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Trail Magic

Trail Magic
Trail Magic

There’s a tradition of charity unto others called Trail Magic on the Appalachian Trail and other long distance trails in the US. It takes many forms. Sometimes, people will leave cold drinks and snacks at trail crossings for thru-hikers, or they’ll pick hikers up on the road and take them home for a few days of rest and food. It’s a great tradition and one of those magical things I like about hiking trips.

I’ve benefited from it many times myself, mostly in the form of rides in remote places from complete strangers who have kindly picked me up, sometimes in pouring rain, and gone out of their way to make sure I made it safely to my destination. Just last month, I came out of the woods about 5 miles from a paved road in the middle of nowhere and a guy in a pickup truck, stopped, rolled his window down, and asked me if I needed a ride. I wasn’t even hitching. He used to hike in those parts 20 years ago and was just visiting the area for the weekend after moving 1,000 miles away. I was back at my car in 20 minutes. Stuff like that can’t be chance.

I go out of my way to contribute to the pool of trail magic whenever I can by doing what I can for other hikers who need a hand or by giving people who I know are regular trail angels a little extra cash to pass along to someone who needs it more than I do. It evens out in the end and you never know when you’ll need a little trail magic, yourself.


  1. I have both received it and given it. The late summer of 2009 when I was pregnant with Walker I was too tired to hike much so we did a lot of it. Saw many people many times over as I figured out when they would be at certain places on the PCT. I have found that cans of pop, shelf stable cheese and meats, potato chips, etc are well loved. There is one place that is about a mile hike in but is an actual cabin that we take plastic cat food tubs full of food. It is the half way point on a very long remote section with no "exit".

    In 2007 and 2008 we got trail magic when we needed it most. 2007 was in a bad area with no water and we met a family who was leaving the trail/being picked up at a remote pass and they offered us a ton of ice cold water their driver had brought with them. It was very appreciated. In 2008 in the end of fall/early winter we got a ride from a hunter who picked us up on a remote logging road and drove us from Eastern Wa to Western Wa on said logging roads, let me use his cell phone amplifier to call my husband and dropped us off at the highway where he picked us up – and he wouldn't take any gas money either. It was appreciated, my hiking partner was coming down with the flu.

  2. Great comment Sarah. I've gotten a lot of trail magic over the years, and want to give back. I think I'll take my wife and camp out near the base of Mooseilauke this year when the thru-hikers pass through. I know just the spot. Ice cream, cokes, and cookies, and apples, should do the trick.

  3. I would like to do some trail magic on the AP trail in CT. Any ideas were to do it and what would be best to bring. Thanks!

  4. I think the good places would be where the trail crosses the road leading into Kent, CT, or on Rt 4, just outside of Cornwall Bridge. There's also a very nice trail head a few miles south of the Stewart Hollow shelter. That would probably be my top choice, because you can hang out in the shade next to the river. What to bring? A cooler of soft drinks, Klondikes and Dove Bars, and a webber grill for making burgers/veggie burgers. Have fun – I'll be doing some TM myself in New Hampshire this year.

  5. Does anyone know of any good places to serve TM in NC or VA?

  6. My nephew and I would also like to do some TM in CT. He has done the trail and I was so taken by his stories I want to participate. Do you need to contact anyone for permission when setting up to do TM?

  7. Hi there! I am not a hiker myself (yet) but after reading a bunch of other people’s accounts of hiking the AT, I have a strong desire to provide TM to those who do hike; I find that I think about it all the time. However I’m not sure how to start. Is there a certain way to approach hikers? Something in particular to say or not say? If I’m at a cafe and I see somebody who I’m sure is a hiker but he already has bought food, do I offer to get him more? Any suggestions would be great!! Thank you.

    • I am doing the same in spring of 2017. Anywhere on AT. Just need points where I would be of most use?

    • Ellie,

      My advise in the situation you just mention is that you contemplate this. If you want to so a kind gesture in a past it on mindset to help another (a thru hiker). Offer them 2A or 3A batteries for their headlamp, a roll of TP, small hand sanitizer, in a over size ziplock bag! All 4 will be appreciated & useful. If you throw in $5-8 that will buy there next meal or pay for a shower or laundry! YOU will be a Super Hero & They will love it and appreciate the simple act.

      Troy “Wit”

  8. Hoping do do some trail magic in Massachusetts in the Berkshires next week ~ any suggestions on locations and awesome treats?

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