5 Hardest Parts Of The Appalachian Trail


If you were asked to imagine the mountains along the Appalachian Trail, you probably would not think of splendid mountain peaks. Most people confuse this 2,189-mile trail with easy hiking. Some of it is indeed easy, but most of it is extremely difficult.

Compared to other long trails in the United States, the Appalachian Trail has the most elevation change. This makes it one of the toughest terrains to hike through. If you are wondering what the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail is, keep reading to find out. Here are some of the toughest parts you will come across on your hike.

The Priest

This hike takes around 9 miles round-trip, but do not let its short distance trick you. If you are wondering about Appalachian Trail’s difficulty by state, this is the steepest climb in central Virginia. This section gains more than 3,000 feet of elevation during its one-way hike (4.3 miles long), which makes it the highest trail in West Virginia. Once the trail starts going up, it maintains a constant grade of 13% for 3.6 miles before slightly steeping for the last mile. The hike may take you up to 6 hours with breaks.

If you do not find it particularly challenging, you could make the hike much more difficult by parking at the Crabtree Falls trailhead (located half a mile west of the Appalachian Trail) to reach the summit of the Priest. Then, descend to the Tye River and climb to the Three Ridges Mountain summit. Lastly, go back for a round-trip haul which is 24.6 miles long! Make sure you get high-quality hiking pants to ensure being comfortable on your hike.

Fun fact: Many hikers use the Priest as a confessional in a satirical way. They confess the ‘’sins’’ they have made on the trail there.

Mount Washington


This peak may be the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail, more for its weather than the climb itself. It is the second-highest point of the Appalachian Trail – with a height of 6,288 feet. This notorious peak is located in the center of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire (also called ‘The White”).

In case you’re interested in Appalachian Trail difficulty by state, Mount Washington and Mount Madison would be the most challenging parts in New Hampshire. It has one of the most inclement weather conditions. It held the record for the strongest wind gust for 76 years, losing the title in 1996 to Australia’s Barrow Island and its 253-mph strong Cyclone Olivia.

It is recommended to check the weather report before attempting a summit. Also, bring some rain gear such as backpack rain covers, snacks, and hydration options, such as hydration packs. Also, be aware of the fact that you may be underwhelmed when you reach the summit because of the many tourists, gift shops, and restaurants.

Mount Katahdin

If you’re a northbound hiker, you will reach the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail in the end. Mount Katahdin, located in the northern part of the trail, is one of the toughest ascents of the whole trail. But, it is also one of the most splendid. If you are wondering about the Appalachian Trail difficulty by state, you should know that this one is the toughest part in Maine. It will take you from 8 to 12 hours to complete this adventure, so make sure you have some energy-dense snacks with you and proper hydration, such as water filters.

The amazing climb offers beautiful Katahdin Stream Falls, incredible summit views, and a steep boulder climb with metal rungs. The trail easily rises 4,162 feet in only 5.2 miles from the Katahdin Stream Campground. The weather is unpredictable, so you should prepare your rain gear. Also, since it is strenuous and rocky, you should take the climb very seriously so you can prevent any injuries. Bringing a lightweight backpack will save you lots of trouble because the last thing you need during a difficult climb is additional weight.

Mount Madison

Mount Madison is considered the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail by many. Even though it is sometimes overlooked by Mount Washington, it is certainly no joke. Mound Madison gains 2,812 feet throughout 2.6 miles (that’s an incline higher than 20%). That is why this climb is one of the most challenging parts of the entire trail, as well as one of the steepest.

The southbound approach to this hike would be the safest option. You could park at Pinkham Notch’s Joe Dodge Lodge. Then, follow the Old Jackson Road to Madison Gulf, reaching Great Gulf Trail and Osgood Trails. Lastly, go back for a round-trip that is 14.6 miles long!

The summit of Mount Madison is above the tree line so it will give you gorgeous views of the Whites without the business you may find at Mount Washington. You should get top-quality gear for this ride, such as hiking boots, hiking sunglasses, and a hiking hat.

Lehigh Gap and Superfund Trailhead

Pennsylvania is one of the flattest states on the Appalachian Trail. That is why you would probably not associate it with the word ‘’steep’’. A more appropriate word to describe it would be ‘’rocky’’. When looking at Appalachian Trail difficulty by state, you may notice the Superfund Trailhead and the Lehigh Gap. It is the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.

Many hikers who reach this spot are caught off guard because they find a 900-foot vertical rock that spans over just three-quarters of a mile. Climbing will be tough but it will certainly be worth it. Do not forget to take some pictures with your hiking camera! You could bring a small stove and make a delicious meal to go with that amazing view.

Globo Surf Overview

Even though the Appalachian Trail is not famous for its incredibly high mountains, it certainly has some difficult sections. The Appalachian Trail has the most elevation compared to other long trails in the USA. This can be quite challenging for many hikers, especially if you are a beginner.

That is why it is important to know which some of the hardest parts of the Appalachian Trail are. You should be especially careful when passing through the Priest, Mount Washington, Mount Katahdin, Mount Madison, and Lehigh Gap, among others. Knowing what these difficult sections have in store for you is the best way to prepare. Make sure your gear is suitable for the challenge and you have proper food supplies and hydration to overcome these difficulties without major problems.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. 14 State Challenge, appalachiantrail.org
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!