Who Was the First Person to Hike the Entire Appalachian Trail?

In 1948, 29-year-old Earl Shaffer set off from Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia wearing worn boots and carrying only his army rucksack. He had no tent to sleep in and no stove for cooking. Nevertheless, the US Army veteran became the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, covering more than 2,100 miles (3,380 km) in 124 days, averaging about 17 miles (27 km) a day. Shaffer, who saw action in the South Pacific during World War II, said that he made the trek in order “to walk the war out of my system.”

King of the trail:

  • Earl Shaffer was born in rural Pennsylvania, not far from where the Appalachian Trail winds through that state. He and a friend, Walter Winemiller, had made plans to hike the entire trail after the war -- but Winemiller died at Iwo Jima.
  • In 1965, Shaffer hiked from Maine to Georgia's Springer Mountain, which had replaced Mt. Oglethorpe as the trail’s southern terminus, in 99 days, becoming the first person to complete the trip in both directions.
  • About 1,000 hikers tackle the entire trail each year, while some 2 to 3 million people walk portions of it.
More Info: National Museum of American History

Discussion Comments


Simply amazing: walked for himself and for his friend that was killed in the South Pacific War Arena. Where did he stop to sleep or eat?

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