With an impressive length of almost 3,500 km, the Appalachian Trail stretches through 14 states of the USA, from the south in Georgia to the north in Maine. Since its completion, the AT has been one of the most popular long-distance hiking trails in the USA and exudes a special aura.
The Appalachian Trail, affectionately abbreviated as “AT” by long-distance hikers, was conceived by Benton McKaye in 1921 and opened on August 14, 1937. Originally, hostels, conservation stations, and self-sufficient communities were planned along the trail, but this idea was not fully realized. The Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) was founded in 1925 with the goal of connecting the highest points in the East, Mount Mitchell at 2,037 m and Mount Washington at 1,917 m. The ATC was founded in 1937.
The AT passes through the majestic Appalachian Mountains, one of the oldest mountains on earth, with peaks as high as 2,037 meters. Along its route, it traverses breathtaking landscapes in the states of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
To hike the entire Appalachian Trail takes about 4-6 months, depending on your fitness and physical condition. Most long-distance hikers, also known as “thru-hikers,” start their tour in late March to April at the southern trailhead of Springer Mountain in Georgia. The AT has no extremely difficult sections to overcome, but because of its length and challenges, it requires good preparation.
From the start, you encounter constant climbs and descents on the AT. Most of the trail passes through dense forest, and viewpoints that offer sweeping vistas or the end of the day’s stage are rare. Overnight stays on the trail are usually in so-called “shelters” – massive wooden huts with three walls and one open side. Aside from sleeping platforms, the shelters offer limited amenities. Camping is usually possible near the shelters, as sleeping spaces cannot be reserved in advance. There are no huts along the trail that are serviced as in the Alps.
Every 4-5 days there is the possibility to stock up on provisions in nearby villages. Often you can only reach these places by hitchhiking, although this is not normally done in the US, but works well near the trail. Water sources along the AT are usually not a problem, but it is still advisable to carry a water filter.
Nearly 3,500km long, the Appalachian Trail in the USA is one of the longest long-distance hiking trails anywhere. It runs from the south of the USA in Georgia to the north in Maine. The trail leads the long-distance hiker – Thru-Hiker through 14 states of the USA. Since its completion, the AT has been one of the most popular long-distance trails in the USA with a very special aura.
The AT in stages – Hikes along the Appalachian Trail
If you don’t want to hike the entire trail or can’t do it due to time constraints, the following regions are recommended for a side trip on stages of the AT (from south to north):
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park – this section offers many possibilities to create round trips over other trails in the park ,which partly follow the AT. GSM-NP is relatively busy, especially in the summer months.
- Shenandoah National Park – This section is often described by AT hikers as the most beautiful part. One of the reasons for this is that, unlike other sections, you always have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery at viewpoints. In addition, there are hardly any steep inclines and declines. One hikes more or less like on a mountain ridge.
- White Mountains in New Hampshire – Many alternative trails allow to plan round trips (also several days) that include the AT
- 100 mile Wilderness – the wildest part of the AT
- Baxter State Park in Maine – the spectacular finale. Aside from the “climb” of Mt. Katahdin, the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, this park offers many opportunities for day and multi-day hikes in the wilderness. Accessed only by a single dirt road, the park is one of the most pristine regions of the northeastern United States.
- Bill Bryson – Picnic with Bears
- Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion
- Bill Irwin: Dark Night in Broad Daylight – A Blind Man on the Appalachian Trail
- Maps of the Appalachian Trail