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Visit The Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Updated on July 17, 2015
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ReadMikeNow is a freelance writer who loves to travel. He likes to find unique stories about interesting places.

Sign outside Appalachian Trail Conservancy building


There is an organization house located at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia that is dedicated to maintaining the Appalachian Trail (AT) for everyone who wants to enjoy it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) was established in 1925. It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. The ATC consists of 31 different local organizations that maintain the AT. The ATC is also a member organization that receives support from every state in the U.S. as well as 15 countries around the world. This organization operates under a number of agreements that date from as early as the 1930s. It administers a management system for the AT that included the National Park Service, USDS Forest Service and a number of different governmental agencies. The ATC does this in 14 states on county and town levels.


The ATC administers over 250,000 acres of public land. They make certain the AT is open for all those who want to hike it. They make certain it is safe. The ATC also safeguards the AT boundaries. They manage the health of hundreds of animal and plant species on the AT that are threatened or endangered. The goal is to preserve the natural beauty of the AT for current and future generations of hikers. The ATC central office is located a quarter mile from the AT in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It has 15 volunteers who manage the organization. It also has over 40,000 ATC members. There are currently six locations for the ATC with a staff of 45 individuals. The ATC annual operation budget is over $7 million. It also owns a number of properties along the AT.

Image of Appalachian Trail at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy office



Each year over 5,000 volunteers provide more than 190,000 hours of work on the AT. This is done to make certain the trail is able to be used safely. The work done by volunteers includes everything from basic trail maintenance to large projects such as building shelters, bridges, new sections for the AT and more. Volunteers also participate in outreach to the hiking community to different aspects of trail management. Many support those teachers who want to tell students about the AT. It is the volunteers who will remove any type of invasive species of plants that could harm surrounding areas of the AT. The also make certain the land around the AT is maintained as well.

Sign for Appalachian Trail at Harpers Ferry in West Virginia


Appalachian Trail History

The idea for the AT came from a forester named Benton MacKaye. He wrote the original plan for it in 1921. In 1922, an article was published in the New York Evening Post that detailed MacKaye's idea for the AT. It was titled “A Great Trail From Main To Georgia.” The first section of the AT was opened in 1923. It went from Arden New York to Harriman State Park. MacKaye requested an AT conference take place in 1925. This started the organization known as the AT Conference, which later became the ATC. The mapping trail creation of the AT through Connecticut began in 1929 and went through Webatuck, New York to the northwest section of the state. The AT was officially recognized as a continuous footpath from Georgia to Main in 1937.

Reasons to hike the Appalachian Trail Video

Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) Program

This is a program provided by the ATC designed to give educators what is necessary for them to conduct place-based learning on the AT. This program is done in conjunction with the National Park Service. It provides important resources for educators to teach students about the AT in their communities. The TTEC program was made so students could have a hands-on learning experience. The goal is to teach students community involvement as well as environmental responsibility. This could involve everything from the fundamentals of hiking to learning about overnight backpacking. Once workshops are finished, continuing support is provided to help maintain success. In some situations, small grants are provided to educators for curriculum implementation.

View from the start of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia


Appalachian National Scenic Trail

This is a hiking trail that starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Katahdin in Maine. The AT is over 2,200 miles long. It goes through 14 states. A large portion of the AT goes through wild lands and forest. Some of the trail goes through towns, on roads and across farms. It is estimated that each year around three million people hike a portion of the AT. A few hundred people are also able to backpack the entire AT every year. Records from 1936 to 1969 show that during this time 59 people were able to hike the entire length of the AT. In recent years, the number of people hiking the entire AT has risen to over 800 every year. The 10,000th person to complete the entire AT was recorded in 2008. Each year women make 25 percent of the people who complete the entire AT. People from around the world come to hike the AT. Backpackers from South Korea, Israel, Chile, Canada and more come to the United States just to go backpacking on the AT.

Appalachian Trail in Maryland


Appalachian Trail Firsts

The first person to walk the entire AT was Myron Avery in 1936. This was done to finish marking the entire trail. He hiked it in sections. The first person to hike the entire AT in a continuous hike was Earl Shaffer in 1948. Shaffer hiked it from Georgia to Maine but is also the first person to hike the AT from Maine down to Georgia. When he was nearly 80 years old in 1998 Shaffer hiked the entire trail again. This made him the oldest person to complete a continuous hike of the AT. The first female to hike the AT was Mildred Norman in 1952. She was also known as Peace Pilgrim. The first female to hike the AT continuously Emma Gatewood. She is also known as “Grandma Gatewood.” She was the mother of 11 children and had 23 grandchildren. She was 67 in 1955 when she finished hiking the AT for the first time. Gatewood completed her second continuous AT hike at the at the age of 69. She became the first person to hike the AT three times after she hiked it in sections in 1964 at the age of 76. Gatewood is known for carrying a small knapsack during her hikes and only wearing Keds brand tennis shoes.

Raven Rock Shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland



The Appalachian Trail goes through 14 different states.

  1. Georgia

  2. North Carolina

  3. Tennessee

  4. Virginia

  5. West Virginia

  6. Maryland

  7. Pennsylvania

  8. New Jersey

  9. New York

  10. Connecticut

  11. Massachusetts

  12. Vermont

  13. New Hampshire

  14. Maine

Blood Mountain Shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia



Most people who want to hike the entire AT start at Springer Mountain in Georgia. Moving north toward Maine, they are referred to as “Northbounders.” These people often start their hike in March or early April. This means they will have to have winter hiking gear for their first weeks on the trail. It is advised that people not start on April 1 as this is the most popular start date. This leads to overcrowding at shelters and damage to vegetation.


Some people want to start their AT hike in Maine and move south to Georgia. It is recommended that anyone contemplating doing a southbound hike be an experienced and physically fit backpacker. This hike begins with the most difficult portions of the hike in Maine. A person will have to face the “100-mile wilderness” early in their hike. This is the longest distance on the AT between civilization and supply points. Less that 1,500 people have successfully hiked the entire AT going southbound.

Leapfrog, Flip-Flops And Other Hikes

These AT hiking methods are a way to avoid crowds. A “Flip-Flop” hike is one that starts in the middle of the AT. People hike half of the trail, and when finished they return to the middle of the AT and do the other half of the trail. A “Leap Frog” hike is when a person hikes different sections of the trail at different times but does hike the entire trail in one season.

Sign for Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania


Location of Appalachian Trail Conservancy

799 Washington Street, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425-0807:
799 Washington Street, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, USA

get directions

Location of Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Website for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and Visitor Center

This is an organization designed to answer any question someone may have about hiking the AT as well as the trail's history and more.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 807 Harpers Ferry, WV 25425-0807

Phone: 304.535.6331

Fax: 304.535.2667



9 am - 5 pm daily

Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day


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