Trail authority

Remember the slogan, “We answer to a higher authority”. This award-winning slogan for Hebrew National hot dogs was meant to be the standard for quality.

When it comes to trails, we can argue about names, distances, and exactly where a sidetrail takes off. So I ask. Which sources do you regard as the authority on trails in the Southeast? Here goes:

* Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy puts out trail guides, data books and other material meant to help you plan your journey. You may not want to carry them all but you should consult them.

MST road sign
MST road sign

* Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail now has trail guides for the whole trail. They were written by hikers who walked the trail for the exact purpose of writing these guides. Some are now available in print, but all are well-designed, well-edited PDFs. Check out the guides.

*Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Great Smoky Mountains Association puts out many guides but the one you want is Hiking Trails of the Smokies.  It describes every trail in the park including distances, elevation, a little history and any challenges. I’ve used the guide to check out my GPS. It’s even more accurate than the trail signs.

image_mini13*Blue Ridge Parkway. Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including GPS, Maps, and More by Leonard Adkins is the book you want. There has been several editions of this comprehensive book but you should get the 2013 edition. Every trail no matter how small is described here.  And you know that Adkins has walked every trail probably several times. Here’s my review.

Now what about my hiking guides, you might ask? They’re authoritative but they’re meant to inspire you, inform you on trails, history, flora and fauna, but they’re not exhaustive. I don’t write about every hike in a park or forest. When I plan to hike a trail, I check the sources above.

I will create a page on my website to make this information easier to find.



One thought on “Trail authority

  1. I combine the ATC maps and guidebooks with “The A.T. Guide” by David “Awol” Miller for all my AT hiking. The latter’s elevation profile with waypoints marked is a great companion to the ATC maps..

    For the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I combine “Hiking Trails of the Smokies” with “The Day Hiker’s Guide to All the Trails in the Smoky Mountains” by Elizabeth Etnier. The former is the authority and the latter gives a unique perspective for making the Smokies 900 manageable.

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