At first I thought, “Wow, this is easy! AWOL’s AT guide has been ordered, Sandra Friends FT Guide, too. 3,500 miles down, only 1,200 more to go!” Then I came across a bad sign… some guidebook for the International Appalachian Trail that’s written in french, a whole slough of broken links to trail resources, and overall next to no solid information. If you find yourself in the same pickle, don’t fret my dear hiker!! This situation will soon pass. I hadn’t yet dug deeply enough! Maybe at first my problem was looking at the ECT as one very long trail, when really I should have been thinking along the lines of planning a thru hike of each connecting trail separately. Which turned out to be easier than it sounds!
So here I hope to make it even easier. A nice list of what I’ll be using in regards to maps and guides, which I hope to update later with notes on how each resource helped.
I will say that this is far from the only resources out there available, and maybe I can include a bit more than even I am using. The rabbit hole goes very deep my friend. My original issue of having to little information became an issue of having way to much information. Not the worst of situations to be in!
Now before I begin…
I’d really like to thank Sycamore, who finished a flip-flop thru hike of the ECT, just months before writing this. He has offered me assistance(or maybe I forced it out of him!) He helped me pair down the research I had done to what is most important. I had a million questions ready to fire, and he has been very kind in answering my emails. Sycamore also unknowingly is the reason I’m doing the whole trail, and not settling for only doing that which is inside the US. I had mentioned I was going to be following in his footsteps the coming year, and what he said ruined me. “You’re going to LOVE Quebec!!” Dammit, I was planning on starting in Maine… not Canada!! Thanks for the push. I needed it. Secretly I was already disappointed to be missing the Canadian portion(and running the risk of not being a true ECT thru hiker.) You can find Sycamores amazing videos from his long journey here: Part 1 (AT+IAT) / Part 2 (BMT+PT+FT) and his journal here: Trailjournals.com
My 4,700 mile journey begins in July. This is a glimpse into the madness that is my planning thus far. Imagine all the stuff I didn’t find worthy of sharing.
- The ECT in Florida – An overview
- Overseas Heritage Trail ebook – Very tempting, but I probably won’t use this. “Contains step-by-step details to the hike, including our top picks for hiker services, motels, campgrounds, nature along the way, a map of how to connect to the mainland, and where to find the tiki bars.”
- FT Guide – Everything you could ever want in a trail guide book, and more!!
- FT App – Can be downloaded for your smart phone, and maps purchased through the app.
- FT Paper Maps – I will not be using these, and just going with the guide + app.
- Florida Trail Class of *whatever* Facebook page – Search for it. Wonderful resource full of experienced hikers.
Notes for later:
2018 reflections – The app is indeed your best bet, but the guide book will still have much use in planning(though you don’t really need to ‘plan’ too much besides the keys. Speaking of the ECT extension from the FT to Key West is in the guidebook! and you will need that. Don’t bother with the paper maps.
Permits, the Florida Trail has quite a few permits that should be aquired prior to entering certain areas. For the most part… they are easy to get/download/print/whatever. Something worth noting.
The Florida Trail app is awesome! Totally 100% worth getting and using on a thru hike, or even just section hiking, and day hiking.
Alabama / Georgia
- The Pinhoti Trail Alliance Facebook Group – Great place for asking questions. They helped me decided what maps I would use.
- Alabama Roadwalk – This not only starts at the Florida Trail, but ends at the Appalachian Trail! That’s right, all the way through to the AT. I’ll probably carry both guides, for good measure, and because I didn’t come across another Benton Mackaye guide. As to the roadwalk from what I’ve been told there are multiple different routes to take in between the PT and FT. This is just one. Pick your poison.
- Pinhoti Trail Guide – The official trail guide, and I believe the most up to date.
- Pinhoti Trail Towns / Water Information
- Pinhoti Trail GPS Waypoints – Made by Gubbool. For those GPS users out there, this is specifically what Sycamore told me he used. Worked for him! Unfortunately I’m not a GPS user.
- Alabama Pinhoti Topo Map – This is made by Mr. Parkay.
- Georgia Pinhoti Topo Map – This is made by Mr. Parkay.
- Benton Mackaye Trail Topo Map – Guess who… Mr. Parkay! Thank you Mr. Parkay!! I’ll be printing this series of maps myself, and this is what I’ll be using for navigation.
- Pinhoti Trail Forest Service Maps – I won’t be using these but I did buy one, it’s exceptionally big, water proof, tear proof, and in general really nice. Talladega NF / Chattahoochee NF
Notes for later:
2018 reflections – The “Alabama Roadwalk” PDF guide above is all you need. Sure find maps or whatever but it’s not necessary I don’t think with some common sense and basic awareness. The entire 175mi roadwalk through southern AL is blazed yellow, and if you plug where you’re going into google maps that gives you almost the same exact route to walk, so yeah. That same guide also includes the PT and BMT all the way to Springer Mtn. It truely is ‘one guide to rule them all.’ I personally needed nothing more, though keep in mind all of these guides are old. Some stores are now closed, some rivers dried, etc. Don’t rely particularly on anything, though it still isn’t much of an issue given all the roads, I sometimes would walk a random one for a couple miles to gas stations. Not the most remote part of the country. The PT is blazed mostly well, as is the BMT sans a couple small intersections, though it is again easy to deduce the way either through a very small bout of trial and error, or asking yourself, “if I were a trail'” where would I go? Have fun, camping on the AL roadwalk is not to be trusted, be extremely careful, extremely safe, and above all else extremely stealthy. Do not get yourself shot over some roadwalk.
I decided to save myself from the wide world of printing ALLLLL of Mr. Parkays maps, and instead use the Forest Service maps instead. This may be a mistake, as they’re not as good, and somewhat confusing to look at. We will see. (June 25 2016, prior to leaving.)
