It’s known as the longest footpath in the world, traveling 2,200 miles through 14 states along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Along the way, it crosses over scenic crests, lush valleys, and some of the most inaccessible countryside in the Eastern U.S. Along with the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, it forms what’s known as the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the United States.
Of course, you don’t have to be a distance hiker to enjoy the Appalachian Trail. Millions of people hike along portions of the path each year, if only for a few hours, taking a brief escape from life’s stresses while reconnecting with nature. The trail sits about two hours west of Winston-Salem, making it a great destination for an extended daytrip or overnight camping venture. If you’re looking to take a hike along the A.T. this month, here are a few trivia items to take with you on the journey.
1. The Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937 after more than a decade of work. Nearly 30 years later, it became the nation’s first National Scenic Trail under the National Trails System Act of 1968.
2. The trail is estimated around 2,200 miles long, making it the longest hiking-only trail in the world. It stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
3. Of the 2,200 miles on the trail, about 300 are in North Carolina. The trail stretches across the western border of the state, passing through 10 N.C. counties.
4. The path is maintained by 31 trail clubs (including three in N.C.). and is managed by the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
5. The trail’s highest point is Clingman’s Dome (6,643 feet), which is near the North Carolina/Tennessee border in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
6. The trail runs through the middle of Hot Springs, N.C., an original trail town. There are two other trail communities in N.C.—Franklin and Fontana Dam—both of which offer shuttle service for hikers.
7. About 50 shelters are available to hikers on the N.C. stretch of the trail. The Fontana Dam shelter is unofficially known as the “Fontana Hilton” for its opulent conditions (relatively speaking), offering hot showers, flushing toilets, and stunning views. Seasonal shuttles run from the shelter to Fontana Village, where hikers can stock up on food and supplies.
8. More than 2 million people are estimated to hike on the trail each year, but only a fraction of those are “thru-hikers” (meaning they attempt to hike the trail in its entirety in a single season). The number of annual thru-hikers typically ranges from 2,500 to 3,000.
9. The trail is usually thru-hiked south to north (that is, Georgia to Maine) rather than vice versa. Hikers typically begin in April and finish in late summer or early fall of that year.
10. A thru-hike generally takes five to seven months, although some have done it in three months, and several trail runners have completed the trail in less time. The fastest thru-hike on record was completed in 2017 by Joe McConaughy, who did it in 45 days.
11. Despite its rugged appeal, civilization isn’t as far away as you think. On average the trail crosses a road every 4 miles. It also passes right through the middle of several towns, including nearby Damascus, Virginia—home to the annual Appalachian Trail Days Festival in May.
12. The Appalachian Mountain range is among the oldest on the planet. In fact, it might be THE oldest. Scientists widely believe that the mountains actually predate the creation of the North American continent.