Established in 2010 and located in a centuries-old former grist mill within Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the Appalachian Trail Museum is “dedicated to the most popular hiking trail in America” and the people who conceived, created, maintained and hiked it. The museum intentionally sits near the trail’s midpoint and is part of a series of conveniences that cater to hikers, especially thru-hikers, those walking the entire trail in a single effort. It features various interpretive exhibits that relate the history of the trail and those who created it, to include biographies, photos, and hiking artifacts such as tools and gear. The A.T. Museum is also home to its Hall of Fame which honors those who have made extraordinary and positive contributions to the trail and its community.
The idea for
a hiking trail that runs almost the entire length of the east coast of America
traces its origins to a 1921 article written by Benton MacKaye entitled, “An
Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” He proposed that various hiking clubs come
together to connect their trails and, to that end, convened the first Appalachian
Trail conference in Washington D.C. in 1925.
It was soon after the conference that the various entities got to work
on his vision and the trail was completed in 1937.
trail runs approximately 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount
Katahdin, Maine and is overseen and maintained by the Appalachian Trail
Conservancy, 31 trail clubs, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest
Service. Since its creation, innumerable
people have enjoyed spending time on all or simply sections of the trail and
the A.T. Museum documents some of their stories.
the A.T. Museum occupies was built in 1760 and had to be renovated prior to the
creation of the museum. Many volunteers
donated their time, money and materials to this effort. As of writing, the museum occupies only the
first floor of the historic building with plans to renovate the upper floors
once funds become available. The museum
tells the story of trail pioneers, such as MacKaye and Earl Shaffer who spent
most of his adult life exploring and maintaining the trail as well as being the
trail’s first thru-hiker. Another
popular exhibit features the story of “Grandma” Gatewood who, at age 67, became
the first solo female thru-hiker in 1955 and the first to do so more than once.
also features a trail shelter that sat on Peters Mountain, Pennsylvania and was
built by Earl Shaffer. It was
disassembled, transported and re-built at the museum. Other popular attractions within the museum
are the Children’s Discovery Area, Hiker’s Lounge and its digitized photo
database that features over 12,000 photographs taken at the headquarters of the
A.T. Conservancy in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia of thru-hikers. Also located near the A.T. Museum is the Pine
Grove General Store that is famous for encouraging thru-hikers to attempt to
eat a half gallon of ice cream in a single sitting to celebrate reaching the
trail’s half-way mark and the Ironmaster’s Mansion which offers dormitory-style
accommodations to hikers.