Trail Tip: Hitchhiking

Suns out, thumbs out

I had to hitchhike a lot on my AT thruhike. It’s just something you have to do in order to get into town to resupply, get a shower, or find a hostel. Here are a few tips that might help you get a great hitch in and out of town.  

Getting the ride:

  • Be a woman. If you are not a woman, try to hitchhike with a woman. We get rides.
  • Make your face visible – no sunglasses, no ballcaps. And SMILE!
  • Stick out your thumb. Wave. Make easy eye contact (no mean looks if they pass you!).
  • If there are multiple groups trying to hitchhike, spread out a little bit (couples or threes) so the group isn’t as imposing and you can get multiple rides.
  • Some folks make a sign. I saw one hiker with a piece of padding he used as a chair. On one side he had “Hiker to Town” and the other said “CLEAN Hiker back to Trail.” Brilliant.
  • Stand on the side of the road where traffic is going the direction you want to go. Stand in a place where you can be seen early so the driver has a bit of time to decide if they are picking you up; standing near a highway sign is great for this.
  • Even if they don’t pick you up, if they make eye contact or maybe shrug or let you know they are sorry they can’t give you a ride, still smile and wave. Show that hikers aren’t mean or scary. There were a few times that a car passed and I just smiled and waved and they actually turned around and came back to get me and my friends.


  • If a vehicle pulls over, and you get a weird feeling – for any or no reason – politely decline the ride. You can thank them for stopping but let them know you just remembered you are supposed to meet up with a friend to go into town. Don’t be pressured to get into any vehicle.
  • Try to hitchhike with another person. This wasn’t always possible for me, but I tried to do it as often as possible.
  • Get into the vehicle as quickly as possible with your packs so you don’t hold up traffic.
  • Buckle up.

During the ride:

  • You smell. You smell really, really bad. Ride in the back of a truck if possible. If that’s not an option, sit in the back seat and roll the window down immediately. If it’s possible to put your packs in the trunk, do so. They smell worse than you do.
  • Say please and thank you. Set a great example of how nice a thruhiker can be. There were multiple times that people who had never picked up a hitchhiker stopped to give me a ride, and after they dropped me off, said they would start picking up thruhikers.
  • Make conversation with the people nice enough to pick you up. Tell a funny story. Be charming.
bad smell
My sister visited me in Pennsylvania and took the tramily (trail family) into Philly. She’s smiling as politely as she can due to the smell. Pictured (L to R: Firestarter, Blazer, Tree, Sequoia, Professor, my sister)

After the ride:

  • Say thank you again.
  • Get you and your pack out of the vehicle quickly so you don’t hold up traffic.

Legal stuff:

  • Hitchhiking is illegal in New Jersey.
  • Hitchhiking is illegal on interstates. That includes on interstate ramps.



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