In 1921, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail was simply an idea. Benton MacKaye – an off-and-on federal employee, educated as a forester and self-trained as a planner – proposed it as the connecting thread of “a project in regional planning.”
The efforts of countless volunteers made MacKaye's idea a reality. Today, the Appalachian Trail is best known as a simple footpath, yet it also has other identities – as a greenway, a flyway, a "mega-transect"; by which to monitor environmental health. It is the mission of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to ensure that future generations will enjoy clean air and water, scenic vistas, wildlife and opportunities for simple recreation and renewal along the entire Trail corridor.
At a Glance
The Appalachian Trail, completed in 1937:
- Is a unit of the National Park Service.
- Is the nation's longest marked footpath, at approximately 2,175 miles.
- Is the first national scenic trail, designated in 1968.
- Houses more than 2,000 occurrences of rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species.
- Crosses six national parks.
- Traverses eight national forests.
- Touches 14 states.
- Crosses numerous state and local forests and parks.
- Is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships.
Threats to the A.T. experience include:
- Highway construction
- Housing developments
- Invasive exotic plants
- Declining air quality
Fun facts about the Appalachian Trail:
- Lowest elevation: 124 feet.
- Highest elevation: 6,625 feet.
- There are 165,000 blazes along the length of the Trail.
- More than 9,000 people have reported hiking the length of the Trail.
- It takes approximately 5 million footsteps to walk the entire length of the Trail.
Learn more about the Appalachian Trail state by state.