The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, designated a linear National Park by the 1968 National Trails System Act, is a continuous, marked public footpath extending approximately 2,144 miles from Mount Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia along the Appalachian Mountain range. It maintains a wilderness character by following the scenic ridges of the Appalachian Mountain ranges of the White, Green, Berkshire, Ramapo, Kittatinny, Blue Ridge, Great Smoky and Nantahala Mountains. The Appalachian Trail is protected along most of its course by federal or state ownership of the land. The entire trail environment is maintained as a place for everyone to hike and enjoy the Appalachian Mountains, while at the same time conserving the natural, scenic, historical and cultural resources of this one-of-a-kind, linear park.
The Appalachian Trail Maps
In 1920, Major William A. Welch, General Manager and Chief Engineer for the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, created the first Harriman State Park trail map. It presented the routes of the hundreds of miles of old roads in the Highland and Ramapo Mountains. The 1920 map was used by hiking clubs to lay out new routes, including the PIPC sections of the Appalachian Trail. It remains the base for our modern dry trail maps. If you are interested in enjoying the views from a variety of locations you can obtain a map at the Bear Mountain Inn, The Administration Building, or at the Visitor Center Book Store on the Palisades Interstate Parkway.
The Appalachian Trail Markers
Diamond shaped metal markers bearing the trail logo originally distinguished and directed hikers along the Appalachian Trail route. Major Welch designed these first trail symbols with the AT monogram and the legend "Appalachian Trail - Maine to George" that became the standard emblem of the conference. In addition, vertical, rectangular white blazes, six inches by two inches, painted on trees, posts and rocks label the trail. A double blaze - one above the other - is placed before turns, junctions, or other areas that require hikers to be alert. Blue blazes mark AT side trails. These lead to shelters, water supplies, or special view-points. Paint blazes of various colors mark most of the other trails in Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park.
Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long, brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
- Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road"
Walt Whitman Statue
Sculpted by Jo Davidson, the eight-foot bronze statue of Walt Whitman, "the poet of the outdoor," commemorates Mrs. Mary W. Harriman's gift in 1910 of $1,000,000 and 10,000 acres of land for the establishment of the Bear Mountain-Harriman State Parks section of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The statue depicts the poet striding along the open road. It can be seen on the Appalachian Trail in the Trailside Museum area.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Established as a federation of outdoor clubs and individuals along the Atlantic seaboard and adjoining states for the purpose of making the Appalachian Trail a walkers' path from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was established in 1923. The ATC is a non-profit educational organization, composed of clubs and volunteers dedicated to maintaining and protecting the Trail. Today, with its active partners, the National Park Service, which has overall responsibility for the Trail, the U.S. Forest Service, and state and local communities, volunteers monitor and maintain the Trail and its shelters and help with day-to-day operations at headquarters. Most volunteers are associated with one of the 31 ATC-member organizations - hiking, mountain, and outdoor clubs that have been assigned responsibility for specific sections of the Trail. The Conservancy publishes a set of official ATC guidebooks and maps, and other information on hiking and trail use. It also supports a private land trust to acquire and protect additional land adjacent to the trail corridor. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters is located in Harpers Ferry, WV near the Trail's halfway point. From here, the ATC coordinates maintenance of the Trail through the affiliated clubs and 4 ATC field offices. For further information, write the ATC, PO Box 807, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, or call (304)535-6331.