The Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

History of the AT►

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail passes through 14 states, from Georgia in the south to Maine in the north. The AT traverses about 2200 miles. (Although the length varies as sections are re-routed.) Thru-hikers challenge themselves to walk the entire trail in one season.

A forester named Benton MacKaye first conceived of the trail in 1921. The New York Evening Post published the idea in a full-page article “A Great Trail from Maine to Georgia!” Private citizens built the trail and completed it by 1937.

The National Trails System Act of 1968 designated the Appalachian Trail as one of the first national scenic trails. The National Park Service, along with other organizations, maintains the trail today. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is the main non-profit group managing the AT. Their mission is to protect, manage, and advocate for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Their website provides resources for exploring the AT.

Places We’ve Explored on the AT►

Not a thru-hiker? That’s OK, because opportunities for day hikes abound along the AT. We’ve stepped foot on the Appalachian Trail in several states. And in most cases, we didn’t break a sweat.

While visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we walked a bit on the AT in both North Carolina and Tennessee. Clingman’s Dome in NC is the highest mountain on the Appalachian Trail. Newfound Gap straddles the NC-TN state line. We found the AT trailhead not far from the parking lot.

The AT runs through the Green Mountains in Vermont. When in the Killington area, we found the accessible boardwalk section to Thundering Falls.

In New York, the Appalachian Trail runs through Bear Mountain State Park and crosses the Hudson River via the Bear Mountain Bridge. The stretch from Bear Mountain to Harriman State Park was the first section of the AT to open in 1923.

Our toughest hike on the Appalachian Trail was in Connecticut. We climbed up to the ridge in Housatonic Meadows State Park. Which our dogs thought it was great fun! And we met some through-hikers along the way. I felt a little silly huffing and puffing under the weight of my camera while they were carrying huge packs.

36 thoughts on “The Appalachian National Scenic Trail

  1. I remember the first time I set foot on the AT and it floored me. I was not expecting that reaction, but that moment started my thru hiking goals. I had always just planned to day hike and do a few overnights, but when I saw that white blaze, I was hooked.

    I was supposed to thru hike the PCT last year, but Covid denied me. Still have plans for the PCT and maybe the AT in the future!

  2. I didn’t know the history of the trail, that was interesting to learn! I too have done a few sections, including just a very short bit at Newfound Gap. Also Bear Mtn in Connecticut and a loop in NC.

  3. I read the book “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson and saw the movie based on it, too. Ever since then I’ve been intrigued by the AT. It is good to know you can catch the trail in various states and just go for day hikes.

    1. Thanks! And thanks for the warning about the movie. We recently watched the movies made from Krakauer’s Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. I thought the Chris Mccandless one was pretty good and true to the book, albeit with less detail and character development. Everest was certainly thrilling, but I don’t think I would have known what was happening if I hadn’t read the book. And it didn’t really capture the emotions Krakauer conveyed in his writing. Long story short, the movies often don’t measure up

  4. The nation’s great through trails provide ample challenge and beauty for all who venture onto them, whether for a day hike or an epic summer. I’ve backpacked the Appalachian trail in Maine and North Carolina. The PCT is near our house in Southern Oregon. Two years ago I backpacked 750 miles down it to celebrate my 75th birthday, half of it solo. I can’t think of a better birthday present I could have given myself. –Curt

Leave a Reply