Briana DeSanctis takes a picture of herself as she entered Indiana, the sixth state of 15 on her trek along the American Discovery Trail. Briana DeSanctis

FARMINGTON — Farmington native Briana DeSanctis took the first steps of her two-year journey to complete the American Discovery Trail on New Year’s Eve 2022 at Cape Henlopen, Delaware.

Briana DeSanctis climbs the mountains of Colorado on her journey across America on the American Discovery Trail. Briana DeSantis

Some 770 days, 6,800 miles and 27 pairs of shoes later, DeSanctis emerged at the Pacific Ocean in California on Feb. 10, becoming the first woman to solo hike the longest trail in the United States, the American Discovery Trail Society believes.

“I finished the American Discovery Trail this morning,” DeSanctis wrote in an Instagram post of her walking into the waters of Limontaur Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore. “What a lot of feelings. I’m still trying to process everything, plus my family showed up to surprise me.”

The lifelong outdoorswoman is the first woman to complete the journey on her own, the American Discovery Trail Society believes.

DeSanctis documented much of her journey through Instagram, posting updates on her location and sharing her experiences while on the journey. She also shared tips on how to spice up your hike and things to snack on along the way.



Born in Farmington, the 40-year-old hiker was inundated with the outdoors from her childhood, with her fondest childhood memories involving hiking, fishing and camping with her family.

After the birth of her little brother, her family built a house on 55 acres of wooded land, which fed DeSanctis’ desire for adventure and exploration even more. She shared with The Franklin Journal that she had always felt that “fresh air and being in tune with nature were freeing and enlightening.”

The first inkling of her self-described “nomadic lifestyle” came to her when she was 12, when she first learned of the Appalachian Trail in grade school after one of the custodians had completed the trail and given a presentation about it.


DeSanctis left Maine in her early twenties, moving to Vail, Colorado. It was there that she developed her love of mountainous landscape, enjoying outdoor activities suck as kayaking, canoeing, spelunking, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

She returned to Maine years later and began to accumulate backpacking gear slowly, piecing together her spelunking instruments as she could afford them.


She also added a comprehensive guide to Maine hiking trails to her arsenal, and soon she was planning short backpacking trips on her days off. As she grew more and more prepared, she tested herself on the trail by section-hiking over 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail, also known as A.T. in Maine.

The Appalachian Trail, which is a 2,190-mile long trail that traverses the scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains, is managed by the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and numerous state agencies.

The trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine, was conceived in 1921, built by private citizens, and completed in 1937.

Convinced that she could make the journey, DeSanctis bid farewell to her friends and family and boarded a plane in the spring of 2015 for Atlanta, eager to make the trek back to Maine on foot. Six and a half months later, she returned with “a deep sense of love, patience, appreciation, and gratitude.”


A few years later, DeSanctis was looking at a map and noticed the American Discovery Trail. She was deeply intrigued by its odd path configuration and length, and after taking a hard look at the trail, she was confident she could pull it off with the proper preparation.


Lots of preparation, in fact, as DeSanctis shared that the years of research, planning and saving was much more involved than the Appalachian Trail. Once she was ready, DeSanctis left her job at a metal shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, packed up all her belongings in storage and set out on her journey.

The American Discovery Trail is comprised of 6,800 miles of trails across 15 states, and the trail includes a loop in the Great Plains and Midwest where the trail splits and becomes two parallel trails. DeSanctis shared that she backpedaled to complete both legs of the trail in Ohio, where the trail splits, which means she ended up covering more than 6,800 miles before she reached Point Reyes.

Being a solo hiker, DeSanctis spent much of her time in solitude, documenting the sights with her camera as she slowly moved from the east coast to the west coast. In between these long, quiet stretches of time on her odyssey, DeSanctis found company among other hikers as well as the many locals she met along the way, which she documented on her Instagram.

Many of these people even gave DeSanctis a break from the elements on her journey, allowing her to sleep in their garages, backyards and even spare bedrooms. In Nevada, DeSanctis met Randy, a man that arrived near her campsite one morning. She wrote in her post that he was “carrying what looked like a shovel and a bucket. He scaled the mountain like he’d been there many times, then disappeared behind a tree.”

Briana DeSanctis takes a break from hiking to enjoy a natural, non-commercialized hot spring in Beaver, Utah. Briana DeSanctis

DeSanctis and Randy spoke briefly, where he shared that his father’s memorial was nearby and that he visited once a year to clean up the site. He left DeSanctis with a full bottle of water, two Diet Cokes and a story that “brightened [her] entire day.”

This is one of many interactions DeSanctis had on her journey, and when she landed at Point Reyes, she thanked all of those that she met on her journey.


“I have so much love and countless thank yous to each and every one of you,” she wrote.


Though DeSanctis has completed the journey, her mind has not left the trail. DeSanctis took the time to stop and talk about her journey in the hopes it would inspire other young girls to lace up and set out on a journey of their own, and she plans to continue public speaking events to share more about her journey.

“I hike 6,800 mile across the USA; You can bet I have things to talk about,” DeSanctis shared in an Instagram post, stating that she is booking public speaking events all the way into October.

She has also written about her journey as a columnist, and plans to turn her expedition of the American Discovery Trail into a memoir. As for her next hike, DeSanctis is already planning where to go next as staying in one place isn’t an option for her.

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