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About Us

Mission Statement

The Association was organized for the following charitable and educational purposes: to construct, maintain and protect the proposed Benton MacKaye Trail; to inform (by newsletter, brochure, correspondence, guidebook, map, and other means) its members and the general public of opportunities for outdoor recreation and public service; to conduct workshops, seminars and work trips to foster skills in trail construction and maintenance; to promote hiking, camping and a wilderness experience in the Southern Appalachian Mountains; to instill in its members and the general public a conservation ethic.

The Benton MacKaye Trail Association

“…leaving a footpath for generations to follow.”

Benton MacKaye Trail Association founding member, Dave Sherman, first conceived of the idea for the Benton MacKaye Trail in 1975. A serious student of conservationist and regional planner Benton MacKaye’s life and career, Sherman was intrigued by MacKaye’s proposed spur trails that would extend the Appalachian Trail (AT) further to the south.

Sherman eventually proposed a new trail that would follow the high ridge running south along the Tennessee-North Carolina border between the Smoky Mountains and the Cohutta Mountains in northwest Georgia. In addition, he included an east-west connecting trail between the Cohuttas and the AT near Springer Mountain.

Sherman’s idea of a sister trail to the AT, later named for Benton MacKaye, caught on and the Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA) was officially formed in 1980.

Working closely with the U.S. Forest Service, the all-volunteer BMTA workforce began to build the trail … first in Georgia, later along the Tennessee / North Carolina border and eventually extending to the Smokies. Saving time and effort by piecing together existing trail segments and old logging roads, the trail was completed to Double Spring Gap on the Georgia / Tennessee line in 1989. Over the next 15 years, the association implemented a massive effort to complete the trail to the Smokies. Soon thereafter, the National Park Service agreed to piece together a route through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Davenport Gap.

The 285 mile long Benton MacKaye Trail was completed in 2005 – 30 years after Sherman’s initial idea for the trail, and 25 years after the formation of the BMTA.

Ever vigilant for improvements to the BMT, in 2015 the association completed a significant reroute that took the BMT off the dangerous North Carolina roadwalk known as ‘The Tail of the Dragon’.

BMTA’s Quest for National Scenic Trail

The Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA) Board of Directors has announced they are seeking Congressional approval for the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) to be designated a National Scenic Trail. To date, only 11 long-distance trails have received the prestigious designation. These trails epitomize the splendor, diversity and historical significance found in the wide array of the American landscape.

To learn more about our quest for designation as a National Scenic Trail and how YOU can help, go to Quest.

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The BMTA Today

Governed by a 17-member Board of Directors, the primary work of the Benton MacKaye Trail Association today is to maintain and to promote the Benton MacKaye Trail.


As of June 27, 2021, the BMTA has over 690 members who share a love for the outdoors as well as the objectives of: preserving, protecting and defending the Benton MacKaye Trail —“… leaving a footpath for generations to follow”.

Trail Maintenance

BMTA volunteers maintain the now 288-mile-long trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. In fiscal 2020, volunteers turned in over 6,860.5 hours maintaining the trail!

BMTA Sponsored Hikes

BMTA sponsors several hikes each month as well as occasional backpacking excursions.


BMTA strives to preserve and protect the amazing natural resource known as the Benton MacKaye Trail.


For “on the job training and education”, the BMTA encourages Scouts as well as college and university students to participate in our twice-monthly work trips. Public education and outreach is offered at events throughout Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina – including the Annual William T. Hornady Conservation Weekend as well as at various local festivals and venues.


In addition to our newsletter and website, the BMTA is on Facebook and Instagram.

