Eastern Continental Trail (ECT)
Key West, Florida to Cape Raven, Newfoundland
December 1, 2021 to September 13, 2022
About Outback’s 2022 ECT Thru-Hike (“Mega-hike”)
The enormous 5,700-mile Eastern Continental Trail (ECT) will likely be the most ambitious undertaking of my entire hiking life (apart from the Trans Canada), its length totaling more than all the other long-distance trails I have hiked—combined! The trail, or more accurately network of trails, has been dubbed “the beast.” Beginning in the southernmost point in Key West, Fla., the ECT passes through sixteen eastern states all the way to the tip of Maine and into Canada up through Cap Gaspé, Quebec. Then the trail picks up in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and finally ends in Newfoundland. This is perhaps the grandest of all thru-hikes. The trail beautifully combines the Florida Trail (FT), the Appalachian Trail (AT), and the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) [Fr. Sentier International des Appalaches (SIA)], among others, into a continuous footpath. It is unclear how many people have completed or attempted this thru-hike in its entirety as there are no formal records kept. An “entire” hike here is defined such that the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland portions are included. In fact, no comprehensive trail guide even exists for the ECT. The Key West-to-Cap Gaspé journey was first made by John Brinda in 1997 and then popularized by “Nimblewill Nomad” who completed the long-distance hike and wrote about it in his book entitled Ten Million Steps. This experience will be like no other as the extent of the trail’s length is so great. My projected time to complete the hike from Key West to Newfoundland is nine-and-a-half months (December 2021-September 2022).
Google Earth Flyover of Eastern Continental Trail (ECT)
2022 ECT Thru-Hike Mileage Breakdown
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (108.4 mi)
Florida Trail Linkage (92.0 mi)
Florida Trail (1,052.7 mi)
Blackwater Connector (45.4 mi)
Alabama Roadwalk (216.3 mi)
Pinhoti Trail (348.6 mi)
Benton MacKaye Trail (72.0 mi)
Appalachian Trail (2,194.3 mi)
International Appalachian Trail (1,619.7 mi)
IAT-Approach (11.8 mi)
IAT-Maine (138.4 mi)
IAT-New Brunswick (184.8 mi)
IAT-New Brunswick (184.8 mi)
IAT-Quebec (398.7 mi)
IAT-Prince Edward Island (93.3 mi)
IAT-Nova Scotia (320.9 mi)
IAT-Newfoundland (471.8 mi)
Total Recorded Mileage = 5,749.4 (Key West, Florida to Cape Raven, Newfoundland)
The total length of the ECT depends on the alternates and optional trails the hiker selects. As a northbounder (NOBO), I will be going west around Lake Okeechobee and east around Orlando on the Florida Trail (FT) portion. Since life is brief and I want to live it to the fullest, I have decided to maximize this long-distance hike and not end the trek in Cap Gaspé, Quebec; rather, I will continue hiking on through Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. This brings the total mileage to approximately 5,700 miles (mileage may vary slightly due to trail linkage, roadwalking, and sidetrips).
Gear for ECT
Hiking gear has developed significantly in recent years, especially in terms of lighter materials and water-resistance. Although there are undeniable advantages to a lightweight setup, it should never be a substitute for preparedness and basic survival techniques. Trekking poles are life-savers and I wouldn’t venture out without them. Base weight for me is a little over twenty pounds, a number that is reduced at various points on the trail depending on what the needs are at any given moment. As a standard practice, I always carry two anchor battery chargers (20000mAh and 10000mAh), which gives me the option to pass up a town if I want to make more miles and not have to recharge. Consumables like food and water are not added to the base weight nor is worn clothing. The ever-changing weight of consumables, often overlooked, is perhaps as important of a consideration as base weight. All weight must be carried in the end. Although I consider myself a “lightweight hiker,” I am by no means an ultralight gram-counter. There are those few “comfort items” that for me make the weight penalty worth it. Being light as a feather is not the kind of thing that brings meaning to my life. My philosophy is that a tradeoff is made between weight and comfort and that looks different for each person. There are hikers who carry little more than a day pack and get off trail for one reason or another and there are those who carry army surplus stores on their backs yet manage to press on to the end. From what I have observed, the major variable in a successful hike is not weight insomuch as the human spirit!
For those of you who may be interested in what gear I will be taking with me on the ECT, here is a GearGrams breakdown that records the description and weight of each item:
Resupplying on the ECT
All resupplying will be done on the trail with the exception of eight large Priority Mail boxes, each of which contain a new pair of Altra Olympus trailrunning shoes. That’s right, I’m prepared to go through eight pairs of hiking sneakers! In terms of shoe mileage, this means approximately 700 miles per pair. Since the flat rate postal option allows a person to fill up the boxes with as much weight and volume as the box can accommodate, I’m stuffing in some pick-me-ups along with the shoes (e.g., hot chocolate, coffee, chocolate bars, olive oil, and yes tea candles for morale-boosting). Ordering the shoes in advance was important to me since the Altra inventory for my size is not always reliable. One other box I have pre-packaged has winter weather gear and includes a thicker puffy jacket, fleece liner, extra-warm beanie, gloves, and a few food items. This box will likely be sent out before going into the Smokies. In addition to the eight resupply boxes, I may also send a box or two up trail myself from a post office as needed in areas with little resupply options (by this I mean there is not even a gas station or snack shop!). For intake, I require about 7,000 calories per day so enjoying food is an important part of the journey (hiking with a stove is preferable). By and large, I prefer the “hybrid/wing-it” approach since it provides an element of surprise and supports the local town economy. You don’t get forced into eating pre-determined foods that you lost an appetite for after only the first hundred miles! A couple close friends of mine (“back-home trail angels”) have graciously offered to help coordinate and send out the resupply boxes. The boxes have blank address labels on them so I can just text the addresses to them as supplies are needed. This creates a flexibility in the system that I have come to appreciate and has worked well in the past. Really, it’s pretty simple and nothing to stress about.
More About the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT)
To learn more about the Eastern Continental Trail visit:
Nimblewill Nomad (ECT Legend)
Finally, here is a hiker’s prayer made by the legendary ECT thru-hiker Nimblewill Nomad:
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the contact page. You can even message me on my Garmin if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you!