Footpath, Appalachian Mountains, U.S. Extending over 2,000 mi (3,200 km) from Mount Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia, along the crest of the mountains, the trail passes through 14 states, 8 national forests, and 2 national parks. Hikers and volunteers maintain the shelters and campsites. The trail's highest point is Clingmans Dome (6,643 ft [2,025 m]) in the Great Smoky Mountains. With its first section opened in 1923, the trail was completed in 1937 and became part of the National Trail System established by the U.S. Congress in 1968.
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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.
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The region's long ridges and valleys serve both as barrier and corridors, and their general north-south alignment allowed habitats to shift southward during ice ages. The geography also contains a large number of diverse microclimates and microhabitats. These factors resulted in many refugia areas and relict species surviving and thriving in the Appalachians. The long-term geologic stability of the region, in addition to its long ridges and valleys, has resulted in one of the world's richest temperate deciduous forests in terms of biodiversity. There are an unusually high number of species of both flora and fauna, as well as a high number of endemic species.
In terms of biodiversity, the only comparable temperate deciduous forest region in the world is that of central China. Both the Appalachians and central China contain relict habitats of an ancient forest that was once widespread over the Northern Hemisphere. There are species, genera, and families of plants that occur only in central China and the Appalachians.