The trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye, a forester who wrote his original plan—called “An Appalachian Trail, A Project in Regional Planning”—shortly after the death of his wife in 1921. MacKaye’s idea detailed a grand trail that would connect a series of farms and wilderness work/study camps for city-dwellers along the Appalachian Mountains from the highest point in the North (Mount Washington in New Hampshire) to the highest in the South (Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina). Hiking was an incidental focus of his plan. In 1922, at the suggestion of Major William A. Welch, director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, his idea was publicized by Raymond H. Torrey with a story in the New York Evening Post under a full-page banner headline reading “A Great Trail from Maine to Georgia!”
On October 7, 1923, the first section of the trail, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, New York, was opened. MacKaye then called for a two-day Appalachian Trail conference to be held in March 1925 in Washington, D.C. This meeting inspired the formation of the Appalachian Trail Conference (now called the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) (ATC).