Virginia’s Lost Appalachian Trail

Time Period
1925 to Today
Media Type
Geography & Environment
Sports & Leisure
Mills Kelly

On August 3, 2023, Mills Kelly gave a lecture about his book, Virginia’s Lost Appalachian Trail. For over two decades, hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia walked through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Then, in 1952, the Appalachian Trail Conference moved 300 miles of the trail more than 50 miles to the west. This change was the single largest rerouting of the AT in its long history. Lost in that move were opportunities for hikers to scramble over the Pinnacles of Dan, to sit on Fisher’s Peak and gaze out over the North Carolina Piedmont, or to cross the New River on a flat-bottomed boat called Redbud for a nickel.

In his latest book, historian and lifelong AT section hiker Mills Kelly tells the story of a part of the history of the Appalachian Trail that is all but forgotten by hikers, but not by the residents of the southwestern Virginia counties that the trail used to cross. Virginia’s Lost Appalachian Trail is thus a history of the AT and a story of the power and persistence of historical memory in rural communities once traversed by the AT.

Mills Kelly graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in history and George Washington University with a PhD in history. He is a professor of history at George Mason University where he is also the director of Mason’s award-winning Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. He is the author of Virginia’s Lost Appalachian Trail. You can learn more about Mills on his website.

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

Want to listen to an audio-only version of this lecture? Listen now on SoundCloud.