21.7 C
New York
Tuesday, July 23, 2024

3 Triple Crown Through-Hikers Evaluate the AT, CDT, and PCT – Gossamer Gear

Finishing a thru-hike is an thrilling and difficult objective for a lot of outside adventurers. Spending months on a path climbing hundreds of miles is an unimaginable and life-changing feat. However one of many hardest components will be determining the place to start out—each by way of gear prep and coaching, in addition to selecting which path to hike.

There are three essential thru-hiking trails in the US that long-distance hikers dream about: the Appalachian Path (AT) within the East, the Continental Divide Path (CDT) within the Mountain West, and the Pacific Crest Path (PCT) within the West. The most effective methods to study thru-hiking is to collect suggestions and methods from individuals who have achieved it earlier than. Speaking to previous thru-hikers can be a great way to determine which path you need to hike. 

At Gossamer Gear, we’re fortunate sufficient to have 4 model ambassadors who’ve hiked all three of the large thru-hiking trails in the US. Because it’s uncommon to have the ability to chat with a Triple Crowner, we wished to carry our model ambassadors’ information to you in case you’re within the planning levels of deciding which path to hike.

What Is the Triple Crown of Through-Climbing?

The Triple Crown of Through-Climbing refers to finishing the AT, CDT, and PCT. The particular hikers who end all three massive trails are known as a Triple Crowner. It takes a whole lot of time, planning, and fortitude to achieve success on this particular enterprise—a complete of seven,700+ miles.

One among our model ambassadors, Heather “Anish” Anderson, has accomplished the Triple Crown 3 times. Her final enterprise was in 2018 when she grew to become the first lady to finish a calendar-year Triple Crown—that means she hiked all three trails inside the identical yr. She did this as a part of a quest to have a good time the fiftieth anniversary of the Nationwide Trails Act that set the precedent for the Triple Crown trails, in addition to a number of different nationwide trails. 

Turning into a Triple Crowner is an unimaginable achievement and the hikers who do it go away with a wealth of data about and connection to the three trails.

Overview of the Triple Crown Through-Climbing Trails: AT, CDT, PCT

The AT, CDT, and PCT are all long-distance thru-hiking trails, however every is exclusive in its terrain, historical past, size, and options.

Appalachian Path

The Appalachian Path (AT) runs about 2,190 miles alongside the jap United States from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, finally passing by 14 states. With its rolling terrain, the elevation acquire and loss on the finish of a full thru-hike is equal to climbing Mount Everest 16 instances—for a complete of about 464,000 ft. Its lowest level is in Bear Mountain State Park in New York at 124 ft and its highest level is Clingmans Dome in Tennessee’s Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park at 6,643 ft.

The path was proposed in 1921 and accomplished in 1937. It grew to become an official nationwide scenic path in 1968. It was the brainchild of forester and conservationist Benton MacKaye. It’s maintained by greater than 30 path golf equipment and companions and managed by the Nationwide Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the nonprofit Appalachian Path Conservancy.

Continental Divide Path

The Continental Divide Path (CDT) runs about 3,100 miles by the Mountain West area of the US from the border with Chihuahua, Mexico, to the border with Alberta, Canada. It crosses by 5 states—Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico—because it follows the Continental Divide alongside the Rocky Mountains.

The primary part of the path was proposed and established in Colorado in 1962. The CDT was formally established in 1978. It’s a pretty distant and wild path that is still at larger elevations, together with the best level on any nationwide scenic path, the 14,270-foot Grey’s Peak. By 2019, solely 150 thru-hikers had been recorded as finishing it.

Pacific Crest Path

The Pacific Crest Path (PCT) runs greater than 2,650 miles alongside the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges within the western United States, passing by California, Oregon, and Washington. Ninety-five p.c of thru-hikers start on the southern trailhead close to Campo, California, and finish on the U.S. border at Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia. The PCT’s highest level is Forester Move in California at 13,200 ft.

Catherine Montgomery was the primary to suggest the path in 1926 and Clinton C. Clarke championed it from the Nineteen Thirties into the Fifties. It was designated as a nationwide scenic path in 1968 similtaneously the AT.

Meet Our Triple Crowner Model Ambassador Specialists

Along with Heather, talked about above as the primary lady to finish a calendar-year Triple Crown, we’ve three different model ambassadors who’ve accomplished the AT, CDT, and PCT.

Zelzin Aketzalli is the one individual from Mexico to finish the Triple Crown of climbing. Her path identify is Quetzal, however she has additionally obtained nicknames similar to The Mexican and the Climbing Queen. One of many issues that characterizes her essentially the most is just not giving up because of obstacles. Her first hike in her complete life was the Pacific Crest Path in 2017. She had no expertise as a hiker or mountaineer, however had all the time been a excessive efficiency athlete. That yr, the PCT had a whole lot of snow. Zelzin was unfamiliar with snow and didn’t communicate English, which she believes helped her cross the Sierra Nevada in Might, recognizing that typically it’s higher to not know greater than you must.


