The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,159.1-mile foot trail along the ridge crests and through the major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains from Katahdin in the central Maine wilderness to Springer Mountain in a designated wilderness area in north Georgia. It was designed, constructed, and marked in the 1920s and 1930s by volunteer hiking clubs joined together by the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC), but it wasn’t until 1968 that the National Trails System Act made the Appalachian Trail a linear national park and authorized funds to surround the entire route with public lands, either federal or state, protected from incompatible uses. The trail traverses Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. The goal is to maintain the entire Trail environment as a place for everyone to hike, backpack, or otherwise enjoy the Appalachian mountains and wildlands, while at the same time conserving the natural, scenic, historical, and cultural resources of this one-of-a-kind park. Primary use is by weekend or short-term hikers. “Thru-hikers” generally start from the South in early spring and hike the entire length in 5 to 6 months. More than 98% of the Hiking Trail is now on public land and two-thirds of the population of the US live within 550 miles of it.
Western North Carolina’s part of the trail follows the NC/ TN boundary then winds through the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina with views of the southern Appalachians and Great Smoky Mountains.
The most primitive section of the trail and the highest of the entire route is through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with 70 crest-line Trail miles, Beyond the Great Smokies comes the Yellow Creek-Wauchecha-Cheoah Mountain areas, which are difficult to traverse because of steep elevation changes. Next is the outstanding Nantahala National Forest section, with 4,000-foot gaps and 5,000-foot peaks.