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Appalachian Trail 2018 :: Exploring by State

Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Appalachian Trail
Written by Town & Tourist

Appalachian Trail 2018

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or AT, is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is about 2,190 miles long, though the precise length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. The AT Conservancy claims that the trail is the longest hiking-only trail in the world.

The Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states (click a link to jump to highlights of the trail in that state): Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

The majority of the trail is in forests or on wild lands, although some portions traverse towns, roads, and farms.

Hiker on the AT in Central Virginia

Hiker on the AT in Central Virginia | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/uEieLS

The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers and those that attempt the hike in its entirety in a single season are called “thru-hikers” or “2000 milers” once they successfully complete the trip. Thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike each year; however, only about one in four make it all the way.

Of course, most people do not start out hiking with a 2,190 mile hike, and even many experienced hikers just don’t have the time to hike the entire trail. Luckily, there are an endless number of opportunities to take shorter hikes.

Hiking IconIf you are new to hiking or are unfamiliar with the AT, but would like to learn more about it or even explore it by taking day trips or perhaps even short overnight trips, this article will be useful to you.

We hope that it will also encourage those who live nearby to get out and get on the trail this year.

The Appalachian Trail is marked with 2 by 6-inch vertical white paint blazes. A double blaze, one above the other, is placed before turns, junctions, or other areas that require hikers to be alert. There are approximately 165,000 such blazes along the trail. Several short segments of the trail, in towns and scenic natural areas, were built to ADA accessible standards for wheelchair use.

Appalachian Trail marker

Appalachian Trail marker | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/76X7Bg

Wheelchair accessible portion of the Appalachian Trail on the Osborne Tract of Cross Mountain, near Shady Valley, Tennessee

Wheelchair accessible portion of the AT near Shady Valley, TN | By Sparkgap, via Wikimedia Commons

The trail has more than 250 shelters (called lean-tos, huts, or Adirondack shelters that are generally open, 3-walled structures with a wooden floor) and campsites available for hikers. The shelters are usually spaced a day’s hike or less apart, most often near a water source (which may be dry) and with an outhouse. They generally have spaces for tent sites in the vicinity as the shelters may be full; most hikers carry a lightweight tent, tent hammock (affiliate link), or tarp. If you are planning to camp overnight on any portion of the trail, check ahead as you may need a permit or reservations; and, in most places, you are required to stay at a designated site or face fines.

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There are AT hiking clubs in every trail state that offer educational programs, opportunities to learn new skills, make new friends, and to participate in events. Check here to find a club in your state.

In this article, we will explore some of the highlights of the Appalachian Trail 2018 in each state; hopefully, this article will inspire you to get out and explore a portion of the trail near you or even to go explore the trail in a different state this year!

Note: The 2017 wildfires had an effect on both the Appalachian Trail and the entire hiking community. This article “More Than Fire: The Effects of the Southeast Wildfires on the Appalachian Trail Community” is worth a read.


Appalachian Trail Georgia

Georgia has 79 miles of the trail, including the southern terminus at Springer Mountain at an elevation of 3,782 feet. The highest point on the Georgia trail is Blood Mountain at 4,461 feet.

If you plan to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, then … “The trail starts here!” Although the slogan is “Maine to Georgia”, most thru-hikers begin the 2,190 mile, 6-month trek at Springer Mountain in Georgia, usually in late April or early May to take advantage of the mild climate at the beginning of the trail; and, so that the toughest part of the trail is saved for last when the hiker is in better condition to tackle it.

Appalachian Trail Sign in Georgia

Appalachian Trail Sign in Georgia | [Public Domain]

Appalachian Trail Sign in Georgia

Appalachian Trail Sign in Georgia | Img Credit: https://flic.kr/p/9RrGy4

Blood Mountain, Georgia | Img Src: By Anish Patel, via Wikimedia Commons

Blood Mountain, Georgia | Img Src: By Anish Patel, via Wikimedia Commons

Related Reading & Resources:

Hiking IconWhether you plan to do any hiking or not, if you live in or are traveling to Georgia this year, be sure to at least visit this “end” of the trail so you can take some selfies next to the signs!


