I love the Appalachian Trail, but on weekends and in the summer time, it can feel really crowded.
In fact, the ATC estimates that 4 million people hike on the AT each year, and a lot of their trail maintenance and stewardship efforts go toward mitigating their impact on the surrounding environment and other visitors’ experiences. Repairing overuse damage, building privies, and adding more campsites is necessary to contain an ever increasing number of visitors each year.
So when I learned about the Great Eastern Trail (GET), I was intrigued. It’s a new 2000 mile, long distance trail that will lie west of the AT and pass through Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virgina, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, linking the Florida Trail to the North Country Trail.
One of the motivations for this new trail is to provide hikers with a far more remote experience through the Western Appalachian Mountains. Like the AT, the trail is non-motorized, primitive, and is being built and maintained by local hiking and volunteer-based stewardship organizations.
In August of 2007 a new organization was incorporated under Virginia law to manage and promote the Great Eastern Trail. Consisting of representatives from the nine states through which the trail passes, it is comprised of volunteers from trail organizations that are working to complete the trail including the Alabama Hiking Trail Society, the Alabama Trails Association, the American Hiking Society, the Chattanooga Hiking Club, the Cumberland Trail Conference, the Finger Lakes Trail Conference, the Florida Trail Association, the Friends of Green Ridge, the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association, the Keystone Trails Association, the Mid State Trail Association, the National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program, the North Country Trail Association, the Pine Mountain Trail Conference, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the Standing Stone Trail Club, and the West Virginia Scenic Trails Association. For more information about how to become involved contact one of these organization nearest you.
Several sections are still slated for further development however, so now is your chance to get a head start on future thru-hikers!