Imagine walking almost 2,200 miles through 14 states. Sounds pretty incredible, right? Well, people from all over America and the world do it every single year on the Appalachian Trail.
The trail is the longest ‘hiking only’ trail in the world and runs from Georgia to Maine. Each year, thousands of people set off on the trail to do everything from a short day hike to walk the entire trail.
The technical name is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. However, it’s more commonly referred to as the Appalachian Trail or the AT. Currently, a combination of the National Parks Service, the National Forest Service, and some other state and local agencies manage it.
The History of The Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The history of the AT is pretty remarkable. It was conceived way back in 1921 as an idea for a trail that would connect cities with farms and villages. The concept started picking up speed, and by 1923 the first portions of the trail were being built.
By 1937 the first trail running from Georgia to Maine was built. As the years have progressed, new parts of the trail have been added or rerouted. But the trail as it stands now is not much different than the idea almost 100 years ago.
Plenty to See and Do
The biggest benefit of hiking the full Appalachian National Scenic Trail (beyond bragging rights!) is the ability to see so much of the Eastern seaboard. The AT meanders through some of the most beautiful spots this part of the country has to offer.
The trail runs through parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Housatonic River Valley, the Green Mountains, and White Mountain National Forest.
If you’re not quite up for a thru-hike (most aren’t!), you can drop into the AT at some points along the way. Many people plan a weekend or a week hiking parts of the trail. There are some ‘trail towns’ that run along the AT. These provide hikers both a place to stop for supplies as well as camping and lodging.
Lots of people have a dream to hike the full AT. In fact, almost 3,000 people give it a try each year. If you’re planning on hiking parts of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Some parts of the trail can be quite grueling. It’s not for novice hikers so get some other trails under your belt first.
Also, do some research too. The good news is there is a ton of information on the AT. Use this to find places to start your hike, where to stop, and where there are trail towns.
If you want to do some day hiking be friendly! You might luck out and run into a thru-hiker (past or present). Many of these people will have amazing advice and stories to tell about their time on the trail.
Above all, have fun! The AT is truly one of America’s best gems. Whether you’re going to be on the trail for a day or a few months, enjoy it!