Doing it in Pieces
First you need to know where the Trail is. . .
Many general purpose maps of the eastern seaboard will show the Appalachian Trail. The next step, if you want more precise information, is to obtain a road map. The road maps issued by each state's highway department show fairly accurately where the Trail intersects each primary highway. Furthermore, the highway departments of all the states involved have erected highway crossing signs identifying intersections of the Trail and primary highways. These signs range in size from the modest 24-inch ovals in Connecticut to the much larger signs in Pennsylvania. At secondary highways, the Trail is frequently identified by signs erected by trail clubs.
If at this point your interest has been aroused to the extent that you desire to locate the Trail and see what it looks like, you have a good chance of doing so. By using the road map and your car, and by keeping a sharp eye for road signs, you should be able to spot a point where the Trail crosses a highway. Once you have located a Trail crossing, you can park your car and hike on the Trail in either direction to find out what it is like. While hiking on the Trail, you may find a wooden directional sign giving distances to points of interest in either direction for example, distances to an overnight shelter or to another highway intersection.
You may, however, be an individual who desires to have more complete information before hiking the first step. Or you may not like the idea of exploring a strange trail all by yourself. There are a number of ways you can obtain additional information. You might telephone your local newspaper's sports department and ask one of the editors for information on hiking clubs in your area. Yet another possibility is to contact one of the eight national forests or the two national parks through which the Trail passes. Or you might check whether your local library has available one of the guidebooks issued by the Appalachian Trail Conference, or the ATC. But the surest way is to write the ATC directly P.O. Box 807, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, 25425. Ask for the information packet and a list of hiking clubs in your area.
The ATC consists of 33 hiking clubs, which share responsibility for maintaining the 2,000-mile long trail. Most of these clubs schedule weekend or Sunday hiking trips on an almost year-round basis. If one of these clubs is located near you, you may (1) telephone the club office, (2) contact a club member, or (3) scan the leisure sports section of the newspaper to ascertain the date, locale, and other particulars for forthcoming hikes. In this way you can arrange to hike with a group of people; the more experienced hikers will be glad to answer your questions regarding maps and equipment, overnight shelter accommodations, and so on.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication