Today Google celebrates elebrates the Appalachian Trail — a 2,190-mile footpath that spans across 14 U.S. states!
The Appalachian trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world and has served sightseeing hikers for nearly 100 years. It traverses through dense forests, across rushing rivers, and over mountain summits along the east coast. On this day in 1968 The National Trails System Act established the Appalachian Trail as one of the country’s first National Scenic Trails.
Benton MacKaye, a forester, conservationist, and lifelong outdoorsman, first proposed the idea in 1921. His original plan, titled An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning, outlined a stretch of several self-sustaining agricultural camps along the way. Many like-minded people started joining his cause, and the community eventually became known as the Appalachian Trail Conference.
In 1937, thanks to the combined efforts of many trailblazers, the Appalachian Trail became fully connected from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Ten years later, a hiker named Earl Shaffer reported the first thru-hike from end-to-end and ignited a wave of interest. Over fourteen thousand people have completed the trek since.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Trails System Act in 1968, which declared the Appalachian Trail as one of the first national scenic trails and recognized it as federal land. Finally, in 2014, the last major stretch of land was acquired, turning initial dreams for the trail into reality.
Nowadays, in a collaborative effort to conserve its natural glory, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and many volunteers maintain and manage the historic footpath. Thousands of pathfinders visit the route each year with the intention of completing the four- to six-month-long thru-hike.
Appalachian Trail map
The Appalachian Trail (AT) is one of the longest continuous hiking trails in the world, stretching approximately 2,190 miles (3,523 kilometers) from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The exact distance can vary slightly due to trail changes and relocations. Hiking the entire trail typically takes several months, and the time it takes to complete it can vary depending on several factors, including your hiking pace, weather conditions, trail conditions, and the number of rest days you take.
On average, hikers typically take between 5 to 7 months to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Some experienced hikers may complete it in as little as 4 to 5 months, while others may take longer. It’s essential to plan for the entire hiking season, as you’ll encounter different weather conditions and terrain along the way.
Here are some general guidelines for completing the AT:
- Average Pace: Hikers typically aim to cover around 10-20 miles (16-32 kilometers) per day, although this can vary widely depending on individual fitness and preferences. Some days you may hike more, while other days you may hike less.
- Resupply: You’ll need to plan for resupply points along the trail where you can restock on food and other essentials. These points are typically spaced every 3-7 days of hiking.
- Weather: Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, including hot summer days in the south and potentially snowy conditions in the north during the spring or fall. Weather can significantly impact your pace.
- Physical Condition: Your physical condition and hiking experience will also influence how quickly you can hike the AT. Some hikers may need time to acclimate to long-distance hiking and build their trail legs.
- Rest Days: Many hikers take rest days in towns along the trail to rest, resupply, and recover. The number and frequency of rest days can vary from hiker to hiker.
- Trail Magic and Social Interaction: Some hikers choose to spend more time socializing with fellow hikers or enjoying “trail magic” (unexpected acts of kindness from trail angels). These interactions can be a significant part of the AT experience but may add to your overall time on the trail.
Remember that safety should always be a priority, and it’s crucial to be prepared with the right gear, knowledge of the trail, and awareness of your limitations. Before attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, it’s recommended to do thorough research, plan your route, and be prepared for the physical and mental challenges that come with such an endeavor.