Seventy five years ago today, the 2,184-mile Appalachian Trail was completed. Finishing the trail was a huge task that took more than 15 years and hundreds of volunteers. Today, though, it is unlikely that the original volunteers would even recognize it with all the transformation it has undergone over the years.
In its 75-year existence, it is estimated that 99 percent of the original trails have been relocated or rebuilt to better protect the land and navigate more scenic landscapes. The relocations and reconstruction of the trail have made it much more sustainable since the original trail was routed straight up and down mountains, which made pathways inclined to erosion. Each year, trail crews manipulate and move sections of the trail in order to maintain and improve the path. Mark Wenger, executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry tells the Associated Press, “One of the tenets of the trail is to provide that personal experience of sort of being one with nature. You can’t necessarily do that if you’re walking along a major highway. So it’s been relocated to give it some degree of privacy and that sense of the wonder of nature.”
Fun facts of the Appalachian Trail:
- It is estimated that five million steps are required to complete the trail.
- It passes through 14 states: (from south to north) GA, TN, NC, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, VT, NH and ME
- The trail is marked by more than 160,000 white “blazes” that are six inches by two inches in size. They are primarily found on the trees lining the path.
- Virginia is home to the most miles of the trail (about 550), while West Virginia is home to the least (about four).
- Maryland and West Virginia are the easiest states to hike, while New Hampshire and Maine are the hardest.
- The total elevation gain of hiking the entire trail is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest.
- The trail spans across six national parks and eight national forests.
Each year two to three million people visit some section of the Appalachian Trail, but only 2,000-3,000 people each summer attempt the “thru-hike” of journeying along the entire length — and only one in four are successful. If you are anywhere along the East Coast this summer, there is a chance that the Appalachian Trail is not far out of your reach. Take a day, week or month and see how far you can make it on this historic trail. Enjoy what it is today, as, who knows, it could be completely transformed in the next 75 years.