A vision larger than a footpath

An Awe-Inspiring Landscape

In order to wholeheartedly protect the Appalachian Trail today, we have to think about it a bit differently than we have previously. The Trail isn’t just a footpath for hikers — it is something that connects us to a natural world we all can have a part in conserving.

Nearly 100 years ago, the Appalachian Trail was born from a simple idea. Benton MacKaye, the planner and forester who envisioned the Trail, wanted Americans to see untouched nature in all its beauty while breathing in the quiet and replenishing their spirits. Today, that vision is a reality, and the Appalachian Trail, a not-so-simple footpath, has become one of America’s most beloved landmarks.

The Presidentials by Jessica Rodriguez
The Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Jessica Rodriguez.

Yet MacKaye’s vision was larger than a trail. A narrow corridor squeezing through increasingly developed regions of the East Coast, crisscrossed with utility lines, dotted with wind towers and invaded by unnatural sounds was not what he had in mind. Instead, he thought of a wide greenway, valued and protected because of its iconic attributes.

“…A realm and not merely a trail marks the full aim of our efforts.”

—Benton MacKaye, the visionary behind the Appalachian Trail

As urban growth continues to put pressure on our natural treasures, the work of conservationists is shifting. Collaboration is becoming key as federal land managers, nonprofit organizations, land trusts and local communities work together to advance an integrated and dynamic approach to protecting wildness across America.

The Appalachian Trail and its landscape will not be left behind. As the “Wild East,” the Trail is recognized for its natural, scenic and recreational values, but its cultural, historic and community-oriented values stand out, too. To ensure those important attributes are protected, the Appalachian Trail Landscape Partnership was founded in 2015, furthering the idea of collaborative conservation. Now we work with close to 100 partners who have a stake in our success.

The Appalachian Trail is a groundbreaking American and global conservation model with a proud 100-year history. Achieving a broader vision of a thriving Wild East will benefit natural and human communities in the years and decades to come.


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