Everything you need to know about hiking the 100-mile wilderness 

In 2017 my husband and I set off to thruhike our way through 14 states of North America on the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail.  

Before you even set foot on trail, and then throughout the hike, you hear thrilling reports and trail whispers about certain sections. Unsurprisingly, they’re usually the most arduous, like the ‘Roller Coaster’ in Virginia, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the rocks of Pennsylvania… 

Above the 100 mile wilderness at sunset

Like the trail’s own check points or rites of passage, these sections are gruelling challenges in and of themselves putting even the hardiest hikers to the test – the 100 Mile Wilderness is just one of those sections, but perhaps the longest, toughest trial of them all.  

What to expect?

The 100-Mile Wilderness is considered by many the wildest section of the Appalachian Trail, and although it can be hiked in either direction, the majority entering are northbound hikers or NOBOs, nearing the end of their adventure at around mile 2,149. 

Wild and serene pine forests, far-reaching mountain views, cerulean skies, mirror lakes, winding plank walkways over bogs, the undulating and breath-taking wilderness is spectacular in all ways.  

Photo credit: Sectionhiker.com

The trail guides you over Big Wilson Stream, to stunning Little Wilson Falls, up and down steep and rocky sections through the Barren-Chairback Range; over Big Boardman Mountain, to Mountain View Pond and then to the summit of White Cap – the highest peak in Moosehead Lake region, for the chance to glimpse Mount Katahdin – the NOBO thruhiker’s finish line. 

Coming from the UK the entire Appalachian Trail felt remote but hiking in Maine, and this section did have a unique feel of isolation. Perhaps it was the anticipation and knowing that supplies were even further away, but whatever it was, it was one of my favourite sections. 

How to hike the 100 Mile wilderness?

Thruhike the Appalachian Trail or skip the 2000-mile warm-up and take on the wildness as a beautifully wild adventure of its own. You can even add on an extra 15 miles and head up Mount Katahdin for a more challenging finish. 

Find the trail on HiiKER, download the map, and plan your hike. 

Where does the 100 Mile Wilderness start? 

Map of the 100 mile wilderness section of the Appalachian trail on HiiKER

The trail is located between Monson, Maine, and Abol Bridge, just south of Baxter State Park. For us, it began in Monson; after rest and restoration at The Lakeshore House Lodge & Pub, we set out on this, the second to last section of the great Appalachian Trail. 

How long does it take to hike the 100 mile wilderness? 

Most hikers take between 6 – 10 days, which means carrying enough supplies or arranging a resupply drop-off from a hostel. The terrain should not be underestimated, if in doubt, plan for longer.

Photo Credit: Digital dirtbag

We had our ‘trail legs’ after 2000+ miles and knew we could handle 20 miles per day over the arduous mountainous terrain so we carried 5 days of food and completed it in that time. We also had the added motivation to reach the finish line on Mount Katahdin before Baxter State Park closed for the season.

When to go? 

Hiking the wilderness in late June and throughout July, or from September to early October is your best bet for avoiding too many bugs, busy August crowds and for more comfortable camping, especially if you are planning on sleeping in the lean-to shelters or hiking light. We hiked the 100 miles in late October with very lightweight gear so it started getting cold.


Expect and plan for all weathers; even if the weather is perfect, river crossings mean you’re likely to have wet feet at some stage. Pack layers, spare socks and if your timings are flexible wait out the bad weather for a more enjoyable wilderness experience. 

Training for the wilderness

For the best experience ensure you’re fit enough to tackle the challenging 100 miles. It’s advised that you can hike at least 10 miles a day in a mountainous region continuously for 10 days. The trail undulates, with rocky scrambly sections, taking on peaks such as White Cap Mountain at 3,654 ft so it’s important that you can manage the miles, the terrain, the elevation, the weather and continuous daily hiking to reach the end. 

Photo Credit: Digital Dirtbag

It’s a good idea to take on some shorter long-distance hikes before you set off as part of your training. Find multi-day hikes near you on your hiking app so you can get some miles in, practice with your gear, and build your confidence and skills in all weathers and on varied terrain. 

Have a safety & exit plan

As you enter the wilderness there’s a hiker register and a caution sign warning you not to attempt the section unless you have a ‘minimum of 10 days supplies and are fully equipped’. There are logging roads so you aren’t completely stranded but it’s important not to underestimate ‘the longest wilderness section of the entire Appalachian Trail.’ It is a remote area so preparation is key to staying safe. 

  • Sign the register 
  • Download an offline map on your thruhiking app.
  • Take a map and compass
  • Phone reception is intermittent, but sometimes possible at the peaks but don’t rely on it.
  • Carry a GPS device like a SPOT GPS Tracker or a Garmin inReach in case of an emergency
  • Prearrange a food resupply from a ‘nearby’ hostel. Shaw’s Hiker Hostel is a popular choice. Write down their number and keep it somewhere dry in case you need to bail
  • Turn your phone off to save battery for emergencies
  • Tell family and friends when you are entering and your planned finish date
  • Avoid swimming alone in any lakes or rivers and take care when crossing any rivers
  • Plan in an extra day in case of bad weather on trail stopping you from covering the miles. 
  • Stay hydrated, stay warm and have spare dry, warm layers to change into – you WILL get wet
  • Carry a first aid kit with an emergency foil space blanket
Max conquering Katahdin

If you’re prepared, fit enough and up for a challenge then the 100 Mile Wilderness is certainly a long-distance hiking trail for the bucket list. Like any hiking trip, if you feel ready and you have a plan you can relax and enjoy the ride. Having a safety plan and an exit strategy; arranging a slack pack of resupply drop-off so you don’t have to carry all your food; being flexible so you can adjust your timings should terrible weather come in, or appropriate gear and grit to get through the weather if you can’t change it.

Or perhaps you’re planning on hiking the whole Appalachian Trail, in which case you have some big miles ahead, but don’t let the wilderness worry you. If you’re heading northbound the trail will prepare you sufficiently, and if your heading southbound then Mount Katahdin and the Hundy will kick your butt but you’ll get your trail legs quick and jump straight in to the flow of the hike, so good luck and happy trails!