Cool Facts About Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hardly Anyone Knows

Photo of author
Updated:

The Appalachian Trail is a hiker’s paradise, stretching more than 2,000 miles across 14 states. It’s a journey that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, physical challenge, and a sense of history. But there’s more to this trail than meets the eye. Here are some of the lesser-known but pretty darn cool, facts about this iconic American trail.

1. The Trail’s Length Changes Every Year

Appalachian Trail
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/Frank DeBonis

Believe it or not, the Appalachian Trail isn’t a fixed length. Changes in the trail’s layout, reroutes for environmental reasons, and other modifications mean that the trail’s official length changes almost every year. The current length is 2,200 miles long, but who knows what it will be next year?

Did You Know? The trail has changed its length over 50 times since its creation in 1937, growing over 50 miles longer.

2. It’s Home to a Wide Variety of Wildlife

Squirrel
Image Credit: wagrati photo | Canva

The Appalachian Trail is a haven for wildlife. As you hike, you might encounter animals ranging from black bears and white-tailed deer to salamanders and over 200 species of birds. It’s a veritable wildlife safari right here in the United States.

Did You Know? The trail is known as the “Salamander Capital of the World” because it’s home to more species of salamanders than anywhere else on the planet.

3. The Trail’s Highest Point Isn’t What You Think

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Scenic Sunrise Landscape
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/WerksMedia

Many people assume that the trail’s highest point would be in the rugged White Mountains of New Hampshire. However, it’s actually Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, standing at 6,643 feet.

Did You Know? Clingmans Dome is also the third highest point east of the Mississippi.

4. The Trail Wasn’t Built for Scenic Views

The Trail for Scenic Views
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/jDouglas Rissing

While the Appalachian Trail offers some breathtaking views, that wasn’t its primary purpose. Benton MacKaye, the trail’s founder, envisioned it as a place for people to escape from industrial society and reconnect with nature.

Did You Know? The trail was initially proposed as a series of farms and wilderness work camps for city-dwellers.

5. The Trail’s Oldest Hiker Was 82

The Trail's Oldest Hiker
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/Pavliha

Age is just a number on the Appalachian Trail. The oldest person to thru-hike the trail in one season was Lee Barry, who completed his journey at the age of 82.

Did You Know? Lee Barry, known on the trail as “Easy One,” has hiked the trail multiple times since his first journey at age 81!

6. The Trail Has Its Own Unique Vocabulary

The Trail Has Its Own Unique Vocabulary
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/pchoui

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail have developed their own lingo over the years. Terms like “thru-hiker,” “trail magic,” and “zero day” are part of the trail’s unique culture.

Did You Know? A “zero day” is a day when a hiker walks zero miles, usually taking a rest day in town or at a shelter!

7. The Trail’s Maintenance Is a Community Effort

The Trail's Maintenance
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/backpacker

The Appalachian Trail is maintained by thousands of dedicated volunteers who put in over 200,000 hours of work each year. This community effort helps keep the trail accessible and enjoyable for all.

Did You Know? The trail is divided into 31 sections, each maintained by a local trail club.

8. The Trail Has Its Own Record Holders

Young beautiful girl standing on rocky mountain top and taking picture with her smartphone.
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/anatoliy_gleb

Just like in any other sport, hikers on the Appalachian Trail strive to set records. The current record for the fastest thru-hike is held by Karel Sabbe, a Belgian dentist, who completed the trail in 41 days, 7 hours, and 39 minutes.

Did You Know? Sabbe averaged an incredible 53 miles per day during his record-setting hike.

9. The Trail Is a Major Economic Contributor

A group of friends embark on a three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/Joel Carillet

The Appalachian Trail isn’t just a recreational resource; it’s also a significant economic contributor. Hikers contribute millions of dollars to the economy each year through purchases of gear, food, and accommodations.

Did You Know? A 2012 study estimated that Appalachian Trail hikers spend about $2.6 million per year in communities along the trail.

