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 Appalachian Trail came into being as the result of the labor of hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers who toiled ceaselessly to survey routes, break trail through the mountains, negotiate rights of way from private landowners, and build shelters along the route. However, several individuals deserve particular credit when it comes to the history of the creation of the Trail. Benton MacKaye had the vision and Myron Avery had the relentless drive to complete the Trail, but many other lesser-known volunteers contributed countless hours to the design, building, and maintaining of the Appalachian Trail.


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.