The Appalachian Trail is a footpath blazed continuously for 2100 miles from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. It was designed to link together many of the notable natural features of the Appalachian Mountains and to provide recreation for the increasingly urban population of the eastern U.S. From its beginnings in the 1920s, private trail organizations have worked cooperatively with state and federal agencies to locate, build and maintain the footpath and related facilities in a setting appropriate to the conservation and recreational objectives of the Trail.
The Trail was located, where possible, on protected lands in state and national forests and parks, favoring the highest land and taking advantage of features attractive to hikers -- viewpoints, mature forests, open fields, waterfalls, streams, shaded ravines and cultural landscapes. Between these public lands, trail clubs obtained agreement from private landowners on the best obtainable route, including small towns and country roads. The result provided a diverse Trail route that introduced hikers not only to wild and scenic natural landscapes but to the people, farms and towns that add richness to the heritage and traditions of the Appalachian Mountain region.
The Trail won widespread attention in the 1950s with feature articles in popular magazines and widely publicized reports of the adventures of the first hikers to walk the whole route in a single season. This attention, recommendations in a nationwide study of outdoor recreation and the growing popularity of hiking and backpacking all contributed to the designation of the Appalachian Trail as one of two national scenic trails in the 1968 National Trails System Act.
This designation was actively sought by the Appalachian Trail Conference and other trail groups as a means of protecting the Trail from incompatible development and land ownership changes that jeopardize the continuity and continuous natural, cultural and recreational values of the Trail.
The Appalachian Trail provides one of the best-known and popular long~distance hiking opportunities in the world. In recent years, between 100 and 200 hikers per year have hiked the whole Trail, usually starting at Springer Mountain and "hiking with spring" as they follow the Trail north for the three to six months required. Thousands of hikers follow the Trail for a week or more, many with the hope of completing the whole Trail in due course. Millions appreciate the Trail in short hikes or vicariously, following the accounts of through-hikers in newspapers and magazines and by reading the many books about the Trail.
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