The Best Hikes to Celebrate the Appalachian Trail’s 75th Birthday


August marks the Appalachian Trail’s 75th anniversary.

In 1937, the 2180-mile footpath was completed, allowing adventurers to hike from the northern end of Georgia up into Maine. The AT is the longest hiking-only trail in the world—and what a blessing to have it for hikers in America. There is no better way to celebrate the trail’s 75th birthday than by enjoying one of its best hikes. From New Jersey to Tennessee, these four are favorites year after year.

Pinwheel Vista’s gorgeous view is the reward for climbing the Stairway to Heaven.

Stairway to Heaven

This New Jersey stretch of the Appalachian Trail offers diverse scenery and one of the best views in the state. The hike gets its name from the rock slab-covered switchback trail that climbs up the side of Wawayanda Mountain. Pinwheel Vista is the breathtaking view at the top.

Hikers start in Pochuck Valley and travel through hardwood forests and wildflower fields, over boardwalks and train tracks—even through a boulder field! The hike is 7.4-miles from the parking lot to Pinwheel Vista and back again, so it’s ideal for a leisurely day hike with a big reward in the middle.

The viewing tower at Clingman’s Dome offers 360-degree views of the Smokies.

Clingman’s Dome

As the Appalachian Trail snakes through the eastern United States, it reaches its apex at Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains. Hikers who wish to enjoy the beautiful vistas of Clingman’s Dome should make it a start or end point on their trail.

A perfect 7.9-mile hike begins at Newfound Gap near Gatlinburg. Both the start and end destinations can be crowded, but the actual hike promises a quiet, peaceful few hours to enjoy the stark beauty of the dense, spruce-fir forest.

Nantahala Gorge Ridgetop

North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains are often a favorite part of the Appalachian Trail. The Nantahala Gorge Ridgetop hike is a three-day trip that provides hikers with the views that have made the area so popular.

The hike begins in Franklin, NC at Winding Stair Gap. (Hint: If you just want a day-hike in this area, this is still a great starting point!) From there, the trail moves forward steeply, climbing toward the ridgeline. After the many climbs and switchbacks of this trail, you might be thrilled to know that the hike ends just past the Nantahala Outdoor Center so you can enjoy a day of rafting through the refreshingly cold Nantahala. 

It is not hard to guess why McAfee Knob is the most photographed spot on the AT.

McAfee Knob

This beautiful spot just outside of Roanoke, Va., claims to be the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. Whether or not this is true, the stunning 270-degree panorama justifies the bragging.

The trail makes you work for this beautiful vista, as you climb nearly 2000 feet in just 4.4 miles. While McAfee Knob is a good day hike, make it an overnight trip for the best experience: a sunset at the top.

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