National Scenic Trails - Appalachian Trail

Trail Guide by State Part II
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Georgia vista from the Appalachian Trail
Georgia vista from the Appalachian Trail

As far west as the Susquehanna River, the Trail in Pennsylvania follows the rim of the east range of the Alleghenies. Beyond the Susquehanna, after some ten miles, it crosses the Cumberland Valley and follows the northernmost extension of the Blue Ridge. The Cumberland Valley crossing takes hikers through an interesting cultivated region.

The 41 miles of Trail in Maryland are characterized by a 38-mile walk along the ridge crest of South Mountain. This offers a good choice for a three- or four-day trip with good views that is never too far from towns and highways. The Trail joins the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath at the Potomac River.

West Virginia
The Trail crosses the Potomac River into West Virginia at Harpers Ferry on a new footbridge built onto a railroad bridge. ATC headquarters is at the corner of Washington and Jackson Streets, uphill from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The Trail soon leaves West Virginia across the Shenandoah River opposite Harpers Ferry. It will briefly touch this state again near Pearisburg, VA.

One-fourth of the Appalachian Trail lies in Virginia. Shenandoah National Park has 100 miles of graded Appalachian Trail and many side trails. The proximity of Skyline Drive—the trail crosses it 32 times—and connecting links offer endless varieties of trips never too far from a potential base of supplies. Views here are extraordinary.

The trail continues roughly parallel to but generally many miles removed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. It crosses the Parkway two times in one 70-mile stretch. It is then close to it, with several crossings, for a short distance in Jefferson National Forest. This is a section of mature timber and wilderness with high summits, more impressive, perhaps, than any region to the north.

From here the Trail route crosses west of the Shenandoah Valley. The portion in southwest Virginia affords a splendid wilderness trip. In both Jefferson and George Washington national forests, the floral displays of rhododendron and azalea in June and July are outstanding.

Tennessee and North Carolina
From Damascus, VA, the Trail follows segments of mountain ranges in Cherokee National Forest to the North Carolina-Tennessee line above the famous Roan Mountain, noted for its rhododendron gardens and far-ranging views. From here along the two states' boundary and beyond through Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, the Trail provides a most rewarding introduction to the majesty of the southern Appalachians.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with 70 crest-line Trail miles, is a most primitive section and the highest of the entire route. Beyond the Great Smokies come the Yellow Creek-Wauchecha-Cheoah Mountain areas, which are difficult to traverse because of steep elevation changes. Next is the outstanding Nantahala section, with 4,000-foot gaps and 5,000-foot peaks, but most rewarding in its views, culminating in Standing Indian, the "Grandstand of the Southern Appalachians."

The variety of forest growth and the beauty of the flowering shrubs, as well as the spectacular views, make the entire Trail from the Virginia line a most outstanding area.

The Trail in Georgia lies entirely within Chattahoochee National Forest. The wildness, elevation, and ruggedness of the area are decidedly unexpected. As highways cross the Blue Ridge at intervals of a moderate day's journey, the Trail in this area is readily accessible and offers many options for splendid trips. Springer Mountain marks the beginning or end of the Trail—as you will!

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 5 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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