Facts About the Appalachian Trail

Facts About the Appalachian TrailIt might not be the longest hiking trail in North America anymore, but the Appalachian Trail is still the most popular and the most famous. Started by Benton MacKaye in the 1920s, the Trail is an internationally famous foot challenge, drawing hikers from around the world. Day hikers come out from all around the Eastern U.S. to tackle small pieces of it, and every spring "thru hikers" set out from the southern terminus in Georgia to trek the entire length of the Trail. The Appalachian Trail stands as one of the great walks in the world.

Statistics

The Appalachian Trail's trailheads are in Mount Katahdin, Maine and Springer Mountain, Georgia. It runs for 2,175 miles and passes through 12 different states. From its terminus in Maine, the Trail links into a Canadian extension. The Canadian trail is called the International Appalachian Trail.  Most of the Trail stays below 3,000 feet, with the highest point being the 6,643-foot-high Clingman's Dome in Tennessee.

The Hikers

While it is common to do only parts of the Appalachian Trail, there are hikers who do the trail all at once. Some stitch parts of the Trail together over time, with the eventual intention of hiking the entire Trail. The speed record for the Trail as of 2017 was set by Karl Meltzer in 2016. Meltzer started the quest at the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. He ran an average of about 48 miles per day to reach the end of the 2,190-mile trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia. It took 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes.

The Trail Features

The trail is marked by 2 inch by 6 inch white blazes. In addition to passing through towns occasionally along the route, there are over 250 shelters and campgrounds along the way. These are usually simple wooden shacks with a wood floor, privy, water source and little or no furniture. The trail shelters, as well as some of the trail, are maintained by local volunteer groups.

Wildlife

Timber Rattlesnake

The Appalachian Trail's wildlife will vary widely with the changing conditions, as it moves from South to North. The only potentially dangerous animals that may be encountered on the trail are the American Black Bear, the Eastern Timber Rattlesnake, and the Copperhead. The latter two are poisonous snakes, and of all three the Copperhead is the only truly aggressive animal, and therefore the one most likely to prove truly threatening. Another health threat is posed by woodland ticks and Lyme Disease.

The Trail's Cousins

The Appalachian Trail is part of the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the United States. The other two trails are the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Both of these trails are longer, but the Appalachian Trail remains the most famous.

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