Inspired by the A.T.

The Trail is My Muse

From poems to sketches to illustrations, the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) has been a source of inspiration and creativity for a century. In early 2021, we launched a new social media series, “The Trail is My Muse,” featuring artists that have been inspired by the A.T. and its surrounding landscapes. We are excited to share some of the art submitted in this celebration of the Trail!

Jaime Barks

For acrylic painter Jaime Barks, an A.T. section hike provided a life-changing experience and ignited her deep love for the Trail and backpacking.

“I spent my entire adulthood daydreaming about the Trail and I finally got the courage to do my first section hike. Having the privilege to walk for miles and miles in nature is such a gift. You get a chance to see and experience something so few people get the opportunity to,” she says. “I hope that my paintings can capture not only the landscape but also the emotion of being on the Trail. For me, backpacking is filled with joy, pain, beauty, perseverance, and a healthy dose of self-reflection.”

Discover more of Jaime’s artwork on Instagram or

(Acrylic on Wood Panels, “Sunset in the Smokies”)

Rebecca Harnish

At the start of her first long-distance hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016, artist Rebecca Harnish wanted to combine her love of art and hiking. But it wasn’t until her 2018 A.T. thru-hike that she successfully carried a small watercolor palette, pens, and some paper to capture what she experienced on Trail.

“Art, for me, is a means of more perfectly capturing the beautiful scenery and memories of life on Trail. Through painting, I’m able to distill the feeling of a moment. Being in nature for days on end also lets you shed who you think you have to be, your past, your future, your baggage, and feel a sense of peace and magic of the present that can get lost or forgotten in our constructed world. This is what truly inspires me to create, and I hope that these precious qualities show through my work and help people stay connected to the magic of nature and community wherever we are,” she says.

Check out more of Rebecca’s work on Instagram.

(Watercolor, Rhododendron) 

Todd Gladfelter

An award-winning chainsaw artist and woodworker, Todd Gladfelter has carved everything from bears to dinosaurs, finding his inspiration from being in nature.

“It’s rare to catch a long glimpse of wildlife, but seeing trees, stumps, bark textures or the layers of different rocks – all are possibilities that can get worked into a carving,” he says.

To learn more about Todd and his work, visit

(Chainsaw, Wildlife carvings at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA.) 

Rebecca Fullerton

As a watercolor and oil paint artist, Rebecca Fullerton finds the inspiration for her landscape artwork close to home, the White Mountains.

“The Trail is a very tricky but irresistible muse. It’s never going to be easy to reach these incredibly beautiful places. Painting them, I’m trying to capture something very elusive about the light, the way the air felt, the hardscrabble roughness of the terrain, the weather, or just the indescribable grandness of the mountains in all their moods and seasons,” she says. “Accomplishing that is as difficult as the hike itself. I don’t think there will ever be one painting that captures it all, but I don’t mind that I will never run out of paintings to paint.”

To see more of Rebecca’s artwork, visit her Instagram.

(Watercolor on Ink Paper, Mount Lafayette – New Hampshire) 

Heidi Nisbett

Residing in Charlotte, North Carolina with her energetic pup, Junie B. Jones, Heidi “Picasso” Nisbett is an avid hiker and watercolor artist.

“For me, hiking serves as a form of mediation and mental relief. On the trail, I am removed from all distractions and completely submerged in the serenity of nature. As a result, I find myself noticing more details in the forest around me, and studying the patterns and colors found in nature. As an artist, I can’t help but paint images in my mind as I hike along, and then do my best to bring those images to life on paper,” she says.

For more watercolor art by Heidi, visit her Instagram or

(Watercolor, McAfee Knob)

Nika Meyers

Nika Meyers, known on Trail as “Early Bird,” thru-hiked the A.T. in 2018, completing her Triple Crown (PCT, CDT, and A.T.).

“Even before I was introduced to the hiking community, I was inspired to create art that channeled my curiosity for understanding landscapes in terms of systems. Trails connect communities, landscapes, and ecosystems that don’t always seem connected. They put into perspective the macro and micro things in life. Painting and drawing give me more freedom to continue to explore experiences and transport me to places and moments that are full of magic, change, wild silliness, raw emotion, and demanding challenges. There is no way to fully re-create a sunrise dancing across a high ridge, the emotion that comes from being present for a miracle, or the gratitude for having an unforgettable conversation, but I strive to bring parts of that energy into my work,” she says.

