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5 invigorating springtime hikes

By: Matt Hickman on March 29, 2011, 10:14 a.m.
hiker laying on a rock overlooking a valley

Photo: Compass Points/Flickr

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Appalachian Trail

There's no way that the granddaddy of all American hiking trails, the Appalachian, can be conquered in just a couple days. Or a few days. Or a couple of weeks. Stretching 2,181 miles through 14 states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine), six other units of the National Park System, and eight different national forests, the Appalachian takes most dedicated thru-hikers an average of 5 million footsteps (!) and five to seven months to complete.

However, this doesn't mean that the Appalachian Trail can't be hiked in small portions. Although you might not qualify as one of the thousands of aspiring "2,000-Milers" who attempt to hike from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Katahdin, Maine, each year (only about one in four make it all the way), you'll still have bragging rights of hiking the Appalachian Trail — even if just for a day or two.

Trail-mates: Black bears, white-tailed deer, snakes aplenty.

Welcome signs of civilization: Harper's Ferry, W.V.; Hot Springs, N.C.

Requisite gear: REI City and Trail Shocklight Walking Staff.

Historic hike-toid: The Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937 and designated as a National Scenic Trail in 1968.

Optimum hike time: Springtime (early March or April for northbound through-hikes)