Through hiking/riding FAQ

How long is the ADT?
The American Discovery Trail is about 6,800 miles long, but this figure combines the totals of the two routes across the Midwest. The coast-to-coast distance using the northern route (through Chicago) is 4,834 miles. The distance using the southern route (through St. Louis) is 5,057 miles. The distance across each state is shown in the State-by-State Trail Directory on this website.

How long does it take to trek the ADT?
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 sightsee; 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. Bicycling would require at least five months; horseback riding at least a year. 

Marcia and Ken Powers, the first people to thru-hike the trail in a continuous trek, left the Atlantic Ocean on February 27 and arrived at the Pacific on October 15. They averaged more than 20 miles a day, with only four non-hiking days, in a 231-day trek. Theirs was an extraordinary physical achievement. 

Peter & Joyce Cottrell backpacked the entire ADT in 18 months, with seven of those months spent off-trail, waiting for snow to melt in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada. Brian Stark ran the ADT in seven months, running an average of 30 miles a day and detouring onto a more direct route through Utah and Nevada. 

Is the entire ADT marked? 
The placement of signs on the ADT is a work in progress. In some places the trail is well-marked; Delaware has 8” X 12” ADT signs. In other places, especially on federal lands, permission to place ADT markers has yet to be obtained, and the trail user will have to rely on written descriptions and in some places the signage for local trails that the ADT follows. The trail is not marked from end-to-end as the Appalachian Trail is. One day it will be, but we are not there yet.

Where do I find the most current route information? 
There is a general description at the State-by-State Trail Directory. The most detailed and current turn-by-turn directions can be downloaded in PDF format through our merchandise store online. GPX data is also available for download. Hard copies can be ordered online or by calling 800-663-2387.

Where can I find maps?
There are no maps currently available, but the GPX files available on the Merchandise page are compatible with many mapping programs and visualization tools such as Google Earth. 

What is the trail surface like?
The ADT is a new breed of long-distance trail—part city, part small town, part forest, part mountains, part desert—and the variety of trail surfaces you’ll encounter reflect that. About a third of the ADT is single-track trail. Another third goes through greenways, parks, rail-trail conversions, and open spaces, where the surface may be dirt, asphalt, crushed stone, etc. The last third is on roads, primarily country roads, both paved and unpaved, with light traffic, including farm vehicles, etc., but in some instances city sidewalks and highways.

What facilities are available along the ADT? 
There are many public and private campgrounds in the national, state, county, or town parks and forests. A few are free but most are not. Many small town parks will allow self-powered trekkers to camp for one night. Many of the towns through which the trail passes contain motels, hotels, and bed-and-breakfasts. But long-distance travelers may have to use creativity and make adjustments in finding places to camp. It is essential that trail users respect private property. Some travelers have obtained permission from landowners to camp on their property.

What do I need to take on my trek?
You need the camping, backpacking, and/or day-hiking equipment appropriate to any self-propelled adventure. There are many publications on this topic in your local outdoor equipment stores, and information at websites of trail organizations such as the American Hiking Society and the Appalachian Trail Conference.

Is the entire ADT open to bicycles?
About 850 miles of the ADT are not open to bicycles because the trail is too rough, rocky, and/or steep for bikes to be practical or the local trail management policy excludes bicycle use (such as in wilderness areas). You can do the entire ADT by bicycle by using bicycle detours which are shown in some of the trail descriptions for each state or which can be obtained by consulting the state coordinator. Although a road bike may suffice in most of the Midwest, a mountain bike is required for other parts of the ADT. Many trail sections that are passable on a day ride are too difficult on a bicycle laden with camping gear.

Are horses allowed on the ADT?
Horses are allowed on most of the ADT. A few examples of the places where they are prohibited include the eastern 12 miles of the C&O Canal into Washington, D.C.; the Knobstone Trail and Adventure Trail in Indiana; most of the Katy Trail in Missouri (only 20 miles between Sedalia and Calhoun are open to horses); and many of the rail-trails in Iowa. In addition, where the trail passes through urban areas, equestrians may find the going difficult. The ADT Society is working on alternative equestrian routes, but crossing the country via horseback is probably the most logistically challenging transportation mode. 

Can I take my dog on the ADT?
The ADT Society has no policy regarding dogs, but the trail passes through many diverse jurisdictions that may have rules regarding dogs on their trails. The ADT goes through a number national and state parks and some of those do have restrictions, especially in wilderness areas. 

Does the ADT Society or any other organization conduct group treks on the ADT?
Not at the present time. 

Do I have to register to trek the ADT?
People do not have to register with the ADT Society to trek the ADT, a new voluntary registration scheme is planned for early 2019. The ADT is made up of many existing trails that are managed and maintained at the local level, and trail users should abide by local rules. At least one trail, in Iowa, requests that trail users register and has places at trailheads to do so. On some remote trails, especially in western states, we suggest that you stop at a local ranger office to let them know you are crossing their trails. 

Can I report on my adventures on the ADT?
We love to hear from people using the ADT whether you are day hiking/riding or crossing the country. Our Facebook page reports almost daily on people using the trail and welcomes submissions of short reports and especially pictures, they will be shared on our Instagram page as well. You can either post on the page or preferably send email to the social media editor –
The web site also likes to feature stories from people on the trail in the Latest News section or as a longer story in the Trail Tales section, please send material to – if you would allow your material to be considered for use in the quarterly newsletter please say this in the email and it will be forwarded to the editor by the webmaster.

How can I contribute to developing the ADT?
The American Discovery Trail Society encourages those who use the ADT to support the ongoing effort to create, manage, promote, and maintain the trail. The ADT is still relatively new and much has yet to be done to make the trail available to all who would travel some or all of its many parts. Whether your membership is at the basic member level or at the life member level, it will be greatly appreciated.