Rachel Carson Trail Challenge
Hike the trail in one day!
The twentieth annual Rachel Carson Trail Challenge will take place on June 18, 2016, the Saturday nearest the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The Challenge is a 34-mile long, one-day, sunrise to sunset endurance hike on nearly the entire brutal Rachel Carson Trail. Unlike a footrace, the "challenge" is not to win, but to endure, to finish the hike in one day. This time, the Challenge starts in Harrison Hills Park at sunrise, 5:50 AM, and ends 34 miles later in North Park. The deadline for finishing is sunset, 8:54 PM or 15 hours 4 minutes.
If 34 miles sounds too daunting, we offer two shorter events that same day. The first is the Homestead Challenge, an 18-mile hike from near the Rachel Carson Homestead. The second is an 8-mile Friends & Family Challenge from Hartwood Acres. All events finish in North Park.
The Challenge has two dimensions: the first is to endure 34 miles of tortuous hill climbing and descent in unpredictable weather conditions; the second is to stay on the trail without getting lost. Obviously, those who have hiked the trail before will have some advantage in maintaining the proper route. (Training hikes covering various sections and the entire trail are held beforehand).
The Rachel Carson Trail is a "primitive" trail in the sense that no special grading or surfacing materials are used. While the trail is blazed with yellow blazes, there will be an occasional missing blaze where a tree has fallen or when you are following a logging road, a power line or gas line; there will be blow downs, washouts, poison ivy, nettles, bugs, loose gravel and rocks, gullies, and wet stream crossings. There are no switchbacks on the trail; all hills some are quite steep are traversed directly up and down. You must be prepared to expect the unexpected and think the unthinkable. The better hiker you are, the better you will do on the Challenge.
All hikers will be given a trail guide to assist them on their journey. There will be four checkpoints throughout the hike, offering water, Gatorade, various snacks, and basic first aid. Hikers are expected to carry all their own gear and necessities, including snacks, water, first aid and raingear.
The Challenge entry fee includes a t-shirt, shuttle bus, checkpoint support, cookout, and a trail guide. The shuttle bus is available to take participants from the finish to check-in just before sunrise, and again later in the afternoon to take those finishers who parked at the start back to their vehicles.
The signup/registration process is now open. See the 2016 Challenge page for details.
The Challenge needs volunteers on Challenge Day! We will need people throughout the day, from morning registration to checkpoints and sweeps along the trail to the finish. People can volunteer for as few as two hours. Check back here in March for details.
Discuss, comment on, or ask questions about the Challenge on the event Facebook page.
- 2015 Challenge: "A Mudfest for the Ages" | Images | Split Times
- 2014 Challenge: "The Challenge Yin and Yang" | Images | Split Times
- 2013 Challenge: "The Suffering Will End" | Images | Split Times
- 2012 Challenge: "It's a Test" | Images | Split Times
- 2011 Challenge: "It's a Personal Journey" | Images | Split Times
- 2010 Challenge: "Down a Notch" | Images | Split Times
- 2009 Challenge: "Rain and Shine" | Images | Split Times
- 2008 Challenge: "Just An Adventure" | Images | Split Times
- 2007 Challenge: "An Amazing Day" | Images | Split Times
- 2006 Challenge: "And miles to go before I sleep" | Images | Split Times
- 2005 Challenge: "The Many Paths to the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge" | Letters | Images | Split Times
- 2004 Challenge: "The Slip 'n Slide" | Letters | Images | Split Times
- 2003 Challenge: "Mudapalooza '03" | Letters | Images | Split Times
- 2002 Challenge: "Hikers Finally Conquer the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge" | Images | Split Times
- 2001 Challenge: "Mud Pie Challenge" | Images | Split Times
- 2000 Challenge: "Whew...! How I learned to love/hate the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge" | Letters | Images | Split Times
- 1999 Challenge: "The Sky Was Blue" | Split Times
- 1997 Challenge: "Rachel 50, Hikers 27" | Finishers
- 1996 Challenge: "... And Then There Were Five" | Finishers
Other similar events
- Wilmington Trail Club: Brandywine Trail End-To-End Hike, 36 miles
- Sierra Club: C&O Canal One Day Hike, up to 62.5 miles
- SATC: Iron Masters Challenge, 26.6 miles
- KTA: Susquehanna Super Hike, 26 miles
- Ultrahike: Bald Eagle Mountain Megatransect, 25 miles
- NCT: Allegheny 100 Backpacking Challenge, 25, 50, or 100 miles
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Rachel Carson Trail Challenge marks its 20th year"
- Valley News-Dispatch: "Family finds bond in hiking Rachel Carson Trail Challenge"
- Valley News-Dispatch: "Hikers come looking for a challenge"
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Hot on the trail, the hills are alive"
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "And miles to go before I sleep ..."
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Rachel Carson Trail hike offers challenge"
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Looking for a challenge? Try 34-mile Rachel Carson Trail hike"
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "The Rachel Carson Trail is 34 miles of tough terrain and natural beauty"
- Associated Press: "Hiking Has Special Training Needs"
- The Walking Site: "How to Prevent Chafing and Blisters"
- Poison Ivy: What it looks like
- NPR: "Paper tape may help prevent blisters"
West-to-East Elevation Profile of the Challenge