Stretching for more than 2,000 miles through 14 states in the eastern U.S., the Appalachian Trail is one of the most-visited hiking trails in the country, attracting between two-to-three million visitors annually, with an estimated 2,000 of those visitors (also annually) attempting to traverse the entire route of the legendary trail.
Here are five of the most popular hiking destinations along one of America's national treasures.
The southernmost portion of the Appalachian Trail begins in Georgia, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) does an outstanding job managing and maintaining the nearly 80 miles of the Peach State's portion of the trail. Staffed by dedicated volunteers, the ATC provides both short-and-long term hiking excursions of varying lengths and skill levels. One of the more popular hikes on the Georgia stretch is the Woody Gap to Big Cedar Mountain. This approximately two-mile round trip adventure features thrilling scenic vistas from atop rocky outcroppings that present just enough of a challenge for hikers to let them know they've accomplished something.
Celebrating their 90th anniversary in 2014, the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (SMHC) offers weekly (in season) guided hiking excursions that are customized to meet every skill level of hikers, from the absolute novice to the experienced veteran hiker. The awe-inspiring Great Smoky Mountains serve as backdrop as highly-trained and experienced guides lead hikers along winding trails that give hikers scenic opportunities that they otherwise could never experience. Nature-lovers will be amazed at the wide variety of plant and wildlife contained along these federally-protected habitats.
- North Carolina
With nearly 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail contained in North Carolina, aspiring hikers have plenty of options from which to choose for an unforgettable experience. One of the excursions that regularly attract adventure-seekers is the Great Smoky Mountain traverse. Recommended for experienced hikers, this lengthy (72 miles) trip requires, at the least, a week to cover, and although strenuous and challenging at times, it's well worth the effort. Hikers will experience some of the Appalachian Trail's more awe-inspiring views, especially from atop Clingman's Dome, at 6,643 feet, the highest point along the entire trail.
Few states contain as much American history as Virginia, and their portion of the Appalachian Trail contains more than enough to satisfy the most demanding of history and/or nature aficionado. A treat for both day-hikers as well as "marathoners" is the Harper's Ferry National Historical Park. You should expect a virtual trip back in time while traversing this national treasure's nearly 20 miles of walking and hiking trails that are nestled amid the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. From historic and hallowed Civil War battlefields to unlimited scenic vistas along the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, a hike through Harper's Ferry is guaranteed to be a highlight of any Appalachian Trail adventure.
Appalachian Trail Adventures has more than 20 years of experience specializing in guided day hikes through the Green Mountains of Vermont portion of the trail. They've painstakingly chosen trails that showcase the many beautiful surroundings including breathtaking mountain scenery, peaceful lakes, waterfalls and historical features that are at nearly every turn. Also, ATA's professional tour guides lead visitors on adventure-filled kayaking and cave explorations, making a hiking trip an enjoyable and unforgettable experience.