“…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”.