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A Guide to Long Trail Hiking

Long Trail Hiking: Thru-Hikes

If you're an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, thru-hiking the Long Trail might be just the thing! Thru-hiking or end to end hiking refers to hiking long trails from start to finish. It takes about 26 to 30 days to hike the Long Trail's entire 273-mile (439-kilometer) length [source: Green Mountain Club].

Thru-hiking the Long Trail means packing the right gear. Because of the elevation, you'll want to bring cold-weather supplies no matter when you're going. The basics you'll need are: a tent, a sleeping bag that's rated for chilly temperatures, a lightweight backpack, some light rain gear, and light cooking gear [source: Tapon]. Notice the emphasis on "light?" You'll be grateful for every pound you shave from your backpack. You'll also want to pack a few essentials like a change of socks and underwear and a small first aid kit with bandages for cuts and blisters and disinfectant.

One season that hikers in many other states don't generally have to plan for is what Vermonters lovingly call "mud season." Green Mountain Club asks hikers to avoid high elevations in the early spring through Memorial Day each year, because snow melt causes muddy conditions that are dangerous to hikers and make the alpine tundra portions of the trail fragile. While these severe muddy conditions dissipate after Memorial Day, you need to plan for some soggy, muddy walking no matter what time of year you hit the Long Trail. That means choosing waterproof hiking boots and thick socks to keep your feet warm and dry.

You'll want to pack plenty of food, but also plan some food drops along the way. You can ask friends and family to ship non-perishable food to some of the post offices along the route, or you can break from the trail and hike into town to grab more supplies at one of the points where the trail passes close to civilization.