Little Triple Crown of Long Distance Hiking in a Year

Little Triple Crown of Long Distance Hiking in a Year

Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the 2,181-mile long Appalachian Trail in 2011. Liz, one of the most experienced woman hikers in the country, is known for hiking light and fast. She just got back from her hike on the Little Triple Crown, and Headsweats is happy to feature her blog post!

Part 1: The Long Trail

After I finished the Triple Crown of Hiking — the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail — I started hunting for other long distance hikes to complete. During the research process, I found the Little Triple Crown: three shorter trails that coincide with the famous trails in the “Big” Triple Crown for part of the time, but also venture into new mountain ranges I’ve never explored. The 274-mile Long Trail in Vermont coincides with the Appalachian Trail for 104 miles and then veers off into some of the steepest, most-up-and-down, rocky and rooty territory a long distance hiker ever encounters.

Dawn on Mansfield

The 211-mile long John Muir Trail travels the backbone of the High Sierra over eight mountain passes up to 13,200 feet, coinciding with the Pacific Crest Trail for 160 miles. The 486-mile long Colorado Trail rarely ventures below 10,000 feet over Colorado’s most mountainous regions and coexists with the Continental Divide Trail for 260 miles. These trails, although shorter than others I have hiked, often can involve more difficult logistics and planning: how to get to the trail? What to do about resupply in remote areas?

Steep slabs up Mansfield

Another challenge is that since the trails are in different areas of the country, what gear changes will I need to make for different climates? I also knew that since the trails are shorter, it would be possible to push myself harder. I’ll write about these trails in three parts, starting with the Long Trail. Below is a brief summary on my experience on each trip. For more details on each trail, and logistics and gear, check out my website:

The Long Trail

In early June, I hiked the trail from the Massachusetts-Vermont border to the Vermont-Canada border and watched the terrain get tougher, wilder, and more remote when it split from the Appalachian Trail and headed further north. Since I hit the trail so early in the season, I saw few people on the trail at all except in popular areas like the 4,000 footer, Mt. Abraham. Although the trail stays mostly in the trees, the views atop some steep, slabby 4,000 footers and the accompanying high altitude-high/latitude alpine vegetation were a real treat.


Unexpected obstacles: Humidity and longer roller-coaster-esque hauls between water sources made what I expected to be a well-hydrated adventure into an every-drop-counts/hope I don’t sweat all my water out challenge.

Awesome moments: spotting a bear (pretty rare for Vermont) and three porcupines.

Advice: Be prepared for steep 5,000+ feet of elevation gain a day. The Long Trail is one of the steepest trails I’ve hiked and its gradient stays consistent for most of the trail.

Headsweats for the trip: the Supervisor

In my next blog post, I’ll write about my the next trip: the John Muir Trail!

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