What is the Appalachian Trail?

In short, the Appalachian Trail is 2190 miles of trail through 14 states (verses 3 states for the PCT).  Backing up a bit to before when Lauren left for her journey, here is some information about the Appalachian Trail courtesy of Wikipedia.I have thrown in some pictures of information I found interesting about the trail in between the different state breakdowns of the trail.  The scenic pictures are not necessarily representing the area mentioned.  They are representative of the different terrain Lauren will experience throughout the trail.

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Route:

The trail is currently protected along more than 99% of its course by federal or state ownership of the land or by right-of-way. The trail is maintained by a variety of citizen organizations, environmental advocacy groups, governmental agencies and individuals. Annually, more than 4,000 volunteers contribute over 175,000 hours of effort on the Appalachian Trail, an effort coordinated largely by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) organization. In total, the AT passes through eight national forests and two national parks.[44]

AT Main to Georgia

In the course of its journey, the trail follows the ridge line of the Appalachian Mountains, crossing many of its highest peaks, and running, with only a few exceptions, almost continuously through wilderness. The trail used to traverse many hundreds of miles of private property; currently 99% of the trail is on public land.[73]  A hiker signs the register on Springer Mountain, Georgia.

Georgia has 75 miles (121 km) of the trail, including the southern terminus at Springer Mountain at an elevation of 3,782 feet (1,153 m).[74] At 4,461 feet (1,360 m), Blood Mountain is the highest point on the trail in Georgia. The AT and approach trail, along with many miles of blue blazed side trails, are managed and maintained by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. See also: Georgia Peaks on the Appalachian Trail.

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North Carolina – Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

North Carolina has 88 miles (142 km) of the trail, not including more than 200 miles (320 km) along the Tennessee Border.[75] Altitude ranges from 1,725 to 5,498 feet (526 to 1,676 m). The trail enters from Georgia at Bly Gap, ascending peaks such as Standing Indian Mountain, Mt. Albert, and Wayah Bald. It then goes by Nantahala Outdoor Center at the Nantahala River Gorge and the Nantahala River crossing. Up to this point, the trail is maintained by the Nantahala Hiking Club. Beyond this point, it is maintained by the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. 30 miles (48 km) further north, Fontana Dam marks the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.[76]

Tennessee – Sign denoting access to the Appalachian Trail at Clingmans Dome, the highest mountain in Tennessee.

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Tennessee has 71 miles (114 km) of the trail,[77][78] not including more than 200 miles (320 km) along or near the North Carolina Border.[79] The section that runs just below the summit of Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is along the North Carolina and Tennessee border and is the highest point on the trail at 6,643 feet (2,025 m). The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (Knoxville, TN) maintains the trail throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Davenport Gap. North of Davenport Gap, the Carolina Mountain Club (Asheville, NC) maintains the trail to Spivey Gap. Then the remaining Tennessee section is maintained by the Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club (Kingsport, TN).  The Pocosin cabin along the trail in Shenandoah National Park.

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Virginia

Virginia has 550.3 miles (885.6 km) of the trail (one-fourth of the entire trail) including more than 20 miles (32 km) along the West Virginia border.[80] With the climate, and the timing of northbound thru-hikers, this section is wet and challenging because of the spring thaw and heavy spring rainfall.[81] Substantial portions of the trail closely parallel Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and, further south, the Blue Ridge Parkway.[80] The Appalachian Trail Conservancy considers as excellent for beginning hikers a well-maintained 104 miles (167 km) section of the trail that the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed in Shenandoah National Park. Climbs in this section rarely exceed 1,000 feet (300 m).[13][80] In the southwestern portion of the state, the trail goes within one half mile of the highest point in Virginia, Mount Rogers, which is a short side-hike from the AT.

