Hiking The Appalachian Trail From Maine To Georgia

Northern terminus of the trail atop Mount Katahdin in Maine
Northern terminus of the trail atop Mount Katahdin in Maine | © kworth30/Wikicommons
Alexia Wulff

The Appalachian Trail, or the A.T., is a national scenic hiking trail located on the eastern side of the United States, stretching from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Said to be the longest ‘hiking-only’ trail in the world, the A.T. covers 2,175 miles, some 14 states, eight national forests, six national parks, and numerous state parks and forests, in addition to serving as one leg of what is referred to as the ‘Triple Crown‘ of long-distance hiking in the US. Conceived by forester Benton MacKaye, the A.T. took a whole ten years to complete, officially opening in 1937. Today, it welcomes more than 2 million hikers every year.

Important Info

One-Day, Multi-Day, or Thru-Hike

Exploring the Appalachian Trail isn’t just for the pros – there are hundreds of locations across the US that even the most mildest of adventurists can jump on, many of which don’t require a permit or a fee. Experience the beauty of the Appalachian Trail with a simple one-hour long hike of photo ops and leisurely wandering, or opt for an intense all-day hike – whatever your choice, there are plenty of ways to catch a glimpse of the flora and fauna of the Trail whilst still returning home the same day. If you want to spend more time on the Trail, opt for multi-day hiking – this includes anything from a single overnight backpacking excursions to week long adventures.

For those who want to hike the whole length of the A.T. to earn their title as a ‘2000 miler,’ hiking pros can either hike the whole length of the A.T. in one year – called thru-hiking – or, break it into sections over a period of years, referred to as ‘section hiking.’ Section hiking allows hikers to choose your pace and mileage, but is more expensive and takes careful planning; thru-hiking is very challenging and only one quarter of hikers actually complete the trail, but it also requires preparation like where you’ll camp and resupply along the way. Planning to hike the A.T.? Be sure to start in Spring Mountain, the most popular entry point; or, opt for a trailhead somewhere in the middle to skip the crowds. Pro tip: never start in the north – this is the most rugged part of the terrain.

Tips, Rules & Regulations

If you’re a first time A.T. hiker, it is essential that you prepare properly, including coming with the appropriate clothing, footwear, and equipment, food and supplies, and a fully charged phone in case of emergencies. There are also rules of the trail, like Leave No Trace, and tips for staying safe, including ways to avoid catching and spreading disease, and understanding the trail markers called ‘blazes’ – be sure to comprehend these fully before planning your trip. If you’re planning on camping, make sure you get a permit; or, plan to stay at one of the 250 shelters along the trail. For more information on getting to and from the A.T., check out the Appalachian Trail website.

Other tips:

Bring sunscreen and always carry a map.
Rain test your gear.
Hang your food to keep bears from ransacking your campsite.

Hiking on Appalachian Trail

What To See

Whether you’re headed to the A.T. for a one-day hike, or going for the thru-hike, there are plenty of sights to see along the 2,000 mile stretch of the trail. While in Georgia, don’t miss Long Creek Falls, Three Forks Valley, and Blood Mountain; if you start in Springer Mountain, be sure to sign ‘The Book‘ at the visitor center. As you make your way into North Carolina, check out Fontana Dam and Chimney Rock; and on your way through Tennessee, have a peek at Clingmans Dome. While in Virginia, don’t miss the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, Mount Rogers, The Pocosin Cabin, and the view from McAfee Knob. If you’re headed through West Virginia, stop into the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry, the ‘mental’ half way point for thru-hikers.

Panoramic image of the Catawba Valley from the McAfee Knob overlook

While in Maryland, check the view from Annapolis Rock Overlook; or, discover the Rocky Run Shelters, built in 1940. If you’re in Pennsylvania, pop into the Appalachian Trail Museum, or check out a deserted ghost town like Yellow Springs. On the New Jersey section of the trail, head to the beautiful Sunfish Pond and High Point State Park. Traversing through New York, don’t miss Harriman State Park’s Lemon Squeezer, a famous rock formation, or Bear Mountain Bridge on the Hudson River.

In Connecticut, Falls Village and the top of Bear Mountain are worth the trek; in Massachusetts, Mount Everett and Mount Greylock’s War Memorial Tower are must-sees; in Vermont, there’s the stunning Green Mountains to feast your eyes on. For the final stretch, New Hampshire plays host to the Franconia Ridge and Mount Washington; and in Maine, be sure to pass through the ‘Hundred-Mile Wilderness’ and hike to the top of Mount Katahdin, the final point of the Appalachian Trail.

Sunfish Pond on the Appalachian trail in New Jersey

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