The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is the nation’s longest “marked footpath,” stretching approximately 2,178 miles (the exact figure fluctuates) from the summit of Springer Mountain in Georgia to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail blazes through 14 states and ranges from deep wilderness to strenuous mountain hiking above the tree line — its elevation dips to 124 ft. in New York and climbs to 6,625 ft. in North Carolina, at the top of Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye, a New England regional planner who published the idea in 1921. He originally envisioned wilderness communities along the trail where visitors could stop and renew themselves in a natural setting. Hikers and outdoors enthusiasts embraced the idea for the trail and promptly started building. The first portion was opened in New York in 1923, and the full trail was completed by 1937, constructed and maintained by volunteer groups along the Eastern seaboard. The trail fell into disrepair in the 1940s as manpower and resources were drained by World War II, although after the war its supporters banded together to restore it by 1951 and today the full length — almost all on public land — is maintained by a network of nonprofit groups and protected by the National Park Service.
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