It takes true grit to commit to a thru-hike. You must be in good physical shape, have plenty of endurance, maintain a positive mindset, and be able to roll with the punches. This can be difficult for even the most seasoned adult hiker, let alone a child. Yet each year children as young as 5-years-old manage to tackle the seemingly impossible. These 8 individuals are some of the youngest thru-hikers in the world who have collectively hiked thousands of miles, with some even tackling the nation’s longest trails solo. They’ve unequivocally earned our respect, and after reading this, will surely earn yours too.
Note: Due to the nature of this post, we will not be sharing images of the hikers below in respect for their privacy.
Neva Warren | Appalachian Trail
At just 15-years-old, Neva Warren officially became to youngest thru-hiker to complete the Appalachian trail on her own. She began her solo journey in Georgia on April 1, 2013 and finished in Maine on October 22, 2013. While she’s always been an outdoor enthusiast, Neva didn’t pick up her love for hiking until she hiked a 3-mile loop in Shenandoah the October prior to her trek on the AT. After that, she knew she wanted to become the youngest solo AT thru-hiker.
Christian “Buddy Backpacker”| Pacific Crest Trail & Appalachian Trail
It’s an incredible feat for adults to complete all 2,686 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s nearly unbelievable for a 6-year-old to do the same. Having already completed the Appalachian Trail with his parents and becoming the all-time youngest AT hiker the year prior, Christian “Buddy Backpacker” was ready to take on an even greater challenge by hiking the entire PCT. Buddy set out on the PCT in April 2014 and finished 8 months later. His sights are now set on the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail and will earn Buddy the title of Youngest Triple Crowner.
Nathan and Maddy Kallin | Appalachian Trail
A family that hikes together stays together. Such is the case for the Kallin family which includes parents Dave and Emily and their two children Nathan, 9, and Maddy, 8. The family set out to hike the entire Applachian Trail on March 31 and completed their trek in 154 days on August 31. Even more impressive? Nathan and Maddy managed to finish second and fourth grade by studying and doing homework on the trail. Third and fifth grade also couldn’t wait so the kids started their next year of schooling the day after their return.
Sara Shaffer-Harris | John Muir Trail
When Paul Harris told people he would be taking his 6-year-old daughter Sara on a month-long thru-hike he got similar responses, “What the heck are you thinking?” 9,000 feet, 10-mountain passes, 47,000 feet of elevation gain and 220-miles from Yosemite to the top of Mt. Whitney is a lot for anyone to take on. Let alone a elementary school-aged girl. Sara and her mother and father started their journey on July 7 and despite naysayers, they successfully finished their thru-hike on July 28. The family documented their incredible journey from start to finish on their blog Parenting Off the Grid.
Laina Rose | Pacific Crest Trail
Laina Rose hadn’t even graduated high school when she set out to hike to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail. At barely 5 feet tall and hiking almost entirely on her own, Laina hauled a 30-pound backpack on her trek, completing an average of 20 to 25 miles a day. She set out on her 2,650-mile journey in April and traveled more than 1,500 miles before she came down with the flu and had to return home. Though Rose didn’t complete the entire PCT, we give her major props for even attempting in the first place.
Reed Gjonnes | Triple Crown
At the time, only 200 people had completed the more than 7,900 miles that make up the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail. One of those hikers was teenage Reed Gjonnes of Salem, Oregon. Reed took her first backpacking trip at the ripe age of 4-years-old and immediately set her sights on the Pacific Crest Trail. Her father, long distance hiker Eric Gjonnes, made her wait until she was 11-years-old before taking on the longest hikes in America. For the next three years Reed and her father completed all three of the longest trails in America to claim the Triple Crown of Hiking. The youngest person to complete the Triple Crown before Reed was 24.
Kristen Gates | Triple Crown
At a young age, Kristen Gates grew fond of outdoor adventures. By the time she was 15, Kristen and her father had hiked all of the 48 peaks above 4,000 feet in New Hampshire, finishing with Mt. Liberty. During the summer of 2013, Kristin walked across the entire state of Alaska from the Canadian Border to the Chukchi Sea on an unmarked 1,000-mile trail she mapped out herself. The entire adventure took her 51 days to complete. Perhaps her biggest hiking accomplishment: becoming one of the youngest people to complete the 7,000+ mile Triple Crown.
Cole and Tess Murray | Appalachian Trail
It can be difficult enough to hike with one child on a thru-hike, let alone twins. Lisa Murray and her 4-year-old twins, Cole and Tess, did just that when they decided to tackle a large portion of the Appalachian Trail. Their goal was to hike 1,020 miles, starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia and ending at Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. Lisa’s 10-year-old son, Tom, also made an appearance on the trek, hiking with the trio for 467 miles to Damascus before he returned home for a sailing camp. They ended up making it to Harpers Ferry but that wasn’t the end for the Murray family. They picked back up where they stopped the next year, reaching the trail’s other endpoint in Mount Katahdin.