Unlike most long-distance hiking trails in the U.S., there is no comprehensive guidebook currently available covering all of the NCT. However; Ron Strickland and the NCTA have developed a “Best of the NCT” guidebook published by the University of Michigan Press. We no longer carry the book in our Trail shop, but the guide is available at a number of retailers, including Amazon.
For more information, please review the information below. If you still have questions, feel free to contact us.
Challenges of thru-hiking the NCT
With a length of 4,600 miles and lots of connecting roadwalks, pulling off a thru-hike of the NCT is a big challenge. One of the biggest challenges is weather encountered on an end to end hike. Assuming you start at a terminus, hike 4,600 miles from one end to the other, and average 20 miles per day your hike will be 200+ days or 6-8 months. That means you’ll have to start / finish your hike in wintry conditions in either the Adirondack Mountains of New York or on the wide open prairies of western North Dakota. Be sure to educate yourself on winter hiking and be prepared.
Thru-Hiking Policies & Planning
The North Country Trail Association and its board provide guidelines for hikers and followers of the North Country National Scenic Trail by which muscle-powered milestones will be recognized. Although the honor system will be used to determine who has completed the trail, certain standards will be put forth so that potential end-to-enders of any kind will know what is expected.
Please review the NCTA’s Board policy regarding End-to-End hikes. Please note the policy no longer requires an end-to-end hike (or thru-hike) to include walking across the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan (it’s only walkable on Labor Day).
Sample thru-hike itinerary – Check out our Hike itinerary sample to get an overview of the time needed to hike the Trail.
Links to long-distance hikers’ online journals and books – There have been a few people who have thru-hiked the NCT in recent years. Here are links to their websites…
- Luke “Strider” Jordan thru-hiked the NCT eastbound in 2013 (March to October) and published his journal, photos, and videos. Also check out his book Thru and Back Again.
- Al Learned also thru-hiked the NCT in 2013 but followed a different itinerary. Al started near Cincinnati and hiked east to Crown Point State Historic Site, then hiked east from Lake Sakakawea back to the Cincinnati area.
- In 2010, Joan Young became the first woman to hike the entire NCT after completing her 20-year section hike (check out her North Country Cache book)
- Nimblewill Nomad completed a 2009 eastbound thru-hike (his Odyssey on the NCT) and published a book
- Bart Smith completed a NCT section hike in 2007
- Andrew Skurka’s 2004-05 “C2C” trek, which included a westbound thru-hike of the NCT
- A journal from Ed Talone’s 1994 westbound thru-hike
Recognition for thru-hikes and longer distance hikes
Official recognition and patches for completing a thru-hike, entire state, or longer mileage (1,000; 2,000; 3,000; 4,000 mile clubs) are managed by Joan Young and the Long Distance Hiking Committee.
- Visit Joan’s unofficial North Country Trail Long Distance Hikers page here. This page includes lists of End-to-End finishers and the long distance mileage club recognition.