Appalachian Trail North Carolina

North Carolina’s 95.7 mile portion of the trail (not counting the 224.7 miles that run along the NC/TN state line, is very scenic, rising and falling along the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. Some views require short side trips, but they are definitely worth it, including a “view of a lifetime” often called “The Crown Jewel of the Appalachian Trail.”

The North Carolina stretch of the trail will take you through the historic town of Hot Springs, and is a great spot for hikers trekking all the way to Maine to take a break and to rejuvenate in the hot springs … or anyone for that matter!

The Crown Jewel of the Appalachian Trail

Max Patch “The Crown Jewel of the Appalachian Trail” | Img Credit: https://flic.kr/p/92tR1H

Fontana Dam

Fontana Dam | By TVA Web Team, via Wikimedia Commons.

Approximately 71 miles of the trail runs through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, beginning from the south in North Carolina at Fontana Dam, the tallest dam in the Eastern United States, where the trail crosses the dam and ending in the northeast at Davenport Gap in Tennessee.

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Be sure to visit Max Patch Mountain to see the view! Here is a great little resource with photos and a video of the Max Patch Mountain & Harmon Den Area worth checking out.


Appalachian Trail Tennessee

There are 94 miles of the trail in Tennessee, but the trail runs along the Tennessee/North Carolina border for 160 additional miles. The highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail is 6625 feet, at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The trail also passes by other notable landmarks in the Smoky Mountains, such as Charlies Bunion, Rocky Top and the historic stone fire tower atop Mt. Cammerer.

The Smoky Mountains section of the trail generally takes about 7 days to hike; however, it can be shortened to 3-4 days by using Newfound Gap or Clingmans Dome as a mid point.

Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Appalachian Trail

Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Appalachian Trail | [Public Domain]

Abrams Falls, Great Smoky Mountains

Abrams Falls, Great Smoky Mountains | Img Credit: https://flic.kr/p/r1VKGf

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Here’s a great resource directory of the various trails on the Smoky Mountain portion of the Appalachian Trail by location, trail feature, and difficulty.


Appalachian Trail Virginia

With more miles of the trail than any other state, 554 miles of the trail are in Virginia and feature stunning views from overlooks that reveal a mix of forest and farmland scenes; of those, 104 miles run parallel to Skyline Drive in beautiful Shenandoah National Park, a well-maintained trail with climbs that aren’t too steep and is great for beginners to explore.

Carvin Cove Reservoir as viewed from Tinker Mountain

Carvin Cove Reservoir as viewed from Tinker Mountain | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/uUraPu

Deer in Virginia

Deer in Virginia | Img Credit: https://flic.kr/p/uX2c3M

Fall on the Virginia Creeper Trail

Fall on the Virginia Creeper Trail | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/dtgFbk

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Here’s a great blog by a couple who live near SNP. Adam and Christine share their personal hiking photos, experiences, and reviews of trails in Virginia.


Appalachian Trail West Virginia

The West Virginia section of the trail is a quick 4 miles (not including the 20 miles that run along the Virginia border) and is mostly in historic Harpers Ferry, the site of John Brown’s Raid and notable Civil War battles, and headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Harpers Ferry is considered the “psychological midpoint” of the trail, although the actual midpoint is just west of Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania.

View of Harpers Ferry WV from Maryland Heights Overlook on the Appalachian Trail

View of Harpers Ferry WV from Maryland Heights Overlook on the Appalachian Trail | [Public Domain]

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If you are a newbie, start with the 4-mile hike in West Virginia so you can say you hiked an entire state of the Appalachian Trail! This part of the trail may be short, but it is nothing short of spectacular!


Appalachian Trail Maryland

The Maryland portion of the trail is a fairly easy section following a 40-mile route along the backbone of South Mountain, a north-south ridge that extends from Pennsylvania to the Potomac River.

The trail runs through the eastern edge of Greenbrier State Park and along the C&O Canal Towpath route for 3 miles. Hikers will also pass High Rock, which offers spectacular views and is a popular hang-gliding site.

The Appalachian Trail in Maryland on Black Rock cliffs

The Appalachian Trail in Maryland on Black Rock cliffs | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/aKfRta

The Appalachian Trail in Maryland, Black Rock Creek

The Appalachian Trail in Maryland, Black Rock Creek | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/aKg32k

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With a spectacular view of Harpers Ferry from the main overlook, and steeped in Civil War history, the shorter circuit of Maryland Heights is a favorite trail for many.


