The Appalachian Trail signifies the American spirit of exploration, running continuously from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. Thought up by Benton MacKaye, a native of Scotland, it took nearly 50 years to connect the smaller trails into one long trail.
History of the Trail
Now reaching over 2,000 miles, the Appalachian Trail is perhaps the best-known long-distance hike in the country, if not in the world. It was first hiked in its completion (or “thru hiked”) by Earl Schaffer of Pennsylvania in 1948.
Emma Gatewood was the first woman to complete the trail, going northbound at age 67, in 1955. It’s now maintained by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and dozens of trail clubs along the route. The trail also goes through unique habitats for plants and animals.
Where It Goes
The Appalachian Trail runs through much of the South and runs through more Southern states than any other region. The most mileage in the hike is in Virginia. Georgia is considered to be one of the hardest parts of the trail because of the sudden climbs and long approach trail.
Notable peaks and highlights along the route in the region include Springer Mountain, Clingman’s Dome in the Tennessee Smokies, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. There are attractions and towns not far off the route if you’re prepared to venture out.
The Hiking Experience
The full hike takes at least six months and is generally done during the spring months when the snow has melted in the north. Camping is the preferred accommodation, but there are shelters in some parts of the country. The regions that go through national parks, like the Great Smoky and Shenandoah national parks, you can also stay in lodges.
There’s so much to say about the AT experience. The trail names assigned to hikers. The “trail angels” who bring you snacks along the way. The white blaze that marks the path.
But needless to say, there’s plenty of information out there on the trail. If you are interested in doing the hike, Amicalola Falls State Park offers a kick off event every year that has lectures on the trail experience, gear sales, and classes on wilderness skills.