The Appalachian Trail is a 2200 mile trail extending from Georgia to Maine, following the Appalachian Mountain range the entire route. It is part of the Triple Crown of hiking, the three main long distance hiking trails in the United States. The oldest, and most accessible of the long distance thru-hikes in the United States. The other two, The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Continental Divide Trail (CDT), are a little more remote. Conceived in 1921 by Brenton MacKaye, the trail was completed in 1937 as a regional planning project, and was first hiked in full in one single season by Earl Schaffer in 1948. The trail is maintained by 31 clubs and partnerships monitored by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, and the non-profit Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
2 million people per year are said to hike at least one day on the trail each year. With recently published books, and movies, the trail has gained in popularity and has become a social long trail with thousands of hikers attempting it each year.
In 2014, more than 2700 hikers successfully completed their thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (to be considered successful, the trail must be hiked in its entire length, in one calendar year). Roughly 30% of those who start are actually successful in their journey, making this trail a real challenge, but fun to read the hikers journals/blogs as they are triumphant.
Most thru-hikes take between four and seven months to complete, with many hikers starting in March through April. The most popular method of hiking this trail is hiking northbound (NOBO) from Springer mountain, Georgia to Mt. Khatadin, Maine. The trail is very crowded during its peak start season with thousands of hikers eager to start hiking north. Another method is to start in Maine, and hike Southbound (SOBO) to end the hike in Georgia. Because of the extreme weather in the northeast, Baxter State Park closes access to hikers on October 15th of each year. March is a popular start date because of this, having enough time to make it to Maine while still enjoying oneself is paramount. South-bounders generally start early June through July, and make up only 10% of total thru hikers. An alternative method is to go both ways from and to a starting point (FLIPFLOP). Some do this for the convenience of where they live or need to be on a certain date.
Appalachian Trail Maps