The Creation of the Appalachian Trail

By | May 5, 2019

test article image
Views on a hike are seen throughout Lead Cove Trail and Bote Mountain Trail towards the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. Source: (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Appalachian Trail or the AT is the most well-known hiking trail in the United States. Stretching for approximately 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, its white blazes run through 14 states and is the oldest of the long-distance trails in America. It is estimated that about 2 to 3 million people have hiked on at least a portion of the AT in 2018.

The concept of this monumental hiking trail was largely the vision of one person.

test article image
Benton MacKaye (1879-1975). Source:(

Benton MacKaye was a forester originally from Connecticut who moved to Massachusetts at a young age. Most of all he wanted a swiftly urbanizing America to connect with nature.

However, he did not act on his vision until the death of his wife by suicide in 1921. Within a few months, the forty-one-year-old made a revolutionary proposal: to create a hiking trail that would follow the crestline of the Appalachian Mountains.

MacKaye’s ideas were the culmination of the ultimate expression of a hiking movement that took shape in the early 20th century. Benton expressed his concerns best when he wrote, “The ability to cope with nature directly - unshielded by the weakening wall of civilization - is one of the admitted needs of modern times.”