Rachel Carson Trail Challenge

Hike the trail in one day!


The twenty-sixth annual Rachel Carson Trail Challenge will take place on June 24, 2023, the Saturday nearest the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The Challenge is a 36-mile long, one-day, sunrise to sunset endurance hike on nearly the entire rugged 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 and ends 36 miles later in North Park. The deadline for finishing is sunset, 8:54 PM or 15 hours 4 minutes, whichever comes first.

If 36 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 a 7-mile Friends & Family Challenge from Hartwood Acres Park. All events finish in North Park.

The Course

The Challenge has two dimensions: the first is to endure 35 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 course 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 course 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 registration process for the 2023 Challenge will open on March 1, 2023. See the Challenge 2023 page for event 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 February for details.

Rachel Carson Trail Challenge


Discuss, comment on, or ask questions about the Challenge on the Conservancy Facebook page.

Past Events

Other similar events


West-to-East Elevation Profile of the Challenge

West-to-East Elevation Profile of the Challenge