On October 7, 1923, our predecessors at the Trail Conference celebrated completion of the first section of the Appalachian Trail, at Bear Mountain. We marked their achievement on October 6, 2013 with a commemorative hike on new, under-construction, and long-existing sections of the Trail on the Mountain. Our group had a chance to say “thank-you” in person to volunteers with the Mid Atlantic Crew of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, who were hare at work improving the trail.
First came the idea: In 1921 regional planner Benton MacKaye proposed a 2,000-mile trail along the Appalachian Mountain Ridge from Maine to Georgia. His idea was to offer a way for stressed urban workers to connect with nature by building and maintaining an important trail through nature that would create local hiking opportunities.
Next came the volunteers: In 1922 members of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (founded in 1920) enthusiastically committed themselves to planning and building 160 miles of Appalachian Trail from Kent, CT to the Delaware River. They got right to work.
On October 7, 1923, the first section of the Appalachian Trail, from Arden to the Bear Mountain Bridge was officially opened. (The bridge did not open until Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1924).
The Appalachian Trail at Bear Mountain has been so popular with hikers, that it has “worn out” seven times and had to be relocated to maintain a safe, enjoyable trail for hikers and to protect the mountain from erosion. The current trail project—the 8th—aims to eliminate the need for future relocations by building a trail that will withstand high use and resist erosion. It is also designed to offer a beautiful and fun hike for people of all ages and varied abilities.
The Appalachian Trail at Bear Mountain/Harriman was an early part of an ever-growing trail network in these parks and the region. Today, Trail Conference volunteers continue to dedicate themselves to maintaining and protecting the 160 miles of Appalachian Trail in New York and New Jersey. The AT is an important regional trail to which many of our 2,000 miles of Trail Conference volunteer-maintained trails connect.
If you enjoy hiking the Appalachian Trail, or any trail in our region, please thank a volunteer today and support the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.