The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,174-mile footpath along the ridgecrests and across the major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in northern Georgia. The trail crosses through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, ^North Carolina, and Georgia. The Appalachian Trail was the vision of forester Benton MacKaye and was developed by volunteers. It was opened as a continuous trail in 1937. It was designated as the first National Scenic Trail by the National Trails System Act, of 1968. The Trail is currently protected along more than 99 percent of its course by federal or state ownership of the land or by rights-of-way. The trail is kept up by more than 4,000 volunteers and more than 185,000 hours of time are logged annually to maintain the trail. The Trail crosses six National Parks, eight National Forests, touches 14 states, and is the nation's longest marked footpath. Hikers can enjoy a wide variety of hiking levels, and with the different areas the trail covers, you can be sure to find all types of animals and plant species. There are five distinct areas encompassing the Appalachian Trail, the first of which is Northern New England, between central Maine and western New Hampshire. This section offers some of the most rugged hiking and most challenging weather conditions of the entire trail. The path is often steep, rough, and parts are above tree line, where weather is especially severe. Moving down to Southern New England, between eastern Vermont and the New York-Connecticut border, most of this section runs along glacier-scraped mountain ridges such as the Green Mountains and the Berkshires, and rocky New England river valleys. Though this section is less strenuous than the northern section, it still offers a challenging hike through deep forests. It lies within easy driving distance of major cities such as Boston and New York City. The Mid-Atlantic region is between eastern New York and central Maryland, this section of the trail runs between the glacial hills of the Hudson Highlands, and the northern reaches of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hiking is mostly moderate, but parts can be rock and strenuous. It follows long, rocky ridges only a few thousand feet above sea level — ridges that often seem like islands of wild country above bustling valleys. The region between the eastern panhandle of West Virginia and the Tennessee boarder is called the Virginias. This part of the trail runs along the Blue Ridge of Virginia and the Great Valley of the Appalachians. It includes portions of Harper's Ferry National Historical Park, Shenandoah National Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hiking is moderate to strenuous, and the southern part of the trail has long, solitary stretches. The last region of the Appalachian Trail is the Southern Appalachians; the trail runs between northeastern Tennessee and the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, in Georgia. It runs through several of the vast national forests of the South, and crosses the trail's highest mountain, Clingman's Dome, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This section of the trail is mostly well-graded, and is remote, with long, strenuous climbs. The Appalachian Trail is used by day, weekend and other short-term hikers, section-hikers, and thru-hikers. Thru-hikers hike the entire length of the trail in one season.