Are you looking for a summer adventure? Why not try your hand (and feet, of course) at hiking? For many, the Appalachian Trail is the challenge of choice, where all the fun is in getting there. Completed in 1937, this 2,180-mile footpath stretches from Georgia to Maine, making it within easy striking distance of just about any East Coast dweller. Maintained by trail clubs and multiple advocacy groups and agencies as well as more than 6,000 volunteers that donate time each year, the AT is home to more than 2,000 rare, endangered and sensitive plant and animal species.
There are various levels of difficulty, depending on where in the trail you are. The Maine portion tends towards the steep and rocky, and is generally for more advanced hikers. Heading south, the AT runs along mountain ridges of the Green mountains and the Berkshires and through river valleys, deep forests and several small New England towns. Southern New England is not as strenuous, and it is accessible from major cities like New York and Boston.
The remote wooded areas of New York and the rocky ridges of the mid-Atlantic region also offer hikers more moderate terrain. Nearly one-fourth of the AT is in Virginia, with great portions for beginning hikers especially in the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah National Park regions. In the Southern Appalachians between Tennessee and Georgia, vast national forests are the name of the game. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains is the highest point on the trail itself. If you're looking for solitude, North Carolina's outstanding panoramic views and deep forests are perfect, as are Georgia's southernmost miles through the Chattahoochee National Forest.