Appalachian Trail, Yesterday and Tomorrow

High up and away on the Appalachian Trial.



The notion of a “super trail” had been a parlor topic in New England hiking-organization and even academic circles for some time, but the October 1921 publication of “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning” in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects is almost universally seen as the moment of birth for the Appalachian Trail. Benton MacKaye—former forester and government analyst and newspaper editor, now intermittently employed as a regional planner—proposed, as a refuge from work life in industrialized metropolis, a series of work, study, and farming camps along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, with a trail connecting them, from the highest point in the North (Mt. Washington in New Hampshire) to the highest in the South (Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina). Hiking was an incidental focus.

MacKaye immediately set about promoting his idea within his network of friends and colleagues in Washington, New York, and Boston, but it was again hikers who took up the cause—newspaper columnist Raymond Torrey in New York especially, who led a small crew building the first A.T.-specific miles in Harriman–Bear Mountain State Park under the aegis of Maj. William A. Welch, who soon shifted the goal to “Maine to Georgia” and designed the iconic diamond Trail marker.

Read more about the trail’s history and conservation.




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