The Appalachian Trail Turns 75

The Appalachian Trail turns 75 on August 14, 2012. The original trail took more than 15 years to build and was completed on August 14, 1937.

Thousands of lives have been changed by strolling along or thru-hiking the AT -- the world's longest hiking-only footpath.

The AT meanders 2,181 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Maine's Mount Katahdin. Between those two points hikers find wondrous wonders, fellow sojourners and sometimes ... they find themselves.

Hundreds of volunteers, state and federal partners, local trail-maintaining clubs, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) combined their efforts to strike the trail.

The AT blesses 14 states along the Appalachian Mountain range. More than a quarter-million acres of land are protected and managed along the trail.

More than 2,000 adventurous souls attempt to thru-hike the trail each year. "Only" 25% actually go all the way, but we consider them all heroes for pursuing their dreams instead of languishing in the land of "I wish I would have hiked the AT."

Hikers from across the globe -- two or three million of them -- are drawn to the AT. They do so to:

  • Reconnect with nature
  • Escape the stress of city life
  • Meet new people
  • Strengthen old friendships or
  • Experience a simpler life.

Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Mark Wenger says, "Not only does this anniversary celebrate the completion of the Trail, it also celebrates the unique collaboration and determination of countless individuals, private organizations, and state and federal agencies in their efforts to complete this long-distance hiking trail from Maine to Georgia."

Benton MacKaye wrote an article for the Journal of the American Institute of Architects in October 1921. The story, titled An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning, proposed the idea of the Appalachian Trail as an escape from daily life in an increasingly industrial nation.

Soon, building the AT became MacKaye's vision and goal.

The Appalachian Trail Conference -- now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy or ATC -- was founded four years later in 1925. The ATC has been the caretaker and protector of the AT ever since.

Since its completion in 1937, almost 99% of the trail has been relocated or rebuilt, primarily because hundreds of miles of the original route were along roads and passed through private lands.

The determination of Myron H. Avery and the ATC led to the passage of the National Trails System Act. Now, almost 100% of the AT is owned by the public. The footpath is protected -- along with a corridor of land averaging one thousand feet in width alongside the trail.

The recreated trail traverses more scenic landscapes than the original. In fact, some of the most cherished spots were not part of the initial AT in 1937, including:

  • Roan Mountain, Tennessee
  • Mt. Rogers High Country, including Grayson Highlands, Virginia
  • Pochuck Creek swamp, New Jersey
  • Nuclear Lake, New York
  • Thundering Falls, Vermont and
  • Saddleback Mountain, Maine.

The Appalachian Trail is now a part of the National Park System. As such, the AT is managed by a unique combination of public and private sectors. Among them are the ATC, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, 31 local AT-maintaining clubs and a variety of state agencies.

The AT's 75th anniversary was celebrated by the ATC on August 11 & 12, 2012 at the ATC's headquarters at 799 Washington St., Harpers Ferry, WV. Click on the link below for upcoming celebrations.

We commend all those who follow their dreams along the pathway of the Appalachian Trail.

Click Here for AT 75th Anniversary Celebrations

Click Here for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Website

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.