The Appalachian Trail Days event, the World’s Largest Organized Backpacking Event, begins May 13. In honor of the 25th Anniversary of this event, we thought we’d share some history of the Appalachian Trail (AT).
The AT is a 2,181 mile trail that extends through wilderness, towns, and rivers of Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The hike, so epic, coined the term “thru hiker” to describe those who attempt to hike the entire AT in a single season.
The AT cuts through fourteen states–Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine—plus an international extension that runs north to Canada, eventually reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
Conceived in the 1920’s by Benton Mackaye, the trail’s original purpose was to connect a series of farms and wilderness camps. The Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference adopted the idea of this “Great Trail”, and in 1923 the first section of trail from Bear Mountain to Arden, New York was completed. Further legs of the trail were developed through 1933.
Myron Avery, chairman of the Appalachian Trail Committee from 1932 to 1952 and the AT’s first end-to-end hiker, eventually helped re-route the trail, making it more scenic. He was a huge advocate of marking the trail and defining its use for recreation and hiking.
In 1937, the trail was completed to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, though quickly thereafter (and until the end of WWII), the trail suffered a series of disasters. After the trail was repaired following the war, the first thru hiker—Earl Shaffer—was documented as completing the trail from South to North, then later North to South.
The AT was one of two national scenic trails to be adopted by the National Trails System Act of 1968. It makes up part of the Triple Crown long distance hiking trails in the US.