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Appalachian Trail
Length Approx. 2181 mi (3510 km)a
Location Appalachian Mountains
Trailheads Springer Mountain, Georgia
Mount Katahdin, Maine
Use Hiking
Elevation Change 515,000 ft (156,972 m)
Highest point Clingmans Dome 6643 ft
Lowest point Hudson River 124 ft
Trail difficulty Moderate to strenuous
Season Spring to Fall
Sights Appalachian Mountains
Hazards: Severe weather
American Black Bear
Tick-borne diseases
Mosquitos
Yellowjackets
Biting flies
Chiggers
Steep grades
Limited water
Diarrhea from water
Poison ivy
Venomous snakes
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the AT, is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2,184 miles (3,515 km)a long. Along the way, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The path is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships, and managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions traverse towns and roads, and cross rivers.

The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Many books, memoirs, web sites and fan organizations are dedicated to this pursuit.

An unofficial extension known as the International Appalachian Trail, continues north into Canada and to the end of the range, where it enters the Atlantic Ocean.

The Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail form what is known as the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the United States.
1 Georgia
2 North Carolina
3 Tennessee
4 Virginia
5 West Virginia
6 Maryland
7 Pennsylvania
8 New Jersey
9 New York
10 Connecticut
11 Massachusetts
12 Vermont
13 New Hampshire
14 Maine
The trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye, a forester who wrote his original plan shortly after the death of his wife in 1921. MacKaye's idea detailed a grand trail that would connect a series of farms and wilderness work/study camps for city-dwellers. In 1922, at the suggestion of Major William A. Welch, director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, his idea was publicized by Raymond H. Torrey with a story in the New York Evening Post under a full-page banner headline reading "A Great Trail from Maine to Georgia!" The idea was quickly adopted by the new Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference as their main project

Bear Mountain BridgeOn October 7, 1923, the first section of the trail, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, New York, was opened. MacKaye then called for a two-day Appalachian Trail conference to be held in March 1925 in Washington, D.C. This resulted in the formation of the Appalachian Trail Conference (now called the Appalachian Trail Conservancy).

A retired judge named Arthur Perkins and his younger associate Myron Avery took up the cause. In 1929, Perkins, who was also a member of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and its Blue Blazed Trails committee, found Ned Anderson, a farmer in Sherman, Connecticut, who took on the task of mapping and blazing the Connecticut leg of the trail (1929–1933). It ran from Dog Tail Corners in Webatuck, New York, which borders Kent, Connecticut, at Ashley Falls, 50 miles (80 km) through the northwest corner of the state, up to Bear Mountain at the Massachusetts border. (A portion of the Connecticut trail has since been rerouted [1979-83] to be more scenic, adhering less to highways and more to wilderness, and includes a Ned K. Anderson Memorial Bridge.)

Anderson’s efforts helped spark renewed interest in the trail, and Avery (leading the charge since Perkins’ death in 1932) was able to bring other states onboard. Upon taking over the ATC, Avery adopted the more practical goal of building a simple hiking trail. He and MacKaye clashed over the ATC's response to a major commercial development along the trail's path; MacKaye left the organization, while Avery was willing to simply reroute the trail. Avery reigned as Chairman of the ATC from 1932 to 1952 (he died that same year).

Avery became the first to walk the trail end-to-end, though not as a thru-hike, in 1936. In August 1937, the trail was completed to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, and the ATC shifted its focus toward protecting the trail lands and mapping the trail for hikers. From 1938 to the end of World War II, the trail suffered a series of natural and man-made setbacks. At the end of the war, the damage to the trail was repaired

In 1948, Earl Shaffer of York, Pennsylvania, brought a great deal of attention to the project by completing the first documented thru-hike. Later Shaffer also completed the first north-to-south thru-hike, making him the first to do so in each direction. In 1998 Mr. Shaffer, nearly 80 years old, again hiked the entirety of the trail, making him the oldest person ever to complete a thru-hike.

In 1994, a story appeared in the Appalachian Trailway News describing a 121-day Maine to Georgia thru-hike in 1936 by six Boy Scouts from the Bronx. Although the story has been accepted by some members of ALDHA, a great deal of doubt has also been expressed and this earlier thru-hike has never been verified. Shaffer's 1948 journey is still generally recognized as the first A.T. thru-hike.

In the 1960s, the ATC made progress toward protecting the trail from development, thanks to efforts of politicians and officials. The National Trails System Act of 1968 designated the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail as the first national scenic trails and paved the way for a series of National Scenic Trails within the National Park and National Forest systems. Trail volunteers worked with the National Park Service to map a permanent route for the trail, and by 1971 a permanent route had been marked (though minor changes continue to this day). By the close of the 20th century, the Park Service had completed the purchase of all but a few miles of the trail's span.

ExtensionsThe International Appalachian Trail is a 1,900-mile (3,100 km) unofficial extension running north from Maine into New Brunswick and Quebec. It is a separate trail, not an official extension of the Appalachian Trail. A further extension to Newfoundland has recently been completed.

In 2010, a group of geologists representing the International Appalachian Trail began a push to extend the trail across the Atlantic Ocean, across Greenland and Iceland in the North Atlantic and into Northern Europe, then down to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

In 2008, the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail in Alabama and Georgia was connected to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail via the Benton MacKaye Trail. Promoters of the Southern extension refer to MacKaye's statement at the 1925 conference that the Georgia to New Hampshire trail should, in the future, extend to Katahdin, and "then to Birmingham, Alabama". The Pinhoti Trail now terminates at Flagg Mountain, near Weogufka in Coosa County, 50 miles (80 km) east of Birmingham.

Flora and faunaThe Appalachian Trail is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, including 2,000 distinct rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species.

Animals
The American black bear, one of the largest animals on the Appalachian Trail.The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is the largest omnivore that may be encountered on the trail, and it inhabits all regions of the Appalachians. Bear sightings on the trail are uncommon, except in certain sections, especially Shenandoah National Park and the New Jersey section; confrontations are rarer still. Other hazards include venomous snakes, including the Eastern timber rattlesnake and copperhead, which are common along the trail. Both snakes are generally found in drier, rockier sections of the trail; the copperhead's range extends north to around the New Jersey-New York state line, while rattlesnakes are commonly found along the trail in Connecticut and have been reported, although rarely, as far north as New Hampshire. Other large mammals commonly sighted include deer; elk, reintroduced in the Smoky Mountains; and moose, which live as far south as Massachusetts but are more commonly seen in northern New England


A timber rattlesnake among the leavesFor most hikers, the most persistent pests along the trail are mice, which inhabit shelters, and bugs, which include ticks, mosquitos, and black flies.

PlantsPlant life along the trail is varied. The trail passes through several different biomes from south to north, and the climate changes significantly, particularly dependent upon elevation. In the south, lowland forests consist mainly of second-growth; nearly the entire trail has been logged at one time or another. There are, however, a few old growth locations along the trail, such as Sages Ravine straddling the Massachusetts-Connecticut border and atop higher peaks along the trail on either side of the same border, the Hopper (a glacial cirque westward of the trail as it traverses Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts), and "The Hermitage", near Gulf Hagas in Maine. In the south, the forest is dominated by hardwoods, including oak and tulip trees, also known as yellow poplar. Further north, tulip trees are gradually replaced by maples and birches. Oaks begin to disappear in Massachusetts. By Vermont, the lowland forest is made up of maples, birch and beech, which provide spectacular foliage displays for hikers in September and October. While the vast majority of lowland forest south of the White Mountains is hardwood, many areas have some coniferous trees as well, and in Maine, these often grow at low elevations.

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