The Appalachian Trail is America's footpath and the first National Scenic Trail. First envisioned in 1921, and first completed by citizen volunteers in 1937, the "A.T." has been a work-in-progress for more than 90 years. The A.T. is a long-distance trail, extending more than 2,175 miles through the Appalachian Mountains in fourteen states. It is also a protected "greenway" of public lands which protects many examples of our nation's important cultural and natural resources.
The A.T. was designated as the first National Scenic Trail with the passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968. Stewardship of the Trail is accomplished through a unique cooperative management system, involving more than 75 federal and state land-managing agencies, the non-profit Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and volunteers from 31 local A.T. Clubs, and the National Park Service, designated as the lead federal agency for the administration of the trail.
More than 325 miles of the A.T. traverse portions of the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, from the Virginia-Tennessee state line, across the "high country" of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, through the ridge and valley area of the Eastern Divide Ranger District, and atop the Blue Ridge on the Glenwood-Pedlar Ranger Districts. More than 2 million people hike some portion of the A.T. each year - for an hour, a day, a weekend, or more. Annually, more than 550 volunteers from eight local A.T. Clubs contribute more than 25,700 hours of effort to the maintenance and management of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Forest Trail # 1) on the GWJeff.
" The Appalachian Trail is a way, continuous from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, for travel of foot through the wild, scenic, wooded. pastoral, and culturally significant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. It is a means of sojourning among these lands, such that visitors may experience them by their own unaided efforts. In practice, the Trail is usually a simple footpath, purposeful in direction and concept, favoring the heights of land, and located for minimum reliance on construction for protecting the resource. The body of the Trail is provided by the lands it traverses, and its soul is in the living stewardship of the volunteers and workers of the Appalachian Trail community."
- Definition of the Appalachian Trail, from the "A.T. Management Principles" and the "Comprehensive Plan for the Appalachian Trail."
The A.T. is marked with white vertical paint blazes, two-inch by six-inch. It is a foot trail - travel by horse, bicycle, or motorized vehicles is not allowed. The trail is accessed by numerous trailheads and public road crossings, averaging one crossing every five miles.
Information on the A.T. is available at www.appalachiantrail.org or by contacting the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at 304-535-6331. Detailed A.T. maps and guidebooks are available from ATC and outdoor retailers.