Hike the best of the Appalachian Trail in a spirited Overland group.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is the stuff of dreams. But few people have six months to spend hiking. So here’s what we do: over the course of two weeks, we hike what is arguably the most dramatic and physically challenging part of the trail. We cover a dozen 4,000-foot peaks, including the Presidential Range and Mount Washington. It’s the AT distilled to its most spectacular, most rewarding essence.
On the trail we’ll see great beauty and learn a lot, too. We’ll start north of Hanover, New Hampshire, where the views begin to open up. As we tackle the long days of hiking on challenging terrain, we will learn about backcountry camping, navigation and Leave No Trace practices. We’ll cross paths with AT thru-hikers, and become integrated into the trail’s unique culture. With each mile covered and each new challenge faced, we will become close through time together, stories, laughter and fun. As much as the beauty and the learning, the camaraderie counts.
Your Overland leaders will take care of you. They want this to be the best two weeks of your summer—maybe even your entire year. They will support and encourage you, guide and teach you. Every step of the way.
From the top of Mount Washington, we’ll look back proudly on all we have accomplished. But the Appalachian Trail Challenge is more than just hiking. It’s great hiking, sure, and amazing beauty, certainly, but just as importantly it’s about fun and friendship, about sharing something you enjoy doing with others in a spirited, enthusiastic, positive Overland group.
The Appalachian Trail Challenge was the best two weeks of my summer. I pushed myself more than I thought I ever could and grew so much as a person. I cannot thank our leaders enough for being so awesome and helping my whole group accomplish so much on the AT!
- Annie Hockin, San Francisco, California
Two weeks of challenge, adventure and fun on the Appalachian Trail.
Days 1-3: Trip Start & Moosilauke
In Williamstown, we’ll check our gear, organize food supplies and spend the night camping in town. The next morning, Overland support staff will drive us north past Hanover, New Hampshire, where we’ll begin our hike on the Appalachian Trail. Averaging about eight miles a day, we’ll get to know one another and get accustomed to backpacking. We will begin on rolling terrain and soon ascend to the dramatic summit of Mount Moosilauke for expansive views of the White Mountains.
Days 4 & 5: Franconia Notch
We’ll hike up and over the Kinsmans, past beautiful mountain lakes and down into Franconia Notch where we’ll rest and celebrate our first few days on the trail.
Days 6-8: Franconia Ridge & The Pemigewasset Wilderness
Well-rested and refueled, we’ll head up and across Franconia Ridge, averaging 10 miles a day. In this section of the Whites, the terrain is rugged with amazing views of the valley and peaks around us, including the Pemigewasset Wilderness to the south. We will spend a night in a hut run by the Appalachian Mountain Club, giving us the chance to meet other hikers and experience hut life.
Days 9-11: The Presidential Range
During the last three days of our trip, we’ll tackle some of New England’s toughest hiking as we head across the Presidential Range and up and over Mount Washington. Averaging 10 miles a day, we’ll summit multiple 4,000 foot peaks and stay in two more of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s alpine huts.
Days 12 & 13: Trip End
We’ll spend a relaxing evening at a local frontcountry campground before driving back to Williamstown to celebrate our accomplishments on the Appalachian Trail Challenge.
4 nights of backcountry camping at established campsites, most of which have pit toilets.
5 nights of frontcountry camping. Campgrounds will have flush toilets and showers.
3 nights in Appalachian Mountain Club huts with toilets, running water and sleeping bunks. Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
We travel light at Overland.
- Internal Frame Backpack
65-85 liters or 4,000-5,100 cubic inches. Before purchasing a backpack, find your backpack size by measuring your torso length and your hips (instructions are available here). We recommend getting fitted at a store and trying on multiple packs.
- Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
- Synthetic T-Shirt (2)
- Synthetic Shorts (2)
- Fleece Pants (1)
Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
- Synthetic Hiking Pants (optional)
Lightweight and quick dry material. Non-cotton warmup style pants are acceptable.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Underwear (5)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
- Gloves or Mittens (1)
- Winter Hat (1)
- Hat with Visor (1)
- Bandana (optional)
- Fleece or Synthetic/Down Jacket (1)
Medium to heavyweight fleece jacket or lightweight, compressible, synthetic (Primaloft or similar) or down jacket.
- Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material (e.g., Gore-Tex, or similar) is required. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
- Waterproof Pack Cover
If your backpack does not come with a cover, we recommend buying a cover one size larger than your pack.
- Synthetic Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact synthetic sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or less. A synthetic sleeping bag is required for this trip; down is not appropriate as it does not insulate if wet. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
¾-length or full-length closed cell foam (thin and firm) or self-inflating.
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
Please bring an extra battery/batteries.
- Water Bottle/Water Bladder
One 1-liter bottle. A 2-3 liter Camelbak or similar water carrier is strongly recommended.
- Adjustable Trekking Poles
To add stability, reduce strain on the knees and improve balance while crossing unstable surfaces.
- Gaiters (optional)
Calf-height, waterproof gaiters to protect your legs and feet when hiking through brush, across snow fields or streams.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Choose comfortable boots designed for hiking with a pack (i.e., mid to high cut for ankle support). Boots should be waterproof. Break them in before the start of your trip.
- Camp Shoes
Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or lightweight tennis shoes are ideal.
- Pre-Trip Training Calendar
Please bring your completed and signed calendar to trip start.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (4)
To waterproof your gear.
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- Photo Identification
If you are not flying: Overland does not require photo identification. If you are flying within the U.S.: The TSA website has two relevant pieces of information. (1) “TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States.” This language indicates that TSA staff can insist that an under-18 year old who does not have a companion (we interpret this as a companion who is 18 or over traveling with them—not just checking them in) must have TSA-compliant identification. Our experience is that this requirement is inconsistently enforced but, since it might be enforced, we recommend that all Overland students who are flying to/from their trip have TSA-compliant identification. (2) “Contact the airline for questions regarding specific ID requirements for travelers under 18.” This is always smart to do as airline policies vary widely and change frequently.
- Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
Each student should bring a debit card, an ATM card or a prepaid Visa card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole). Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 to the debit/ATM/Visa card (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses.
Things to know
- We travel light at Overland; please only bring the items on this list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring your smart phone (or any other electronics).
Please visit the FAQ tab for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- If you are flying to your trip, wear your hiking boots and carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the plane in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time.
- Pack everything in your backpack. Do not bring additional luggage.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
Please schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
Questions? Call us: 413.458.9672.
- What is the weather like on Appalachian Trail Challenge?
You can expect typical summery weather with lots of sunshine, some rain, warm days and cool nights.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child's trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Albany International Airport (ALB) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a trip. If your child is not flying to the start of the trip, he or she should be dropped off and picked up in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
- How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?
Groups typically shower and do laundry once a week.
- What do you do about bears?
Traveling as a large group goes a long way in preventing unwanted attention from wildlife. In addition, we hike in well-traveled areas and train all of our staff in backcountry skills and awareness. We instruct our leaders how to set up camp and store food in ways that reduce the chances of attracting wildlife, including bears. We’ll brief students on these routines at the start of the trip. Both of our leaders also carry bear spray in case of an emergency.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for their interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific trip and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland's admissions process.
When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will: (1) call you to acknowledge our receipt of your application, (2) send you an email with a link to our enrollment forms, and (3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card. If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss options. For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers. Your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency. If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send an expensive smartphone. Instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child. To that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer. Outside of office hours, our answering service provides emergency coverage. Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or other medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- Can I send mail to my child during a trip?
Getting a letter, card or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting. Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to a traditional camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and, sometimes, even when it does, post offices, campgrounds and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups. For these reasons:
1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards or postcards only. If mail is late, lost or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.
2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).
3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.
4. Please allow one week for postal delivery to U.S. mail stops.
5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.
Backpack the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Students going on Appalachian Trail Challenge should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- A multi-day backpacking trip designed for first-time backpackers
- A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Appalachian Trail Challenge, you will hike on well-established trails over a wide range of terrain, from meadows to hills to mountains. While backpacking, you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag and pad), some group gear, food and water. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker's weight. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you... and for everyone in your group.
- 4 weeks before your trip: four 90-minute hikes in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: four 2-hour hikes in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: four 2.5-hour hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: five 3-hour hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 30% of your body weight.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland trip.