Learn more about Nika on her website or find her on Instagram.

(Watercolor/Ink, “Time and Space”) 

Keane Southard

Photo by Michael “Marathon” Rosenberg

Inspired by his 700-mile New England hiking journey on the Trail, composer and pianist Keane Southard composed an A.T. symphony.

“I had this idea to write a symphony about hiking the Trail for many years, so definitely started hiking knowing that I would be writing a symphony about the experience. I brought a small notebook of staff paper, where I wrote down melodies and musical ideas that I heard, such as birdsongs, and a small handheld digital audio recorder to capture interesting sounds. Many of these ideas made their way into the work, so the symphony truly is a result of my experiences on the Trail,” he says.

Listen to Keane’s A.T. Symphony at

Jennie Freet

“I fell in love with the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, where I’m from,” says Jennie Freet, who uses mainly colored pencils in her artwork. “After moving to Tennessee, lured by the rich colors of the Smokies, I find comfort, as well as inspiration on the Trail, knowing it connects me to my home.”

To see more of Jennie’s work, check out her Instagram or

(Colored-pencil, Charlies Bunion) 

Jenny Siegfried

From the very first footprint she made on the A.T., artist Jenny Siegfried knew her life had profoundly shifted.

“I was a total city girl, and yet there I was, hiking along the A.T. in Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a new member of the ATC’s Rock Top Trail Crew,” she says. “Looking out on the mountain peaks at sunrise and gazing at the Milky Way every night was deeply transformative; I was growing into myself more fully with every deep breath of mountain air.”

Discover more of Jenny’s artwork on Instagram or

(Watercolors/Ink, A.T. through the Smokies) 

Matt Gentry

A volunteer trail and cabin maintainer, hiker and artist Matt “Sharpie” Gentry earned his Trail name because he carried a 6×9-inch sketchbook with removable pages during his three-decade-long A.T. section hike.

“The Trail and the landscape through which it passes are my muse,” he says. “When I deepen myself to make art while immersed in forest, meadow, stream, and mountain, time stands still and the reward of intense observation are slowly revealed.”

To see more of Matt’s work, visit his Instagram.

(Watercolor, “Shelter from the Storm”) 

Kevin Kane

After a 216-mile hike on the A.T., Kevin Kane painted a series of images in recognition of the volunteers that maintain the Trail and the ATC, which protects, manages, and advocates for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

“To be immersed in the wild is quite inspiring. Surrounded by swirling snow, walking in the clouds, seeing the greenest of mosses, all had me mesmerized in the solitude,” he says. “This series is about capturing the atmosphere of my experience: the colors, the textures, and the essence of place.”

Check out more of Kevin’s work on Instagram.

(Watercolor, “Polypore Fungus”)

Joy Falls

Preserving the memories, solitude and friendships made from her 2018 A.T. thru-hike, artist Joy Falls says, “The Trail inspired me to paint and painting inspires me to hike. If you step onto the A.T., then you will know that it is magic.”

Discover more of Joy’s art on Instagram.

(Oil painting, Hiker) 

Melinda Irby

As a kid, Melinda Irby grew up just miles from the Trail in Bedford, Virginia.

“Nature and mountains are very healing and grounding. Every single one of my designs has been inspired by a hike on the Trail, literally, or at least nature for sure,” she says.

Melinda has section-hiked all of the #AT in Virginia, is a full-time artist in Asheville, North Carolina, and enjoys taking her 4-year-old on hikes in the mountains. You can find more of Melinda’s acrylic paint and Prismacolor pencil work on Instagram.

(Colored-pencil, Jane Bald)

Paul Hanusch

Paul Hanusch recalls his love for the A.T. began with a memory from his thru-hike, the feeling of wet boots in the mud, the sound of a blizzard snowing hikers into a shelter, and the warm sun after a summer rain.

“The Trail is my muse because it “checks all my boxes”; it’s full of history, landmarks, stone walls, abandoned ruins, active farms, small towns and villages, tall mountain peaks, deep woods, babbling brooks, still pools, raging rivers, magnificent lakes, and the stories of the hikers. It’s an unlimited font of creative inspiration for artists of any medium,” he says.

