Eighty-eight miles of the Appalachian Trail run through the North Carolina mountains. From through-hikers—backpackers who attempt the trail in its entirety—to hikers out for an afternoon stroll, those who love to walk rugged mountain terrain through dense woodlands find the Appalachian Trail among the most beautiful in the country.
A Trail with a History
The Appalachian Trail is a 2,175 mile trail that leads from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine, crossing a total of 14 states along its way. It was first envisioned in 1921 by Massachusetts forester and preservationist Benton MacKaye, who proposed it as a trail linking a network of work camps and communities in the Appalachian Mountains where city dwellers could go to renew themselves. The Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937 and became the country’s first designated National Scenic Trail in 1968.
The Appalachian Trail in North Carolina
The Appalachian Trail enters North Carolina at the Georgia border, then climbs Standing Indian Mountain and crosses the Nantahala River before winding through the lush Nantahala National Forest. Before reaching the Great Smoky Mountains, it rises over Wayah Bald and Cheoah Bald. It bisects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the North Carolina-Tennessee border, which it follows on its way to the town of Hot Springs, NC. Elevations vary from 1,725 to 5,498 feet along the North Carolina segment of the Trail.
Hot Springs welcomes over 2,000 through-hikers annually, mostly between mid-May and October.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy coordinates the Appalachian Trail’s management and protection in conjunction with a wide range of partners, including the National Park Service, Appalachian Trail Park Office, U.S. Forest Service, 14 states, and 30 Trail-maintaining clubs.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and its member clubs publish the official guidebooks and maps for the Appalachian Trail. Each of the 11 pocket-sized guidebooks covers several hundred miles of the Trail, and includes separate topographic maps with elevation profiles.
Member clubs in Western North Carolina:
Carolina Mountain Club – Spivey Gap to Davenport Gap
Smoky Mountains Hiking Club – Davenport Gap to Wesser at US 19
Nantahala Hiking Club – Wesser at US 19 to Bly Gap