The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is nearly 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine, attracts an estimated 4 million hikers a year to some portion of the trail, including about 500 hikers who complete the entire trail in one year. It passes through parts of 14 states as it traverses the Appalachian Mountain range at its highest elevations.
The trail connects a system of mountains and ecosystems that include some of the areas of greatest biodiversity in North America, and passes through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway, crosses through Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, through a number of Civil War battlefield sites, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and numerous state parks and national forests.
The experience of hiking the entire trail—either in one year or in sections over a period of years is often called the "adventure of a lifetime." Ron Tipton, NPCA's Senior Vice President of Programs, had the great opportunity to hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine 1987, the year Congress passed legislation expanding the Park Service's authority to protect a trail corridor averaging at least 1,000 feet in width. For Ron it was a fabulous experience—every day brought a new sense of excitement and discovery, whether it was a beautiful mountain bald in the Southern Appalachians, the incredibly hospitable mountain town of Damascus tucked into the southwest corner of Virginia, crossing the Hudson River in Bear Mountain Park with a sweeping view extending south to Manhattan, the magnificent White Mountains, and the incomparable open summit of Mt. Katahdin at the northern terminus of the Trail in Maine.
Yet it is the people you hike with, the lifetime friends that result, and the numerous communities along the Appalachian Trail that embrace the trail and its hikers as one of its cultural treasures the make the Appalachian Trail the truly special place it is.
—Ron Tipton, NPCA