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Single Mom and Her 13 Kids Thru-Hiked the Appalachian Trail—What’s Next?

In perhaps the ultimate feat of outdoor family living, a single mom named Nikki Bettis and 13 of her 15 children have officially completed their thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT). In August, we reported that this remarkable family was 1,300 miles into their hike, and last weekend, Bettis took to Facebook to officially announce that they have completed the nearly 2,200-mile trek—from Georgia to Maine.

“We have completed our goal of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail as a family,” wrote Bettis. “The past few weeks have been emotional as the gravity sets in of just how life changing a thru hike has been for our family. What we started fairly quietly as a family we also wanted to spend the last few weeks ending quietly as a family. Our days of online silence have been filled with laughter, hiking our last remaining miles in some of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen, campfires, our first snow of the AT, memories that long outlive me and hopefully leave a legacy for my kids.”

Bettis says that the family chose to celebrate with a small intimate gathering rather than having a large summit celebration, which she hopes to postpone for a later date.

Image by Nikki Bettis, 32 Feet Up

The Bettis family, including Nikki and 13 of her children, who range from toddler-aged to early 20s, began their hike in March 2023. Two additional children (making a total of 15) elected to stay behind to take care of the family’s home and dogs, although they did join the hike for sections of the trail whenever possible.

Image by Nikki Bettis, 32 Feet Up

After eight months of the AT, if you’re wondering where this trail-blazing family will go from here, we have a clue:

“After 4 days of solid work and unpacking from a thru hike of an insane number of people we set out tomorrow to find another trail,” Bettis wrote on Facebook. “Maybe backpacking White Rock/Sand Cave loop. Maybe Rock Castle Gorge. It’s time to sleep outside again and breathe some mountain air.”

It seems trail life is already calling.

Image by Nikki Bettis, 32 Feet Up

Would you take on the AT with kids?

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  1. Teresa Mitchell

    I happened across an article about this family about a month ago. It warmed my heart. When pondering the idea of my daughter, son, and myself doing this I (I am also a single mother) came up with many scenarios. I love the outdoors but there is no way I could have done it. My children are adults and I think it would be just like home, I would have to do just about everything. Add insects, snakes, and a hard dirt ground for my weary head at the end of each night…. No thank you!
    With that being said, my hat goes off to Mom. Incredible. You are incredible! I can only imagine the amount of life lessons your children were taught. Valuable lessons that will be carried through their entire lives. Not to mention what you have learned about yourself, I’m sure. It truly warms my heart. God bless you and your family

    1. Smokey Bear – He was their trail angel support the majority of the way. He has also been a staple of the AT for many years.

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