The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply The AT. , is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States, extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2175, miles (3500, km ) long. The path is maintained by thirty trail clubs and multiple partnerships. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions do traverse towns and roads, and crossed rivers.
The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Earl Shaffer was the first to do so. Many books, memoirs, web sites and fan organizations are dedicated to this pursuit.
Along the way, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. An extension, the International Appalachian Trail, continues north into Canada and to the end of the range, where it enters the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail form the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the United States.
The trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye, a forrester who wrote his original plan shortly after the death of his wife in 1921. MacKaye ' s idea detailed a grand trail that would connect a series of farms and wilderness work/study camps for city-dwellers. In 1922, at the suggestion of Major William A. Welch, director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, his idea was publicized by Raymond H. Torrey with a story in the New York Evening Post under a full-page banner headline reading ' A Great Trail from Maine to Georgia! ' The idea was quickly adopt by the new Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference as their main project.
The Appalachian Trail is home to thousand of species of plants and animals, including 2000, distinct rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species.
As the Appalachian Trail was explicitly designed to be hiked, it includes ressources to facilitate hikers. Some are common to trails throuhout North America, while some are unique to the Appalachian Trail. The trail is much more frequently hiked south to north (ie. Georgia to Maine ) than vice versa. Hikers typicaly begin in March or April and finish in late summer or early to late fall of that particular year. Many hikers will break down the millage into halves or thirds, so that they can have the best whether, which typically occurs between May and September.
The trail has more than 200 shelters and camp sites available for hikers. The shelters, sometimes called lean-tos (in Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut ), huts (in Shenandoah National Park and the White Mountains in New Hampshire ) or adirondack shelters, are generally open, three-walled structures with a woden floor, although some shelters are much more complex in structure. Shelters are usually spaced a day ' s hike or less apart, most often near a water source (which may be dry ) and with a privy. They generally have spaces for tent sites in the vicinity.
Shelters are generally maintained by local volunteers. Almost all shelters have one or more pre-hung food hangers (generally consisting of a short nylon cord with an upside-down tuna can suspended halfway down its length ) where hikers can hang their food bags to keep them out of the reach of rodents. In hiker lingo, these are sometime called ' mouse trapezes. '
In addition to official shelters, many persons ofer their homes, places of business, or inns to accommodate AT hikers. One example is the Little Lyford Pond camps maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Inns are more comon in sections of the trail that coincide with national parks, most notably Virginia ' s Shenandoah National Park.
Finally, this trail is one of the most beautiful places in the world for its simplicity. Many hikers just look for solitude and like being alone.