, CDT or PCT on 10/09/2007 18:41:18 MDT Print View

>So, do you like conifer trees and the occasional snowfield? Or do you prefer deciduous forest and shelters?

Here in Australia it's all Eucalypts (Family: Mrytaceae) and bugger all else. No conifers (except in the softwood plantations - Pinus radiata) and almost no native deciduous trees at all.
Down in Tasmania there is one species of deciduous beech (Nothofagus gunnii) which is our only winter deciduous species. We don't have any "foliage season" in our native forests.
Up in the tropical north we have some species of deciduous trees that loose their leaves during the dry season to minimise moisture loss.

As for preferring shelters - I don't. I'd much prefer to find my own camp site each night.

I'm a bit nervous about bears though. We don't have any large carnivourously inclined critters here (except crocodiles, and they're at least 3000km away from where I normally walk). Still there's lots of folks in the USA who hike and manage to avoid becoming bear tucker, so I figure the odds must be on my side. Right?

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Re: AT, CDT or PCT on 10/12/2007 00:22:19 MDT Print View

The most educated bears would probably be on the PCT, but the AT has a few too. At least the PCT/AT bears are black bears. CDT will take you through some grizzly country. Personally I would take smart black bears over griz if that were the only consideration.

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
AT, CDT, PCT on 10/12/2007 03:11:16 MDT Print View

G'day Andy

As an aussie, based in New York, I have sectioned hike the AT. Firstly be aware that stealth or wild camping on the AT is not allowed in many sections of the trail. I am yet to see a bear on the AT though I have seen very fresh paw prints.

Personally if I had the option I would prefer the PCT, it seems to me that the scenery is much more spectacular than many portions of the AT.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: AT, CDT or PCT? on 10/12/2007 04:17:56 MDT Print View

Hi Shawn

> because the northern terminus at Mt. Katahdin will close typically sometime in October to all except parties with special approval and experience in snow/ice mountaineering.
Speaking as an Australian walker now - what's with this 'special approval' bit? Here in Oz we don't ask for approval or permission - we just go walking.

Granted, after a major bushfire the parks authorities may ask us to stay out of some areas while they recover - fair enough.

But 'approval'???? In 'the land of the free'??


john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
kathadin on 10/12/2007 06:38:39 MDT Print View

Yup Roger - persmission. For a winter ascent of mt kathadin you need to fill out an application - i.e. an outdoor resume. Baxter State Park is one of the most regulated places I've hiked - actually probably the most.

They have their reasons which I reckon we don't have to agree with... First, it experiences nasty northeastern winter weather second only to the whites in nh. It is remote and rescue is dangerous and expensive. Several routes are avalanche prone. It is out of the realm of backpacking and into winter mountaineering come late October.

The upside is that it is a far more pristine place than your average national park.

Edited by jackfl on 10/12/2007 06:39:47 MDT.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Outdoor resume on 10/12/2007 09:13:53 MDT Print View

"i.e. an outdoor resume"

Places up here do it aswell...and many "continuous " discussions about it. Basically give them your gearlist and past experience and they decide if you are capable or not. I guess after rescuing too many unprepared people, they now require it.

Edited by Steve_Evans on 10/12/2007 09:15:58 MDT.

Anitra Kass
(Anitraten) - F

Locale: SoCal
So many trails, so little time on 11/11/2007 08:41:39 MST Print View

Picking a trail is a tough decision. Having hiked them, here are my impressions. I have listed them in the order I hiked them.

AT-NoBo. Tough tread, straight up and straight down, humidity, the potential for hiking with many people (although you could cut down on the number of people you are around if you don't camp near shelters). Rain, mosquitoes, a green tunnel with views mixed in for variety. A few bears (mostly near trash dumpsters in my experience). When you see a mountain looming ahead, you know you are going over it. Loved this trail.

PCT-NoBo. Beautiful, easier tread (I am biased as I work on the trail in SoCal but it is at an easier grade), contours around mountains or gradually goes up and between two peaks. Amazing desert sunsets and beautiful, snow-capped, Sierra mountains. Less humid than the AT but potentially hot especially in SoCal and the Hat Creek Rim (the guide book map actually lables it the Hot Creek Rim). Less people but you can still find yourself in a large group if you time it correctly. When you see a mountain looming ahead, you know that it's going to take you 5 or more miles to go around it. Loved this trail

CDT-SoBo. Tread? There isn't always trail, sometimes it's a bushwhack, sometimes there's trail, sometimes it's Forest Service Roads and sometimes it's a paved road. Many choices for which route you want to take. More of a choose your own adventure. More navigating. Shorter weather window for hiking. I hiked with a lot of different people on and off the whole way (but most of us started around the same time in Glacier National Park) The trail isn't really finished so it's hard to get a feel for where the trail will go. When you see a mountain looming ahead, you have know idea if this time you will go over it or if you will walk 5 or more mile to go around it. Loved this trail.

Not sure if that helps you but I loved all three trails. I would say that the CDT was the most challenging navigationally and the AT was the most challenging terrain for me. The PCT had the most challenging river crossings for me (in the high Sierra during a crazy snow year). I know someone also mentioned that if you couldn't get here until June the AT was the only real option but I started the CDT SoBo on June 15th and depending on the snow pack you could SoBo the PCT as well. Just giving options. Happy trails!