To Join US go to this link: MEMBERSHIP


The BMTA and U.S. Agency Partnerships

The BMTA has developed and continues to maintain this trail in cooperation with its two federal agency partners, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. Following is the list of applicable U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service offices, listed from South to North:

Chattahoochee Oconee National Forests
1755 Cleveland Highway
Gainesville, GA 30501

Blue Ridge District
2042 Hwy 515 West
Blairsville, GA 30512
706 745-6928

Conasauga District
3941 Highway 76
Chatsworth, GA 30705
706 695-6736

Cherokee National Forest
2800 N. Ocoee Street
Cleveland, TN 37312

Ocoee District
3171 Highway 64
Benton, TN 37370

Tellico District
250 Ranger Station Road
Tellico Plains, TN 37385

Nantahala National Forest
160A Zillicoa Street
Asheville, NC 28802

Tusquitee District
123 Woodland Drive
Murphy, NC 28908

Cheoah District
1070 Massey Branch Road
Robbinsville, NC 28771

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Rd.
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Benton MacKaye the Man

Benton MacKaye and the BMT

Forester and regional planner, Benton MacKaye is best known for his life-long advocacy for the Appalachian Trail (AT) – a trail he first proposed in a 1921 article. Included in that article was the idea for the route that now bears his name, the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT).

MacKaye’s Other Contributions

The AT was far from MacKaye’s only contribution to today’s society. For half a century, the tall, lanky New Englander smoking his signature pipe was a familiar sight at environmental and regional planning conferences where he collaborated with some of the movement’s major figures – Bob Marshall and Aldo Leopold.

Throughout his career, MacKaye was employed by several different government agencies – the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Tennessee Valley Authority, to name a few. Because he found compromise difficult, he frequently wore out his welcome, or resigned in frustration.

Curmudgeon though he may have been, MacKaye was an early and influential promoter of many concepts it would be hard to imagine 21st Century America without, such as:

  • He joined with other conservationists to found the Wilderness Society.
  • MacKaye encouraged the establishment of National Forests east of the Mississippi.
  • He proposed the concept of planned communities with protected greenspaces (a.k.a., greenways) in key natural areas.
  • He suggested the idea of “townless” roads (today’s interstate and intrastate highways) to move traffic out of city centers.
  • So others can experience nature in something like its pure form, he encouraged the creation of vast protected wilderness areas across the nation, especially in national forests.
  • MacKaye was adamant that the most important work of science is to help humans discover and adopt practices that will enable us to live in harmony with nature (sustainability).

Want to know more about Benton MacKaye…?

  • Order Larry Anderson’s superb 2002 biography HERE
  • Read the entire text of MacKaye’s 1921 essay proposing the Appalachian Trail as well as Garrett Dash Nelson’s excellent 2019 introduction HERE.

Business/Corporate Members

The Benton MacKaye Trail Association is grateful for the help and support provided by our Corporate Members and Partner organizations.

Membership fees and donations from Corporate Members go towards the purchase of tools and materials used to maintain and improve the Benton MacKaye Trail.

Trail clubs, hiking clubs and other organizations also help us to accomplish our mission in a variety of ways – by maintaining a section of the BMT, co-sponsoring a hike, facilitating the distribution of our literature and / or putting on an event where the BMTA can educate the public about the “work we do”.

Other, partner organizations promote the values the BMTA holds dear – they encourage outdoor recreation and public service; promote hiking, camping and a wilderness experience in pristine forests and high, mountain meadows; and, most important, strive to instill a strong conservation ethic.

Corporate Members

Trail Clubs

Hiking Clubs

Other Links

Board of Directors

President Ken Cissna
Vice President Clare Sullivan
Secretary Patrick Ward
Treasurer Lydia Burns
GA Maintenance Director Bob Cowdrick
TN/NC Maintenance Director  Keith Mertz
Smokies Coordinator Larry Dumas
Hiking Director Tom Sewell
Store Sue Ricker
Membership Director Frank Forehand
Communications Director Joy Forehand
Conservation Director Dave Ricker
Past President Barry Allen
Newsletter Editor Kathy Williams
State Rep GA Darcy Douglas
State Rep TN/NC Steve Barnes

Contact Us

Benton MacKaye Trail Association
PO Box 6
Cherry Log, GA 30522

Privacy Policy

  • Privacy Policy

    Benton MacKaye Trail Association

    Privacy Policy

    This privacy policy discloses the privacy practices for  This privacy policy applies solely to information collected by this website. This policy identifies the following:

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