A college in the US is offering students college credit for thru-hiking or other prepared hikes on the Appalachian Trail, with an academic component and training.

Hikers take in the view of the Appalachian Mountains from McAfee Knob on Catawba Mountain.
Hikers take in the view of the Appalachian Mountains from McAfee Knob on Catawba Mountain © Joel Carillet/Getty Images

Completed in 1937, the country's longest footpath spans more than 2100 miles, crossing two national parks, traversing eight national forests and hitting 14 states from Georgia to Maine. Each year, approximately 3500 people attempt to hike the entire trail and only one in four makes it all the way through. Emory & Henry College in Virginia offers any college student around the world the opportunity to come hike the Appalachian Trail while earning college credit.

The Semester-A-Trail is part of its outdoor program, where students are professionally trained and certified as part of programs around rock-climbing, kayaking, hiking and more. Students are welcome to transfer to Emory & Henry for a semester while earning credits in a field of interest. Faculty from both colleges work together to set the curriculum and outcomes.

Hiker on the Appalachian Trail in Maine with Lush Mountain.
A US college will give you credit for hiking the Appalachian Trail © Jonathan A. Mauer/Shutterstock

Sophomore Sadie Burton, and junior Tilghman Moyer, a transfer student, shared their experiences in a video of hiking a portion of the trail to earn hands-on credit. Burton logged 400 miles and focused her journey on creative writing and photography with the goal of producing a documentary. Moyer completed his thru-hike of 2190 miles and developed a project in phenology, studying plant and animal life cycle events along the Appalachian Trail.

"This is the definition of exceptional hands-on learning in a gorgeous outdoor lab," says Jim Harrison, director of outdoor programs. "Both students trained and learned how to hike the trail to be prepared. Prior to the trip, they learned wilderness first aid techniques and received instruction on packing, eating, safety and mental wellness. Being on the trail for long periods of time can be physically and mentally challenging, yet so rewarding."

For further information on the the Semester-A-Trail, please see here.

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