AMERICAN DISCOVERY TRAIL
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS for Planning a Trip on the ADT
How long is the ADT?
The ADT is about 6,800 miles long, but this figure combines the totals of the two routes across the Midwest. The coast-to-coast distance using the northern route (through Chicago) is 4,834 miles. The distance using the southern route (through St. Louis) is 5,057 miles. The distance across each state is shown in the State-by State Trail Directory on this website.
How long does it take to trek the ADT?
It depends on several variables: Your mode of travel (hike, run, bicycle, ride a horse—or a combination); your pace (physical conditioning and how hard you push yourself); how much time you use to rest, resupply, and sightsee; weather conditions (such as snow on mountain passes); and what level support you can arrange.
If you hike 15 miles a day, and take one rest day a week, it takes about 390 days (or 56 weeks) to cover 5,000 miles. Few people could match the hiking pace of Marcia and Ken Powers. They averaged more than 20 miles per day, including some 30-mile days, and took only four rest days on their 231-day trek. They left the Atlantic on Feb. 27 and reached the Pacific on Oct. 15. Bicycling would require at least five months; horseback riding at least a year.
Is the entire ADT marked?
The placement of signs on the ADT is a work in progress. In some places the trail is well-marked; Delaware has 8” X 12” ADT signs. In other places, especially on federal lands, permission to place ADT markers has yet to be obtained, and the trail user will have to rely on written descriptions and in some places the signage for local trails that the ADT follows. The trail is not marked from end-to-end as the Appalachian Trail is. One day it will be, but we are not there yet.
Where do I find the most current route information?
There is a general description at the State-by State Trail Directory. The most detailed and current turn-by-turn directions can be obtained through our merchandise store online or by calling 800-663-2387.
Where can I find maps?
There are no maps currently available, but the GPX files available on the Merchandise page are compatible with many mapping programs and visualization tools such as Google Earth.
What is the trail surface like?
The ADT is a new breed of long-distance trail—part city, part small town, part forest, part mountains, part desert—and the variety of trail surfaces you’ll encounter reflect that. About a third of the ADT is single-track trail. Another third goes through greenways, parks, rail-trail conversions, and open spaces, where the surface may be dirt, asphalt, crushed stone, etc. The last third is on roads, primarily country roads, both paved and unpaved, with light traffic, including farm vehicles, etc., but in some instances city sidewalks and highways.
What facilities are available along the ADT?
There are many public and private campgrounds in the national, state, county, or town parks and forests. A few are free but most are not. Many small town parks will allow self-powered trekkers to camp for one night. Many of the towns through which the trail passes contain motels, hotels, and bed-and-breakfasts. But long-distance travelers may have to use creativity and make adjustments in finding places to camp. It is essential that trail users respect private property. Some travelers have obtained permission from landowners to camp on their property.
What do I need to take on my trek?
You need the camping, backpacking, and/or day-hiking equipment appropriate to any self-propelled adventure. There are many publications on this topic in your local outdoor equipment stores, and information at websites of trail organizations such as the American Hiking Society and the Appalachian Trail Conference.
Is the entire ADT open to bicycles?
About 850 miles of the ADT are not open to bicycles because the trail is too rough, rocky, and/or steep for bikes to be practical or the local trail management policy excludes bicycle use (such as in wilderness areas). You can do the entire ADT by bicycle by using bicycle detours which are shown in some of the trail descriptions for each state or which can be obtained by consulting the state coordinator. Although a road bike may suffice in most of the Midwest, a mountain bike is required for other parts of the ADT. Many trail sections that are passable on a day ride are too difficult on a bicycle laden with camping gear.
Are horses allowed on the ADT?
Horses are allowed on most of the ADT. A few examples of the places where they are prohibited include the eastern 12 miles of the C&O Canal into Washington, D.C.; the Knobstone Trail and Adventure Trail in Indiana; most of the Katy Trail in Missouri (only 20 miles between Sedalia and Calhoun are open to horses); and many of the rail-trails in Iowa. In addition, where the trail passes through urban areas, equestrians may find the going difficult. The ADT Society is working on alternative equestrian routes, but crossing the country via horseback is probably the most logistically challenging transportation mode.
Can I take my dog on the ADT ?
The ADT Society has no policy regarding dogs, but the trail passes through many diverse jurisdictions that may have rules regarding dogs on their trails. The ADT goes through a number national and state parks and some of those do have restrictions, especially in wilderness areas.
Do I have to register to trek the ADT?
People do not have to register with the ADT Society to trek the ADT. The ADT is made up of many existing trails that are managed and maintained at the local level, and trail users should abide by local rules. At least one trail, in Iowa, requests that trail users register and has places at trailheads to do so. On some remote trails, especially in western states, we suggest that you stop at a local ranger office to let them know you are crossing their trails.
If you are trekking significant distances on the ADT we would like you to keep in touch regarding your progress and to report any problems you encounter during your trek, such as inaccurate or insufficient directions in our ADT Trail Directory, facilities we have listed that are no longer available, etc. Contact email@example.com