A Century of Inspiration
Benton MacKaye: Celebrating a Vision
The A.T. Footpath and Beyond
“A realm and not a trail marks the full aim of our effort. The trail is but the entrance…”
MacKaye understood, after seeing firsthand the rapid expansion of industrialization in the early 19th century, that a 2,000-mile footpath alone would not be enough. In order to preserve the Trail for future generations, a “realm” of forests, clean water, and other sources of life surrounding the A.T. must be established, nurtured, and protected.
Not Merely a Trail
As Benton MacKaye discussed in his vision for the Appalachian Trail, we must prioritize conserving a realm of landscapes and experiences in addition to the footpath itself.
An A.T. Realm Beyond Recreation
Recreation is only one part of a broader Appalachian Trail conservation effort, which extends well beyond the footpath itself.
The “Oxygen” of the Trail
“The oxygen in the mountain air along the Appalachian skyline is a natural resource (and a national resource) that radiates to the heavens its enormous health-giving powers with only a fraction of a percent utilized for human rehabilitation. Here is a resource that could save thousands of lives.”
By protecting A.T. forests and other habitats, improving their health through restoration and stewardship, and improving access to the Trail for visitors to explore and enjoy, the ATC and its Trail management and landscape conservation partners have helped maintain and protect the largest contiguous greenway east of the Mississippi River.
Now we are faced with an accelerating challenge not only for the A.T. but for the world: climate change. As the negative impacts of climate change become more evident through scientific study and analysis, the importance of increasing the resiliency of the A.T. landscape has never been more important.
Preserving the “Oxygen” of the Trail
How Benton MacKaye’s call for protecting the “oxygen in the mountain air along the Appalachian skyline” guides our work in combating climate change on the A.T.
The A.T. and Climate Change: Reviewing the Basics
As we continue our series on climate change and its effects on the Appalachian Trail, it is important to lay the groundwork for several key topics.
Climate Resiliency and the A.T.
Protecting and expanding climate-resilient forests along the Appalachian Trail is vital to ensuring their long-term survival.
Climate Action and the A.T. Landscape: A Primer
As the largest contiguous green space on the East Coast, the connected forests of the A.T. landscape play an important role in mitigating the impacts of climate change through carbon sequestration.
A Climate-Resilient A.T. Depends on Effective Federal Policy
Engaging in the creation of federal policy to protect the lands we love is one of the most effective tools to help mitigate the impacts of climate change on the Appalachian Trail.
The Trail’s Natural Beauty
“The Appalachian Trail indeed is conceived as the backbone of a super reservation and primeval recreation ground covering the length (and width) of the Appalachian Range itself, its ultimate purpose being to extend acquaintance with the scenery and serve as a guide to the understanding of nature.”
By providing an access point to nature within reach of America’s most dense population areas, from Boston to Atlanta, millions would be given a way to easily find the optimism only provided by nature. Yet MacKaye knew that much more than a footpath would be needed — conserving the natural beauty of the lands around the Trail was essential for ensuring this natural experience would remain for the benefit of future generations.
Where the Appalachian Trail Began
At the beginning of a new century, the experiences of Benton MacKaye sparked an idea that would lead to the creation of the Appalachian Trail.
See the Winning Photos
Natural Beauty: 14 States, Unlimited Inspiration
From landscape views to the wings of a swallowtail butterfly, we hope this series inspires you much as the A.T. does for millions of visitors each year.
The beauty of the Appalachian Trail allows us to bypass the intellect and go straight to the heart.
The “Opportunity” the Trail Provides
“And this is the job that we propose: a project to develop the opportunities – for recreation, recuperation, and employment – in the region of the Appalachian skyline.” -Benton MacKaye, 1921
Broadening the Base
Inclusive efforts are essential to building engagement with and support for the Appalachian Trail.
What Draws Us to the Trail
What drives us to take a walk in the woods? What can that simple walk open up to us?
Protecting the A.T. Hiking Experience
Ever since the first foot of the Appalachian Trail was cleared, visitor use management has been essential for protecting A.T. resources and guiding hikers toward safe and Trail-friendly practices.
The Pathway from Recreation to Conservation
Through our actions on the Appalachian Trail and beyond, we can help conserve a precious natural resource and inspire others to do the same.
- “An Idea Turns 100: A Photo History of The Appalachian Trail”
Appalachian Mountain Club
- “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning”
- “The 100-year trail: A century after Benton MacKaye proposed it, millions enjoy the A.T. each year”
Smoky Mountain News