The number of people hiking the entire Trail has risen dramatically over the years. From 1936 to 1969, only 59 completions are recorded. In 1970, the numbers began to rise. Ten people completed the Trail in 1970, including Ed Garvey, whose thru-hike was well-publicized. The trend was further fueled by the release of Garvey's popular book, Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime. The term “2,000-miler” was coined in the late 1970s to help identify this growing group of hikers.
By 1980, the total number of 2,000-milers had increased more than ten-fold. The total had doubled by 1990 and again by 2000. More hike completions were reported for the year 2000 alone than in the first 40 years combined. The 10,000th hike completion was recorded in 2008.
In the trail's first several decades, women represented only about 15% of those who completed the entire A.T. Trends are changing, though. The percentage of women has grown steadily over the years; by 2018, women represented a third of thru-hikers.
International hikers from Australia, Austria, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Wales have reported completing the Trail.
Hikers of a wide range of ages have completed the A.T. While about half of all thru-hikers are in their 20s, many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s have thru-hiked the A.T. About 750 people in their 60s have completed thru-hikes, but only about 50 people age 70 and above have completed thru-hikes. Two people in their 80s have completed a thru-hike; the oldest was 82. Teens comprise about four percent of thru-hikers; a very small number of children have completed the A.T. with their parents. Section-hikers tend to be older, with a median age of 40. Their ages at the time of their hike completions have ranged from 15 to 86.