Appalachian Trail Histories


Browse Exhibits (2 total)

An overview of the history of the Appalachian Trail from its earliest beginnings as an idea hatched by Benton MacKaye to the present trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine, passing through 14 states and over approximately 2,190 miles. The Trail, which began its life in 1922 with the first sections blazed in New York state, was originally a project of volunteer trail clubs. In 1968 the AT was designated as a National Scenic Trail and thus became part of the National Park system. Today, more than 3 million people each year set foot on the Trail for a few hours, a few days, or to hike from one end to the other--a trip of around 5 million steps. This exhibit provides a brief summary of how a crazy idea first proposed in 1921, turned into America's most iconic hiking trail. 


Since the beginnings of the Appalachian Trail in the 1920s, tens of millions of hikers have set foot on the Trail for a few hours, a few days, a few months, or to hike it from one end to the other. In doing so, they pursue Benton MacKaye's goal of developing a new form of outdoor community life to, as he said, help solve "the problem of living" in modern industrial society. Of the millions of hikers who have spent time on the Trail over the decades, we know only a little about a very few--those who chose to sit down and write about their experiences. Many of those who wrote about their hikes were long distance hikers and so the story of the day hiker is much more difficult to tell. This exhibit offers glimpses into the experiences of some of the best known hikers, but also into those less well known hikers who also shape the history of the Appalachian Trail.

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