Grandma Gatewood Memorial Hiking Trail, Ohio

Named after Ohio native Emma "Grandma" Rowena Caldwell Gatewood. The first woman to solo-hike the Appalachian Trail.

National Recreation Trail

Designated in 1980

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About Grandma Gatewood

The Grandma Gatewood Memorial Hiking Trail is named after Gallia County, Ohio native Emma Rowena Caldwell Gatewood, frequently known as Grandma Gatewood. Emma Gatewood was the first woman to solo hike the Appalachian Trail, and the first woman to complete the Appalachian Trail three times.

Born in 1887, Gatewood spent most of her life doing what she loved most, hiking. She often went for long walks to escape her abusive marriage, but it was not until her children were grown that she became famous for hiking.

In the early 1950s, Gatewood read an article about the newly formed Appalachian Trail in National Geographic. The description and photographs captivated her and made it sound like something she could do. The Appalachian Trail written about in National Geographic is far from the trail today. It was more vision than reality, a patchwork of trail systems maintained by different regional hiking clubs without any federal protection or recognition.

She set out in July 1954 at the age of 66 to hike south from Mount Katahdin in Maine. After a few days, she got lost, broke her glasses, and ran out of food. The rangers who found her convinced her to return home, but she decided not to tell anyone about her failure.

Emma Gatewood hiked the trail for the first time in the spring of 1955, wearing Keds sneakers and carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, a shower curtain, and a change of clothes in a homemade bag that she slung over one shoulder. She became the first woman to solo hike the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail.

Gatewood completed her third hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1964 at the age of 76. This time she hiked the trail in sections, making her the first person to complete the trail three times. The Appalachian Trail Conference (now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) credited her with being the oldest female thru-hiker.

photo credit: Stratness
Emma "Grandma" Rowena Caldwell Gatewood

Emma "Grandma" Rowena Caldwell Gatewood

When she was in her early eighties, she spent ten or more hours a day clearing and marking a 30-mile hiking trail through Gallia County, Ohio that would later be connected to the Buckeye Trail.

Emma Gatewood was a woman, who even when challenging times arose refused to give up. Her work and dedication will forever serve as a role model for women and hikers.

About the Trail

Grandma Gatewood participated in many famous hikes, but her favorite was a six-mile section of trail in Hocking Hills State Park. The trail traverses three of Hocking Hill's five areas; starting at the Upper Falls of Old Man's Cave, hiking up Queer Creek to Cedar Falls, then continuing onward to Ash Cave. This six-mile jaunt is a part of the 1400-mile Buckeye Trail, the 4,600-mile North Country Trail, and the 6,800-mile American Discovery Trail. This section was designated as the Grandma Gatewood Memorial Trail in January 1981.

Gatewood loved this trail so much that she was the first to start an annual winter hike that allowed hikers like herself to blaze the trail each January. For her last hike in 1973, more than 2,500 hikers showed up. The breathtaking scenery and easy-to-moderate terrain of the Grandma Gatewood Trail have made it a favorite of hikers.

For more on Grandma Gatewood, read Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

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