With the escalating popularity of the Appalachian Trail in recent years have come aspirant thru-hikers who want to start the trail early. When once the traditional “start day” for an A.T. hike was April 1st, some now venture forth in early March, and it’s not unknown to hear of a backpacker leaving for Katahdin in late February.
If you or someone you know should be straining at the bit to get started for Maine, I offer the following information to help you be informed and prepared for situations you may encounter as you head for the trail terminus in Georgia.
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy…
Weather. Winter holds its grip on the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine during the traditional “spring break” period of March and early April. Though temperatures in lowlands may be springlike in the South, the high elevations of the mountains experience weather comparable to New England. Annual snowfall in places (most notably the Smokies in Tennessee/North Carolina) exceeds 100 inches a year. Snow in March and April is common. But, wide temperature swings are the norm. Be prepared for temperatures in the teens (or even colder at elevations above 5000 feet in the South); also be prepared for some warmer days. Trees at high elevations will be bare until May in the South, so pack sunscreen. The least severe weather on the entire A.T. typically occurs in the northern Virginia/Maryland section of A.T., and Georgia, which have the most favorable combinations of low elevation and/or a southerly latitude. (published by the Appalachian Trail Conference [now known as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy], revised March, 2005; accessed February 1, 2013 – http://www.appalachiantrail.org/docs/default-document-library/spring-break-hiking-3-15-05_lep.pdf)