Appalachian Trail Through the Smoky Mountains: 10 Facts You Didn’t Know

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: August 20, 2023
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Key Points:

  • The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range located in the southeastern United States, spanning parts of Tennessee and North Carolina.
  • The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions in the world, with over 19,000 species of plants and animals, including over 140 species of trees and over 50 species of mammals.
  • The Great Smoky Mountains are home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was established in 1934 and is the most-visited national park in the United States.

The Appalachian Trail is a spectacular hiking-only trail. It begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia, and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Its entire length is about 2,190 miles (3,524.5 km) making it the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The trail which runs through 14 states also runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Smoky Mountains are located in North Carolina and Tennessee and span 800 square miles.

This article takes a look at the Appalachian Trail through the Smoky Mountains: 10 facts you didn’t know.

The Appalachian Trail

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Trail was officially founded in 1925.

©drewthehobbit/Shutterstock.com

The Appalachian Trail was proposed by Benton MacKaye in 1921. It was officially founded years later in 1925 and was completed in 1937. According to the Appalachian Trail Organization, more than 3 million people visit the trail each year.

The highest point along the Appalachian Trail is 6643 feet, at Clingmans Dome. Hikers navigate their way on the Appalachian Trail with the help of blazes that are painted on trees and rocks. They also make use of signs and posts.

The Appalachian Mountains and Trail

The Appalachian Mountains are a system of mountains located in eastern to northeastern North America. Also called the Appalachians, these mountains were once as tall and elevated as the Alps and the Rocky Mountains before they experienced erosion.

The Appalachian Trail runs along the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains.

The Great Smoky Mountains and The Appalachian Trail

The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains that run along the Tennessee–North Carolina border. The Appalachian Trail runs through the Smoky Mountains National Park located in North Carolina and Tennessee, running for more than 71 miles through the Smoky Mountains.

The Appalachian Trail enters the park from the south at Fontana Dam and exits through Davenport Gap in the northeast region.

How Hard is it to Hike the Appalachian Trail?

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is extremely difficult.

©EWY Media/Shutterstock.com

It takes five to seven months to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Hikers usually start off hiking at 8-10 miles a day and work their way up to 12- 16 miles. Hikers who try to complete the entire trail in a single season are called “thru-hikers“. Section-hikers are those who break the trail into various sections and attempt it on separate trips. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy gives the “2000 Miler” title to anyone who completes the entire trail.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is extremely difficult. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. Hikers have to deal with rugged terrains, harsh weather, illness, injury, and many other unforeseen problems. It costs a lot to hike the trail. This includes physical, mental, financial, and emotional costs.

However, the trial is not all work and no play. Hikers attend parties, make colorful entries in logbooks using made-up or pseudo names, and experience wonderful acts of humanity and kindness. The positive culture on the trail is one to be emulated. People are kind to each other, despite knowing that they may never see the other person again or get any form of repayment.

If you’re planning to hike the trail, be prepared to give and receive kindness. Despite this, your survival depends on your ability to stay safe and stay out of tricky situations like getting into strangers’ cars alone when hitchhiking. 

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Appalachian Trail Through the Smoky Mountains

The Appalachian Trail is one of the most stunning paths known to man. It is also home to an amazing number of species. Here are 10 facts you didn’t know about the Appalachian Trail, the Smoky Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains.

The Appalachian Mountains are more than 1 billion years old

Some parts of the Appalachian Mountains are over 1 billion years old. They are one of the oldest mountains on the surface of the earth. The Appalachian Mountains were created by powerful upheavals within the earth’s terrestrial crust as well as the ceaseless motions of water on the earth’s surface.

The Appalachians have at least 500 mountains

There are more than 500 mountains in the Appalachian mountain chain. They are approximated to have a combined total of over 200 species of plants.

The Appalachian Mountains Are Rich in Minerals and Resources

The Appalachians are rich in natural gasses, petroleum, coal, and iron. The coal mines in the Appalachians are one of the largest in America.

