Triple Crown of Hiking
The Triple Crown of Hiking informally refers to the three major U.S. long-distance hiking trails:
- Appalachian Trail – 2,193 miles (3,529 km), between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine and traversing North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
- Pacific Crest Trail – 2,654 miles (4,270 km), between Mexico and Canada following the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range and traversing Washington, Oregon, and California.
- Continental Divide Trail – 3,100 miles (5,000 km), between Mexico and Canada following the Continental Divide along the Rocky Mountains and traversing Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
The total length of the three trails is about 7,947 miles (12,789 km); vertical gain is more than 1,000,000 feet (190 mi; 300 km). A total of 22 states are visited if the three trails are completed. The American Long Distance Hiking Association – West (ALDHA–West) is the only organization that recognizes this hiking feat. At the ALDHA–West gathering, held each fall, the Triple Crown honorees are recognized and awarded plaques noting their achievement. As of November 2019, 440 hikers have been designated Triple Crowners by ALDHA-West since 1994.
The first person to ever achieve The Triple Crown of Hiking was Eric Ryback. Ryback completed the Appalachian Trail in 1969 as a 16-year-old. He completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 1970 and chronicled it in his 1971 book The High Adventure of Eric Ryback: Canada to Mexico on Foot. Ryback completed the Continental Divide Trail in 1972 and chronicled it in his second book, The Ultimate Journey (now out of print).
In 2013, Reed Gjonnes, age 13, became the youngest person to thru-hike all three trails to complete the Triple Crown. A thru-hike is defined as completing a long trail in a single trip. She hiked all three trails as continuous northbound hikes in one hiking season each. Along with her father Eric Gjonnes, she hiked The Pacific Crest Trail in 2011, the Appalachian Trail in 2012, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2013.
As of 2018, Christian Geiger, age 9, is the youngest person to have hiked all three trails to complete the Triple Crown. Christian, known by his trail name Buddy Backpacker, completed all three trails with his step-father Dion Pagonis. Together they completed the Appalachian Trail in 2013 when Buddy was 5, the Pacific Crest Trail when he was 6 in 2014, and began the Continental Divide Trail in the spring of 2016 and completed it in September 2017 when he was 9.
On September 15, 2019, combat veteran Will Robinson, age 38, became the first African American male to complete the Triple Crown. Will thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017, the Appalachian Trail in 2018, and completed the Continental Divide Trail in 2019. Will's trail name is Akuna, from the Swahili phrase Hakuna Matata meaning "no worries," and made popular by a song in The Lion King.
Elsye Walker, known as chardonnay on the trail, is the first black woman to hike all three trails to complete the Triple Crown. She thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015, the Appalachian Trail in 2016/2018, and in 2017 she thru-hiked the Continental Divide Trail.
By the end of 2018, only ten people had completed the Triple Crown within one calendar year. “Flyin’” Brian Robinson was the first, and Heather “Anish” Anderson was the only woman. The three long distance hikes can't be done continuously in one season because of snow, but are generally attempted in sections.
Calendar-year Triple Crown
The most prestigious accomplishment in long-distance hiking is the completion of the Triple Crown of Hiking in a single calendar year. The first person to hike the Triple Crown in a calendar year was Brian Robinson, who completed the Triple Crown in 2001. The first woman to complete the challenge was Heather Anderson (AKA Anish) in 2018. On December 29, 2018, Tyler "The Prodigy" Lau, became the first Person of Color and first Asian American to complete the Calendar Year Triple Crown.
- Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA–East)
- Backpacking (hiking)
- European long-distance paths, 11 European long-distance paths
- Long-distance trail
- Long-distance trails in the United States
- National Millennium Trails, 16 trails reflecting U.S. history and culture
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