Day-Hiking on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trial Blaze

The snow has melted. The first day of spring was weeks ago. It’s warm enough to enjoy the outdoors without a jacket. Spring is finally here! To celebrate its coming and to get outside for a bit, we decided to spend Saturday day-hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
We live in the outskirts of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the designated halfway point for thru-hikers on the A.T. By vehicle, we are six miles from the Keys Gap, VA parking lot. My wife, all of our children and I enjoyed the short drive with the windows down while anticipating exploring on the trail. My wife had hiked a bit of the trail in North Carolina but none of us had been on the section passing through Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

The Appalachian Trail 1
For those not familiar with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (abbreviated to Appalachian Trail or A.T.), it is a roughly 2,200 mile hiking trail in the Eastern United States. It passes through fourteen states going from Georgia to Maine. Although it is often day-hiked in local areas, many dream of section-hiking or even thru-hiking the entire trail (myself included.)

Keys Gap Trailhead
We reached the trailhead and gathered our gear. My wife and each child dawned backpacks full of snacks and water while I loaded Turtle (our 19-month old) into a backpack designed to carry toddlers. We took a few pictures at the trailhead sign and took our first steps onto the A.T.

The Appalachian Trail 2
This section of the trail was mostly easy hiking. It follows a ridgeline full of ups and downs but little climbing or technical skills were required. The trail was mostly free of obstructions and well maintained by volunteers.

A few miles of hiking and we passed a power-line right-of-way that provided some nice views of the surrounding area.

View from AT 2

View from AT 1
Out intention was to hike the six miles into historic downtown Harpers Ferry and picnic there. With a six and a seven year old who’ve spent the majority of the winter in a sedentary manner, this proved more than they could bare. The nine-year-old was ready to follow along with me and the Mrs., but we decided to stop about three miles in at a makeshift camping area. There we enjoyed the family time, the peanut butter and jellies, and the conversation with the passers-by. After riding in a backpack for a few miles, Turtle was ready to go! I’ve yet to see a grown-man enjoy nature as much as me and I’ve yet to see a child enjoy it as much as he does. He definitely takes after his old man in that regard. He ran, played in the dirt and genuinely loved life.

Relaxing on the Appalachian TrailAfter about an hour-and-a-half break, we started the trip back to Keys Gap. The kids were well-rested and well-fed and were in a great mood for the hike back. For the first half of the trip, my 19-month-old conscious chattered continuously with a lot of gibberish broken by the occasional word. At some point, I noticed that the talking had stopped and looked back to see Turtle sound asleep with head bobbing back and forth as I walked.
Hiking the Appalachian TrailWhen we returned home, we all felt great and were glad that we could get out and enjoy the beautiful day. The A.T. proved to be a great way to spend some family time outdoors. If you live near the A.T., I highly recommend that you get out and explore it as much as you can. If you’re not close to the trail, at least do some research about it. Maybe you’ll find that you’re compelled to plan and execute a several day hiking and camping trip, a section-hike, or even a thru-hike.

Out Like a Light
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Other End of the Stick and The End of the Road.

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7 thoughts on “Day-Hiking on the Appalachian Trail

  1. I enjoyed your article about you and the kids with the family hike. Good stuff. You have to get up here for some wilderness adventures Duncan

    • Thanks so much! I hope to head north one day. I’d like to bring the family so that they can get a chance to enjoy as well so I’ll have to wait until the kids are a bit older. If we ever do make it up that way, I’ll certainly look you up for a visit and for advice on places to go and things to do.

  2. Thanks for the nice description of your hike on the A. T. It reminds me of the day hikes we did as a family, when our boys are younger. I’d bet my youngest could give Turtle a run for his money, in the loving nature department. Although at the age of 16 and a height of 6’2″, he’s not much of a kid anymore! His love of the outdoors has been pretty constant throughout his life. Fortunately for me, I get to take him to lots of great places!

    • Thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoyed! Outdoor adventures are awesome with the little ones since they have so much curiosity and are full of joy. I enjoy it a lot but I also look forward to those teen years when they can go on the longer backwoods adventures with me.

  3. Pingback: The Appalachian Trail – Keys Gap to Harpers Ferry | A guide to smoothing it in the outdoors.

  4. Pingback: Day-Hiking the Appalachian Trail (Harpers Ferry, WV to Weverton, MD) | SmoothingIt.com

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