Great Eastern Trail
|Great Eastern Trail|
|Length||1600 mi (2575 km)|
North Country Trail
|Trail difficulty||Moderate to Strenuous|
The Great Eastern Trail is a north-south hiking route that runs roughly 1,600 miles through the Appalachian Mountains west of the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States. It is still under development as of 2016. From south to north, it runs from Flagg Mountain through Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, ending in western New York state. A connection from Flagg Mountain south to the Florida-Georgia Border is considered "Phase II Development."
It is a potential connector in the US National Trails System, linking the Florida National Scenic Trail in the south to the North Country National Scenic Trail in New York. In between, it would connect with and briefly overlap two other National Scenic Trails: the Appalachian Trail and the Potomac Heritage Trail.
Many sections of Great Eastern Trail are already hikeable for day use and backpackers. The longest continuously usable sections are on the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, and from Narrows, Virginia, northward through portions of Virginia, West Virginia, all of Maryland, all of Pennsylvania, to a junction with Finger Lakes Trail carrying North Country National Scenic Trail near South Bradford, New York.
The project enjoyed support from the American Hiking Society and the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program of the US National Park Service but then became an independent entity. The Great Eastern Trail Association was incorporated in Virginia on August 10, 2007 by signatories from the nine states through which the trail passes.
On January 10, 2013, "Hillbilly" Bart Houck (Mullens, WV) and Joanna "Someday" Swanson (Willow River, MN) started hiking in Alabama and arrived in New York on June 18, 2013, becoming the first to complete a thru-hike of the Great Eastern Trail. In October 2016, Kathy Finch (NH) became the first to complete a southbound thru-hike from New York State to Flagg Mountain, Alabama.
Several other names were suggested and used earlier during the development of the trail, including the Western Appalachian Alternative. The northern terminus was once considered to overlay with North Country National Scenic Trail at Crown Point, New York, but was truncated to the NCNST junction in southwestern New York State.
Trails in system
Route from south to north with gaps, according to the Great Eastern Trail Concept Plan:
- Gap to close in Alabama from Pinhoti Trail to Florida Trail (this is "Phase II Development")
- Pinhoti Trail
- Gap to close in northwest Georgia to Tennessee-Georgia state line
- Cumberland Trail
- Pine Mountain Trail
- A new link from Pine Mountain Trail to the Appalachian Trail, passing through Matewan, West Virginia, Mullens, West Virginia, Hinton, West Virginia, and Narrows, Virginia
- Brief connection to Appalachian Trail near Pearisburg, Virginia
- Allegheny Trail
- Connecting trails on or near the Virginia-West Virginia state line
- Tuscarora Trail
- Diverges at Hancock, Maryland into two routes that form a loop
- Eastern route
- Western route
- Sections 9 through 20 of Mid State Trail
- Crystal Hills Trail, a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail
- Great Eastern Trail map
- Chattanoogan: "Chattanooga Mayor signs Proclamation Designating Chattanooga As 1st Trail Town Of Great Eastern Trail"
- summary of usage on the official website
- USA TOday: "Great Eastern Trail promises"
- WITF.org: "First thru-hikers to conquer the Great Eastern Trail"
- "‘A SERENDIPITOUS JOURNEY’ New Hampshire resident Kathy Finch making history with Great Eastern Trail hike"
- "Great Eastern Trail Concept Plan: A 2000-mile hiking trail, paralleling the Appalachian Trail, linking Alabama and New York." (Word Document). Great Eastern Trail Association. October 2009. Retrieved 2011-09-12.
- Guide to Pennsylvania Mid State Trail, 12th edition (Huntingdon, PA: Mid State Trail Association, 2012)