Upwards of 165,000 white blazes mark the way along an approximately 2,190 mile trail that most Central Pennsylvanians know quite well. The Appalachian Trail. It takes about 165 days to complete; an average of 5 million steps. Almost 500,000 of those steps are through Pennsylvania.
229 Miles Through PA
The Appalachian Trail enters Pennsylvania in Waynesboro, near Franklin County, and travels 229 miles to The Delaware Water Gap where it enters New Jersey. It is the 4th longest section of the trail. The difficulty ratings in our state range from 1-9, 10 being the hardest. The elevation ranges from 320’ to 2080’ above sea level. It passes through Caledonia State Park, Michaux State Forest, Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and St. Anthony's Wilderness.
As it turns out the 229 miles though our state are considered one of the worst parts of the AT, despite being one of the lowest elevations. Most thru-hikers hit our state at the peak of summer and most have been on the trail for over two months at this point. In PA they are met with record temperatures, hard to find water, and rocks, so many rocks, as they begin their approximately one month trek through our state. Pennsylvania is often times referred to as “the place where boots go to die”. Just about any PA hiker can attest to this.
The rocks are what bring us to one of the most notable things about the AT in PA, other than it’s practically all rocks. Listed as number 6 on a list of 7 of the hardest day hikes on the AT is Lehigh Furnace Gap Trail. Stash your hiking poles in your pack, you’re gonna need all four limbs to reach the top. This trail is recommended only for experienced hikers who aren’t afraid of heights.
The Trail, a VERY Brief History
The original concept for the Appalachian trail was more than just a trail. It was a Utopian dream of small, self owning community camps and farms that ran from Georgia to Maine dreamt up by a man named Benton MacKaye in 1921. By 1925, MacKaye had managed to garner enough support for the root of his dream; a trail. That year the Appalachian Trail Conference was formed and began developing a plan of action to complete a connected walking trail from Georgia to New England.
Things were a bit slow to take off by way of progress. Towards the end of the decade leadership was passed to Arthur Perkins, a retired judge from Connecticut, which attracted the attention of a lawyer named Myron Avery. Avery would eventually succeed Perkins and under him progress would surge. Despite many hurdles and some internal conflict, in August of 1937 a continuous trail from Georgia to Maine would finally be completed, but the real work was just beginning. A hurricane in the north damaged much of the trail in 1938 and that same year legislation to expand the Blue Ridge Parkway saw to displace 120 miles of the trail. On top of this the Conference faced a lot of push back, as parts of the trail went through private property. Ultimately, the onset of WWII would halt progress on the trail for the better part of a decade.
The full history of the Trail and it’s journey to becoming what it is today is long and complicated, much like the trail itself. You can read a more in depth history here.
Passionate about the AT? Find your local Trail Maintaining Club HERE
If you plan on hitting the trail soon always remember