1930s work trip to the AT at Skyland
The PATC's reason for existence is the Appalachian Trail (AT), a 2175 mile footpath between Mount Katahdin in Maine and Springer Mountain in Georgia. These miles are divided into sections maintained by 30 trail clubs in cities along the length of the AT. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's section starts at Pine Grove Furnace in Pennsylvania and ends at Rockfish Gap (the southern end of Shenandoah Park) amounting to 240 miles. We also maintain other regional trails, for a total of over 1,000 miles.
After the National Trail Systems Act was passed by Congress in 1968, the PATC became a partner of the National Park Service. The NPS AT office is headquartered in Harpers Ferry under the title of the Appalachian Trail Park Office. The 30 trail clubs are linked together by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, also in Harpers Ferry.
Since its inception, the trail club has had a wide variety of activities associated with building and maintaining the trail. After our section of trail was completed in 1932, locked cabins came next for the trail workers, then trail guides and maps for the public, shelters for overnight hikers, and a monthly newsletter. All the programs of the club were and still are performed by volunteers. Keeping accounts of all the work done on the trail became quite involved, so the club hired office staff to track the data-freeing volunteers for trail work. Fortunately, the computer came along at this time making that job easier.
The operation of PATC is accomplished by large teams of committees composed of energetic volunteers who enjoy the outdoors. Today we have over 1,000 miles of trail to maintain and monitor: the Appalachian Trail, the trail system in Rock Creek Park, the Tuscarora Trail, Prince William Park trails, the Shenandoah National Park trail system, the Massanutten Trail, and many others. PATC trail crews do the heavy work and often respond to emergencies. Overseers are volunteers who have committed to look after a 1- or 2-mile section of trail to maintain. We have 34 rental cabins-some primitive [meaning no electricity or running water]-and some are reserved for members only; these also have overseers. We have a headquarters building, a sales department where we sell our guidebooks, maps, other kinds of trail-related books, some written by members. The PATC maps are well-known for being current and easy to use. The first guidebook had a print run of 500 and was quickly sold out; its title was Guide to Footpaths in the Blue Ridge.
PATC activities are published in the monthly newsletter Potomac Appalachian, in the Forecast section. Other aspects of the trail club are administration, cabin reservations, webmaster, trail patrol, ridge runners, workshops of all kinds, public affairs, and education. We have five chapters and two special interest sections. Detailed information about all this can be found in the directory of this website.
PATC was started as an organization of private individuals who wanted a footpath along the ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains for outdoor devotees. A large history on the process of building the trail exists in our many books and articles written by club members and makes fascinating reading for history buffs. You might also be interested in viewing this video of the early days of the AT.