Appalachian Trail Histories


Browse Exhibits (3 total)

When a hiker begins their trek on the Appalachian Trail, they might examine maps with labeled trail shelters, towns, and famous locations. Learning trail names helps a hiker recognize which direction they should go to reach their next destination along the Trail. However, not all hikers understand that certain regions possess significant histories before the Appalachian Trail's development. By learning about trail origins, a hiker receives an in-depth perspective about the choices made when establishing Trail sections. Mt. Katahdin, a famous trail destination, has a significant history with the Appalachian Trail, Baxter State Park, and the American Indian Penobscot Tribe. The Penobscot Tribe utilized the surrounding lands and summit as a resource for their survival as well as religious and cultural customs. However, Trail members and State Park officials are dealing with increased littering and damage to Mt. Katahdin's natural environment. Members from the Penobscot Tribe are also experiencing an increased disregard by hikers and visitors towards their religious customs and traditions still carried out today within Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin. Although these issues present difficulties in maintenance and preservation, the groups are reviewing and undergoing resolutions to these threatening problems. 

The town of Monson, Maine, is the last town that northbound Appalachian Trail hikers enter before heading into the One-Hundred Mile Wilderness – or the first town that southbound hikers encounter after completing that remote stretch between the town and Mount Katahdin, the northeast terminus of the famed trail.

Monson’s 686 residents, as of the 2010 Census, enjoy a harmonious and interdependent relationship with the weary hikers who trek the Appalachian Trail each year.

It’s estimated that 3 million people hike the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail every year, with an estimated 3,000 attempted thru-hikes of the entire trail in 2016.

As a result, hundreds of AT hikers rely on Monson to stock up on supplies, shower, eat a home-cooked meal, run a load of laundry or pick up their mail. And numerous local businesses cater to these hikers, offering them a place to eat, refresh and spend the night.

Located in the southwest portion of Maine’s Piscataquis County, Monson is a small but beautiful town surrounded by mountains and forest.

Originally established in 1822, Monson was a quiet, sleepy town that saw its population double with the discovery of high-quality slate deposits in the late 19th century. When the slate mining operations became less profitable, the remote town appeared headed for extinction. But the town’s strategic location on the Appalachian Trail saved it from disappearing as hikers, initially few in number but eventually growing to hundreds each year, brought with them much needed revenue.


This exhibit focuses on the current issues facing the National Parks Service and Baxter State Park, which hosts the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  While the National Parks service tends to advocate for the increasing awareness and use of its various parks and the multitude of benefits its users will experience, Baxter State Park in Maine has a different set of beliefs.  Baxter State Park is a unique entity founded by former Maine Governor Percival Baxter with the mission to preserve the purity of the region's wilderness with the minimal intrusion of mankind.  The park's mission does not include advocacy for maximizing usage of recreational areas, but rather sets strict limits on numbers of guests allowed at a time.  The prioritization of wilderness over people sets Baxter State Park apart from the National Parks Service and has led to issues when hikers along the Appalachian Trail who are unaware of or simply disregard the unusual restrictions and regulations of the park on their way to the northern terminus at Baxter Peak.  The few miles of the Appalachian Trail that exist in the park are maintained by both the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and Baxter State Park employees.  This exhibit will seek to examine the source of the fundamental ideological differences as an explanation for the more recent conflicts between Baxter State Park and Appalachian Trail hikers and the National Parks Service.