The Appalachian Trail is one of the most astounding trails for hikers in the world. The Appalachian Trail is approximately 2,200 miles (3,800km) long and runs continuously from the states of Georgia to Maine passing through an incredible 14 states. Any serious hiker needs to attempt to hike part if not all of this trail in their lifetime.
The Appalachian Trail was opened in 1923 and ran from Bear Mountain to Arden, New York. Although short, it was destined to grow-and grow it did. After the 1925 Appalachian Trail conference in Washington D.C. the Appalachian Trail Conservatory was founded and finally the man-power existed to start blazing and mapping trails.
Hikers consider the Triple Crown of hiking trails to include the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Serious hikers try to do all three in their lifetime. It is possible, but considering that it takes from early spring to late fall just to hike the Appalachian it is unlikely that the triple crown would be completed in the same year. Unofficial extensions that continue the Appalachian Trail into Canada form the International Appalachian Trail to where it enters the Atlantic Ocean. Another unofficial extension continues he trail down to Florida creating the Eastern Continental Trail.
The Appalachian Trail runs through the States of Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Maine. Each state contributes its own unique aspects to the trail which is maintained by 31 trail clubs and various partnerships. The trail is managed overall by the National Park Service. The Appalachian Trail is most often hiked from South to North as temperatures in the South are much warmer in the spring when most thru-hikers start their journey. By the time the hikers have reached the Northern states temperatures have warmed up and possibly started to cool down again as most thru-hikers finish hiking the trail in late fall.
Hikers can navigate the trail by following the 2” x 6” white blazes that are painted on trees and posts. There are many side trails which lead to look outs, shelters, or even parking spaces. These side trails are marked with 2”x 6” blue painted blazes. There are many hazards along the trail however most are common to hiking extended routes such as black bears, venomous snakes, wild boars, and insects. Run-ins with rabid raccoons or foxes are rare but possible and ticks are prevalent in the Northern half of the trail. Poison ivy, one of a hiker’s worst enemies is common all along the trail.
The terrain along the trail varies as much as the states do. In the south the Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and continues along to Blood Mountain which is the highest point on the trail. The mid point is at the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania although many consider Harpers Ferry in West Virginia to be the mental mid point. Most of the trail passes over mountain tops or on ridge trails along the mountain chain. One of the high points is the Presidential chain of mountains in New Hampshire. This chain has many mountains, each named after a United States President. The Northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is in Maine’s Baxter State Park on Mount Katahdin’s Baxter Peak.
There are many access points and towns along the trail providing opportunities for hikers to get provisions, do laundry, or enjoy a coffee break in a sit down restaurant. Check local conditions and ensure you are in good health before planning an extended journey on the trail.
Copyright 2016 Mike Wilson