Stretching from the eastern United States, extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, and boasting roughly 2,200 miles (3,500 km) of incredible, rich and scenic pastoral, wooded, and untamed terrain, Appalachian Trail is an American treasure and its premier hiking trail. The Appalachian Trail or AT as it is also called, is known for its thru-hikers, who attempt to hike the entire length of the trail in one season. It is appropriately dubbed the “the people’s path,” with roughly 2 to 3 million visitors hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail annually.
The idea of the Appalachian Trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye, a New England regional planner who wrote his original plan—called “An Appalachian Trail, A Project in Regional Planning” that was published in 1921. His proposal detailed an ambitious trail that would link a chain of farms and wilderness communities, where urban-dwellers who used the mountains for their recreation could stop and renew themselves. While the first section of the trail, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, New York was opened on October 7, 1923, the trail itself was not completed until 1937. Improvements and changes continue throughout the years, maintained by volunteers from more than 30 affiliated trail clubs along the Eastern seaboard.
The Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states: Georgia (76.4 miles), North Carolina (95.5 miles), Tennessee (287.9 miles), Virginia (550.3 miles), West Virginia (4 miles), Maryland (40.9 miles, Pennsylvania (229.6 miles), New Jersey (72.2 miles), New York ( 88.4 miles), Connecticut (51.6 miles), Massachusetts (90.2 miles), Vermont (150 miles), New Hampshire (160.9 miles) and Maine (281.4 miles), with well-known trail towns, including Hot Springs, North Carolina; Erwin, Tennessee; Damascus, Virginia; Port Clinton, Pennsylvania; Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Wingdale, New York and Kent, Connecticut. Each region features its own topographical flare, which makes for a pleasant scenery along the trail.
It is a habitat to thousands of species of plant and animal life, which includes some 2,000 rare, threatened, endangered plant and animal species. The black bear inhabits all regions of the Appalachians, and other large mammals that are commonly encountered include the white-tailed deer, elk and moose. Small mammals along the trails include beaver, river otter, bobcat, fox, and boar. Wild turkey, eagle, wood duck, owl, hawk and warbler are some of the bird species found in the Appalachians. The varied plant life along the trails include oak and tulip, maple, beech, birch, and various coniferous trees, such as spruce. Designed to be hiked, the Appalachian Trail is truly a “hiker’s trail.”
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