Appalachian Trail Histories

A route map of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. This map shows not only the route of the Parkway, but also the year when each section of the road was completed. The Parkway began as a New Deal project in 1935 and was not completed until 1987. Altogether, the Parkway is 469 miles long and at its north end it connects with Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, which adds another 105 miles to the route. The Blue Ridge Parkway is part of the National Park system and is the most visited of all the national parks since the end of the Second World War.

Collection: Maps

A hand drawn map of the Appalachian Trail where it crosses Wayah Bald in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, made by Asheville, NC photographer George Masa (Masahara Izuka). Masa was instrumental in helping Appalachian Trail Conference chairman Myron Avery determine the final route of the Appalachian Trail and appropriate names for locations in Western North Carolina. This is just one of a number of maps Masa drew by hand for Avery's use in the early 1930s.

Collection: Maps

In 1930, the Carolina Appalachian Trail Club  was organized for the purpose of completing the western North Carolina segment of the Appalachian Trail. Its home was in Asheville. In 1931, the group merged with the Carolina Mountain Club, an organization founded in 1923 and still active today. This map of the Appalachian Trail and the North Carolina section of the Great Smoky Mountains was created that same year. The map was one of many collected by Horace Kephart (1862-1931).

Collection: Maps
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This map of a proposed Appalachian Trail appeared in Benton MacKaye's essay, "An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning," Journal of the American Institute of Architects, 9 (October 1921): 325-30. It shows the original route he had in mind for the Trail as well as a variety of connecting trails that either existed or were already in the planning or construction stages.

Collection: Maps

This is the original map, which Benton MacKaye developed, for creating his Appalachian Trail. It provides the proposed layout of the trails placement showing the states it would pass through.

Collection: Maps

This 1938 map of the Appalachian Trail from the Susquehanna River to the Virginia/Tennessee border, appeared on the back of the stationary of the Appalachian Trail Conference beginning in the late 1930s. It describes those portions of the Trail covered by the PATC's Guide to Paths in the Blue Ridge: Measured Distances and Detailed Directions for 506 Miles of the Appalachian Trail and 65 Miles of Side Trails in Virginia and Adjacent States, originally published in 1931 and reprinted numerous times since. The route of the Trail in 1938, especially in southern Virginia, is quite different from the current route.

Collection: Maps

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.

Collection: Maps
MacKaye Map 1925.jpg

On a November evening in 1927 a small group of Washington outdoor enthusiasts met to consider plans for the construction of hiking trails in mountainous and wooded regions accessible to Washington. An informal organization was effected and the name Potomac Appalachian Trail Club was adopted. The trail work which the group had primarily in mind was construction of a link of the Appalachian Trail, which is to be a footpath following the crestline of the Appalachian mountain system from Maine to Georgia. Considerable work had been done on the Appalachian Trail in New England, New York and Pennsylvania, but no work had been done in Maryland and Virginia. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has undertaken construction of the trail from the Maryland-Pennsylvania line south to Harpers Ferry, and along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park.

Soon after the organization meeting, scouting parties made trips to the Blue Ridge to reconnoiter the country and determine where the trail should be built, and it was not long before the actual cutting and marking of the trail was started. The activities of the Club have exceeded the most sanguine expectations of its founders. Nearly every week-end has seen a group of its members on a scouting or trail-cutting trip to the Blue Ridge. They have not been deterred by weather conditions, and have braved alike icy blasts of winter and the scorching rays of the mid-summer sun. As a result, there is now cleared and marked a trail from Harpers Ferry to Skyland, a distance of over eighty miles.

The Blue Ridge section, like the rest of the Appalachian Trail, as far as possible, [is] a sky-line trail. Its sole purpose is to afford pleasure and recreation. It endeavors to connect as many high points, affording wide views of surrounding country, and as many places of beauty as lie within its course, consistent with accessibility and reasonably practical grades. It is a trail for hikers, and in many places works its way to the top of rugged mountain summits which can be reached only on foot.

Climbing the Blue Ridge at Harpers Ferry where the altitude is 1,500 feet, the trail winds its way along the crest-line of the ridge from peak to peak, passing over summits over 4,000 feet high, such as Stony Man and Hawks Bill, which are in the heart of the Shenandoah National Park. On peaks such as these the hiker sometimes finds himself above the clouds with lesser peaks rising above the mist-shrouded valleys like islands in an arctic sea.

The construction of a trail along the crest of the Blue Ridge is only the beginning of the Club's plans. It contemplates the construction of branch trails so that the main trail will serve as a trunk line from which may be reached all points of scenic interest in the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah National Park. The plans of the Club also include the construction of camping shelters at convenient points along the trail an the issuance of a guidebook describing not only the route of the trail, with sketch maps, but containing also data concerning scenery, history, geology, botany, forestry and wild life of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Club is very much interested in the development of the Shenandoah National Park. One of its objects as set forth in the constitution is to foster public appreciation and use of this scenic region. The most attractive portion of the Club's trail lies in the Shenandoah National Park. The section of the Trail from Thornton Gap to Stony Man Mountain is one of which the Club is particularly proud. It is wild and rugged enough to satisfy the most strenuous mountain climber. Passing as it does over the summits of Mary's Rock, Pinnacle, and Stony Man, it affords many superb views of mountains, river and plain. Aside from its scenic value, this section of the Trail should be of great appeal to hikers, in that it affords a convenient approach to Skyland from the Lee Highway in Thornton Gap. The Skyland region, with its extensive trail system leading to many scenic points, can now be reached from Thornton Gap over a trail less than nine miles long, thus avoiding the circuitous journey through Luray and the tedious climb up Stony Man Mountain.

The members of the Club have derived much enjoyment and profit from this trail construction work. They are now interested in sharing the beauties of the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah National Park with other nature lovers. They would like to have more of their fellow beings who feel the tension of this hectic machine age experience the joys of taking a pack on back and following a mountain trail leading one knows not where.

Collection: Maps