Key information: Appalachian Trail
- Explore some stunning mountainscapes, like the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.
- A variety of fascinating wildlife, ranging from the bald-headed eagle to the American black bear.
- Visit Cherokee and learn of the "Trail of Tears" where thousands of Native Americans were displaced and forced to travel further south.
- See some of the world's most vivid hues as autumn approaches New England.
- Select a hiking route or complete the entire trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, or go even further into the great Appalachian range in Canada, home to some of the oldest rocks in the world.
- Multiple stopping points for numerous outdoor activities like white-water rafting, mountain biking, and more.
- Prepare for hot, hazy summers and frigid winters in the higher regions, especially up North. If anyone else has any further PICTURES, or COMMENTS, we would love to hear from you!
- Walkopedia rating78
- Natural interest14
- Human interest2
- Negative points0
- Total rating78
- Length: 2,184 miles
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
For thousands of years the winding footpaths of The Appalachian Trail have been walked by the Native American hunter-gatherers, whose rich spirituality became intertwined with the soaring peaks, valleys, and rivers of the Trail, before it became an inspiration to the great Transcendentalist writers and Hudson River Valley painters. All the 2,184 miles of its ancient stone and bark - which came to fruition in 1937 - is a living history to the legacy which is left behind from people of the Algonquin and Cherokee tribes, their struggles with the settlers, and the new frontier culture which emerged to become one of the most characteristic of American heritage.
Officially designated as The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the world's longest path has lured in explorers from all corners of the globe as well as casual hikers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. An estimated 2 to 3 million people touch its soil at one point or another each year, with thousands of thru-hikers (resilient trekkers who undertake the entire venture) and section hikers (trekkers who complete the trail over a course of a few years).
Passing through 14 states, the Appalachian Trail (nicknamed the AT) boasts an incredible system of biodiversity. In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone, more than 90,000 species are estimated to reside in the region. Nature watchers can delight in sightings of black bears, moose, porcupines, salamanders, snakes, and a large variety of bird and plant-life. Much of the AT can be accessed at any of the 500+ road crossings, as well as from train and bus (and nearby airports offering transfers). With more than 250 three-sided shelters alongside the AT as well as several tourist information centers, the Trail is well-maintained and suitable for hiking year-round barring weather restrictions.
- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park rides the forested ridges between North Carolina and Tennessee. The legendary "smoke stacks" of charcoal peaks rising above the mist that captured the imaginations of photographers like co-founder George Masa are iconic vistas that trace back millions of years, when the landscape was slightly taller and more rugged. Also home to Cade's Cove, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and Cataloochee Valley, it offers more than 80 picturesque hikes ranging from beginner to intermediate, lasting anywhere from 0.4 to 14 miles and covering iconic locales like Laurel Falls and Oconaluftee River.
- The Shenandoah National Park is one of the most unsurpassed regions of beauty in the US, covering Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountain range. Its range of trails varies from a leisurely hike to a challenging climb; some of the famous climbs including Old Rag Mountain which is an energetic 9 mile descent over boulders and brush.
- Mount Washington is another famous landmark which dares AT trekkers. The highest peak in the Northeast, it's a trail which is better-suited to more experienced hikers, usually taking anywhere from 8 to 9 hours in total.
- Encompassing over 500,000 acres of lush forest, the Pisgah National Forest is one of the highlights of the Southern Appalachians, sprawling across Western North Carolina. There are several long distance trails to choose from, such as the famous Mountain to Sea Trail and Art Loeb Trail, as well as numerous camping sites and its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a bonus too.
It's important to remember that all seasons of the AT bring their own challenges. Summer faces an onslaught of yellowjackets, mosquitoes, chiggers and other insects, as well as the risk of dehydration and black bear encounters, though accidents are rare as long as their safety isn't threatened (most are used to human activity, but giving mother bears and their cubs is a wide berth is strongly recommended). Winter can draw in cold temperatures and treacherous ice on some of the higher elevations, and at more than 6,000 feet in some cases (such as Clingman's Dome) crampons and sturdy boots as well aswarm gear is necessary. The United States National Park Service holds many outposts and a substantial online resource offering a wealth of information ranging from local attractions to must-reads like park alerts and environmentally-conscious camping among other activities.
While several trails are remote and tranquil, there are other areas where there is likely to be a larger congestion of tourists. Places like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are full of family-friendly activities as well as boasting an excellent selection of souvenir shops, delicious Appalachian cuisine, and themed shows. While pleasant and inviting, these tend to be packed in the summer.
For news, folklore, events and information about hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, The Appalachian Trail Website is an excellent source, and good to keep an eye on. Each year the AT changes slightly, so it's a good idea to use updated maps and GPS resources for hiking.
Thank you to Melissa Norton for her extensive input on this walk.
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COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS
Posted on: 12/09/2013
The Appalachian Trail runs 2175 miles, from Maine to Georgia, on a combination of public and private land. Constructing it was a many year effort of countless volunteers. Some people have fulfilled a life's ambition by walking the entire Trail, mostly in bits and pieces over the course of years. Some walk the same stretch more than once. See www.appalachiantrail.org.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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