Arlette “Apple Pie” Laan is initially from the Netherlands, however is now based mostly in Lowell, Massachusetts. She has accomplished lengthy distance hikes around the globe, together with in the US, New Zealand, Switzerland, Kenya, Japan, Nicaragua, Patagonia, and Jordan. She grew to become the primary lady to finish all 11 nationwide scenic trails—totaling greater than 18,000 miles—in 2022. Arlette was the primary unsupported feminine to carry the quickest recognized time for the White Mountain Direttissima, climbing all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers in a single steady unsupported backpacking journey in slightly below 9 days.



Gabe Vasquez is a proud first-generation Mexican American from Austin, Texas, and a Marine fight veteran. He proudly holds the title of the primary recognized Mexican American to finish the Triple Crown. Since 2014, his mission has been to lift funds and consciousness for injured veterans by intensive long-distance climbing, biking, and kayaking. He has coated over 25,000 miles, elevating over $40,000, and his dedication to this trigger stays unwavering.



Beneath, we requested Zelzin, Arlette, and Gabe some questions in regards to the AT, CDT, and PCT. They every shared their knowledge about climbing these three massive trails that can assist you select, plan, and dream about your subsequent thru-hike.

In Your Phrases, What Makes Every Path Distinctive?


Every path is sort of a new world ready to be found. The Triple Crown of Climbing is not only a bodily problem, it’s an epic battle with nature that can take you to your limits and past.

  • PCT: Prepare for a diverse journey. At some point you’ll be traversing mountainous deserts with large boulders, and the subsequent, you’ll be atop rocky mountain ranges and large lakes. And who can neglect the spectacular glaciers? This path is a mixture of excessive landscapes that can go away you breathless.
  • AT: Welcome to the Inexperienced Tunnel! In fall, this path turns into a pageant of colours, with leaves altering from inexperienced to purple and gold. Going up and down the Appalachian mountains is like doing Everest 16 instances. And hold your eyes open for black bears and moose alongside the way in which!
  • CDT: Face desolate deserts and huge wildernesses. This path will take a look at your psychological and bodily endurance. From lush forests to towering mountains and glaciers, the CDT is house to one of the vital highly effective animals: the grizzly bear.


What makes every Triple Crown path so completely different from the others, in my view, is the tread, degree of wilderness expertise, and views. 

  • The PCT has largely great path tread for simpler strolling, and whereas it doesn’t summit any peaks, it has essentially the most great views of close by and distant mountains. 
  • The CDT consists of a patchwork of path, quiet dust roads, and cross nation. It has broad open areas, and when you’re fortunate, you may see herds of elk and antelope. It feels wilder in that sense. 
  • The AT is the least wild of the three, nevertheless it makes up for it in group and historical past. The tread is rather more difficult, particularly up north the place rocks and boulders lead you up and over many peaks, whether or not they have views or not.


The path is the vacation spot. What makes the paths distinctive would be the individuals you meet alongside the way in which. Not solely that, however the obstacles you come throughout alongside the way in which. The path household you create will make the path distinctive in your personal approach.

What Is One of many Greatest Issues About Every Path?


  • PCT: Volcanoes! This path takes you very near a mountain vary of majestic volcanoes. Think about climbing with these giants on the horizon.
  • AT: The autumn colours are merely magical. And the joys of seeing black bears up shut is unforgettable.
  • CDT: The loneliness of the desolate areas and the presence of untamed animals make this path a novel psychological and bodily problem.


  • I liked the views and nice tread on the PCT—easy strolling is my favourite. 
  • The most effective factor in regards to the CDT, for me, was the sensation of an actual journey. 
  • The AT supplies great wood shelters, that are nice for dangerous climate, and it’s simpler to resupply with many cities alongside the way in which. 


  • The most effective factor in regards to the PCT is that it was my first path. Not simply that, I’d say the perfect factor can be the climate. There are only a few wet days on the West Coast.
  • The most effective factor in regards to the CDT was the Wind River Vary. That must be essentially the most stunning place to hike in America. I find it irresistible since you can not drive to it. 
  • The most effective factor in regards to the AT is the group constructed across the path. You’ll obtain a lot love and path magic.

What Is One of many Most Difficult Issues About Every Path?


  • PCT: Snow and river crossings could be a actual journey.
  • AT: The fixed elevation and excessive temperatures, from scorching warmth to freezing chilly, together with infinite rain, are an actual problem.
  • CDT: Thunderstorms, avalanches, snow… and let’s not neglect the encounters with grizzlies and wolves. That is the place the journey will get wild!


