Nestled firmly within the heart of Eastern America, the Appalachian Trail has been drawing adventurers to rugged beauty and rich history for years. Spanning a huge distance from Georgia to Maine, it is no wonder that there are plenty of interesting facts about the Appalachian Trail for kids.
The iconic footpath makes it way through dense forests, picturesque valleys, and majestic peaks. Even if you don’t cover the entire length of it, you are sure to still have a breathtaking journey at different segments of the trail.
We will be taking a dive into interesting and fascinating facts about the Appalachian Trail. These will provide a glimpse of what makes the Appalachian Trail so magical and how nature’s tranquility connects with the human spirit’s along this iconic trail.
Interesting Appalachian Trail Facts for Kids
Longest Hiking-only Footpath in the World
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Did you know that you will not find a longer hiking-only footpath in the world than the Appalachian Trail? For hikers, this is a dream challenge. The Appalachian Trail runs through 14 states of the the United States of America’s 50 states. It is a distance of over 2,190 miles or 3,5024 km.
Assuming that you can cover two miles per hour and walk for a total of 10 hours as day, it would take you around 110 days to cover the trail.
In reality, hiking the full Appalachian Trail can take between five to seven months to complete it. Those who do the entire trail are known as “thru-hikers”. And you will need plenty of supplies and preparation to complete it. It isn’t your average walk in the park.
Took 16 Years to be Turned from Idea to Reality
The Appalachian Trail was first proposed back in 1921. The trail was finally completed in 1937.
The idea for the trail came from Benton MacKay (1879 -1975). He was a professional forester and conservationist. He suggested the Appalachian Trail in an essay written in 1921 in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects.
In 1923, the first section of the trail was opened in New York. And it wasn’t until 1937 when it was completed.
The Appalachian Trail runs from Mount Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia, passing through 14 states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia), 8 national forests, and 6 units of the national park system.
3 Million Visit the Trail Each Year
Most visitors to the Appalachian Trail only do segments of it. It is estimated that 3 million people visit the trail annual.
Out of these 3 million, only 3,000 are thru-hikers who attempt to do it from end to end.
Log Books along the Appalachian Trail
Since it is such an epic experience, any hiker would want to be able to remember their time on the Appalachian Trail. At the camping shelters along the trail, there are log books where hikers can leave behind messages as a mark of their time on the trail.
Appalachian Trail Traditions
With such a long history, several traditions have grown up along the Appalachian Trail.
One of these is to be given a “trail name” by fellow hikers. It is kind of like how fighter pilots earn their call signs.
Another Appalachian Trail tradition is to always say “hello” to fellow hikers that you meet along the trail.
One of the most interesting traditions along the Appalachian Trail is to eat half a gallon of Hershey’s ice cream at the midway point of the trail at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. People will head to the Pine Grove Furnace General Store to wolf down the ice cream!
Most Photographed Spot on the Appalachian Trail
At a height of 3,197 feet (974 meters) above sea level, McAfee Knob is a geological formation on Catawba Mountain in Catawba, Virginia. It gets its name of an 18th-century Scottish-Irish settler.
This is widely considered to be the most photographed spot along the Appalachian Trail.
Home to 2,000 Rare and Endangered Species
The Appalachian Trail is home to thousands of plants and animals. Some of the wildlife that you may come across while hiking on the trail include Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, Eastern Cottontail, Porcupine, Eastern Grey Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk and the White-footed Mouse.
There are also endangered flora and fauna on the trail. These include the Bog Turtle, Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel, Indiana Bat, Small-whorled Pogonia, Spruce-fir Moss Spider, Roanoke Logperch, Rock Gnome Lichen and the Appalachian Cottontail.
South to North or North to South?
The majority of hikers along the Appalachian Trail will start in the south and make their way up to the north. This northbound hike is often known as NOBO which stands for northbound. This allows them to build up their endurance so that they can take on the challenging climbs of the White Mountains and the Baxter State Park.
Only those who are very tough, fit and seasoned hikers will take the Appalachian Trail from north to south. They would probably have already done it south to north and are looking for a challenge.
For the 25% of the thru-hikers, the end of the trail is at Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain. The mountain stands at 5,269 feet or 1,606 metres tall. The name of the mountain means “Great Mountain” in the language of the Penobscot Native Americans. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1967 by the National Park Service.
While Mount Katahdin has multiple peaks, like South Peak and Pamola Peak, the tallest is Baxter Peak and this is considered the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
The Fascinating Appalachian Trail
We hope that you’ve enjoyed these fascinating facts about the Appalachian Trail. Would you want to become a thru-hiker one day and hike along the entire length of the trail? Or would you be content with exploring sections of the trail?
If you have enjoyed this story about the Appalachian Trail for kids. For more interesting facts about the world we live in, you may also be interested in this story on interesting facts about Antarctica or this other one about interesting facts about New York City’s Central Park for kids. Or would you rather discover the amazing history about the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles.