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The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.
Known as the “A.T.,” it has been estimated that 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and about 1,800–2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the Trail. People from across the globe are drawn to the A.T. for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people or deepen old friendships, or to experience a simpler life.
The A.T. was completed in 1937 and is a unit of the National Park System. The A.T. is managed under a unique partnership between the public and private sectors that includes, among others, the National Park Service (NPS), the USDA Forest Service (USFS), an array of state agencies, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs.
The park is open year-round and accessible from many locations.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Free; if you are planning on overnighting, you must obtain a permit or there may be fees attached, some sites also charge for overnight use. See site for more details.
The notion of a “super trail” had been a parlor topic in New England hiking-organization and even academic circles for some time, but the October 1921 publication of “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning” in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects is almost universally seen as the moment of birth for the Appalachian Trail. Benton MacKaye—former forester and government analyst and newspaper editor, now intermittently employed as a regional planner—proposed, as a refuge from work life in industrialized metropolis, a series of work, study, and farming camps along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, with a trail connecting them, from the highest point in the North (Mt. Washington in New Hampshire) to the highest in the South (Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina). Hiking was an incidental focus.