Appalachian Trail Histories

Photograph of a large group of members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club during a hike on the Appalachian Trail in the early 1930s. Club co-founder Myron Avery is pictured to the left with his famous measuring wheel and Frank Schairer, another co-founder and the club's first supervisor of trails is to Avery's left with clippers draped over his head.


Myron Avery points out a trail location in the late 1930s. Pictured with Avery (pointing with an axe) are, from left, PATC members Howard Olmstead, Bob Beach, Dr. Laurence Schmeckebeier, and Mary Jo Williams.

Collection: Builders

On February 8, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a special message to Congress in which he called upon his colleagues in the legislative branch to address the rapidly worsening state of the environment in the United States, and to take up an ambitious conservation agenda. In his speech, President Johnson called for the creation of a national system of trails, modeled on the Appalachian Trail:

We need to copy the great Appalachian Trail in all parts of America.

This speech spurred Secretary of the Interior Morris Udall to action, resulting first in the report Trails for America (1965) and then the National Trails System Act (1968). This latter legislation formalized the federalization of the Appalachian Trail.

Collection: Legislation
LBJ Natural Beauty Speech.pdf

The Wilderness Act of 1964 provided federal protection for large tracts of public land deemed to be at risk. The original land acquisition for the National Wilderness Preservation System included just over 9 million acres of land, largely in the western U.S., and today includes almost 110 million acres. Written by Wilderness Society member Howard Zahniser, the Act requires that those areas added to the System be kept as free of human imprint as possible and that its wilderness character be preserved.

Collection: Legislation

In 1978, Congress amended the National Trails System Act to substantially increase the pace of land acquisition along the trail corridor. The Act appropriated $90 million in new funds for this purpose and led to the acquisition of private lands along more than 800 miles of the Trail.

The Act also instructed the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Appalachian Trail Conference, to submit "a comprehensive plan for the management, acquisition, development, and use of the Appalachian Trail." This plan was to include the "identification of all significant natural, historical, and cultural resources to be preserved." One consequence of this provision in the Act was the rerouting of the existing trail to new locations, such as McAfee Knob, that were deemed "significant" and worthy of preservation.

Collection: Legislation

Benton MacKaye's article in The Journal of the American Institute of Architects 9 (October 1921):325-30, in which he proposes the Appalachian Trail.


Postcard image of McAfee Knob in Virginia. Image is undated, but attire of the men in the image indicates pre-World War II, and likely 1930s. McAfee Knob is one of the most visited and iconic locations on the Appalachian Trail and is located near Roanoke, Virginia.

Collection: Iconic Locations
McAfee Postcard1.jpg

Postcard image of a large group of hikers on Virginia's iconic McAfee Knob, circa 1930s. At this time the Knob was not part of the Appalachian Trail.

Collection: Iconic Locations

Collection: Hikers
Trail Angel Sign.jpg

Alternative Versions of Trail Angels

Collection: Hikers