Mississippi River vs Appalachian Trail: Which Iconic American Attraction Should You See First?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: January 23, 2023
© EWY Media/Shutterstock.com
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If you’re a fan of outdoor vacations, you’ve probably fantasized about visiting the Mississippi River or the Appalachian Trail. But let’s say you were faced with the opportunity to visit either of these places, would you go for one of the longest hiking trails in the world or for the second largest river in the entire Northern America? Let’s take a look at the Mississippi River versus the Appalachian Trail: Which iconic American attraction should you see first?

The Mississippi River

Mississippi River - New Orleans
The second-longest river in North America is the Mississippi River.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

The Mississippi River stretches out from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Its entire length is 2,340 miles. Its total surface area is 1.2 million square miles, making it the second-longest river in North America. Mississippi plays a very important part in the United States’ economy. Not only does it provide drinking water to millions of people, but it is also a source of hydroelectricity.

The Mississippi River is a major tourism location. According to the National Wildlife Federation, each year, tourism increases by at least 3 percent! More than 12 million people visit the Upper Mississippi River recreationally each year.

The Appalachian Trail

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
More than 3 million people visit the Appalachian Trail trail in the world each year.


The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest hiking trails in the world. According to the Appalachian Trail Organization, more than 3 million people visit each year. The trail runs through 14 states in the eastern US! It begins at Springer Mountain, Georgia, and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine.  

The trail which was proposed by Benton MacKaye in 1921 was officially founded in 1925 and was completed in 1937. Today, it takes 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 fastest record ever was 41 days and some hours!

Which Should You See First?

The Mississippi River and the Appalachian Trail are two excellent location choices for a vacation. In this section, we’ll compare both locations based on different standards.

Tourist Attractions

The Mississippi River is known for its many regional parks, wildlife refuges, and many other jaw-dropping scenes. It has many outdoor locations for people who prefer to check out significant spots. 

The river also has many visits from recreational fishers. The Mississippi River is famously home to over 100 species of fish including both native and invasive species. Although swimming in many parts of the river is not allowed, there are several parts where swimming is safe and permitted.

America’s Appalachian Trail is popular and loved by hikers all around the world. The trail has many iconic locations and viewpoints. Apart from being a hiking goal for many, the Appalachian Trail has hundreds of impressive attractions for those who just want to visit.


It costs around $3,500 to $6,000 to hike the Appalachian Trail, while hiking the Mississippi depends entirely on your choices. It also depends on where you’re traveling from. However, adults are generally charged $20.95 for admission to the National Mississippi River Museum. Champion Traveler states that the average price of a 7-day trip to the Mississippi River is $1,328 for a solo traveler, $2,385 for a couple, and $4,471 for a family of 4.


There are tons of activities to do when visiting the Mississippi River. Not only is the state rich in music, art, and cuisine, but it is also known for its many museums that showcase the state’s rich history and culture. The drive into the state of Mississippi isn’t one that you’ll forget in a hurry. Beautiful green trees line the roadsides.

The majority of the Appalachian Trail’s activities are hiking-related. However, hikers don’t only hike. There are many parties, motels, and restaurants for hikers to enjoy along their journey. There are also multiple streams and rivers to enjoy. The Appalachian Trail’s scenery is world-renowned and doesn’t disappoint.


The Appalachian Trail is awash with wildlife. Some of the most commonly spotted wildlife you could spot hiking the Appalachian Trail are bears, mice, snakes, spiders, stinging insects, and mosquitoes.

The Mississippi has an abundance of fish species. It also has 50 species of mammals, as well as up to 60 documented species of mussels.

When visiting these locations, it is important to remember that these animals aren’t domesticated and can harm you. Stick to the given guidelines and instructions. Do not wander off marked paths to reduce your chances of stumbling into an angry bear or a venomous snake.


Both locations are safe places to vacation, despite the naysayers. The Appalachian Trail experiences one to three fatalities each year and most of these were due to hikers not taking precautions and obeying instructions. The same can be said for the Mississippi. 

Most Mississippi River drownings occur in areas that were marked off to swimmers or in situations where people swim or boat without a life jacket. At the Lake Itasca, which is the headquarters of the Mississippi River, the water flows at a speed of 1.2 miles per hour, so it isn’t a good idea to underestimate the Mississippi’s waves.

Mississippi River vs Appalachian Trail: Which Iconic American Attraction Should You See First?

The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest trails in the world.

The answer to this question totally depends on you. If the idea of hiking appeals to you more, the Appalachian Trail is your obvious winner. However, if you prefer rivers and water bodies, the Mississippi is the ideal location for you.

Of course, your budget is another thing to consider. If you’re on a budget, the Mississippi might be a better choice for you as you can greatly reduce your costs. Hiking without a decent budget isn’t a great idea. Some people find themselves dumpster diving for food or in other dangerous situations. A tiny budget also means that you’ll hitchhike rather than taking shuttles and as you probably know, hitchhiking can be very dangerous. Irrespective of which location you choose to visit first, there is a guarantee of having an experience you’ll remember.

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