Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Mountains form the main ridge of the eastern United States, and along that ridge, for over two thousand miles, winds a trail of natural wonder and historic import that each time you tread one mile, you can almost hear the footsteps of Daniel Boone or an Iraquois Indian rustle through those same deeply wooded peaks.  Each year millions of visitors have that same experience, and while it's only a small percentage of those that travel its entire distance at one time, or even over a lifetime, each mile of this special trail is worth a visit for those that have only a percentage of the time it would take to visit all those miles.  Whether you are at its northern entrance in Maine at Mount Katahdin, near Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in the Pennsylvania hills, down in the history of Harpers Ferry where Thomas Jefferson has his rock, in the mountains of the Cherokee in North Carolina and Tennessee, or at its southernmost point in Georgia at Springer Mountain, there are natural vistas to marvel at and history around every corner.  Take the time to visit a mile this year, or maybe more than a few.  You'll be glad to have missed that last mall and witnessed what nature looks like unfettered by a neon sign.  They've got cool wood signs here.

For some, including us, we think of the trail as having a history much longer than its actual length, and it does, when you consider what happened in these woods for the centuries leading up to today.  But as a practical matter, the trail did not come into being until Benton MacKaye, a forester, thought of the trail in the early 1920's with the first portion of the trail opened in New York from Bear Mountain to Arden.  The trial was completed to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine by 1937.  It was not until the National Park Service and trail volunteers mapped a route in 1971 that a permanent route was marked.

You can get to the trail at over 500 places, including two train depots at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Pawlings, New York.  If you are one of the few thru-hikers (around 10,000 total over the years) who complete the entire trail, congratulations.  For the others who want to visit a section of the trail and the history nearby, congratulations as well.  You, too, walked the Appalachain Trail, even at a smaller percentage.  Good things come in small packages, too.  But it would be pretty neat if you were one of those 10,000, now wouldn't it.


Things You Should Not Miss

1. If you're taking the time to hike the pathway of the Appalachian Trail, we don't have to remind you of this, but if you're a casual walker of a mile along the way, we'll remind you a bit.  Take the time to smell the roses or whatever flora and fauna abound nearby.  This is your break from the hectic.  Slow down and smell it.  Hayfever sufferers beware.

2.  Harper's Ferry - Take some time in your hike, particularly if you're not going thru the entire length, to witness some history.  You'll be walking right through the park and town, where each building within the park itself serves as a museum on some topic concerning Harper's Ferry, John Brown, and the Civil War.  Park museums include the John Brown Museum, John Brown's Fort (accessible through park ranger tour), a Civil War Museum, African American Museums, a Natural History Museum (Wetlands Exhibit), Industry Museum, A Place in Time Museum, and other park buildings such as an Apothecary Shop, bookstores, etc.

Great Smoky Mountains


What is There Now

State Trail Sections

Maine - 281 miles, starting at Baxter State Park.
New Hampshire - 161 miles, most within White Mountain National Forest.
Vermont - 150 miles, including parts within the Green Mountains
Massachusetts - 90 miles in Berkshire County.
Connecticutt - 52 miles.
New York - 88 miles, with parts in Harriman, Bear Mountain, and Fahnestock State Parks.
New Jersey - 72 miles, through Abraham Hewitt State Forest, Wawayanda State Park, High Point State Park, Stokes State Forst, Worthington State Forest, and Delware Water Gap NRA.
Pennsylvania - 229 miles, from Delaware Water Gap to the central part of the state west of Gettysburg.
Maryland - 41 miles.
West Virginia - 4 miles, considered the midway point of the trail and headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Virginia - 550 miles, where it parallels Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Tennessee - 293 miles, including the highest point along the trail in Smoky Mountains National Park (mountains of the park pictured above).
North Carolina - 88 miles.
Georgia - 75 miles, ending or starting at Springer Mountain, depending on your point of view.

Lodging and Camping

Since this trail runs for two thousand miles, there are many places along the way with hotel, motel, and other lodgings, some more than others, of course.  Along the trail itself, there are campsites and waystations where you can spend the night with 250 shelters along the trail itself.  There are campsites in Shenadoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and other state parks.  Some require reservation or get filled up quickly. There are free and pay sites along the way.  

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Appalachian Trail Links

Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail
Appalachian Trail Conservancy


Nearby Attractions

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Harper's Ferry National Historic Park

Shenandoah National Park

Blue Ridge Parkway
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Maine Tourism

Virginia Tourism
Explore Georgia - Travel and Vacation


Appalachian Trail Then and Now

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia
Scene of the town of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia during Civil War times.  (LOC)

Appalachian Trail Then

Just one view above show what lies along the side of the Appalachian Trail.  The trail runs directly through Harper's Ferry National Military Park, and the town itself. It winds along the canal, crosses the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers below, and comes with a view of Jefferson's Rock, the spot where Thomas Jefferson stood during those heady early USA days.

The view below shows a historic scene from Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive where the trail winds its way through the Virginia mountain chain.

View from Shenandoah's Skyline Drive.

 

Appalachian Trail Now

Appalachian Trail, Pennsylvania

Today all 2,175 miles of the trail are maintained by thirty hiking clubs and partnerships along the east coast, and coordinated by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  The trail weaves through many state parks and national parks, including Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Harper's Ferry National Historic Park, Shenadoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The northernmost trailhead is located in Baxter State Park in Maine.  The highest point is 6,643 feet.  The southernmost trailhead is located at Springer Mountain, Georgia.  (Photo: americasbesthistory.com)

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Visitor Statistics

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
4 million visitors per year



Park Size

Appalachina National Scenic Trail

2,175 miles in length

171,476 acres (Federal); 236,497 acres (Total)



Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Entrance Fees

Free

Some trailheads along the trail do have parking fees, as well as some campsite do require camping fees


Fees subject to change without notice.



Appalachian National Scenic Trail Weather

Due to the spread of the trail from the cold climate of Maine to the Georgia mountains, as you can expect, there will be a variety of conditions along the way, so be prepared for all contingencies. Remember that much of the trail is in higher elevation where it will be colder, and at times, more unpredictable, with weather than you might think at the start of your day.




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