- AWOL AT Guide – You shouldn’t need anything else. I had a friend tell me to just use the PDF file instead of the actual book. Could be a good way to save half a pound.
Notes for later:
2018 reflections – Still the best guide for the AT, and the only real resource you need. Beyond that, if you have bonus money the guthooks app is pretty nice.
A lot of people really like the phone apps for the AT. Like Guthooks or something. I’m already sending hella resupply boxes, so paper for me is what I like most. I’m really only carrying a few pages at a time, ditching them as I go.
International Appalachian Trail
- Maine – This site offers some maps, a guide, and text directions/data. The data and maps for free! I myself will be skipping the guide.
- New Brunswick – Text directions, and a crude map. From what I hear the trail is well marked and it’s mostly on railroad beds, which makes for easy navigation. More in the way of a map could be needed here.
- Quebec – Map packet (6 maps), Companion Guide, and membership(support support!) can be found here. I will be using the maps and the guide. You will also need a passport for this section, also found on this website.
- Newfoundland – This is all I’ve really looked at being I’m not doing the Newfoundland portion of the trail. You’re on your own! Unless some kind soul wants to do the foot work and contribute to this article.
Notes for later:
2018 reflections – You 100% need the guide and the maps for Quebec, and I highly recommend studying the New Brunswick part hard, It isn’t always blazed, and goes from rails to trails, to roadwalk, and back to rails a couple times without warning physically that you needed to leave the original path you’ve been walking. I recommend figuring out a way to print sections of the “crude map” for NB especially surrounding the towns the trail goes through just to have an idea of turns you must make here or there. Or maybe even writing your own little notes “turn here, etc”
There is actually a guidebook for the Maine section, though I don’t specifically know where to get it. I’m sure an email to the org could get you one, or maybe their website. I found one in a shelter and carried it, and very much enjoyed it. It has many maps within, If you can’t get one, no big deal! it has almost the exact same text as the free guide you can find online, and print. Maine was marked mostly well, and I had very little trouble.
The Passporte! Quebec! You NEED to contact the IAT-QC office either by phone or email to aquire a permit to hike through Quebec. Its worth it yo, $350. Seriously, Quebec is fucking incredible, and the gem of this entire trail. The money supports them, and goes towards the use of their 4 walled shelters(that are extremely nice,) all up the trail there. They will ask for your itinerary, which is pretty easy. Once you have the guidebook, make a spreadsheet with all the campsites you plan on staying at, and the dates you think you’ll be there. The Passporte can not be skipped! You will be asked to show it at some point. I think in that price above includes a reservation for one of the parks. If you call ahead(they’re very friendly) they will explain what you need for the crossing of QC.
Maine, prior to leaving I looked up a bunch of trail maps for the IAT in Maine, specifically what is north of Mt. Katahdin directly. There are a few different options, and I felt it worth noting them, and carrying those crude, home printed maps.
This has been an overview of my maps, and guides for the ECT! It’s been a truly maddening experience finding all of this, but I am stronger for it! The next time around on a more difficult trail will remind me of the joys I’ve had doing this one. Now that this is over I can focus on other things like food, and resupply! 4 months to go, and my to-do list is dwindling fast.
For those interested in extra information I have more saved, feel free to contact me, and maybe I can help. If you’re looking to thru hike any one of these trails maybe this post will be of use to you as well. After all the ECT is simply a combination of multiple different thru hikes that all happen to connect ever so neatly.
I need to stretch my legs! I need to get out and hike!
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Jupiter I have been trying to reach you on Google. I have many questions about mail drops and planning the trail as well as obtaining the guide maps. Is there anyway I could email you with a list of questions?
There is only one mail drop needed the entire way and that’s in quebec, gaspesie national park, and you send to either the discovery center or the gite du Mont albert. They’re right next to each other so it doesn’t matter. You’ll see it in the guide, and that helps split up a long way without options. Beyond that every section has a lot of roads to hitch from or towns that aren’t far apart.
As for the maps, they’re all available through the links provided here. A lot of which aren’t necessary if you find yourself without. I didn’t wind up using any for the pinhoti, BMT, or Florida. And the entire Alabama roadwalk is blazed yellow.
All of these trails connect so neatly, and require so little skill or route finding it’s almost the least of your worries beyond how far between towns or maybe water which is handled in the guides.
Jupiterhike at gmail dot com
Some of your links say the page does not exist. I have been attempting some of my own research for some of those but just I’d give you the heads up. Also, some of the guides are not available for purchase anymore so I’ve been finding my own version of that as well.
Hi, this is Coco and I’m going to start the ECT on November the 3rd 2019, I have little to none experience, my dream was to hike after I retire but I develop arthritis since it is in early state I retire early, (I will beat it walking) I have not much cash but I’m planing to survive with an extreme tight budget, I live in Florida, I’m originally from Peru, male medium weight, 55 with a very high motivation, what do you think about my start date, any suggestions? I”m planning to get food on the way ( ramen and oats je-je) and I’m backpacking 4 seasons and hoping my gear last for ever. I think if the trail is marked maybe I can avoid the guides and maps, but provably I can’t avoid the permits (how much about the permits? and witch ones I must need to get) please let me know if you have any advice, I can’t open Mr. Parkay maps but I have the guide from the FT to the AT. Is there a guide from the Keys to the FT? is it mark? Thanks in advance.
Just wondering how many days did it take you to walk from the us boarder to the tip of key west in days?
You could go back and count, I think I kept pretty good records on this site of everything. If I had to guess, 5 months. 3 on the AT, 1 on the FT(I set a speed record keep in mind this is not a normal timeline) and 1 for everything else.