For some time now, inspired by North America’s Triple Crown of hiking trails – the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian Trails – I’ve been advocating the idea of a UK Triple Crown challenge.
An edited version of the following article appeared in TGO Magazine in March 2007. What do you think? Even though you might never hike one of the suggested UKTC routes, could such a dream challenge inspire others? Let me know at john@outdoorsmanning.com – and let’s see how far we can go down this trail!

Dare to hike a dream

IT’S EVERY HIKER’S fantasy. Tell the boss to stuff the job, put your belongings into storage and, slinging your pack over your shoulder, head out on a trail hiking odyssey that will take not weeks but months to complete.
If you’ve ever entertained such a dream, the chances are you’ve fantasised about following one or more of the North American trails collectively known as the Triple Crown, a goal to which every US hiker aspires but only a few dozen – including a handful of Brits – are known to have achieved.
Meeting the challenge of thru’ hiking just one of the USA’s three longest and oldest National Scenic Trails – the 2655-mile Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide (anything between 2600 and 3100 miles) and the Bill Bryson-friendly, 2170-mile Appalachian Trail – demands a lot more than the ability to ignore blisters, pitch a tent and use a map and compass.
Even if you could average 20 miles a day – a pace that’d get you up the Pennine Way in around a fortnight – the shortest of the Triple Crown trails would take you more than three months. That means not only handing in your notice but also ensuring you’ve sufficient funds not only to feed yourself, but also to pay the mortgage and any other standing obligations while you’re away. For anyone outside the US there are also issues of visas and airfares, as well as a few alien rules, such as applying for hiking permits and wilderness passes, to get your head around.
It’s one heck of a commitment – and it begs a question: why don’t we have a similar challenge here in the UK?
In these carbon-conscious days, surely it’s time we promoted an aspirational hiking goal worthy of comparison with the US Triple Crown model, that would satisfy the burning need for those who need such challenges without them having to fly half-way round the world to find.
Great Britain has enough beautiful landscape, enough scenic variety and a wonderful walking community. Our rich culture and history have scored every aspect of our land, from the mountains and moors to the cities and villages – but do we have three challenging long distance hiking routes that would combine all of that with a challenge sufficient to match that of the US Triple Crown model? Darn right we do!
One man who agrees with me that the potential exists is Phil “Nowhere Man” Hough, president of the American Long Distance Hikers’ Association (West). ALDHA-West was formed by lightweight hiking guru Ray Jardine, primarily to present annual awards to the latest crop of members of that exclusive club of those who have hiked the US Triple Crown.
Phil’s not only hiked the Pacific Crest Trail twice, as well as the Appalachian Trail, he’s also walked in the UK and hopes to complete the TGO Challenge before the decade’s out. As well as his voluntary role with ALDHA-West and his day job, Phil dedicates much of his time to campaigning for the Scotchman Peaks, 80,000 acres of remote mountains on the border of his home state of Idaho, to be officially designated as a wilderness area, to preserve them for future generations (www.scotchmanpeaks.org).
Yet he could find time to speak favourably of the temptations of a UK hiking Triple Crown for overseas hikers.
“I found the English scenery incredibly diverse on our Coast-to-Coast walk, as well as on our travels through Wales and Scotland,”

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UK Triple Crown