Stretching approximately 2,181 miles (3,510 km), and reaching elevations higher than 6,000 feet, the Appalachian Scenic National Trail is a wilderness hiking trail that begins in Georgia, spans fourteen total states, and ends in Maine. An extension—the International Appalachian Trail—continues through Canada until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. It is managed by the United States National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and is maintained by more than 30 trail clubs.
Since the trail traverses various forests along the Appalachian Mountain Range, the landscape, temperature, plants and animal life vary drastically. As described on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website:
“Today, the Appalachians hold one of the world’s richest assemblages of temperate zone species. In fact, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail may contain the greatest biodiversity of any unit of the National Park Service.
The Southern Appalachians, never transformed by glaciers, are home to terminally slow organisms including snails, vernal herbaceous plants and salamanders. Rivers drain to the south in the Southern Appalachians, which allowed some species to escape Ice Age extermination, and today the region has a legendary richness of fish, mussel and crayfish species. Farther north along the Trail corridor it is possible to find rare bird species including Bicknell’s Thrush. The Appalachian Trail’s protected corridor anchors the nation’s Eastern Forest block, which is vital to the nation not only ecologically but also socio-economically. Those forests in turn serve to protect the watersheds that service a significant percentage of the population of the United States.”
More than 10,000 hikers have reported completing the entire Appalachian Trail in the U.S., walking approximately five million steps. One such hiker is Kevin Gallagher from Richmond, Virginia, who hiked the trail and documented his progress. The nearly five minute video (below) entitled “Green Tunnel” shows a timelapse of his journey. As explained on his website:
“Each day of the six month trek, Kevin took photographs of a single quintessential section of the trail. Twenty four successive steps down the trail were captured each day. At the end of the journey he had over 4,000 slides which were then strung together to offer a condensed view of what an accelerated hike along the Appalachian mountain range would look like.”
Take the Appalachian Trail quiz or read state-by-state details on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website. Also, see photos in each state: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.