The Appalachian Trail’s Length Is About 400 Times the Height of Mount Everest

The Appalachian Trail’s length is about 16 times the height of Mount Everest’s peak.

©Jaminnbenji/Shutterstock.com

The peak of Mount Everest is 29,032 feet or 8,849 meters (5.5 miles) while the Appalachian Trail stretches to an estimated 11,563,200 feet or 3,530,901 meters (2194 miles). This makes the Appalachian Trail’s length almost 400 times the height of Mount Everest.

It Takes Five to Seven Months to Hike the Appalachian Trail

It takes an average of five to seven months to hike the entire trail. Hikers usually start off hiking at 8-10 miles a day and work their way up to 12- 16 miles.

The Appalachian Trail Was Proposed by Benton MacKaye

The idea of the Appalachian Trail was proposed by Benton MacKaye in 1921. It was officially founded later in 1925 and completed in 1937.

It costs around $3,500 to $6,000 to hike the Appalachian Trail

It can cost $3500 to $6000 to hike the Appalachian Trail. Most people who start with smaller budgets end up having to drop out of the hike due to depleted resources.

5 Million Steps To Walk The Appalachian Trail

It takes approximately 5 million steps to walk the Appalachian Trail from start to finish. Despite this enormous number, more than 20,000 people have completed the trail since 1936.

A 4-Year-Old Once Hiked The Appalachian Trail

The record for the fastest hike through the Appalachian Trail was 41 days and some hours! This feat was achieved by Karel Sabbe. Sabbe completed the trial on August 29, 2018. Some other notable achievements were by M.J. “Nimblewill Nomad” Eberhart and Juniper “The Beast” Netteburg. 

Nimblewill Nomad completed the trail aged 83 on November 8, 2021, while Juniper Netteberg, whose trail name is “The Beast” completed it at the age of 4! She completed the trial on October 13, 2020.

Virginia Has A Quarter Of The Trail

The state of Virginia has the largest piece of the trail with 2,905,584 feet (550.3 miles). This amounts to a quarter of the trail, including about 105,600 feet (20 miles) that run along the West Virginia state line.

Animals That Live in the Appalachian Smoky Mountains

black sea bass in water

The Appalachian Smoky Mountains are a hub of biodiversity, boasting a rich and diverse array of plant and animal species.

©Mike Brake/Shutterstock.com

The Appalachian Smoky Mountains are a hub of biodiversity, boasting a rich and diverse array of plant and animal species. This stunning mountain range is home to numerous species of animals, each with its own unique adaptations and behaviors.

One of the most iconic animals in the Smoky Mountains is the black bear. These large omnivores can be found throughout the park and are known for their shaggy fur and keen sense of smell. Black bears are highly intelligent and have a diverse diet, consisting of both plants and animals. They are also strong climbers and swimmers, making them well-adapted to living in the mountains.

Another notable animal in the Smoky Mountains is the white-tailed deer. These graceful creatures are the most common large mammal in the park and are often seen grazing in meadows and along roadsides. White-tailed deer have keen senses, especially their hearing and sense of smell, and are fast runners, making them well-equipped to evade predators.

Birds are also abundant in the Smoky Mountains, with over 200 species that call the park home. Some of the most notable bird species in the area include the vibrant scarlet tanager, the majestic bald eagle, and the colorful pileated woodpecker. These birds play a crucial role in the park’s ecosystem, providing food for larger predators and helping to pollinate plants.

Reptiles and amphibians are also abundant in the Smoky Mountains, with over 30 species of snakes and over 40 species of salamanders. One of the most unique and fascinating reptiles in the park is the Hellbender salamander, a large, nocturnal amphibian that can grow up to two feet long.

Finally, the Smoky Mountains are home to numerous species of fish, including brook, rainbow, and brown trout. These fish provide important food sources for larger animals, such as bears and eagles, and play a crucial role in maintaining the park’s aquatic ecosystems.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jaminnbenji/Shutterstock.com


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