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West Virginia

West Virginia has 4 miles (6.4 km) of the trail, not including about 20 miles (32 km) along the Virginia border.[82] Here the trail passes through the town of Harpers Ferry, headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Harpers Ferry is what many consider to be the mental midpoint of the entire A.T., although the actual midpoint is further north in southern Pennsylvania. (The exact midpoint moves due to trail rerouting.)[83]  The AT crosses the railroad bridge at left in this photo of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Maryland

Maryland has 41 miles (66 km) of the trail, with elevations ranging from 230 to 1,880 feet (70 to 573 m).[84] Most of the trail runs along the ridgeline of South Mountain in South Mountain State Park.[85] Hikers are required to stay at designated shelters and campsites. The trail runs through the eastern edge of Greenbrier State Park. This can serve as a luxurious stop point for a hot shower and a visit to the camp store. The trail runs along the C&O Canal Towpath route for 3 miles (4.8 km). Hikers will also pass High Rock, which offers spectacular views and is a popular hang-gliding site. The section ends at Pen Mar Park, which sits on the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Annapolis Rock Overlook, found along the trail in South Mountain State Park.

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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has 229.6 miles (369.5 km) of the trail.[86] The trail extends from the Pennsylvania – Maryland line at Pen Mar, a tiny town straddling the state line, to the Delaware Water Gap, at the Pennsylvania – New Jersey border. The Susquehanna River is generally considered the dividing line between the northern and southern sections of the Pennsylvania AT. South of the Susquehanna, the trail passes through Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The Pennsylvania section of the trail north of the Susquehanna, from Duncannon until the Delaware Water Gap, is noted[by whom?] for its eroded and rocky terrain which can slow hiking.[citation needed]

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New Jersey – Sign for the Appalachian Trail within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey

New Jersey is home to 72.2 miles (116.2 km) of the trail.[87] The trail enters New Jersey from the south on a pedestrian walkway along the Interstate 80 bridge over the Delaware River, ascends from the Delaware Water Gap to the top of Kittatinny Mountain in Worthington State Forest, passes Sunfish Pond (right), continues north through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Stokes State Forest and eventually reaches High Point State Park, the highest peak in New Jersey (a side trail is required to reach the actual peak). It then turns in a southeastern direction along the New York border for about 30 miles (48 km), passing over long sections of boardwalk bridges over marshy land, then entering Wawayanda State Park and then the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest just before entering New York near Greenwood Lake. In New Jersey the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference maintains and updates the Appalachian Trail.

Black bear activity along the trail in New Jersey increased rapidly starting in 2001. Hence, metal bear-proof trash boxes are in place at all New Jersey shelters.
Island Pond, Harriman State Park

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New York

New York’s 88.4 miles (142.3 km) of trail contain very little elevation change compared to other states.[88] From south to north, the trail summits many small mountains under 1,400 feet (430 m) in elevation, its highest point in New York being Prospect Rock at 1,433 feet (437 m), and only 3,000 feet (910 m) from the border with New Jersey. The trail continues north, climbing near Fitzgerald Falls, passing through Sterling Forest, and then entering Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park. The lowest point on the entire Appalachian Trail is in the Bear Mountain Zoo 124 feet (38 m). It crosses the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge. It then passes through Fahnestock State Park, and continues northeast and crosses the Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line. This track crossing is the site of the only train station along the trail’s length. It enters Connecticut via the Pawling Nature Reserve. The section of the trail that passes through Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks is the oldest section of the trail, completed in 1923. A portion of this section was paved by 700 volunteers with 800 granite-slab steps followed by over a mile of walkway supported by stone crib walls with boulders lining the path.[5] The project took four years, cost roughly $1 million, and was officially opened in June 2010.[5] The project was done by the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference. The New York–New Jersey Trail Conference maintains and updates the Appalachian Trail in New York.

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Connecticut – Housatonic River’s Great Falls in Falls Village, Connecticut as viewed from the Appalachian Trail.

