• Photo: flickr/Chewonki Semester School

THE FAMED APPALACHIAN TRAIL winds along its eponymous mountain range for some 3,500 kilometres, from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. But the mountains don’t stop at the border. In 1994, planning began on the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), a route extending the trail system across Maine and into Atlantic Canada. Although it’s still a work in progress, much of the trail has been laid. And just as the Appalachians don’t stop at the border, their underlying geology doesn’t stop in North America. This year, the IAT welcomed its first overseas chapters, with a segment of trail opening in Scotland and work in progress in Greenland on remnants of the same ancient mountain range. Future expansion may take the trail into Norway, France, Spain, Portugal and even Morocco.

Appalachian Trail (Map: Steven Fick/Canadian Geographic)

1. Mars Hill, Maine Putting a modern spin on ancient topography, the IAT winds through 28 towering turbines, each more than 118 metres high, at the Mars Hill Wind Farm. At full capacity, the windmills generate enough electricity to power 45,000 homes.

2. Restigouche River, N.B. Now closed, a treacherous section of the IAT used to follow the Restigouche River along steep hillsides, past tributary waterfalls and over Squaw Cap Mountain, from Kedgwick to Glenwood Park. The New Brunswick chapter of the IAT decided to scrap the section after two years went by without a single attempt at hiking it. The trail now follows an old rail bed down the scenic Grog Brook Valley, or hikers can take a break from walking and canoe along the Restigouche itself.

3. Mont Jacques-Cartier, Que. At 1,268 metres, the highest point in southern Quebec is the highest point on the entire IAT, and it was the trail’s original northern terminus. Jacques-Cartier is part of the Chic-Choc Mountains (Micmac for “great wall” or “impenetrable barrier”), a belt on the Gaspé peninsula that’s also home to Canada’s only woodland caribou herd south of the St. Lawrence.

4. Dromore Trails, P.E.I. While through-hikers can follow the Confederation Trail across much of the island, Prince Edward Island’s first official segment of the IAT consists of 14 kilometres of trail through Dromore Provincial Forest. Pine, spruce, larch, elm and many other tree species grow in the 440 hectares of reclaimed woods.

5. The Hector ship, N.S. A fitting introduction to the province ahead, the Nova Scotia IAT takes hikers past Brown’s Point, where the first Scottish settlers landed in 1773. Today, a replica of the three-mast, 33-metre ship that brought those settlers is docked nearby, with a museum (which is temporarily closed) recounting its harrowing journey and the hardships that its passengers faced upon arrival.

6. Lewis Hills, N.L. A geological oddity, the Lewis Hills comprise a moonscape of glacially carved oceanic crust. Normally, heavier oceanic crust subducts beneath light continental material in a tectonic collision, but unusual circumstances can send deep sections of oceanic crust up onto the continents, forming so-called ophiolitic rock units. Within the Lewis Hills, the Cabox (814 metres) is the highest point on the Island of Newfoundland.

7. Conche to Croque, N.L. When completed, the Conche to Croque section of the trail will afford wide vistas of the open Atlantic. Hikers passing through in May, June and July have a chance to see icebergs as they drift south, a first for the IAT and a notable achievement for a trail system that, beyond Georgia, connects to the Florida Keys.

8. Belle Isle, N.L. The Appalachians make one last appearance in North America at Belle Isle, a 17-kilometre slab of rock about 30 kilometres north of the main island. Although it’s not an official segment of the trail, some thorough hikers boat out to the island to finish their journeys.