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The trail is currently protected along more than 99% of its course by federal or state ownership of the land or by right-of-way. The trail is maintained by a variety of citizen organizations, environmental advocacy groups, governmental agencies and individuals. Annually, more than 4,000 volunteers contribute over 175,000 hours of effort on the Appalachian Trail, an effort coordinated largely by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) organization. In total, the AT passes through eight national forests and two national parks.
In the course of its journey, the trail follows the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains, crossing many of its highest peaks, and running, with only a few exceptions, almost continuously through wilderness. The trail used to traverse many hundreds of miles of private property; currently 99% of the trail is on public land.
A hiker signs the register on Springer Mountain
Georgia has 75 miles (120 km) of the trail, including the southern terminus at Springer Mountain at an elevation of 3,280 feet (992 m). At 4,461 feet (1360 m), Blood Mountain is the highest point on the trail in Georgia. The AT and approach trail, along with many miles of blue blazed side trails, are managed and maintained by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. See also: Georgia Peaks on the Appalachian Trail.
North Carolina has 88 miles (142 km) of the trail, not including more than 200 miles (325 km) along the Tennessee Border. Altitude ranges from 1,725 to 5,498 feet (525 m to 1676 m). The trail enters from Georgia at Bly Gap, ascending peaks such as Standing Indian Mountain, Mt. Albert, and Wayah Bald. It then goes by Nantahala Outdoor Center at the Nantahala River Gorge and the Nantahala River crossing. Up to this point, the trail is maintained by the Nantahala Hiking Club. Beyond this point, it is maintained by the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. 30 miles farther north, Fontana Dam marks the enterance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Tennessee has 71 miles (472 km) of the trail, not including more than 200 miles (325 km) along or near the North Carolina Border. The section that runs just below the summit of Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the highest point on the trail at 6,625 feet (2019 m).
The Pocosin cabin along the trail in Shenandoah National Park
Virginia has 550 miles (885 km) of the trail, including about 20 miles (32 km) along the West Virginia border. Some consider this to be the wettest, most challenging part of the hike for northbound hikers because of the spring thaw. On average, it rains 20 out of 30 days during the spring. Substantial portions closely parallel the Blue Ridge Parkway and, in Shenandoah National Park, the Skyline Drive. Parts of the trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive are often considered the best for beginner hikers. In the southwestern portion of the state, the trail goes within one half mile of the highest point in Virginia, Mount Rogers, which is a short side-hike from the AT.
West Virginia has 4 miles (6 km) of the trail, not including about 20 miles (32 km) along the Virginia border. Here the trail passes through the town of Harpers Ferry, headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Harpers Ferry is considered the "psychological midpoint" of the AT.
Maryland has 41 miles (66 km) of the trail, with elevations ranging from 230 to 1,880 feet (70–570 m). This section, great for three- or four-day trips, is easy by AT standards, and is a good place for hikers to find out if they are ready for more rugged parts of the trail. Hikers are required to stay at designated shelters and campsites.
Pennsylvania has 229 miles (369 km) of the trail. The trail extends from the Pennsylvania - Maryland line at Pen Mar, a tiny town straddling the state line, to the Delaware Water Gap, at the Pennsylvania - New Jersey border. The Susquehanna River is generally considered the dividing line between the northern and southern sections of the Pennsylvania AT, and Pine Grove Furnace State Park the halfway point.
The AT passes through St. Anthony's Wilderness, which is the second largest roadless area in Pennsylvania and home to several coal mining ghost towns, such as Yellow Springs and Rausch Gap.
Sunfish Pond on the Appalachian trail in New Jersey.
New Jersey is home to 72 miles (116 km) of the trail. The trail enters New Jersey from the south on a pedestrian walkway along the Interstate 80 bridge over the Delaware River, ascends from the Delaware Water Gap to the top of Kittatinny Ridge in Worthington State Forest, passes Sunfish Pond, continues through Stokes State Forest and eventually reaches High Point State Park, the highest peak in New Jersey (a side trail is required to reach the actual peak). It then turns in a southeastern direction along the New York border for about 30 miles (48 km), passing over long sections of boardwalk bridges over marshy land, then entering Wawayanda State Park and then the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest just before entering New York near Greenwood Lake.
Black bear activity along the trail in New Jersey increased rapidly starting in 2001. Hence, metal bear-proof trash boxes are in place at all New Jersey shelters.
