The Father of the Appalachian Trail Left His Gift to the Nation

December 11, 1975

Benton MacKaye, a forester and regional planner who earned the nickname “Father of the Appalachian Trail” for his role in creating that marked public footpath in the eastern United States, died in the town of Shirley, Massachusetts. 

MacKaye, who was born in Connecticut in 1879, first developed the idea of the Appalachian Trail in the early 1920s. He pursued the plans for the trail with the encouragement of such fellow advocates as William A. Welch, director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. MacKaye’s vision of a multi-state hiking route that linked together the goals of preservation and recreation steadily took shape over the next several years.

The Appalachian Trail, which is jointly managed by the National Park Service and nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy as well as numerous volunteers and state-level agencies, now covers approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) between Mount Katahdin in Maine and Springer Mountain in Georgia. In addition, several Interstate, and U.S. highways parallel a good deal of that route. A trail named after MacKaye coincides with several portions of the Appalachian Trail.

For more information on Benton MacKaye, please check out

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