What Is The Hardest Part of the Appalachian Trail? – Top 5 Locations

What Is The Hardest Part of the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is known for being a path full of ups and downs, with challenging sections that test the skill of the best hikers. But it is precisely this difficulty that makes it so attractive.

The Appalachian Trail is a great challenge for any lover of this sport.  So taking it through its most difficult parts becomes one of the most sought-after challenges for those who like to limit their abilities as a hiker.

It is then that many ask the same question: what is the hardest part of the Appalachian trail? 

The White Mountains of New Hampshire is considered the most difficult part of the Appalachian Trail due to its rough terrain and ever-changing weather conditions.  Other tough parts of the trail include Northern Pennsylvania, Amicalola Falls, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and parts of Southern Maine.

We will explain what is considered the most complicated part of the path, along with some others of similar difficulty. Take note!

White Mountains, NH

For many, this is undoubtedly the most complicated section of the entire Appalachian Trail. However, this area is also the most popular, and most hikers decide to cross every year.

It is a tremendously unstable road, so the key to this stretch’s success is good preparation.  In addition, having done the homework and planned the route well, identifying the riskiest areas. It has climbs that exceed a thousand feet per mile and large rocky slopes that look like giant slides created by the erosion of nature.

These climbs and descents through which we will have to pass will test the strength of our legs and knees—being uncomfortable the descent through an inclined, slippery, and irregular terrain. Undoubtedly, if we want to get out of this stretch, we will have to go very well equipped.  Not any footwear will bear our weight well and will keep us glued to the ground. If we add climate instability to everything, this stretch becomes a real litmus test.

Mount Washington is known for having one of the worst climates in the world because despite not having one of the highest elevations.  Just 6,289 feet, located at one of the most important intersections of storms in the country. Also, it is a meeting point for storms, but all the climate systems that travel from north to south pass through that area.  This causes the scourge of storms to fall entirely on this mountain.

The reward for all these complications is your views. Despite the bad weather and the inconvenience of its ascent, what awaits us at its peak is truly memorable as it has beautiful panoramic views over the tree line. Without a doubt, a spectacle of nature only within reach of a brave few.


The trail is located in the center of the Presidential Mountain Range in the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire, better known as “The Whites.” The start of the route is considered to be located at the 1792 mile at Mt.Moosilauke and ends at the town of Gorham at the 1891 mile.


The approximate distance of the course is more than 100 miles long, with the highest peak being 6,289 feet.

Northern Pennsylvania

Most hikers will have ever heard the horror stories about the mountains of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, these mountains are considered a natural trap that only the most experienced can successfully traverse.

What makes this stretch dangerous is its misleading appearance.  The first miles of the terrain are very flat.  But after those first few miles, things will start to get worse. It is a path full of rocks, becoming impossible not to step on anything else for hours.

Therefore, if you do not wear suitable footwear for such uneven surfaces, your feet and joints will take a beating. Many cannot make it through the first night because of the pain in their ankles since your feet and ankles will be the most punished from this rocky path.

If we add the climate to this difficulty, things will get very complicated. This part of the trail is often traversed in hot weather in the middle of summer so that water will be scarce and mosquitoes abundant. Therefore it is recommended to carry plenty of drinking water and protection for bites because there will be many.


The steepest part starts at mile 1147 after Duncannon.


The route has a distance of about 146 miles. With the highest peak at 1400 feet.

Southern Maine

This stretch of the Appalachian Trail is probably the most frustrating to traverse, testing any hiker’s physical and mental resilience. No matter how you try to cross the path, nature will always get in the way of your plans and slow you down.

It is a road full of stones, hidden roots, large slopes with slippery stretches, and others in which it will be impossible to pass them on foot. According to a survey of experienced hikers, the average mph a hiker can travel on this trail is only about 1.5 miles.

In addition, the weather conditions will have to be added to the challenge.  Since if we find ourselves in a day of rain and wind, the difficulty level will multiply, and the length of the journey will also change. Therefore, if we want to go along this path, we will need a very good hiking team and, above all, a lot of patience.


The rocky section begins at the 1908 mile of Maine Border and reaches the north side of Little Bigelow Mountain in the 2016.9 miles.


The approximate distance of the trail is more than 100 miles, with the highest point on North Crocker Mountain at 4,228 feet.

Amicalola Falls, Sprinter

The Amicalola trail is among the simplest of the entire Appalachian trail, but it will only be so for the more experienced hikers. It has a very complicated approach path, and its more than 600 stairs will test the strength of our quads.

In addition, this remarkable ascent must be compounded by the difficulty of crossing the 729-foot Amicalola Falls waterfalls, the highest in the southern United States.


The exit point is not specified. We will have to follow a very complicated 8.5-mile approach path, being located in the southern area of the Appalachian Trail.


The distance is below 9 miles, the highest point being 3782 feet.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

This trail is very famous among hikers, being one of the best and longest walks in the entire northern area of the route. Highlights the elevation of the Smokies, having the Dome of Clingman that is the highest peak of all the path of the Appalachians.

The height and inclement weather make it very difficult to pass at certain times of the year.  This area can reach sub-zero temperatures during the winter and early spring. Hikers usually need to take refuge in different shelters to bring such a cold climate to the edge of the freeze since most of the journey is between 4000 and 6000 feet high.


The trail starts after Fontana Dam at mile 167 and reaches north at Davenport Gap at mile 237.6.


The route has a distance of 70 miles.

Hardest Parts of the Appalachian Trail Summary

In conclusion, if you are looking for adventures and testing your skills as an experienced hiker.  The Appalachian Trail is your best optionIts challenging and long paths will delight lovers of risk, enjoying landscapes full of potholes but also of incomparable beauty.

Need Help Preparing for a Hike or Backpacking Trip?

Check out our Hiking Equipment Guide for Beginners.  It’s a complete list of gear that every beginner should have!

Lee G.

I love the outdoors! Everything from hiking, climbing, rappelling, and caving.

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