Appalachian Trail Pennsylvania

The 229 mile Pennsylvania portion of the trail is the least popular of all the states and is often skipped entirely. If you want to read why, click here. The trail passes through game lands managed for hunting, so fall may not be the best time to go (possibly another reason it is unpopular!); additionally, all hunters and non-hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest, and back combined, or a fluorescent orange hat, from November 15 to December 15.

Of course, if you skip it, you can’t take a selfie at the midpoint!

Appalachian Trail Midpoint in Pennsylvania

Appalachian Trail Midpoint in Pennsylvania | Img Credit: https://flic.kr/p/2hpD54

And… there’s this…

Lehigh River, Carbon County, as seen from the Prairie Grass Trail at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.

Lehigh River as seen from the Prairie Grass Trail | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/pxsf35

And, this…

Golden sunrise atop Mt Minsi in Pennslyvania

Golden sunrise atop Mt Minsi. The Appalachian Trail runs right across the top of this mountain. | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/dmvuju

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And we are sure there are many many more reasons to go ahead and explore the Pennsylvania portion of the trail! In fact, we will have our own photos to add to this in the Spring!


Appalachian Trail New Jersey

The 72-mile long New Jersey section of the trail crosses bogs, wetlands, and a wildlife sanctuary that features a wide spectrum of bird species. This surprises many hikers considering the trail’s close proximity to major cities. Other highlights of the NJ section are the mile long Pochuck Boardwalk and the 110 foot long suspension bridge.

Pochuck Boardwalk

Pochuck Boardwalk | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/gtnsZk

Appalachian Trail suspension bridge near Vernon, NJ

Appalachian Trail suspension bridge near Vernon, NJ | Img Credit: https://flic.kr/p/gtneKh

Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey

Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/5MpVYK

There is lots of black bear activity along the trail in New Jersey, so metal bear-proof trash boxes are in place at all NJ shelters.

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Be sure to take the side trail when you reach High Point State Park, to reach the highest peak in NJ and take a selfie at the High Point Monument, a 220-foot obelisk, built in 1930 as a war memorial.


Appalachian Trail New York

On the 90 mile portion of the New York trail, you may see types of wildlife you weren’t expecting! The trail passes by the Trailside Museum and Zoo at Bear Mountain. At 124 feet, Bear Mountain is also the lowest elevation point on the entire trail and the Bear Mountain State Park section is the oldest section of the trail, completed in 1923.

The trail crosses the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge. 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 then enters Connecticut via the Pawling Nature Reserve.

Island Pond in Harriman State Park, NY

Island Pond in Harriman State Park, NY | By Mwanner, via Wikimedia Commons.


Appalachian Trail Connecticut

Connecticut River to Etna-Hanover Center Road on the AT

Connecticut River to Etna-Hanover Center Road on the AT | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/fe4BqK


Appalachian Trail Massachusetts

On the AT in Massachusetts.

On the AT in Massachusetts. | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/mT4hie


Appalachian Trail Vermont

Vermont’s mountains aren’t called the Green Mountains for nothing! This 150 mile section of the trail is characterized by dense and verdant forests. Upon entering Vermont, the trail coincides with the southernmost sections of the generally north/south-oriented Long Trail and then follows the ridge of the southern Green Mountains, crossing the summits of notable peaks including: Stratton Mountain, Glastenbury Mountain, and Killington Peak.

The AT crosses Killington Peak (in the background) and is the second highest summit in the Green Mountains.

The AT crosses Killington Peak (in the background) and is the second highest summit in the Green Mountains. | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/9M2k6B


Appalachian Trail New Hampshire

The 161 mile New Hampshire portion of the trail features more miles above the treelines than any other state on the trail and the exposed ridges have the most spectacular views when the sun is shining … as well as the worst weather if a storm hits.

The Appalachian Trail along Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire

The Appalachian Trail along Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire | By Jeff Pang, via Wikimedia Commons.


Appalachian Trail Maine

A Moose on the Appalachian Trail in Maine

A Moose on the Appalachian Trail in Maine | Img Src: https://flic.kr/p/8hYLFw


Related Reading & Resources:


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