The 25 Most Adventurous Women of the Past 25 Years

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Jennifer Pharr Davis
25
Barbara Pharr6/25

Jennifer Pharr Davis

In 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis took the hiking world by storm. Averaging 47 miles a day, Pharr Davis set a new overall supported record on the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail. She did it in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, hiking from Maine to Georgia — with no major sponsors and only the support of her husband, Brew.

Pharr Davis's achievement was a takedown to the coveted A.T. record, which for the previous 40 years had only been held by men. Pharr Davis's strategy was to hike, not run, for about 16 hours a day.

"Most people told me this was impossible. That there was no way I was going to set the overall record; that common sense said that it had to be set by a male; that it had to be an elite trail runner," Pharr Davis said in a National Geographic article (Note: the record has been defeated twice since, both by sponsored elite male trail runners).

But Pharr Davis, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, had put in her time. She first thru-hiked the A.T. in 2005 as a newbie hiker who got struck by lightning and had her eyes freeze shut in a snowstorm. She thru-hiked it again in 2008.

Pharr Davis's record held until 2015, when ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek, supported by his wife and a bunch of friends, broke Pharr Davis record — by just 3 hours and 17 minutes. His record held for little over one year when Red Bull sponsored ultrarunner Karl Meltzer beat it by 10 hours. 

Pharr Davis has hiked more than 13,000 miles on long distance trails on six continents. She intends to have a lifelong relationship with the trails close to home, hiking them with her kids, and also in retirement. "You don't have to travel far to find a hiking trail or have an adventure," Pharr Davis says. "With two children under the age of five, I am focused on getting out as often as possible trails near our house."

Noteworthy Feats

  • 2007: Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont’s 280-mile Long Trail- 7 days, 15 hours.
  • 2008: Women’s FKT Appalachian Trail Record- 57 days and 8 hours.
  • 2011: FKT on the Appalachian Trail- 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes.
  • 2013: Day hikes with husband, Brew, and daughter, Charley, in all 50 states.
  • Pharr Davis has written six books. Her seventh, The Pursuit of Endurance, delves into the history, personalities, and science behind the fastest-known-times phenomenon on long distance trails. It will be published in early 2018.
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