Extreme Sports Bike

Benton MacKaye

Complete the Feat

Help Us Realize Benton Mackaye’s Century-Long Dream to Bring the Appalachian Trail to Alabama

Bringing the beginning of the Appalachian Trail to Alabama is anything but a new idea. Benton Mackaye – American forester, planner, and conservationist – was the first to envision the Appalachian Trail in his 1921 article titled An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning. In March 1925, the founding Appalachian Trail conference convened in Washington, DC and made the following trail decisions:

  • Created a 1,700 mile long Main Line trail from Cohutta Mountain, GA to Mt. Washington, NH.

  • Recommended Extensions to Maine in the North and Alabama in the South.

  • Called for Branch Lines which included the Long Trail in Vermont and connecting Grandfather Mountain, NC to Atlanta, GA.

Both Maine and Alabama were set as extensions of the Main Line Trail in 1925. The Appalachian Trail Conference (now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) extended the Main Line trail to Katahdin in Maine in 1937 – and now is the time to complete this vision, and extend the Main Line to Alabama, and where the Appalachians begin.

Purchase a Medallion to Show Your Support for AT2AL!

Ultralight, sustainable, and noiseless, the wooden medallion can be quickly attached to your hiking backpack or daypack. It’s an easy way to show your support for AT2AL. All proceeds from the sale of these medallions go directly to supporting the Alabama State Parks Foundation, so they’re an easy way to help the parks we love so much.

For thru hikers, they’re a definite conversation starter around the campfire. After all, have you Completed the Feat, unless you’ve hiked from Alabama?

The medallions and other AT2AL merchandise available for sale in the Cheaha Campstore now!

Frequently Asked Questions

Extending the trail to Alabama would create an additional 240 miles of the Appalachian Trail within Georgia, which would at minimum add six new trail towns to Georgia’s economy (Cedartown, Rome, Summerville, LaFayette, Calhoun and Dalton). Each of these newly minted “trail towns” earns national recognition and an increase in visitation, tourism, and economic development. AT trail towns are a proven, valuable community asset.

  • To fully realize Benton Mackaye’s original vision for the trail, a feat of trail planning unmatched in North America
  • There is already a large contingent of thru hikers starting in Alabama
  • To help allay overcrowding on the existing AT

Bringing the Appalachian Trail gateway to Mt. Cheaha would add a little more than 300 miles to the current 2,190 miles of the AT, bringing the total to around 2,504.

This would include 92 miles from the Cheaha trailhead to the Georgia State Line, then 169.2 miles from the Georgia line to the Benton Mackaye Trail, and then 71.4 miles to Springer Mountain, GA, the current southern gateway of the AT

Extending the AT would add slightly less than 3 weeks to the normal six month trek (using the 15 mile/day average of AT hikers). Given that Alabama would allow for thru hikers to begin hiking comfortably in February or March, it still allows time for the full journey to Katahdin before the Maine winter sets in.

When the AT gateway is moved to Alabama, it may arrive via the Pinhoti Trail — or, there is a possibility that a completely new trail could be built. (See AT2AL.net.) If it does come to Alabama via the Pinhoti Trail, careful steps would be taken to assure that the identity of the beloved Pinhoti Trail would not be lost. This has happened elsewhere – just consider how the Pacific Coast Trail overlaps the John Muir Trail and how the Appalachian Trail overlaps Vermont’s Long Trail. Neither the Long Trail nor the John Muir Trail have lost any identity – if anything, their reputations have been enhanced by their overlap with the longer trails.

Bringing the AT along the Pinhoti Trail would mean an inevitable and well-deserved upgrade in status. Designating the Pinhoti Trail as an official part of the Appalachian Trail is a signal honor that will only serve to elevate the Pinhoti’s reputation as one of the top trails in the world.

Plus, bringing the trail to Alabama would also mean an increase in trail support from the large cadre of Appalachian Trail volunteers who could help maintain the Pinhoti. Bottom line, the two trails will only mutually benefit one another.

Visitors and economic developers are often surprised by Alabama’s natural beauty and rugged mountainous areas. Bringing the AT to Alabama would help cement us where we belong, as part of the Appalachain Trail. In New England, the AT is ranked the #1 tourist attraction for the entire region.

Alabama needs to continue to recruit new talent to our state in order to thrive. The image value of bringing the AT to Alabama would prove an important part of recruitment and economic development. Moving the trail immediately places Alabama in the scope of coffee table books, travel guides, and the numerous articles about the Appalachian Trail, and a place at the table when it comes to the national conversation about hiking – a pastime that’s only grown in popularity during the years of the pandemic.

While other potential sites along the Pinhoti trail were considered, ultimately Cheaha offers:

  • Much easier accessibility to the general public, with its central location between Birmingham and Atlanta and proximity to 1-20
  • Existing infrastructure at Cheaha, including motels, parking, restaurants, campstore, etc.
  • Existing State Park staffing at Cheaha
  • The designation of being the highest location in Alabama, tying us to the highest location – Katahdin – in Maine
  • Avoiding the large number of “road walks” that would be required if the trailhead were moved lower south