Connecticut’s 52 miles (84 km) of trail lie almost entirely along the ridges to the west above the Housatonic River valley.[89]  The state line is also the western boundary of a 480 acres (190 ha) Connecticut reservation inhabited by Schaghticoke Indians. Inside it, the AT roughly parallels its northern boundary, crossing back outside it after 2,000 feet (610 m). The trail proceeds northward through the Housatonic River valley and hills to its west, veering northwesterly and, at Salisbury, ascending the southern Taconic mountains, at Lion’s Head affording a view northeasterly towards Mt. Greylock and other points in Massachusetts, and at Bear Mountain, reaching over 2,000 feet (610 m) in elevation for the first time since Pennsylvania and yielding views across the Hudson River valley to the Catskills and across the broad expanse of the Housatonic valley and the Berkshire and Litchfield Hills to the east. Just north of Bear, the trail, as it crosses into Massachusetts, descends into Sages Ravine, a deep gorge in the eastern Taconic ridgeline which is home to a fragile old growth forest. As the trail crosses the brook in the ravine, it leaves the area maintained by the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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Massachusetts – View from Mount Greylock in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has 90 miles (140 km) of trail.[90] The entire section of trail is in western Massachusetts’ Berkshire County. It summits the highest peak in the southern Taconic Range, Mount Everett (2,604 feet (794 m)), then descends to the Housatonic River valley and skirts the town of Great Barrington. The trail passes through the towns of Dalton and Cheshire, and summits the highest point in the state at 3,491 feet (1,064 m), Mount Greylock. It then quickly descends to the valley within 2 miles (3.2 km) of North Adams and Williamstown, before ascending again to the Vermont state line. The trail throughout Massachusetts is maintained by the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Vermont

Vermont has 150 miles (240 km) of the trail.[91] Upon entering Vermont, the trail coincides with the southernmost sections of the generally north/south-oriented Long Trail. It follows the ridge of the southern Green Mountains, summitting such notable peaks as Stratton Mountain, Glastenbury Mountain, and Killington Peak. After parting ways with the Long Trail at Maine Junction, the AT turns in a more eastward direction, crossing the White River, passing through Norwich, and entering Hanover, New Hampshire, as it crosses the Connecticut River. The Green Mountain Club maintains the AT from the Massachusetts state border to Route 12. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains the trail from VT Route 12 to the New Hampshire state line.
New Hampshire – Franconia Ridge, a section of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has 161 miles (259 km) of the trail.[92] The New Hampshire AT is nearly all within the White Mountain National Forest. For northbound thru-hikers, it is the beginning of the main challenges that go beyond enduring distance and time: in New Hampshire and Maine, rough or steep ground are more frequent and alpine conditions are found near summits and along ridges. The trail reaches 17 of the 48 four-thousand footers of New Hampshire, including 6,288-foot (1,917 m) Mount Washington, the highest point of the AT north of Tennessee. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains the AT from the Vermont border past Mount Moosilauke to Kinsman Notch, northwest of Woodstock, New Hampshire, Randolph Mountain Club maintains 2.2 miles from Osgood Trail near Madison Hut to Edmands Col, with the AMC maintaining the remaining miles through the state. The weather includes strong winds and fog.

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Maine – Northern terminus of the trail atop Mount Katahdin in Maine

Maine has 281 miles (452 km) of the trail. The northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is on Mount Katahdin’s Baxter Peak in Baxter State Park.  In some parts of the trail in Maine, even the strongest hikers may only average 1 mile per hour (1.6 km/h), with places where hikers must hold on to tree limbs and roots to climb and descend, which is especially hazardous in wet weather.[93] The western section includes a mile-long (1.6 km) stretch of boulders, some of which hikers must pass under, at Mahoosuc Notch, sometimes called the trail’s hardest mile.

Although there are dozens of river and stream fords on the Maine section of the trail, the Kennebec River is the only one on the trail that requires a boat crossing. The most isolated portion of the Appalachian Trail, known as the “Hundred-Mile Wilderness”, occurs in Maine. It heads east-northeast from the town of Monson and ends outside Baxter State Park just south of Abol Bridge.[94]

100-Mile-Wilderness

Park management strongly discourages thru-hiking within the park before May 15 or after October 15.[95]

The AMC maintains the AT from the New Hampshire border to Grafton Notch, with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club responsible for maintaining the remaining miles to Mt. Katahdin. The international extension, called the International Appalachian Trail begins at Mt. Katahdin.

Impressive, right?  Exciting to follow this journey of Lauren.  Some other great resources for the trail:

Appalachian Trail Conservatory

 

Until next time

~ Linda

3 thoughts on “What is the Appalachian Trail?

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