Section Hiking: The Practical Compromise


Section Hiking: The Practical Compromise

Section Hiking New River Gorge

Section Hiking: The Practical Compromise

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Section hiking is likely to be the only thing that makes completing your favorite long-distance trail a reality for most of us. When most picture a thru-hiker, they imagine someone just out of school young enough to live foot-loose and fancy-free, or someone old enough to share some valuable lessons around the campfire or spin tales from their thrilling life adventures. What about the rest of us, though, the people who have work and life responsibilities that keep us from thru-hiking our favorite trail in one trip? Even here, at UST, we all have obligations to keep the company running smoothly. So, how do we go about hiking our favorite trail and following our dreams? One answer may be section hiking.  In addition to making the possibility of hiking a long distance trail a reality, there are a number of other benefits that section hiking brings.

1. Take advantage of the best time of the year

Hiking a trail in sections allows you to determine the best season to visit each location either to the take in the best scenic views or possibly avoid the crowds. The fresh green of Spring on the Florida Trail and the Autumn leaves on the Appalachian Trail both fall outside of the prime hiking season, and therefore are often missed by thru-hikers. Being able to spread out your sections beyond hiking season also helps you escape some of the crowds that come with the popularity of scenic trails.

(Photo by Dan Human) Cranberry Lake 50 Trail, Adirondacks

2. Learn from each section to improve your next hike

Before joining UST, my first hike on the Florida Trail was met with disaster. I had an old over-one-shoulder backpack from high school that I over stuffed with drawing supplies and very little water. Since, that back-aching trip I have learned a lot about gear, survival, and each successive trip bring further improvements. That is a great advantage of section hiking your favorite trail. Thru-hiking generally requires you to be better prepared than I initially was, but section hiking allows you to improve your skill level one hike at a time.
Florida Trail at Big Oak Trail

3. It allows you to enjoy each section for what it is

Even though it may be over generalizing, I expect most of us go hiking for the beauty of nature and to relax, with the bonus of some enjoyable physical activity. With section hiking, you avoid the worry of completing your daily miles to make trail’s end before winter sets in or your own personal time constraints send you back to reality. Section hiking allows you to take a breath and stop to watch the little squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, without having to worry about being late.

(Photo by Todd Nystrom) Enjoying the view from a side trail near the 290 mile long Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail in the Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

4. Spread it out over time

Speaking of deadlines, with section hiking you can spread your hike out over many months, years, or even decades. Each section can either last for weeks or can even be as short as day trips. You can set a pace you are comfortable with that also keeps you truckin’ along the trail. Ultimately, the choice is yours on how you spread out your hikes and how much you do.