Cloud-shadowed view from the Appalachian Trail at Wolf Rocks, Monroe and Northampton Counties.
Nicholas T, Flickr
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the eastern U.S. extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Map: Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The precise length of the Appalachian Trail constantly changes over time as trails are modified or added. Currently, the total length is approximately 2,200 miles. The Appalachian passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye, a forester who wrote his original plan shortly after the death of his wife in 1921. MacKaye's idea detailed a grand trail that would connect a series of farms and wilderness work/study camps for city-dwellers.
Appalachian Trail, Vernon Valley, Sussex County. Photo: Nicholas T, Flickr
The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Many books, memoirs, web sites and fan organizations are dedicated to this pursuit.
The path is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships, and managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions traverse towns, roads and cross rivers.
Photo: Chewonki Semester School
The Appalachian Trail is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, including 2,000 distinct rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species.
As the Appalachian Trail was explicitly designed to be hiked, it includes resources to facilitate hikers. Some are common to trails throughout North America, while some are unique to the Appalachian Trail. The trail is much more frequently hiked south to north (that is, Georgia to Maine) than vice versa. Hikers typically begin in March or April and finish in late summer or early to late fall of that particular year.