The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail

A sign marking the Appalachian trail. Photo by Brad Powell.

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The Appalachian Trail is a part of the National Scenic Trails system.  The trail was conceived by forester Benton MacKaye in 1921.  The first section of the trail, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, New York, was opened in 1932, and it was completed to Sugarload Mountain in Maine in 1937.  It did not receive National Scenic Trail status until October 2, 1968, when the National Trail System Act was passed in Congress. 

The southern terminus begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia.  The northern terminus is located on Mount Katahdin in north-central Maine.  The Appalachian Trail covers approximately 2,175 miles, winding through the forested areas or backcountry of 14 different states.  The trail crisscrosses paths with many roads, towns, and major cities.  Overall, the Appalachian Trail explores the Appalachian Mountains and the unique culture which has grown up around them.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the parks the Appalachian Trail runs through.  Going from South to North, the trail enters the park along Fontana Dam and runs Northeasterly up to Davenport Gap (I-40 exit 451) near Waterville, North Carolina.  Altogether, approximately 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail wind through the tallest ridgeline of the park.  Major sites along the Great Smoky Mountains National Park section include Clingmans Dome and Mount Cammerer.

Shelters are spread out evenly along the trail for overnight purposes; pitching tents is not permitted on the trail.  Only up to 8-12 people, depending on the site, are allowed to stay at one shelter, so it is highly important to reserve the shelter(s) for your planned hike.  You can call the Backcountry Office at (865) 436-1231 to reserve a shelter and obtain a backcountry permit. 

On this Great Smoky Mountains National Park map, the Appalachian Trail is highlighted in green.  Here is an interactive map showing the Appalachian Trail.

For more information on the Appalachian Trail, visit the trail's website.  In addition, check out the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for full descriptions and shop for trail products such as maps, books, and clothing items.

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