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 or on wide open prairies. 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.