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The Appalachian Trail: road trip version

World’s longest hiking trail

The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking trail in the world. It would take you around six months to cover the entire trail in the eastern United States. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to work up a sweat to enjoy all of the beauty along the way. We’ve put together a list of highlights from the route that can also be reached by car.

Explore the trail

The Appalachian Trail is nearly 2190 miles long (3500 km) and takes you through fourteen states, six national parks, eight national forests and landscapes in all shapes and sizes. The world’s longest hiking trail runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. If you follow the trail to the end in one try, you can proudly call yourself a ‘thru-hiker’, but naturally you can also choose to walk sections of this legendary trail. Or do it all with the car! Our road trip runs parallel to the Appalachian Trail. Tip: autumn is the most picturesque season to explore the trail.

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Amicalola Falls State Park

Start at the waterfall

The trail officially starts at Springer Mountain but, since the trailhead is not accessible by car, the first stop is the nearby Amicalola Falls State Park. This is the starting point for hikers going to the trailhead at Springer Mountain. The Amicalola waterfall is the highest waterfall in the state of Georgia. A short hike takes you to the top of the waterfall, after which you can descend via the wooden steps.

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Great Smoky Mountains NP, Tennessee

America’s most popular national park

The trail takes you through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited national park in the United States, located on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. More than 100 kilometres of the Appalachian Trail runs through this park, so you can walk part of the trail itself here. Make sure to drive to Cades Cove, an historic valley in the park filled with old watermills, bears and deer.

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Meandering beauty

One of the most picturesque roads in the United States is the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Appalachian Trail crisscrosses this road in several places, so you’ll encounter hikers as they make their way across the road. The road meanders from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Shenandoah National Park in the north. Along the way, you’ll pass lots of vantage points, waterfalls and apple orchards.

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Ryan Herron / Getty Images
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    Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

    A history lesson

    For a good dose of American history, Gettysburg in the state of Pennsylvania is the place to be. This is where the largest field battle of the American Civil War took place in 1863, a conflict between the north and south to abolish slavery. You can go on a guided tour of the vast battlefields. The town itself is also a nice place to spend the night, with charming shops, local breweries and a variety of restaurants.

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    Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, New Jersey

    Green gem

    You’ll now find yourself in New Jersey, a state that is surprisingly green, boasting such natural scenery as found in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. With creeks, waterfalls, forest-covered mountains and more than 160 kilometres of trails, it is one of the best kept secrets of New Jersey.

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    Mt Washington Auto Road, New Hampshire

    Breath-taking drive

    The Mount Washington Auto Road is an experience in itself. As you ascend towards to the top, you travel through four different climate zones, offering one spectacular view after the other along the way. Mount Washington is the tallest mountain in the Presidential Range, part of the White Mountains in the state of New Hampshire. After completing the trip, you’ll receive a “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker. Far less impressive than a thru-hiker badge, of course, but an accomplishment all the same!

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      Mount Katahdin, Maine

      End point of the trip

      The end point (or starting point) of the Appalachian Trail is Mount Katahdin! It’s a challenging climb to the top that is not particularly suited for inexperienced hikers, but definitely a nice challenge after your road trip. The hike is around 16 kilometres round trip, much of which is a steep climb. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the woods of Maine.

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