Island Pond, Harriman State Park
New York's 88 miles (142 km) of trail contain very little elevation change compared to other states. From south to north, the trail summits many small mountains under 1,400 feet (430 m) in elevation, its highest point in New York being Prospect Rock at 1,433 feet (438 m), and only 3,000 feet (800 m) from the border with New Jersey. The trail continues north, climbing near Fitzgerald Falls, passing through Sterling Forest, and then entering Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park. It crosses the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge, the lowest point on the entire Appalachian Trail at 124 feet (38 m). It then passes through Fahnestock State Park, and continues northeast and crosses the Metro-North Railroad's Harlem Line. This track crossing is the site of the only train station along the trail's length. It enters Connecticut via the Pawling Nature Reserve. The section of the trail that passes through Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks is the oldest section of the trail, completed in 1923. A portion of this section was paved by 700 volunteers with 800 granite-slab steps followed by over a mile of walkway supported by stone crib walls with boulders lining the path. The project took four years, cost roughly $1 million, and was officially opened in June 2010.
Connecticut's 52 miles (84 km) of trail lie almost entirely along the ridges to the west above the Housatonic River valley.
The state line is also the western boundary of a 480 acre (190 ha) Connecticut reservation inhabited by Schaghticoke Indians. Inside it, the AT roughly parallels its northern boundary, crossing back outside it after 2,000 feet (640 m).
View from Mount Greylock in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts has 90 miles (145 km) of trail. The entire section of trail is in western Massachusetts' Berkshire County. It summits the highest peak in the southern Taconic Range, Mount Everett (2,602 ft., 793 m), then descends to the Housatonic River valley and skirts the town of Great Barrington. The trail passes through the towns of Dalton and Cheshire, and summits the highest point in the state at 3,491 feet (1,064 m), Mount Greylock. It then quickly descends to the valley within 2 miles (3 km) of North Adams and Williamstown, before ascending again to the Vermont state line. The trail throughout Massachusetts is maintained by the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Vermont has 150 miles (241 km) of the trail. Upon entering Vermont, the trail coincides with the southernmost sections of the generally north/south-oriented Long Trail (which is subject to a request by its maintainers to protect it in its most vulnerable part of the year by forgoing spring hiking). It follows the ridge of the southern Green Mountains, summitting such notable peaks as Stratton Mountain, Glastenbury Mountain and Killington Peak. After parting ways with the Long Trail at Maine Junction, the AT turns in a more eastward direction, crossing the White River, passing through Norwich, and entering Hanover, New Hampshire, as it crosses the Connecticut River. The Green Mountain Club maintains the AT from the Massachusetts state border to Route 12. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains the trail from Route 12 to the New Hampshire state line.
Franconia Ridge, a section of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire has 161 miles (259 km) of the trail. The New Hampshire AT is nearly all within the White Mountain National Forest. For northbound thru-hikers, it is the beginning of the main challenges that go beyond enduring distance and time: in New Hampshire and Maine, rough or steep ground are more frequent and alpine conditions are found near summits and along ridges. The trail reaches 17 of the 48 four-thousand footers of New Hampshire, including 6,288' Mount Washington, the highest point of the AT north of Tennessee. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains the AT from the Vermont border past Mount Moosilauke to Kinsman Notch, with the AMC maintaining the remaining miles through the state.
Maine has 281 miles (452 km) of the trail. More moose are seen by hikers in this state than any other on the trail. The northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is on Mount Katahdin's Baxter Peak in Baxter State Park.
Northern terminus of the Trail atop Mount Katahdin in Maine
In some parts of the trail in Maine, even the strongest hikers may only average 1 mph. There are other parts in which hikers must hold on to tree limbs and roots to climb and descend, which are especially dangerous and hazardous in wet weather conditions.
The western section includes a mile-long (1.6 km) stretch of boulders at Mahoosuc Notch, often called the trail's hardest mile. Also, although there are dozens of river and stream fords on the Maine section of the trail, the Kennebec River is the only one on the trail that requires a boat crossing. The most isolated portion in the state (and arguably on the entire trail) is known as the "Hundred-Mile Wilderness", which heads east-northeast from the town of Monson and ends outside Baxter State Park just south of Abol Bridge.
Park management strongly discourages thru-hiking within the park before May 15 or after October 15.
The AMC maintains the AT from the New Hampshire border to Grafton Notch, with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club responsible for maintaining the remaining miles to Mt. Katahdin.
Introduction, History | Extensions, Animals, Plants
Topography, Hiking the trail, Navigation, Lodging and camping, Trail towns
Hazards, Trail Completion | The Route and the States