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The Appalachian Trail is a massive undertaking that has an interesting origin story. Initially, creating a thru-hike route was a simple idea, but it has since grown into an enormous project that sees thousands of people hike it annually.

Despite its name, the trail snakes its way through various parts of the East Coast. The trail’s name was derived from the fact that it starts in Georgia before going through Appalachia and eventually reaching the summit of Katahdin in Maine. The journey to create this massive undertaking has been long and arduous.


Early Developments

Banton MacKaye was the man who conceptualized the Appalachian Trail but was not the one who suggested a thru-hike. Instead, he came up with the idea of establishing community camps along the route. This concept was referred to as a utopian ideal by The Trek. These communities would be established near the trail, and they would be run by people who were passionate about mountain living. Eventually, these people would be able to appreciate the natural beauty of the region and its people. The various communities would be established as part of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, headed by MacKaye. The group was initially called the Appalachian Trail Conference. This was the initial step in establishing the communities along the trail.

The Appalachian Trail was supposed to be a straightforward feat, but it proved very challenging to get off the ground. In the 1920s, after the trail was still not completed, Arthur Perkins took over the project. A retired judge, Perkins was tasked with completing the course. A lawyer named Myron Avery joined him in working on the project. He and Perkins then started mapping out the various routes that would be used for the trail. As the group headed by these two worked on the project, they also started planning the course for the Southern states.

As the pair worked on the project, they started to butt heads with MacKaye, who wanted to build more traditional mountain trails instead of the modern ones that Avery had envisioned. In 1935, MacKaye ultimately backed out of the project, focusing on other endeavors. By August 1937, the Appalachian Trail was finally completed, and it spanned from Georgia’s point to Maine’s.


Environmental Challenges

The 1940s was a time of technological change, and the public’s interest in travel led to the development of more efficient transportation systems. One of the factors that affected the Appalachian Trail during this time was the hurricane that hit the region in 1938. After the Appalachian Trail was completed, the hurricane damaged parts of it on the northeast and the East Coast. Also, the project became even more challenging due to the Blue Ridge Parkway construction. Due to the war in Europe, the debate over private land sectors affected the trail for several years.



Earl Schafer was one of the first thru-hikers to complete the entire Appalachian Trail. By 1951, the trail was officially opened, and numerous hikers were allowed to complete the whole track. This achievement inspired many other thru-hikers to complete the trail.


The work on the project continued throughout the years. Eventually, in 2014, it became part of federal lands. Over the years, thousands of hikers have completed the entire trail. The number of people who complete the entire trail each year continues to increase.