  • The PCT was my first lengthy distance hike, and braving the desert warmth with “gentle” ft was difficult. Coping with the warmth typically was very difficult for me. 
  • On the CDT, navigation was the problem. I hiked it earlier than smartphones and GPS apps and acquired off route a number of instances. 
  • The AT was difficult for me as a result of the tread was usually not that nice, steep climbs led to many viewless summits, and the rock scrambling up north was not my factor.


Clearly, every path may have its challenges. It is determined by what you are used to that can put together you for the path. 

  • With regards to the AT, I’d say that the climate and degree of problem are essentially the most difficult components. The humidity and quantity of rain there may be completely completely different in comparison with the opposite two trails. For those who’re on the lookout for an actual problem, then hike the AT. The quantity of elevation acquire in such a brief span will take a look at your climbing talents, and it stays that approach the complete path. 
  • The PCT is the full reverse of the AT. There, you’ll have nice views and climate. The difficult half about this path can be the solar publicity. You’ll spend a whole lot of time below the solar. There might be stretches the place there aren’t many spots to catch shade. The water carries will be greater than you are used to, as effectively, if it is a dry yr. So, observe the rain and snow reviews because it will get nearer to your begin date
  • The CDT, to me, was just like the PCT with fewer hikers and fewer group constructed across the path. There’s a lengthy desert stretch and an extended snow part. Essentially the most difficult a part of this path was the quantity of snow and the excessive elevation. If it is a heavy snow yr, be ready for that.

Was Any Specific Gear Additional Helpful to Have on Every Path?


Investing in good gear is crucial. A high quality backpack, just like the Gorilla 50, will be your greatest ally on completely different long-distance trails. However have you learnt what made all of the distinction on the Appalachian Path? A poncho! The fixed storms made this little accent a lifesaver.


For the desert sections of the PCT and CDT, you need to make certain to have a bigger water carrying capability, and if I’d recognized then what I do know now, I’d have introduced an umbrella for the solar. For the AT, I’d make certain to have a greater rain jacket maybe. An umbrella can be onerous to deal with on the tough and sometimes narrower path.


I carried the essential gear required that the majority hikers carry. I’d say that an umbrella for the solar, and rain when you’re climbing the AT, is among the most underrated objects on the market. I used one final yr climbing throughout Europe, and I’ve to say it was positively a sport changer.

What’s Your Recommendation for Somebody Attempting to Resolve Which Path to Hike and How Would You Advocate They Put together?


My recommendation to you is to be trustworthy with your self about what you need to obtain and what you take pleasure in. Make a listing of what you want and what you do not. It will allow you to select the path that most closely fits your preferences. 

Set your objective and set short-term targets to attain it. If doubtful, search recommendation from professionals who’ve accomplished a thru-hike. We’re right here that can assist you succeed! And bear in mind, coaching your thoughts and physique is essential.


If they’ll solely hike one path, I’d ask them if they need extra of a wilderness expertise or extra of a social expertise. The AT has extra assist, extra cities, extra choices to alter out gear, so it’s a great newbie path. The PCT nonetheless has a great quantity of individuals however much less facilities and it’s a must to do greater miles due to fewer water sources. The CDT could be a solitary expertise and more difficult logistically with meals provides. Moreover, if they like views and large mountains, the West Coast trails can be a greater possibility. If they like timber and plenty of water, the AT can be the higher selection. 

For any lengthy distance hike, it’s a good suggestion to do some gear analysis and some apply hikes to ensure you’re comfy with the gear you chose. Health clever, you can begin the AT a bit extra mellow since there are extra resupply and campsite choices, whereas the PCT and CDT require extra health and greater miles from the beginning. So, for the latter, I’d need to have achieved extra climbing to prep in an effort to toughen up the ft.


With regards to selecting which massive path to hike, I’d say simply examine every path and examine it to your climbing functionality and the quantity of money and time you have got.

I’d additionally say make investments time into utilizing your gear beforehand. Go on weekend hikes. You do not need to begin your thru-hike and discover out you are not happy with the gear you selected or don’t know find out how to use it correctly.

One other tip I’d suggest is to not overthink the path. The toughest half is getting on the market, however when you begin, it turns into a routine.

Discover Distinctive Journey on North America’s Triple Crown Through-Climbing Trails

The Triple Crown of Through-Climbing is a scenic, difficult, and noteworthy journey. For those who’re contemplating taking over this feat your self or simply attempting to determine which of the three trails most closely fits your model, we hope that our Triple Crowner model ambassadors have offered some perception that can allow you to in your journey.

Whether or not thru-hiking, part climbing, or day climbing, we’d like to see your adventures on the AT, CDT, or PCT! Be certain to share the enjoyable with us by tagging Gossamer Gear on social media (@gossamergear) and utilizing the hashtag #takelessdomore.

Hungry for extra backpacking gear and planning information? Take a look at a few of our different articles on the Mild Toes weblog:

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles