On August 14, 1937 the Appalachian Trail was opened as a “continuous footpath” that spans about 2,180 miles from its southern terminus at Fannin County’s own Springer Mountain to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
While close to 2,000 hikers a year attempt to walk the entire Trail, known as a thru-hike, only a small percentage succeed. The total number of hardy souls that have actually made the complete hike from start-to-finish in one attempt — which usually takes between five to seven months — is fewer than 10,000.
But for those of us who are far less ambitious, the Trail still beckons, offering the opportunity to find serenity and to escape the pressures of daily life in just an afternoon.
Appalachian Trail Fun Facts:
- Virginia is home to the most miles of the Trail (about 550), while West Virginia is home to the least (about 4).
- Maryland and West Virginia are the easiest states to hike; New Hampshire and Maine are the hardest.
- The total elevation gain of hiking the entire A.T. is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times.
- The A.T. is home to an impressive diversity of plants and animals. Some animals you may see include black bears, moose, porcupines, snakes, woodpeckers, and salamanders. Some plants you may encounter include jack-in-the-pulpit, skunk cabbage, and flame azalea.
- About 2 to 3 million visitors walk a portion of the A.T. each year.
- The A.T. has hundreds of access points and is within a few hours drive of millions of Americans, making it a popular destination for day-hikers.
- “Thru-hikers” walk the entire Trail in a continuous journey. “Section-hikers” piece the entire Trail together over years. “Flip-floppers” thru-hike the entire Trail in discontinuous sections to avoid crowds, extremes in weather, or start on easier terrain.
- Most thru-hikers walk north, starting in Georgia in spring and finishing in Maine in fall, taking an average of 6 months.
- Foods high in calories and low in water weight, such as Snickers bars and Ramen Noodles, are popular with backpackers, who can burn up to 6,000 calories a day.