Appalachian Trail Histories


Browse Exhibits (5 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.

Roth Five Hikers.jpg

When preparing to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, start and finish it in one go, there can be a lot of things to think about: what pack will you use, what kind of food will you eat, what shoes will you wear, who will you go with, etc. But, when thinking about all the different details of a complete of the Appalachian Trail, there's one other detail that actually causes some contraversy on the trail: in which direction are you walking? 

If a hiker chooses to be a North Bound hiker (NoBo), they will start at the Georgia end of the trail and walk towards Maine. But, if you choose to be a South Bound Hiker (SoBo), then you will start at Mount Katahdin in Maine, and walk south towards Georgia. Is there a right or a wrong way to walk? Not necessarily, but other thru hikers will tell you there certainly tell you there is a right and a wrong direction to walk, depending on whether you talk to a NoBo or SoBo. This argument between hikers from different directions comes from the different stereotypes and ideas about each group, and has actually caused a rivalry between each group. So, if you had to choose, which side would you be on? SoBo or NoBo? 


The AT, originally purposed by Benton MacKaye, a forester who wrote his original plan called "An Appalachian Trail, A Project in Regional Planning.” MacKaye's idea detailed a grand trail that would connect a series of farms and wilderness work/study camps for city-dwellers.  Since the idea of the AT was first conceived, it had the intention of being used as an escape away from the stress of the workplace and industrialization. This wilderness escape slowly became an escape for not only working class people, but United States Veterans looking for a way to recover from their often traumatic wartime experiences. It is here at the intersection of finding peace and mental wellness that we discover why Veterans started using the AT as a means to walk off their war scars.

McAfee Postcard1.jpg

Warrior Expeditions is an organization that outfits and supports veterans who wish to thruhike various trails accross the United States as a form of therapy. The organization currently supports hikes on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Florida Trail, and the Pacific Northwest Trail. On top of the Warrior Hikes, Warrior Expeditions also offers a Warrior Bike on the Trans America Trail and a Warrior Paddle on the Mississippi River.