Appalachian Trail Histories

Trash left by hikers at the Wiggins Shelter in Virginia, May 1970. Increasing use of the Appalachian Trail by both casual and long distance hikers in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to a number of problems such as increasing amounts of litter, increasing vandalism, and degradation of the environment around trail shelters. One response of the ATC was to urge trail maintaining clubs to remove trash receptacles from shelters (note the trash barrel in this image). Another was to embark on much more aggressive educational campaigns, like the very successful Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics program. In due to overuse problems like those pictured here, the Wiggins Shelter was removed from the Trail.

Collection: Trail Shelters
Wiggins Shelter.jpg

Long distance hiker Cherie Cummings photographed outside ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry, WV, July 17, 1979.

The tradition of taking hiker photographs at ATC headquarters began in 1979. Staff member Jean Cashin ("Trail Mom") used a Polaroid camera to record passing long distance hikers at the sign by the front door. Over time, the practice became a standard procedure, and a numbering system was developed that serves as an informal registration system for these hikers.

Collection: Hikers
ATC 1979.jpg

Photograph of Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery at Bake Oven Knob, October 1931. This is the only known photograph of the two men together.

Collection: Builders

Family with dog at Appalachian Trail Conservancy's visitor center

Collection: Pets on the AT

In 1939 the Appalachian Trail Conference issued guidelines to its member clubs regarding the construction of shelters (then called lean-tos) along the Appalachian Trail. The goal, as stated in this document, was to place shelters approximately 10 miles apart:

Such spacing avoids undue exertion for travelers carrying heavy packs and yet permits "skipping" a lean-to by more strenuously inclined traveler's for their day's journey.

The design of the lean-tos was to follow the general design of the Adirondack shelter: three-walled, with a steeply sloping roof, and a stone fireplace at the front that would radiate heat into the structure.

Collection: Trail Shelters

Master planning document for the Appalachian Trail, adopted by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service in 1981.

Collection: Legislation

Map of the proposed Appalachian Trail, hand-drawn by Benton MacKaye for the first meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conference, March, 1925. Although this map became the blueprint for the Trail, the final terminus for the path ended up being Springer Mountain, not the Cohutta Mountains of North Georgia as he proposed in this map.

MacKaye Map 1925.jpg