Reasons to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail Southward
Many folks who attempt the AT are NOBOs or north bounders. Here are some reasons to start in Maine and be a SOBO.
1. Mt. Katahdin
Baxter state park and Mt. Katahdin close in mid Fall. This causes many thru hikers to either miss the deadline when the park closes or to break up their hike by “flipping” their route by coming off the trail, get to Katahdin and hike back to where they left the trail
2. Less likely to be caught by unseasonable weather.
Many NOBOs start very early in the Spring in GA only to run into late winter weather. By waiting for Katahdin to open, a hiker will have seasonable (not necessarily comfortable) weather for the whole trip.
3. Gear choices are easier.
For the most part, the same clothing and gear you need in ME in early summer will also work well down south much later in the year.
4. It’s fun to be different.
Approx, 90% of thru-hikers travel north. Be different.
5. Do the hard stuff first.
Most of the hardest sections of the AT are in the Northeast. Get these out of the way while you are still at your freshest.
6. Avoid hiker bubbles
As the season progresses, there develops larger groups (or bubbles) of hikers traveling the same sections at the same time. By traveling against the grain, you will be on most of the trail with fewer folks.
7. You might end up being a minor celebrity.
News and stories travel the AT among hikers, trail angels, and crews faster than anyone can walk. By doing something different, you may realize that fans and supporters of your story start showing up the farther you go.
8. There is no deadline.
This will be controversial. Conventional wisdom says SOBOs actually have less time to complete their hike based on typical seasonal weather patterns. However, since no other sections close, you could theoretically take a year or more wandering south.
9. It’s down hill all the way.
Of course that’s not true, and you will be climbing up AND back down Katahdin right off the back. But Katahdin is roughly 1500 ft. higher than Springer in GA so technically downhill.
10. You get a lot of practice being wrong.
As you plan your trek and more people learn your plan, you will bump up against lots of advice telling you you are doing it wrong. It is easy to refute each of the reasons presented here and there are probably many more suggesting SOBO is a bad idea. They might even be right. Only one way to find out.