The Appalachian Trail (the Trail, the AT) is a National Scenic Trail following the crest of the Appalachian Mountains over 2000 miles from Springer Mt in Georgia to Mt Katahdin in Central Maine.
The Trail was formally proposed in 1921 by Boston planner Benton McKaye in an article published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Institute of Architects.
A network of individuals and local hiking clubs began work on the Trail in 1922. The final section of the Trail was completed by Civilian Conservation Corp crews on Sugarloaf Mountain, ME in 1937.
Although initially considered impossible, in 1948 a Pennsylvania hiker and WWII vet, Earl Shaffer, became the first person to complete (thru-hike) the Trail in a single season.
A number of hikers followed in Mr. Shaffer’s footsteps in the next 3 decades. In the 1980s however, what had been a trickle of annual attempted thru-hikes jumped into the hundreds. The trend peaked in 2000 with almost 3,000 hikers setting out from Georgia. Numbers have declined by 15% each year since with about 2,100 starters in 2002.
Traditionally, 15-20% of those attempting a thru-hike succeed in any given year.
— from the Appalachian Trail Database