10. The Trail Has Its Own “Halfway” Celebration

The Trail Has Its Own _Halfway
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/Jonathan Mauer

The halfway point of the Appalachian Trail is near the town of Pine Grove Furnace, Pennsylvania. Here, it’s a tradition for hikers to celebrate by attempting to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting!

Did You Know? This tradition is so popular it’s known as the “Half-Gallon Challenge”.

11. The Trail’s End Points Are Iconic

The Trail's End Points
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/MEFlynn

The Appalachian Trail’s northern terminus is Mount Katahdin in Maine, and its southern terminus is Springer Mountain in Georgia. Both locations are iconic in the hiking world and offer a sense of accomplishment for those who reach them.

Did You Know? Mount Katahdin means “The Greatest Mountain” in the language of the local Penobscot Indians.

12. The Trail Offers a Unique Sense of Community

The Trail Offers a Unique Sense
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/MargaretW

Perhaps one of the most special things about the Appalachian Trail is the sense of community it fosters. Hikers often form deep bonds with each other, sharing stories, advice, and encouragement along the way.

Did You Know? The community of hikers, volunteers, and supporters of the Appalachian Trail is often referred to as the “AT Family.”

(Mom, if you’re reading this, my offer still stands to take you to the trail. You may not be able to walk it, but it’s been your dream to at least see it for so many years. You name the spot, and we’ll go!)

Facts About the Oregon Trail That Prove Most of Us Would Have Never Made It

Covered Wagon of the early Pioneers
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Picture setting off on an epic voyage that stretches over 2,000 formidable miles, peppered with perilous river fords, the challenge of food scarcity, the unyielding elements, and ever-looming health risks. You’ve just stepped into the boots of an Oregon Trail pioneer!

Facts About the Oregon Trail That Prove Most of Us Would Have Never Made It

7 Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking and Outdoor Adventures

Joyful young woman playing with her dog outdoors in the park
Image Credit: istockphoto.com/BartekSzewczyk

Dog backpacks are essential accessories to have on your next hiking, travel, or outdoor adventure. They make it easy to carry all of your dog’s supplies while on long walks. It’s also a great way to keep your hands free if you use it as an everyday dog carrier. 

7 Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking and Outdoor Adventures

We Spent Three Days on Mackinac Island and This is What it Was Like

horse drawn carriage
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

Stepping onto Mackinac Island feels like entering a storybook setting. It has a Norman Rockwell meets Disneyland’s Main Street type of feel, which had us immediately enchanted, soaking in the nostalgic charm and timeless beauty around every corner.

Recently, my family and I were invited to come and experience what Mission Point Resort has to offer on Mackinac Island. Not having been before, we weren’t sure what to expect of an island where cars weren’t allowed, but we were (very!) pleasantly surprised by the charm and quaintness the island offers.

Here’s what it was like to spend a few days in this laid-back Michigan town.

We Spent Three Days on Mackinac Island and This is What it Was Like

No Passport, No Problem: You Don’t Need One to Vacation in These Countries

woman backpacker tourist
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

If you’re an American citizen traveling out of the country, you have to have a passport to be allowed into somewhere else, right? While that’s mostly true, there are some exceptions. Some are independent countries, while others are U.S. territories that largely operate independently.

Note: Before you visit any of these places, make sure you look into what the entry requirements are. For example, you may need an enhanced ID or proof of certain vaccinations.

No Passport, No Problem: You Don’t Need One to Vacation in These Countries

15 Fascinating Facts About Famous Landmarks Hardly Anyone Knows

man at great wall of china -
Image Credit: Denise Andersen/Shutterstock

There are countless iconic landmarks that dot the globe, each with its own unique story and significance. However, even the most famous of these landmarks harbor secrets and fascinating facts that are often overlooked. These 15 fascinating facts remind us that there’s always more to discover about the world’s most famous landmarks, no matter how well-known they may seem.

Website | + posts

Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.