The Great Appalachian Valley is a chain of lowlands extending S and W from the Hudson Valley; its main segments are the Lehigh, Lebanon, Cumberland, and Shenandoah valleys; the Valley of Virginia; and the Valley of East Tennessee. Long a major north-south travel and settlement corridor, the Great Valley is one of the most fertile areas in the E United States.
The Appalachians are rich in coal; other resources include iron, petroleum, and natural gas. The scenic ranges also abound in resorts and recreation areas, including Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mts. national parks. The Appalachian Trail winds 2,050 mi (3,299 km) along the ridges of the Appalachians between Mt. Katahdin, Maine, and Springer Mt., Georgia.
Crossed by few passes, the Appalachians were a barrier to early westward expansion and played an important role in U.S. history; major east-west routes like the Cumberland Gap and Mohawk Trail followed river valleys or mountain notches. Appalachia is a name applied to parts of the region that were long characterized by marginal economy, isolation of its people from the U.S. mainstream, and distinctive folkways.
See E. Porter, Appalachian Wilderness (1970); H. M. Caudill, My Land is Dying (1971); M. Brooks, The Appalachians (1986); H. D. Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind (1986).
Mountain system, eastern North America. The Appalachians, among the oldest mountains on Earth, extend almost 2,000 mi (3,200 km) from the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the northeast southwestward to Alabama in the U.S. They include the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains in Vermont, the Catskill Mountains in New York, the Allegheny Mountains primarily in Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee, and the Cumberland Plateau extending from West Virginia to Alabama. Their highest peak is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. Seealso Appalachian Geosyncline; Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Learn more about Appalachian Mountains with a free trial on Britannica.com.