Appalachian Trail vs. GET

Short attention span version: the Appalachian Trail and the Great Eastern Trail are nothing alike but are exactly the same.

Long attention span version:

The Differences             
Appalachian Trail

  • 2,180 miles

  • White blazes that are consistent and completely reliable

  • A now-completed route with very few roadwalks

  • One guide needed, cheap and easy to order.  Maps available but not needed

  • Hundreds of shelters conveniently spaced

  • Dozens of hostels

  • Frequent outfitters in towns

  • Lots of other hikers

  • Local awareness of AT

  • Easy hitching into/out of towns

  • High point 6600 ft (TN/NC)

  • Lots of former hikers to answer all your questions about every conceivable detail.  Forums, dozens of Facebook groups, email listservs, etc.
Great Eastern Trail

  • 1,600-ish and growing*

  • Blue, white, green, yellow, teal, orange, red, and no blazes

  • A work in progress with perhaps 25 - 30% on rural roads**

  • Months of prep recommended and many guides plus compass and/or GPS required

  • About 20 shelters, often hundreds of miles apart

  • 2 hostels

  • Maybe 4 outfitters?

  • Few to no other hikers

  • Little awareness of GET

  • Well, you might get lucky...

  • High point 4300 ft (VA)

  • I'm the unofficial thru-hiker planner helper and I'll do what I can to hook you up with people who can answer whatever I can't.
* As sections are routed off of roads and into the woods, this mileage will climb.  A potential southern extension to Florida would also add mileage.
**Just for perspective, the AT was near 47% on rural roads when Earl Shaffer hiked it for the first time.  Something I initially dreaded, roadwalks were a bit of a break and they made resupply a breeze.  In some places, an official roadwalk is not yet designated, so you may be able to choose your own adventure in terms of route to connect the sections by foot.

  • The AT and the GET are both grand adventures.
  • They include rugged terrain, brutal climbs, and diverse environments.
  • Both will destroy your shoes!
  • The trail towns are welcoming and full of colorful locals.
  • They each have trail angels and trail magic in their own unique ways - your faith in humanity will likely be restored on either trail.
  • Both have places of intense beauty and places that require a sense of humor.
  • They will each test you mentally and physically. 
    •  I found the AT to be more physically challenging (more dramatic elevation gain/loss) but the GET was more mentally challenging for me (constantly checking location, consulting guides, just a lot more thinking involved).  The GET is still physically difficult and the AT was definitely mentally challenging, so either way your body and mind are both getting workouts.
  • They will both change your life.
This story about my AT hike explains why I feel so passionately about the GET.

Let me know if I missed something important! Thanks! -Someday/Jo


  1. I love Jo Notes! Cliff notes, nots'much. We're working on filling in some of the mapgaps here in NARROWS va...NATURALLY! Jo (Martin)

    1. Narrows is one of the best trail towns ever! Thanks for all you do for trails in your area!

  2. Interesting comparison Jo, thanks for taking the time to compile this information. Hope all is well with you and Bart!

  3. Hi Jo. Great List. An item you might want to add was your through hike schedule on the calendar. Not only that you started earlier in the year, but that you came through areas like the WV panhandle, Maryland, and Southern PA earlier in the summer when it is less dry here.

  4. Just to clarify one of your notes... The CDT isn't 30% on pavement. There are a lot of forest service roads and two track jeep roads in the middle of nowhere but this isn't much different than a trail. There are only a few stretches on actual paved roads.

    1. Thanks for the info! It's on my to-hike list but I haven't gotten to it yet. :)

  5. Tell us about your boots! What worked, what did not? Andrew Skurka has an interesting perspective on waterproof boots ....

    Curious to know if you agree. For a dayhike, I still use them ... but I can see how over many days they could actually be worse.

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