Woman Becomes First Ever to Solo Hike 10,900km American Discovery Trail

Hey, Briana DeSanctis’ PR team: update your hiker’s Instagram account! As of this writing, it says DeSanctis is “on track” to become the first woman on record to complete one of the United States’ longest, proudest trails alone.

Actually, she already became that woman.

DeSanctis, 40, marched up to the lapping waves of the Pacific Ocean in Marin County, Calif. with 6,800 miles (10,943 kilometers) of trail behind her — and a purple sequined dress on.

It was Feb. 10, and DeSanctis had just finished the American Discovery Trail. To do it, she walked alone through some of America’s wildest country and biggest cities alike.

Her outfit, reported by The Mercury News, was a nod to her mission: empowering young women to actualize their dreams of adventure.

“I cried walking down the beach,” she told the outlet. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet. It’s just weird to be done.”


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A post shared by Briana DeSanctis (@brianadesanctis)

Massive challenge

Simply put, the American Discovery Trail (ADT) is a beast. It divides it into four regions spanning the U.S. from east to west. Founded in 1992, it was actually built to link people together. And for that reason, over 20 million people live within 16km of it, co-founder John Fazel told The Mercury News.

Notable segments include passages through Utah’s Canyonlands National Park and Bears Ears National Monument, Dodge City, Kan. (where famous Wild West enforcer Wyatt Earp presided as sheriff), and Washington, D.C.

Its area of coverage is so massive that there are two routes through the central region: southern and northern. Believe it or not, DeSanctis reportedly completed both.

DeSanctis wasn’t about to leave the job unfinished.


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A post shared by Briana DeSanctis (@brianadesanctis)

Starting on New Years Day, 2022, she hammered away at the ADT until she had covered every kilometer of every route.

Indirect approach

But her approach was not a direct one. She logged multiple zero-mile (or “zero”) days, took breaks to visit friends and family, and even gave speeches at schools along the way.

Oh yeah, she also submitted columns to her local newspaper — the Daily Bulldog of Franklin County, Maine.

They’re strident reads. Check out November’s entry, in which DeSanctis details a plan for family members to bury food and water supplies for her in 80-mile increments in the Nevada desert. “If something happens to one of those buckets before I get there, I will not have enough food or water to continue,” she wrote.


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A post shared by Briana DeSanctis (@brianadesanctis)

Elsewhere, don’t miss her stopover at a ghost town watering hole with an unforgettable name: “Dirty Dick’s Belmont Saloon.”

These and a million other experiences behind her, she now plans to journey back the other way. But while she may be hiking “back” to Maine, don’t let her catch you talking about it that way.

“I’m not going back to four walls and a ceiling,” DeSanctis said on the beach. “My least favorite four-letter word is ‘back.’”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.