The Appalachian Trail (or A.T.) is one of only three National Scenic Trails that the National Park Service (NPS) includes in its total of 420+ units, despite there being many other affiliated trails (some with their own Visitor Centers). The trail stretches 2,185 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia (in Chattahoochee National Forest‘s Ed Jenkins National Recreation Area) to Mount Katahdin, Maine, crossing 14 states, 6 NPS sites, 8 National Forests, and countless other parks.
Ed Jenkins National Recreation Area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Mount Washington State Park, Baxter State Park
Even if just for a short stretch, gets a taste for the A.T. by following the white rectangular blazes going north or south anywhere along its length. The trail through Newfound Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is especially popular. Check out our blog post on the short hike to the southern terminus of the A.T. at Georgia’s Springer Mountain in Chattahoochee National Forest‘s Ed Jenkins National Recreation Area.
The last stretch of the trail ascends Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park. My impression from the surly park employees is that they would rather not be the official end of the Appalachian Trail. For instance, they fined record-setting Scott Jurek for public alcohol consumption and littering when he spilled some champagne celebrating his accomplishment atop Katahdin in 2015. The funny thing about the A.T. is that it ends (and begins) on top of a mountain where you have to turn around and hike out.
The views on top of Katahdin are unsurpassed and you might get to celebrate with a thru-hiker finishing the 2,185-mile journey.
Most thru-hikers go in the summer due to snow. Baxter State Park closes in the winter, but most of the trail is accessible year round.
Free to hike, but some parks (like Shenandoah National Park) charge for admission and camping.
Trailhead access can be both paved and dirt (which is the case in Baxter State Park). The trail is only paved in a few portions like atop Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There are more than 160 trail shelters along the A.T. and in some places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park backpackers are required to utilize them. Otherwise dispersed camping is mostly allowed along the entire length of the trail.
Explore More – Approximately how many steps must a human take to cover 2,185 miles?