Planning Your Long Hike

Planning something as epic as hiking, biking or riding across the country is a major endeavor, it is essential, but, because people have such different approaches and needs, nobody can really cover all the bases.

Remember – you are going to Hike Your Own Hike (bike, ride). You are not the same as anybody else that’s done this, you need to be aware of your own abilities, strengths, weaknesses, desires etc.

The ADTS doesn’t have a neat package of advice that can help you, you have to assemble the information that is right for you, you alone are responsible for the success of your journey. And of course as soon as you start your trip everything will change…

About the term ‘backpacking’. In the USA ‘backpacking’ usually means mobile camping, you carry everything you need in a pack, you camp at the end of the day most of the time. In Europe it often means carrying your clothes and maybe bedding but staying in hostels and often not even walking between them. Along the ADT, particularly in the west, there are long multi-day stretches where there are no commercial facilities of any kind, you must make all your own living arrangements. On this web site the American meaning of the word is used exclusively.

About the term ‘trail’. The ADT is a trail in the sense that it is a route from one place to another, but it is not a single entity, it is composed of many other trails and some connecting directions between them. You cannot expect to leave the coast and follow the ADT to the other coast without using other named trails.

Readers – your input is desired, share your experiences and thoughts. You can do this either by starting a thread in our Facebook group (good for discussion) or by sending your thoughts and ideas to

How Long Does It Take to Discover America?

It depends on several variables: Your mode of travel (hike, run, bicycle, ride a horse—or a combination); your pace (physical conditioning and how hard you push yourself); how much time you use to rest, resupply, and sight-see; weather conditions (such as snow on mountain passes); and what level support you can arrange.

If you hike 15 miles a day, and take one rest day a week, it takes about 390 days (or 56 weeks) to cover 5,000 miles. Few people could match the hiking pace of Marcia and Ken Powers. They averaged more than 20 miles per day, including some 30-mile days, and took only four rest days on their 231-day trek. They left the Atlantic on Feb. 27 and reached the Pacific on Oct. 15. Bicycling would require at least five months; horseback riding at least a year.

How Much Does It Cost?

This depends very much on your style, hotels, B&Bs, campgrounds, boondocking, Spam and fries by the campfire, high end restaurants etc. An absolute minimum is often said to be $1/mile but that would be very basic backpacking.

How Can I Prepare Physically?

Training for a long hike – TBD

What Gear Do I Need?

When Should I Start?
How Will I Know Where To Go?
Where Can I Stay On The Trail?
Will People Help Me?

Oh yes. Please indulge a personal note from the webmaster, a somewhat cynical sixty-something non-American living in the highly polarized era of Obama and Trump. In the time I have been involved with the ADT the single best thing about it by far has been the stories of kindness from everyday people that I have heard from multiple hikers. The real America does still exist, I hope you Discover it.

You can’t take this for granted of course but people are still amazed that somebody would walk across the country and they often want to help and to hear about your adventure.

The ADTS has a state coordinator for each state that the ADT passes through. These people are available by email and in some cases phone for advice and direction, but please remember they have other lives too, families, jobs, other hobbies and responsibilities. It is not the job of a state coordinator to be a trail angel.

Trail angels (for trail angles see the Turn By Turn). Across the country there are numerous people who like to help others with their journey, we have no list of them, they are found by chance or they find you from reports they read, usually on the web these days.

Officialdom – it is surprising how helpful even burned out public officials can be when they discover what you are doing, tell your story, they often have a lot more leeway than you might imagine to provide help. The same is true for business owners and managers.

Social media – the ADTS has an active Facebook page and group, great places to get information and ask questions.

How Can I Get Supplies?