The Appalachian Trail is an approximately 2,181 mile footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine. It is the longest marked footpath in the United States and passes through 14 states from beginning to end.
733.9 miles of the trail (almost 34%) passes through five of the six New England states. From north to south the trail starts in Maine, pass through New Hampshire, into Vermont, on into Massachusetts, into Connecticut, and exits New England into New York.
Appalachian Trail History
The Appalachian Trail was conceived of by forester Benton MacKaye in 1921. On October 7, 1923, the first section of the trail was opened, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, New York. The trail was completed in August of 1937 with the last section in Maine. While not the oldest long distance trail in the United States, that honor goes to the Long Trail in Vermont, it is, as already mentioned, the longest.
Appalachian Trail in Maine
Generally considered to be the most rugged part of the Appalachian trail, the 281.4 miles of the trail in Maine feature rugged climbs, tricky stream crossings that are potentially life threatening during high-water, and a famous mile-long boulder scramble. To make it even more difficult the weather can be fickle and snow can linger into June and begin in September. This part of the trail is not recommended for novice hikers.
Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire
The 160.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire are highlighted by the 117 miles that run through the White Mountains. The rugged beauty and fantastic scenery attract more back country hikers than any other part of the trail. Much of New Hampshire’s part of the trail is above the tree line and snow is possible any time of the year. In addition, there are steep ascents and descents where you may need to use of your hands or even the seat of your pants.
Appalachian Trail in Vermont
Vermont has 149.8 miles of the Appalachian Trail, about a hundred of which follow Vermont’s Long Trail. Vermont’s part of the trail does not contain parts as difficult as those in New Hampshire or Maine, but it still has strenuous ups and downs and occasional flat sections.
Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has 90.2 miles of the trail which in general are considerably easier than the northern New England sections. It features pleasant sections through wooded hills and long flat sections. There are some steep ascents but they are not sustained. The trail summits Mount Greylock (3,491 feet), the highest point in Massachusetts.
Appalachian Trail in Connecticut
At 51.6 miles, Connecticut has the shortest New England section of the trail. This portion of the trail is moderately difficult with some short steep challenging sections.
Planning a Trip
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has an excellent section of their website for planning a hike including information on trail markings; clothing and gear; food, water and sanitation; regulations; weather; health and safety; and more. They also have guidebooks and maps to help you on your trip.
Photo credits: The map of the Appalachian Trail is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. The picture of the interior of Mount Katahdin is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.