Appalachian Trail Histories



Essay by PATC Secretary H.C. Anderson on the founding of the Club and its involvement with building the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park.






Shenandoah National Park Association


Potomac Appalachian Trail Club


Mills Kelly




Shenandoah National Park Souvenir Book, Southern Appalachian National Park Commission, (Harrisonburg, Virginia) 1933. No page number.


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Shenandoah National Park Association, “"The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club" (1933),” Appalachian Trail Histories, accessed November 29, 2023,


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.