Discover more of Paul’s work on Instagram.

(Oil on canvas painting, Franconia Ridge) 

Ashley Hill

Long-distance hiker and artist Ashley “Savage” Hill began recreating her favorite landscapes using acrylic paints.

“In 2017, I attempted a flip-flop hike that turned into a roughly 700-mile LASH. “Upon returning to the real world, I wanted to find a way to share all of the magic the Trail had provided me,” she says. I hope my art takes hikers back to their favorite memories of the A.T. even when they can’t be there.”

To see more of Ashley’s artwork, find her on Instagram.

(Acrylic painting, “Smiles and Miles”) 

Mary Wagner

After hiking a two-week section of the A.T. in 2001, Mary Wagner didn’t return to the Trail until she moved to Virginia in 2010.

“When I can’t get to the Trail itself, I can find the same peace and challenge in capturing the creases of my beloved hiking pants (still wearing the same ones from 2001) or the shape of a pair of boots resting on a rocky outcrop, the color of rhododendron blossoms, or trying to figure out why green is the most difficult color,” she says.

To see more of Mary’s watercolor paintings, visit her Instagram.

(Watercolor, Hiker) 

Paula Dooley

Shenandoah National Park is one of artist and aspiring 2026 thru-hiker Paula Dooley’s favorite places to hike along the A.T.

“I come as often as I can. The Trail is where I exhale and meditate about the day and life,” she says. “I love nature and enjoy pushing myself physically and mentally.”

To see more of Paula’s artwork, check out her Instagram.

(Oil painting, Bridge) 

Michelle Adshead

Turning photos and sketches into digital illustrations are just one way that artist and Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club (BMECC) Trail maintainer Michelle Adshead stays connected to the Trail.

“I fell in love with the #AT during my first backpacking trip, and all over again when I visited Shenandoah National Park,” she says. “Like so many others, I just feel called to follow the white blazes!”

To see more of Michelle’s illustrations, visit her Instagram or

(Digital Illustration, Great Smoky Mountains) 

Paige Lauster

Heavily influenced by the A.T. and the Blue Ridge Mountains, themes of nature, wildlife and flora are a big part of Paige Lauster’s work.

“Needlepoint is a creative, meditative undertaking,” she says. “If you can’t hit the Trail just this minute, maybe try stitching a piece of it.”

To take a peek at Paige’s designs and process, visit Blue Ridge Stitchery on Instagram or

(Hand-painted Needlepoint, Mountains) 

Jenna Silverstein

In 2016, Jenna Silverstein was asked by her husband to hike a part of the A.T. with him in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The trip inspired her real-time pen drawings!

“I was pretty unprepared for my first hike and I couldn’t believe how challenging it was. But, like most hikers, I immediately became obsessed with hiking and enjoyed being immersed in nature. I began recording our hikes in my NH48 Passport and adding drawings of our experiences: the new, the exciting, and sometimes the exhausting moments on the Trail. These experiences serve as the inspiration behind my work. I love being able to depict the various parts of a hike, keeping a memory of each unique adventure,” she says.

View more of Jenna’s drawings at or on Instagram.

(Ink/Sketch, Planning the route from Lonesome Lake Hut to the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail)

Susan Connelly McClelland

Born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, Susan Connelly McClelland’s encaustics artwork is inspired by mountains and landscapes.

“Since the Appalachian Trail passes right through the mountains where I live, I have spent countless hours hiking large sections of the Trail. Whenever I travel the east coast, I hike the A.T. any chance I get,” she says.

Check out more of Susan’s work on her Instagram or website,

(Encaustic, “Rime Sunset”) 

Jim Hainlen

Landscape artist Jim Hainlen’s paintings of the A.T. have developed from 50 years of hiking and 10 years learning to oil paint.

“I have been section hiking the A.T. for many years and backpacking since 1971,” he says. “The Trail provides a quiet shared intimacy with others, with nature and with myself. There are many mysterious moments that I love, such as walking through the forest and trying to pick out the mother-trees, sitting with a snake on the path and waiting for it to move but taking all the time I have to think about the snake. My paintings are my attempt to soak in the beauty and all of that mystery of place and story.”

(Oil painting, Beaver dam in Vermont)