Embarking on the epic journey of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is an accomplishment worthy of celebration. But for those intrepid hikers who make it to the trail's mid-way point, the unique and legendary Half-Gallon Challenge awaits.

The midway point of the 2,198-mile A.T. is nestled amidst the scenic beauty of Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland Valley. This lush haven is also home to the famed Appalachian Trail Museum, which offers a glimpse into the trail's history and culture. 

As thru-hikers reach this pivotal juncture, many choose to stop at the Pine Grove Furnace General Store (located a short walking distance from the Museum) and participate in this rite of passage, which includes devouring an entire half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Sounds sweet, right? But make no mistake—this isn't your average dessert. It's a testament to the hiker's resilience and a quirky tradition that has become a legendary part of the Appalachian Trail experience.

The Half-Gallon Challenge marks the culmination of months of physical and mental endurance. As hikers reflect on the miles they've conquered, the celebration becomes a way to connect with fellow trailblazers, sharing stories and laughter over a mountain of ice cream.

It might seem like an easy feat for a thru-hiker, some known to burn around 5,000 calories a day while hiking the famed Georgia to Maine footpath. However, the brick of ice cream can still be considered a "challenge" for most. Visitors to the Pine Grove Furnace General Store can enjoy flipping through the composition notebook filled with hiker tales of attempted and finished challenges. Some brag they could "still eat a cheeseburger," while others dream of "sleeping it off on the trail." 

The Half-Gallon Challenge is more than just a gastronomic feat. It's a sweet celebration of a shared experience that bonds hikers and creates lasting memories, and it reflects the unique charm of Cumberland Valley's portion of this iconic footpath.

Things to See & Do in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Learn more about hiking and history at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Experience the Appalachian Trail

Hike along one of America's most iconic footpaths. Read More 

Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Explore trails, historical attractions, a museum, and more at this 696-acre state park. Read More 

Laurel Lake

Located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Laurel Lake provides the perfect respite from the oppressive summer heat. Read More 

Camp Michaux Walking Tour

Combine history and hiking at the ruins of this former WWII POW camp. Read More 

Appalachian Trail Museum

Open seasonally, this museum preserves the history and the physical, emotional, and spiritual experiences of hiking along the Appalachian Trail. Read More 

Pole Steeple

This short but steep trail leads to panoramic views of Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Read More