The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest trails in the world, measuring 2,184 miles long. This diverse Trail, located in the Eastern United States, cuts a path through fourteen states, from southern Springer Mountain, Georgia to northern Katahdin, Maine. The Trail attracts approximately 2-3 million visitors every year, from all over the world. Construction of the Trail began in 1921 but was not completed until 1937. The Appalachian Trail is part of America's National Park System and is managed by both public and private sectors.
Virginia contains the largest chunk of the Trail, with about 550 miles. West Virginia is home to the smallest section of the Trail, with only four miles.
The hardest parts of the Trail to hike are in New Hampshire and Maine. The easiest are in West Virginia and Maryland.
Approximately 2,000 people attempt to hike the entire Trail every year. Of these, only 1 in 4 are successful.
The James River Foot Bridge is the longest footbridge on the Trail, at 623 feet.
In addition to its scenic views, there are a number of attractions along the Trail, like the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The summit of Clingmans Dome, in the Great Smoky Mountains, is the highest point along the Trail, at 6,625 feet. In Maryland, visitors can stop by the Ensign Cowell shelter, which is regarded as one of the most unique shelters along the Trail. In this shelter, artillery testing from a nearby military base can easily be heard. In Pennsylvania, hikers can visit the coal mining ghost towns of Yellow Springs or Rausch Gap.
Hikers who attempt to go through the entire Trail in one journey are called “thru-hikers.” Most of these hikers start the Trail in Georgia in springtime. The Trail takes approximately 6 months to complete, so these hikers usually end up in Maine in the fall. Other hikers choose to cover the entire Trail over a period of years in different chunks. No matter which route you choose, whether you want to complete the entire Trail or just part of it, it has much to offer.
Be sure to choose appropriate clothing and gear for your hike. Consider the terrain you intend to cover, how long your hike will be, and the weather. Hypothermia and heat exhaustion can easily happen, so take precautions to avoid them and buy appropriate clothing. Also make sure to pack a first-aid kit that can treat scrapes, blisters, sprains and other common ailments. Break in new boots before beginning the Trail, and bring extra socks to change into. Pack water bottles, and be ready to purify any water you may find along the way before drinking. Make sure to bring plenty of food, or prepare to buy some along the way, as hikers can easily burn up to 6,000 calories a day on their journey through the Trail. During hunting season, pack an orange vest or hat. A flashlight, knife, and fire starters are also wise to bring along. For a long hike, be sure to bring a tent and several changes of clothes.
Fall is the perfect time for a day visit to the Appalachian Trail. The changing leaves are at their peak from late September to early November, providing beautiful views. Winter on the Trail can be very cold, as many areas are prone to snowstorms. Spring is also a good time to visit, as the weather will not be hot yet, though snowstorms can still happen in spring. Summer along the Trail is busy, and can be very hot.
The Appalachian Trail is home to a variety of animals. Black bears can be found in many parts of the Trail, and though attacks are rare, it is important to be cautious around them. Snakes, of both the poisonous and non-poisonous variety, are also common along the Trail. They are typically most active in hot weather at night. The Trail is also home to deer, moose, beavers, porcupines, frogs, salamanders, turtles, woodpeckers, owls and many other creatures. Even the endangered bald eagle can occasionally be sighted along the Trail.
No matter what part of the Appalachian Trail you decide to visit, it can be a very peaceful and beautiful escape. With its beautiful scenery and variety of wildlife, it is the perfect, and one of the most popular outdoor destinations.