According to Laurie Potteiger of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy “There are places of beauty, history and inspiration. And you know if you step out in one direction, those blazes will lead you to Maine, and the other way to Georgia.” While the trail has made news recently due to rowdy celebrations by through-hikers who complete the entire length, the path has long been revered for beauty and solitude. Potteiger shares some highlights with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Here’s 8 of the best places to enjoy the Appalachian Trail…
1. Mount Washington State Park, New Hampshire
The highest point in New England offers the possibility of storms and snow year-round. “The combination of being so far north and the extreme elevation makes it famous for having multiple weather patterns converge as one,” Potteiger says. “Trees cannot grow here.” But visitors have other ways to get the view: A road and cog railway also go to the peak.
2. Mount Greylock State Reservation, Massachusettes
When hikers reach this summit, the highest point in Massachusetts, they’re at 3,491 feet and passing through a landscape that inspired literary giants like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau and Herman Melville. Visitors can drive to an observation tower, but Potteiger says some like to hike the mountain. “It’s quite a climb with quite an elevation gain.”
3. High Point State Park, New Jersey
The aptly named site has the highest elevation in the state at 1,803 feet, showing the wild side of the country’s most urban state and offering views of the Pocono and Catskill mountains. “The hike (to reach the summit) is just a very short distance,” Potteiger says.
4. Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania
Visitors to this small community find bucolic scenery with easy hikes past farm fields and around picturesque Children’s Lake. “It’s a calm quiet place to take a stroll on the edge of the Cumberland Valley,” Potteiger says. The town is also home to the Appalachian Trail Commission’s regional office and visitors’ center.
5. Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
An observation deck tops the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, offering a 360-degree view of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “It’s a big long spiral ramp that brings you above the treetops. You’re surrounded by mountains as far as the eye can see,” Potteiger says. Although in an otherwise remote part of the park, the spot on the Tennessee-North Carolina line is easily accessible from a seasonal road and paved walkway.
6. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Not only was this historic town the scene of John Brown’s Raid and failed slave revolt, but it’s also home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters. Most through-hikers stop at the visitors’ center to pose for a picture on the porch. “The front of our stone-and-stucco building is one of the top three places on the Appalachian Trail that’s photographed,” Potteiger says.
7. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park’s famed scenic highway, crosses the multi-state route more than 30 times, making it easy to see hikers at overlooks or a trail exhibit at the visitors’ center. “There are many ways to connect with the trail here,” Potteiger says. The park, which is the place through-hikers are most likely to see wildlife, offers short nature paths, along with lodge-to-lodge hikes.
8. Trailside Museums and Zoo, Bear Mountain State Park, New York
The Trail marks its lowest point as it passes by the Hudson River and straight through this park and zoo. A drive, or steep climb, reaches the mountain top, with sweeping views of the Hudson River Valley. “You’re a relatively short distance from New York City,” Potteiger says.