What do you think about extending the Appalachian Trail to Alabama? I recently came across a long trail movement that definitely perked my ears. There is a group going by the acronym “AT2AL”, that is working to extend the southern terminus of one of the world’s most famous trails some 300 miles into a new state. And if you hear them out, the idea just might start to make a little sense.
So let’s break down the idea of extending the AT to Alabama. And on a scale 1 to crazy, we’ll take our best guess at what the adds of it happening will be.
Extending the Appalachian Trail to Alabama
With Alabama state officials and conservationists involved, the AT2AL has some serious juice behind it. And the reasoning for the move really comes down to a few sensible points.
Currently the Appalachian Trail runs 2,194 miles, across 14 states, starting at Katahdin Maine and ending at Spring Mountain in Georgia. And initially Benton MacKaye’s (the Appalation Trail Founder) concept for the trail was to span the entire length of the Appalachian Mountains. Ending at the range’s true southernmost point, Mt Cheaha in Alabama. But the Alabama portion of the trail never came to fruition. So an Alabama extension has actually always been in the plan. But making it easier, there is already a trail connecting Spring Mountain to Mt. Cheaha.
The plan to extend the AT into Alabama is based on using the trail that already runs this final distance on the Appalachian Mountains. Official plans to use most of the Pinhoti Trail, allowing the extension to happen much quicker than many would expect.
For anything official to happen will take nothing less than an act of congress. Literally. But that’s not a major deterrent for the AT2AL movement. In fact the AT has also already had both its southern and northern terminuses moved multiple times in the past. The northern terminus had been moved from New Hampshire to Maine. And the Southern Terminus has been moved from North Carolina to Georgia. So there is precedent for the move.
What are the Odds of it Happening
When I first started reading the literature on the AT2AL, I thought the idea was a long shot. But the more and more I dive into it, they are starting to win me over. One of the major points the group makes is the fact that extending the trail will help ease the current strain the Appalachian Trails eco system is under do to overcrowding.
A record number of hikers started the AT in 2022. Shelters have been full, forcing hikers to change mileages and plans last minute. Ridge runners (who maintain the AT) are reporting overflowing trash cans and toilet facilities. And it’s only going to get worse. Adding 300 miles would spread out these groups providing more resources for hikers.
And it’s this point I think that will get the extension passed through at some point in the future. It may take a few years, or even a decade. But I think it will happen . I think the Appalachian Trail extending into Alabama will happen at some point in my lifetime. And count me in for making it happen!